Land swap boosts Lebanon’s revitalization efforts

Schools district gains property near the existing junior high school building.

“If we could bring back North Broadway it would be a coup for the city,” Lebanon Councilwoman Wendy Monroe said during recent discussions of the land swap with the district.

In the exchange, the city gets 0.9 acres adjoining its current city garage site, which it plans to redevelop, possibly as an office complex, using as much as $1.5 million in state funds for redevelopment of the area around the former racetrack on North Broadway.

The school district winds up with 1.7 acres just north of the existing junior high school building. The land is destined to be part of the parking lot for a new school to be built along Broadway, as it enters the city as Ohio 48.

The city also plans to use a state grant to acquire a former residence and donut shop, across and just north on Broadway from the garage site. This will expand the adjoining city park, while gaining control over another piece of land along the North Broadway corridor.

“It’s going to be critical as a gateway,” Mayor Amy Brewer said during a council work session.

At the same time, the former Mio’s pizza property, also across from the garage site and south of the donut shop, is on the market.

On Tuesday, the city council is to consider the land swap, approved last week by the school board.

The city property, next to a city water tower, is surrounded by the school site. The school property squares off the city’s proposed development site.

“This is good for the city, it’s good for the school district,” Superintendent Mark North said.

The city is moving the garage to land near Ohio 63 and Neil Armstrong Way, the new extension of Ohio 123, around downtown Lebanon.

The swap leaves the city with enough land for a booster station next to the water tower along Broadway, City Manager Pat Clements said.

Clements said the city now plans to focus its share of the racetrack redevelopment funds on the garage site, just south of the former Lebanon Raceway, operated for more than 50 years at the Warren County Fairgrounds.

The county commissioners wanted to spend much if not all of $3 million in state funds set aside for racetrack redevelopment to redevelop the fairgrounds, possibly as an exposition center.

“That’s not going to happen,” Brewer said during the work session.

The Ohio Development Services Agency revised standards for distribution of the funds after an appeal from the county, but left up to $1.5 million for each side - if they sign a collaboration agreement.

Clements advised the council to focus on the $1.5 million share, rather than continue the debate with the county over the best use of the entire $3 million.

“I think it’s time to move on,” he said.

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