The Lebanon City Council authorized the city manager to sign a development agreement for the North Broadway Commons, 104 apartments and up to 15,000 square foot of retail space on the former city garage site just north of downtown.
The resolution, effective after 30 days, was passed 6-0 (Mayor Amy Brewer was absent) on Tuesday night after developer Jim Cohen answered questions about the project.
“You’re dealing with a developer who’s going to build you a first-class product in a first-class community and maintain it that way for the long haul,” Cohen, head of CMC Properties said, pointing to a half-century in business and 50-building portfolio for credibility.
Cohen said the vote “gives my guys the green light to go ahead and spend a bunch of money to design the actual building.”
The agreement with Community Development Associates, a for-profit limited liability corporation formed about three years ago, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, is still contingent on an extensive list of conditions.
The city and developer need to reach settlement with the local school district of payments in lieu of property taxes forgiven on the project.
If the development is valued at $18 million — the amount Cohen is expected to invest — the project would generate $372,000 in property taxes, according to Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan.
The Lebanon City Schools would be the biggest benefactor at more than $244,000 a year, but other entities would receive tax revenue if not for the tax abatement, including more than $44,000 for the local fire department, according to Nolan’s calculations.
The council also approved community reinvestment areas, setting the stage for the tax abatement on the project and others supporting commercial and residential development along the North Broadway Corridor.
The developer is not expected to own the development, at least in the short term.
Cohen is expected to sign leases deeding the city property (sold to his company for $100) to and leasing it back from the Warren County Port Authority, avoiding sales tax on materials used in the construction.
In response to questions from Councilwoman Wendy Monroe, the agreement was amended to ensure multiple roof lines were designed into the project.
Councilman Doug Shope asked how Cohen would keep rents high and apartments occupied by young entrepreneurial residents, if market rates don’t support this.
“My fear is, before long, the market brings it down,” Shope said. “We don’t achieve the purpose we set out for.”
Cohen said his company, which also manages the Steeplechase Townhomes in Lebanon, had no affordable housing projects and would continue to invest in maintenance of the 6-acre development to attract the demographics sought for the project.
Other CMC Properties apartment or townhome buildings are in Miamisburg, Middletown, Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.
The Marcum in Hamilton is a similar mixed-use development to the North Broadway Commons.
Two Cities Pizza, in Mason, and Cozy’s Cottage, in Liberty Twp., Butler County, are restaurants committed to the Lebanon project.