Lebanon City Council is expected today to give the city manager the authority to hire the developer to build an $18 million, six-acre complex that will feature two restaurants, a brewpub and up to 125 luxury apartments.
The project also will help extend the downtown business district.
But much work still needs to be done before plans for the North Broadway Commons can be made real.
On Monday, Lebanon City Schools Treasurer Eric Sotzing replied “Not yet,” to an email questioning whether school officials had discussed with developer Jim Cohen or the city a proposed 100-percent, 15-year tax abatement critical to the project.
Nor had the district signed off on use of its land for parking or a park also to be developed as part of the project.
“I just want to make sure they are going to come back to us,” Lebanon Board of Education Member Donna Davis Norris said last week after learning the city was close to contracting with developer Cohen’s company.
The city would sell the developer the land for $100 (with a clause taking it back if the development fails), make road and utility improvements, cap permit fees and grant the tax abatement. Paving bricks would be extended along the front of the property and south past Berry Middle School and up to the front door of the school.
A park honoring the city’s history or veterans would also be constructed at the city’s expense, officials said.
Cohen is planning to build 104 apartments, up to 15,000 square feet of commercial development and about 360 parking spaces on the former city garage site north of downtown Lebanon.
He is also expected to sign a deal with the Warren County Port Authority to avoid sales tax on building materials by leasing the land to and the finished development from the authority.
On Monday, Martin Russell, executive director of the authority, said he had met once with Cohen and expected to present the project, expected to involve about $18 million in investment, to the authority board.
The council expressed no concerns about the deal and sought no changes to the proposed agreement during a work session earlier this month.
“Approval of the development agreement would allow for the project to move into the design and contingency due diligence phase,” City Manager Scott Brunka said in an email response to questions. “One of the key contingency items that needs to be addressed is negotiating a formal agreement with the Lebanon City Schools regarding use of school-owned property at their bus garage for parking, and construction of a park plaza along North Broadway.”
Brunka said the agreement requires Cohen negotiate compensation deal with the school district.
“If the development agreement is approved by City Council, then we will jointly work on a formal agreement with the School District that will be presented to the School Board at an upcoming meeting,” Brunka added.
At the Nov. 19 school board meeting, Superintendent Todd Yohey told the board the deal no longer included an amphitheater being built on the lawn in front of the old school, south of the development site.
Yohey said the city would extend the same decorative paving bricks to be installed along Broadway up to the stairway leading into the school. Yohey said benches and a military or historical monument were planed in the new park, where flowers are now planted in the shape of an American flag.
Yohey said the district would benefit from moving the trailers, now parked in the area to be used in the development, behind locked gates in a new parking area.
The city projects $65,000 in annual income tax and $1.1 million in “annual total spending power” due to the development.
Broadway Commons is also part of city plans “to revitalize the part of the city’s downtown area in which the Property is located, to provide public access, parking and other amenities and to facilitate commercial and residential development in close proximity to the City’s downtown area,” according to the proposed development agreement.
The city also plans to add street parking on both sides of Broadway in front of the development, while narrowing the roadway to three lanes. The Lebanon-Countryside YMCA Trail would be connected through downtown to the development.
Cohen is also developing The Marcum, a 102-unit apartment complex with 11,000 square feet of street-level retail on the banks of the Great Miami River in Hamilton, Butler County.
He could not be reached for comment on Monday.