Business owners divided over what should replace shuttered movie theater

Kenwood Lincoln-Mercury LLC bought the former Danbarry Cinemas building along with about eight acres at 8300 Lyons Ridge Rd. in Miami Twp. Area business owners are divided about whether or not a car dealership is something that fits in the area. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Kenwood Lincoln-Mercury LLC bought the former Danbarry Cinemas building along with about eight acres at 8300 Lyons Ridge Rd. in Miami Twp. Area business owners are divided about whether or not a car dealership is something that fits in the area. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

MIAMI TWP. — Business owners around the Dayton Mall are divided about the future of a site that once was a multiplex theater.

Some believe that Miami Twp. is better served with a proposed automobile dealership at 8300 Lyons Ridge, the former site of Danbarry Cinemas, because they say it will boost vehicular traffic in the area and help businesses that already have seen numerous other businesses close. They say it’s safer than rather than waiting for something else to materialize, especially with the new reality of COVID-19.

Other business owners believe the township is better off sticking with the mall’s Master Plan and developing the site for the traditional office, retail, residential and entertainment uses it was intended.

Kenwood Lincoln-Mercury LLC purchased the building that once was home to the theater chain along with about eight acres for $2.1 million earlier this year. It is seeking to rezone the site and construct a Mazda dealership there. But those plans hit a speed bump Sept. 14 when the township’s zoning commission voted to recommend to trustees that they deny that request.

Zoning commission members voted to do so because the site did not match the Dayton Mall Area Master Plan developed in 2015. Trustees John Morris and Terry Posey Jr. were set to discuss the matter at their regularly scheduled Oct. 5 meeting, but postponed the matter until a Nov. 2 meeting to ensure that Trustee Donald Culp could offer his feedback.

“This matter’s important enough that all three trustees should be present,” Morris said.

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Steve Perez, president of Tiger Joe’s Fitness Equipment at 8918 Kingsridge Drive, just north of the shuttered movie theater, said the business has been there since 2006.

“In the 15 years since we built our showroom, we have seen multiple businesses disappear from the 1-mile radius around our showroom with very few moving in,” Perez told trustees in a letter obtained by this news outlet. He said those closed businesses included Sears, Elder Beerman, Prime Printing, Joker’s Comedy Club, Golden Corral, Danbarry Cinemas and “numerous mall tenants.”

Perez said he understands allegiance to a Master Plan but “reality is reality.”

“Holding out for specialty retail and apartments in that location is just such a longshot, especially with the new COVID world we are in,” he said. “Specialty retail is NOT likely to move into that location in the next few years -- and apartments seem like a stretch as well.”

Perez praised trustees for having done a “great job” in working toward a better Miami Crossing Area, “but times have changed a bit and I believe an adjustment in plans/goals might be needed - especially with the Mall draw deterioration.”

Dayton Mall General Manager David Duebber wrote a Sept. 30 email to township officials saying that he realizes that the dealership use “would not be 100% in line” with the Master Plan.

“However, in light of the extraordinary circumstances that have impacted our world over the past year and a half, most everyone has been forced to re-evaluate all aspects of life,” Duebber wrote in the letter. “As an example from the Dayton Mall’s standpoint we have been faced with focusing on more non-retail uses for our tenant mix.”

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Office complexes are dealing with companies that can operate very efficiently with remote workforces and no longer require traditional office space, Duebber said.

These “unprecedented times” have significantly impacted — and will continue to impact — all areas of business and business growth for some time, he said.

“With that said, the opportunity to have a new business move into the Township and redevelop a very challenging area would be a welcomed sight in my personal opinion. Again, while not necessarily in line with the Master Plan, this could further the efforts to keep the Township area as a primary destination for local and regional customers.”

But not every business owner said they held the same optimism for a dealership breathing new life into the area, included those who stood to possibly benefit from it.

“While I feel the addition of a car dealership on that property would be beneficial for my business, I don’t think it is a good match for the overall plan for the area,” said Mark Keilholz, owner of Skyline Chili at 8906 Kingsridge Drive, in a Sept. 11 letter to Miami Twp. Zoning Commission. “I feel the area needs a more blended approach for development. I also would like to see some green space for the area, with a gathering place for community.”

Joe Poelking, owner of Poelking Lanes South at 8871 Kingsridge Drive, wrote to township officials saying he was unsure the dealership fit the direction the township is looking to pursue.

He said he was sad to see the Danbarry Cinemas and Golden Corral close, but believes an auto dealership “isn’t the right fit.”

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Bob Reichert, owner and general counsel for Kenwood Dealer Group, said the Dayton Mall Area Master Plan could not have anticipated “the dramatic change” that has occurred since its creation in 2015, including online spending putting “tremendous pressure on traditional retail outlets, not to mention the abandonment of the office as a central workplace, and a pandemic.”

Reichert, in a letter to trustees, said allowing the property to remain vacant in hope of private investors building retail shops and office space seems “unrealistic.”

Replacing the deteriorating property that has been closed for years gives that area an “an attractive, state of the art facility,” one would generate additional tax revenue for the township, Reichert said. That’s because the property sits within a special tax district that collects revenue from property owners and employees, with those funds directed to supporting safety services and infrastructure in the surrounding area.

The tax district would benefit from “Day One” of the dealership because of a planned workforce of 50 employees, which would increase to as much as 100 employees after two years, Reichert said.

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