The city is looking for a suitable building downtown as a possible alternative to renovating a former elementary school for a city administrative center.
“This came out of staff discussions with some downtown leaders and was supported by the city council,” Brent Merriman, assistant city manager, said Thursday. “We continue to strive for a strong downtown core, while balancing the customer service and administrative needs of the city.”
The city’s recently adopted comprehensive plan — the X-Plan — has the redevelopment of downtown as one of its top priorities. Some residents have complained moving some city administrative offices out of downtown does not fit the X-Plan priorities.
“There was some dismay and concern among downtown business owners,” said Mary Crockett, community development director for the volunteer downtown revitalization group Downtown Xenia Now.
The city has been searching for several years for a facility to house the police department, currently housed in cramped quarters in the basement of City Hall. The city initially explored moving police to the former Simon Kenton school, about one and a half miles from downtown. That plan was abandoned as too costly because of the numerous requirements for a police station.
The latest plan was to renovate Simon Kenton for office use, move the service offices from the first floor of City Hall and renovate the first floor for the police department. Initial estimates had the cost between $3 million and $4 million, financed through bonds.
Council members Dale Louderback and John Caupp were vocal in their opposition to the plan. Caupp said Simon Kenton was a “money pit. That building is in horrible condition.” Louderback also questioned the building’s suitability and said he believed a new police station could be built for what the renovation would cost.
“My big concern is that we’d be putting perfume on a pig,” he said.
City Manager Jim Percival has said the school and 11 acres that come with it can be a city centerpiece and renovating the school seems the best alternative from a financial standpoint.
In April, council tabled the renovation plans. In May, after hearing from citizens and business leaders, council agreed with the city staff to explore “any viable options” and a request for proposals for alternatives was announced June 6. The deadline is July 31.
Merriman said Downtown Xenia Now is working with downtown property owners to come up with some alternatives.
“We’re working to talk with owners to look at what is possible,” Crockett said. “We’re getting letters of potential interest.”