HARA UPDATE: ‘Large users’ are already looking at Arena’s future

As a well known regional developer moves to control the closed Hara Arena property, the head of the Trotwood Community Improvement Corp. said Thursday that “large users” are waiting in the wings, already considering possible uses for Hara Arena.

Fred Burkhardt, who heads the Trotwood development corporation, said those users will be “familiar names,” but he declined to identify them.

“This thing is moving faster than anybody had ever anticipated,” Burkhardt said.

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The Dayton Daily News and WHIO-TV first reported Wednesday that Michael Heitz, a Lexington-Ky.-based developer, said he bought the income tax liens from Montgomery County on the Hara site and hopes to close on further liens from PNC Bank Friday.

Burkhardt said he feels that deal is “90 percent done.”

“While it’s very premature to make any significant announcements, we do have interest from a couple of very large users for the entire site,” Burkhardt said.

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He said that the Hara property probably will not have a future as an entertainment venue — but even that is uncertain at this point.

“The city is open to alternative uses,” Burkhardt said. “Or, quite honestly, if the right entertainment venue were to suddenly materialize, that had the economic and financial capacity to actually make it happen … we would be open to that.”

“Everybody has heard of Hara,” he added. “Hara has had a wonderful reputation. But it’s not what it was, and neither is the marketplace.”

The Wampler family had maintained Hara Arena from the event center’s beginning but when founder Harold Wampler died in 1996, his unresolved estate launched a 20-year family and legal battle that drained Hara of resources, the Dayton Daily News has reported.

PNC Bank filed to foreclose on the property and a receiver was appointed to try to recoup as much as possible to repay the arena’s debts, this news organization reported in March.

The receiver, Peter Lahni of Cincinnati-based Lahni Consulting LLC, told this news organization that the property is listed for sale for $775,000.

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But in order for any new plan for the property to move forward, a future buyer would need to have enough experience and cash to not only buy the site, but also to satisfy mounting back taxes and pay for an expensive renovation or demolition project.

Not all of Hara’s real estate is in Trotwood. About three parcels are in Harrison Twp., Burkhardt said. Trotwood is open to a “joint venture” in Harrison Twp. on “acceptable uses,” he said.

Right now, the top concern is public safety. The building at the moment is physically open to almost anyone, and in fact there have been some You Tube videos of people openly exploring the buildings.

“It’s close to becoming a public nuisance,” Burkhardt said. “His (Michael Heitz) pledge to secure that property is major.”

Asked if environmental issues could slow development, Burkhardt said those involved did not yet know.

The corporation does not control the site, but it is working with Heitz.

Heitz has said he will have a press conference Monday to talk about his next steps.

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