To see the Cornerstone of Centerville today, it’s easy to forget the acres of farmland here that was the center of a contentious fight between developers and locals for nearly a decade.
It may be even harder to remember in a few years. The property, once owned by the prominent Dille family, is in the midst of unyielding growth.
Cornerstone has in just a few years transformed this area along the Wilmington Pike/Interstate 675 corridor. Backers of the development, which will have some huge new pieces this year, say it will create 2,800 jobs for the region.
Several businesses will open their doors in the first half of 2017, marking the finish line for a majority of the retail and restaurant expansion for an emerging area, developers say.
Chris Conley, president of the Oberer Commercial Real Estate Group, said he expects Cornerstone North to be completely built out within the next five years, and he anticipates construction of office and hospitality buildings will be “heavily underway” at the Cornerstone South site.
“We hope to move a lot of dirt in June,” he said.
By carefully selecting retailers for the site, developers say, Cornerstone is luring major retailers and bringing in consumers from 15 to 20 miles away.
The project hasn’t been without controversy or opposition, however, that continues as each new addition changes the dynamics of the neighborhood.
Ann Rainey of Centerville was among the residents who voiced concern over the announcement that Home2 Suites by Hilton will build a 100-unit hotel at 5321 Cornerstone Blvd.
“I am mostly worried about noise and traffic at night,” said Rainey, who lives across the street. “It will also block our view.”
Cornerstone of Centerville North is currently anchored by Costco Wholesale and Cabela’s and will soon be joined by Kroger, which will form the third anchor.
Oberer developers say 2017 will bring in a new pack of restaurant and retailers, and major progress will be put in motion for a number of office, hotel and residential projects.
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“It’s certainly made steady progress over the past few years,” said Gregory Horn, city manager for Centerville.
Kroger is set to open by late May or early June, according to a company spokeswoman Patty Leesemann. The Cincinnati-headquartered grocery retailer is set to open the 125,000-square-foot store on about 15 acres between Costco and Cabela’s, facing south toward Feedwire Road.
Kroger has invested $21.2 million to build the new store, which will replace a smaller Kroger at 2100 E. Whipp Road in Kettering.
“In our research and due diligence in analyzing this market, we found that customers wanted more products, features and amenities than the current store could not accommodate,” Leesemann said.
Within the development are several buildings for tenants to fill — Cornerstone Shoppes I and III are situated along on Wilmington Pike, the Village at Cornerstone is slotted for a space behind Costco, and Shoppes II is on Feedwire Road in front of Kroger.
First Financial Bank will open its location within the next few weeks next to Panda Express on Feedwire Road. Conley said the construction on the Shoppes III building on Wilmington Pike will be finished up by the end of January.
The Shoppes III tenants — restaurants Zoup!, MOD pizza, Firehouse Subs and First Watch — will likely open in April and May. CoreLife Eatery, a fast-casual restaurant offering healthy options, will open a 3,600-square-foot space just north of the four other restaurants sometime in the fall.
Other businesses with a current presence include: Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern, Domino’s, 5-Star Nutrition and AT&T in the Shoppes I district. Cheddar’s Casual Cafe, located at the corner of Wilmington Pike and Feedwire, opened in the summer.
“We basically have one retail lot left, and we’re holding that for what we hope to be a sit-down type restaurant,” Conley said. “We’re kind of being patient with that last lot. We’ve had probably half a dozen offers on that.”
Oberer also has about nine acres of undeveloped land eyed for single-family housing that is still available in the Cornerstone North development. And another 48 to 50 acres are under contract and will be used for multi-family housing, an assisted living facility and office space.
Horn said the rapid buildup of the development has been a boon to other businesses in the area.
“I would think it’s had a positive influence on some of the surrounding retail facilities, as far as keeping them a little more vibrant or occupied,” he said.
The Cornerstone development has spurred economic growth in both Centerville and nearby Sugarcreek Twp., both township and city officials say.
The relationship between the two entities hasn’t always been smooth, marred by a lengthy feud over an agreement on fire services and a tax-increment financing agreement that was finally resolved in November.
Under terms of the agreement, Centerville will pay Sugarcreek Twp. approximately 54 percent of tax money collected from commercial development at Cornerstone, which was born out of an annexation of Sugarcreek Twp. land. As part of the agreement, the township will get $4.4 million over 30 years. It also agreed not to reduce fire service to the area.
Sugarcreek Twp. officials acknowledged there have been pain points since the land was first annexed in 2006.
“It’s definitely an economic benefit for both communities for sure,” said Cara Tilford, director of planning and zoning for township. “I think there were some growing pains during the construction stages. Certainly, that’s always something you see. The development of Cornerstone has made the area more visible, and it’s been a positive for both communities.”
Since 2014, Sugarcreek Twp. has seen growth along the corridor in close vicinity to the Cornerstone development, including stores like Fresh Thyme. To the south of the Cornerstone, a developer bought the former Cub Foods building in Sugarcreek Plaza on Wilmington Pike.
Buy Buy Baby — a chain retailer offering an assortment of baby gear, furniture, clothes and toys — is set to open in the fall. Bed, Bath & Beyond will open at the same time, and will occupy about 28,172 square feet. The renovated building will have space for another tenant, Tilford said.
“It’s very important for us to allow development, but at the same time make sure that development is being responsive to what’s important to the larger community,” she said.
The Rollandia Golf Course, adjacent to Cornerstone, is also expected to transform into high-end apartments and a senior living development. Developers, who have not officially purchased 42 acres of land, expect to start construction in October.
Plans for the development include single-family detached homes targeted to empty-nesters and a multi-family rental community targeted to both empty-nesters and young professionals, said Brian Schottenstein, president of Columbus-based Schottenstein Real Estate Group, in a previous interview with this newspaper.
Though the Magic Castle will remain open, the golf course would close after this summer.
Neighboring residents of Rollandia voiced some opposition over the planned apartments and senior living housing, though Tilford said Schottenstein developers have worked with the residents to ease their concerns.
“Nobody is excited about change and a different land use coming in next to them but the developer is doing their best to be sensitive to what those concerns are,” she said. “The developer worked hard to reach out the neighbors.”
The new Kroger also upset some Kettering residents who shop regularly at the Whipp Road store.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Abed Bajjeh of Kettering, in a previous interview. “I live right down the street, so this is really convenient for me.”
The developers say they’ve been careful to select highly coveted retailers that will serve more than just the neighboring communities, but the entire region. The new Kroger, for example, will be double the size of the Kettering store.
Conley said Oberer waited for businesses like Cabela’s that were looking to open just one store in the market.
“Retail is driving this project,” he said. “This particular site is just perfectly placed to be able to serve the entire market. It’s bringing people 15 to 20 miles away to come here.”
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