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Another delay for the CBE

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Six months ago backers of the Center for Business and Education thought that villagers might see ground being broken on the much-delayed project this summer or fall, and infrastructure in place by the end of this year. But new set-backs have arisen, and now it’s likely that infrastructure construction on the local industrial park won’t begin until well into 2013.

“We were hoping to bid for construction this summer, but that’s not likely to happen,” Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein, who is overseeing the project, said in an interview last week. Rather, he said, it’s likely that work on the road, water and sewer infrastructure for the project will be ready to bid a year from now, and ready for construction in spring or summer 2013, with its completion likely within four to six months. While it’s possible that buildings could be constructed while the infrastructure is being built, it’s more likely that buildings would need to wait until the roads were complete, Amrhein said.

The most recent hold-up was due to the Ohio Department of Transportation, or ODOT, rejection of the CBE’s stage 2 plans. Because ODOT provided a grant for the project, the state agency must approve all four stages of design, which include the preliminary engineering report and Stages 1 through 3, covering road design, sewer, water and storm drainage infrastructure. While the Village has successfully completed the preliminary engineering report and Stage 1, Stage 2 was submitted to the state in early fall and then rejected due to both administrative and design errors.

Jacobs Engineering of Dayton has been the Village’s contracted design firm for the project and according to Amrhein, ODOT has rejected the company’s work at each stage so far, with each rejection and re-submission of designs adding several months to the project. While the delays are linked to the rejected designs, the Village is too deep into the project to consider changing to another firm, Amrhein said.

“It would be a very complicated process now to switch design firms,” he said.

Slow but steady marketing

The project delay has slowed down the efforts of Community Resources, the nonprofit economic development group that is backing the CBE, to market the industrial park. The group has signed a contract with the Dayton firm Synergy, which will market the CBE when it’s nearer completion.

“There’s been a slowdown in marketing but it’s not at a standstill,” according to Yellow Springs Economic Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Wildman, who’s working with the project. “I think everyone wants to see a little activity out there.”

But even without current construction activity, the CBE is now in the Synergy portfolio to show interested businesses who might want “an alternative to what’s already on 675” as a business location, Wildman said.

Community Resources has worked with the Cox Media Group to help find a new, and hopefully more catchy name for the park. So far, the frontrunner name is “SpringsWorks” but no final decision had been made, Wildman said.

Community Resources President Kathryn Van der Heiden and member Jerry Sutton were unavailable for comment.

Delays not unusual

While the CBE has suffered from several delays, the project has not taken that much longer than others funded by state or federal grants, according to Amrhein, who said it’s not unusual to spend five years between the grant award and the breaking of ground, due to the many levels of bureaucratic approval needed to move ahead. The Village received grants from ODOT and the US Army Corps of Engineers totalling about $1 million in 2006.

“We’re about a year behind where we might have been,” Amrhein said. “People don’t understand how much administrative work there is” with such projects.

Amrhein will continue to oversee the CBE project for the foreseeable future, he said. While his job as Village assistant planner was slated to be eliminated during the Village restructuring that Council approved last fall, he was still expected to continue part-time in order to oversee several projects, including the CBE. However, since the announcement that Village Manager Mark Cundiff will leave the Village in February for a new job in Sidney, the restructuring has been postponed and Council decided to maintain Amrhein at his current fulltime level in order to ensure continuity during the transition until a new manager is hired.

The CBE was created by Community Resources, a nonprofit started in 1999 by citizens concerned about the need for local economic development. In 2004 the group received a $300,000 no-interest loan from the Village Economic Revolving Loan Fund, along with $100,000 from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation to purchase the 42-acre piece of land on the western edge of the village. Community Resources gifted Antioch University-McGregor (now Antioch University Midwest) with land to build its new campus, which was completed in 2007.

A community consensus on the need for more space for new and expanding businesses seems to have emerged in recent years, articulated in the recent Village visioning project, which identified the need for economic development as a priority. Community Resources organizers have stated that they see the CBE as a major force in Yellow Springs economic development when it is finished.

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