City leaders are hoping for an economic boom along a new stretch of road to be named after the first man to walk on the moon.
Neil Armstrong Way, a new road, is opening on Oct. 7 after $5.6 million in new road work. It will also be the new route for Ohio 123 on the west side of downtown, running between intersections with Hart Road on the north and Main Street on the south.
The road improvements continue across Ohio 63, Main Street in Lebanon, about 1.2 miles east of the center of town.
Developers say the new intersection of Neil Armstrong Way and Main Street will pave the way for 18,000 to 20,000 vehicles a day, the number needed to attract scouts hunting locations for restaurant chains.
“I’m sure glad to see it after all this time. It’s been 20 year in the making,” developer Larry Buchanan said.
Buchanan and Paul Rodenbeck are already marketing parcels at and around the new intersection.
The city council recently rezoned a 1.9 acre parcel on the northwest corner, traded by the city to Buchanan, in anticipation of restaurants or other neighborhood business development commonly found at high-traffic intersections.
This land is part of about 10 acres Buchanan owns at the intersection and is across Ohio 63 from a strip center that is anchored by Seeger’s Meats & Deli.
A handful of companies are considering building a gas station-convenience store across from Seeger’s, Buchanan said.
Rodenbeck, who is marketing about 12 acres in the area, said he had a “verbal commitment” from one business, which he declined to identify.
Councilman Matt Rodriguez said discussions had included restaurants including Chipotle and Applebee’s.
The roadway south of Ohio 63 is currently named Glosser Road.
“That whole corridor over there is just dying to be opened up and developed,” Rodriguez said.
The city’s long-range plan calls for the road continuing south toward a shopping center, anchored by a Home Depot, and the Ohio 48 Bypass, creating an outer belt around the city.
“This is only Phase 1 of three phases,” Rodriguez said. “That’s really our last corridor of developable land.”
The city’s planning commission and council are also considering the rezoning of 26.6 acres held by developer Henkle-Scheuler & Associates for a subdivision near the north end of the new Neil Armstrong Way. Buchanan estimated about 100 acres is available for residential development there.
Additional residential development is also anticipated on a former farm, south of the new intersection with Main Street, as well as other partially-developed subdivisions.
City Manager Pat Clements said the road project is also expected to improve traffic safety, diverting large trucks around the downtown. Buses from Bowman Primary School and emergency vehicles from a Turtlecreek Twp. fire station will be able to avoid the old section of Ohio 123 that used to go through downtown.
Work has already begun to improve the walkability of the downtown district, with outdoor seating and traffic islands designed to slow down motorists.
“In this case, I don’t think this particular road is going to hurt, I think is going to help,” Buchanan said.
On Oct. 7, Armstrong’s family is expected to help dedicate the new stretch of road. The late astronaut lived for years outside the city and frequented local businesses. Signs noting Armstrong’s place in history are to be posted at both ends of the Lebanon stretch.
State Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Clearcreek Twp., has drafted a bill designed to rename the stretch of Ohio 123 leading from the town of Red Lion south past Armstrong’s former home into Lebanon.
The bill is to be introduced in early September. Last week, Jones’ office declined to predict how long it would take for the bill to become law.
Rodenbeck said the commercial changes would begin taking place once a traffic signal is hung at the new intersection.
“Once that traffic light goes in, the excitement starts,” he said.