- By Lawrence Budd Staff Writer
Traffic is flowing smoothly through Springboro’s central crossroads after nearly a year of road work that cost $10 million, and the next phase in redevelopment is about to begin.
The Warren County Transportation Improvement District (TID) and its contractors are winding up the road work, while the city government is solidifying redevelopment plans for the northwest and southwest corners of Ohio 741 and Ohio 73, also known as Main Street and Central Avenue in Springboro.
Starting in the 1800s, the intersection was near the center of the community. In the last part of the 20th century, before other areas were developed, the IGA plaza was home to a wide range of businesses and served as a central gathering place for people to shop, get a bite to eat and go to the post office.
“That’s the center of town, which makes it very special,” Mayor John Agenbroad said this year as the city gathered public input on the redevelopment. “We want to make whatever the finished product is have the same kind of hometown feel and the same kind of charm.”
The road changes created a larger intersection able to handle more traffic and move it faster.
Redevelopment envisioned on two corners
The project now includes 0.33 acres of land on the southwest corner acquired in a $1.3 million settlement with the owners of the Speedway station site taken for the project, in addition to the 6.5 acres on the northwest corner purchased for $3.4 million from the family that for decades operated the Springboro IGA and leased to stores in the adjoining shopping plaza.
On Thursday, Springboro City Council is expected to approve development and infrastructure agreements, as well as proposed legislation establishing a tax-incremental financing district (TIF) for development of the northwest corner.
The TIF funds are to offset $10 million in development costs. The council is also expected to approve an agreement with Mills-Barnett Pavilion Development to oversee the development, including a performing arts center.
Mills-Barnett is to receive $3.7 million to do site work and infrastructure for the redevelopment with money refunded from the TIF.
A 10-year, 100 percent “rolling” TIF district is to be established only on city-owned property at the intersection, and school districts that would otherwise benefit are to get their shares of what would have been new property taxes.
“This TIF will make the Springboro Community City Schools and Warren County Career Center ‘whole’ from a property tax perspective. Meaning, the schools will receive every property tax dollar earmarked for the schools and WCCC from future development that they would have received before the TIF was created,” City Manager Chris Pozzuto said in a memo to council.
“As for the Speedway site, we are looking at hopefully developing a new building at that location, if we find a suitable end user,” Pozzuto said via email.
In a settlement last December, Marathon Oil, doing business as Speedway, was paid for the land taken for the project, including “acquisition of an uneconomic remnant” of just shy of 0.16 acres left after the road work, according to the lawsuit filed in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
The settlement includes $800,457, the amount the property was valued at by the TID, which is managing the intersection road project for Springboro. The remaining $474,543 was tacked on in reaching the settlement last December.
Crossroads development years in the making
In 2015, the city government decided to foot most of the bill for the road project and purchased the land where the Springboro IGA Plaza previously stood.
At this point, about $15 million has been spent on the overall project. The redevelopment could run the figure to at least $25 million -including $10 million Mills has pledged toward the project - but enable the city to begin recouping its investment.
The old shopping plaza was razed, beginning in February 2016, after tenants were relocated.
Road construction began in June 2017.
The new design for the six-acre corner was done by James Paresi, an architect who often works with Larry Dillin, the developer pegged by the city on the Austin South Springboro project.
Dillin has also been involved in plans for the commercial development at the crossroads to be anchored by what is being called the Springboro Center for the Performing Arts.
Mills-Barnett, the developer behind the city’s Ascent commercial campus off Interstate 75 south of Austin Landing, was tabbed as developer of the crossroads redevelopment.
Residents have weighed in on what they would like to see join the arts center on the corner.
Road work ahead
The intersection now has two turn lanes heading north from eastbound Ohio 73 and one dedicated turn lane heading west from southbound Ohio 741. It also has auxiliary right-turn lanes for eastbound and westbound approaches on Ohio 73.
All that’s left of the intersection project is application of special paint, finalizing land ownership changes and landscaping.
Pozzuto said the anticipated completion on May 25 was delayed until contractors applied a special paint to be used to mark the crosswalks.
“The project is complete, minus the thermo-plastic paint that needs to be applied to delineate the crosswalks. That is scheduled to occur within the next two weeks,” he said in an email.
Earlier this month, the TID extended through the end of the year a contract with the company hired to handle land acquisition, although the contractor, Heritage Land Services, is not to receive any additional money.
Richard Schuermann Jr., the lawyer who oversaw the right-of-way acquisition, said Heritage was completing title work and other legal requirements because federal funding was involved in the project.
Marathon did not respond to a request for comment on the settlement or whether it planned to open another Speedway in Springboro. The company still operates a station west of the crossroads on Central Avenue in Springboro.
Landscaping is still coming.
The city council recently shifted $22,000 for design of greenery and other features to be included at the four corners.
No one has had a closer vantage point on the makeover than Kevin Hughes, whose law office sits near the southeast corner.
“I like the way it came out,” Hughes said, while looking forward to the landscaping next to his building. “It’s moving traffic through there a lot better.”