Xenia Towne Square revitalization plan up for vote next week

XENIA — Progress on the Xenia Towne Square is expected next week, as the city’s planning and zoning commission will vote on the shopping center’s long-awaited revitalization plan on Feb. 17.

The plan document is a guiding vision for the development, including infrastructure improvements and mixed-use space for restaurants, retail, office or residential construction, city planner Brian Forschner said.

Buildings will be clustered around a public plaza, with open space and outdoor seating, space for programming and public art elements. City officials were also focused on increasing the area’s walkability, and connecting it to the rest of downtown Xenia.

“The shopping center was designed and built in the 70s, and a strip mall surrounded by parking was the end-all-be-all back then. But it’s built in the middle of historic downtown, which has always been pedestrian,” Forschner said.

The plaza sits in the block immediately west of the county courthouse, bordered by Detroit, Main and Church streets. Forschner added that connecting it to the rest of downtown is important, as the city hopes the project will catalyze resurgence of the rest of downtown and other local businesses.

“That was one of the fundamental goals when we started this process, and one of the things that the community really wanted,” he said.

The city has not done a formal economic impact analysis, but city officials say that the project has huge potential in terms of attracting new business, making Xenia a more attractive place for residents, and uplifting the surrounding community.

“You can come up with some impressive figures, but there’s also a less quantifiable element: taking a large swath of the community that was devastated in the (1974) tornado, not built back the right way, taking this shopping center that’s aging and has suffered high vacancy for a while and turning it into a destination,” Forschner said. “It’s the heart of our community.”

The 15.5-acre parcel contains the shopping center and the site of a former K-mart that was torn down. Much of the storefront space in the existing buildings is vacant. Initially, the city will focus on renovating and fixing up some of the existing buildings, while others, particularly on the north side, may eventually be torn down. The city has been in dialogue with existing tenants about how to include them in the new development, should they choose to be a part of it.

“It’s an exciting project, and I think we can really make a difference and make something Xenians can be proud of,” Forschner added.

A construction start date has not been set, but activity at the site could begin by the end of the year. The city has hired Springboro-based developer Dillin Corp as a consultant for the plan, with a full development team to be assembled after the plan is approved.

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