Friday, Feb. 8, 2013
More growth coming to Miller Lane business district
By Marc Katz
BUTLER TWP., Montgomery County —
Changes are coming to the Miller Lane business district that will add several new businesses, change the look of the area and the way visitors travel among hotels, restaurants and stores.
Already, a Progressive Insurance claims center is under construction on North Dixie Drive behind Sam’s Club and an 8,500-square-foot, four-unit building is being planned by Singer Properties on Commerce Center Drive across from Office Depot, in the heart of the district.
The Progressive building will be 16,000 square feet and employ 60-75. The four-unit building has one tenant nearly signed and a second that has shown major interest, said Alex Kolodesh, a partner in Singer Properties/Kolodesh Development. He said he expects all four units to be filled by the end of the year, when the development is expected to open.
And starting this summer, visitors will start to see other improvements to the area including new sidewalks and lights to encourage more pedestrian traffic.
The sidewalks and lights are part of a 75-page report and recommendation from Jacobs Engineering of Cincinnati that creates a vision for the area that includes improved branding, bike paths, a community park and better positioned RTA bus stops. Butler Township trustees commissioned the long-range plan last year that includes
information and suggestions to develop, redevelop and connect the 552-acre area near the intersections of Interstates 70 and 75.
The report was shared with business people in the area this week, and though it has not been formally presented at a council meeting, all the trustees have seen it. It will be presented to the zoning board in March and the trustees in April. The report cost the township $50,000, which came out of TIF funds.
“Having a master plan is always a good thing,” Kolodesh said. His company has developed several areas along Miller Lane and is working on more. “We’re still working on plans with the township, and we purchased the bonds for York Commons Blvd. We want to maintain our commitment to the area.” York, Commons Blvd. is an east-west artery in the area.
All parties involved — from township officials to Jacobs Engineering to developers such as Singer said no cost estimate or future job availability has been determined related to the plan. But they agree that as the area is made more attractive with sidewalks, improved lighting, foliage and street furniture, more businesses will sign on.
“I think it’s important for us to have an idea — and the township to guide — what we want that to look like,” said township trustee Mike Lang. “It could change along the way. This gives us a sort of cohesive vision about how to tie all that together.”
The area’s first development was Sam’s Club, in 1994, by Singer Properties, on the west side of Miller Lane. WalMart followed, then smaller businesses, restaurants and hotels.
Other than a township zoning board, no one guided the process, and parcels of land are owned by several different entities. There are very few sidewalks and plenty of parking lots. It’s mostly vehicle-driven. Even people who stay overnight in hotels might have to use their cars just to cross the street to a restaurant. Trustees want to change that to make it a more pedestrian-friendly area.
“The most immediate concern is for the people who come and stay (in hotels) have an ability to get around,” Lang said.
The sidewalks will cost about $200,000 and be paid for by the area’s TIF fund. Future development will be paid out of the township’s general fund, state funds, grants and possible levies.
Outlined in the report are several items to enhance the area including:
Trustees also are considering creating a park or gathering place for events that would be surrounded by businesses and condominium-type housing, which would require some rezoning.
- Sidewalks will be laid this summer on Commerce Center Drive from Benchwood to Sam’s parking lot.
- Signage will be erected at the northern and southern ends of the development.
- RTA bus stops will be repositioned for better access, and cutouts will enable buses to pull over and not block traffic.
Paul Cutler, director of community planning for Jacobs, said there has been no plan for the area until now.
“That all happened through chance,” Cutler said. The township wants to play off the positives and carry through in subsequent developments.”
Additionally, the plan takes into consideration what happens if one of the big box stores, such as Sam’s or WalMart, decide to leave. Cutler said big box stores traditionally last only 10 to 15 years in a certain location, then move on, leaving the community with an empty eyesore.
Some potential answers are in the plan, and some are not.
“We’ll do this as we have money,” township administrator Kimberley Lapense said. “Once enhancements go in, it tends to draw other businesses.”