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Housing, shops to replace vacant Walmart location

By Jenna Pilipovich
On February 4, 2013

The old Walmart building and vacant parking lot on Locust Street will soon be filled with businesses, restaurants and residential housing.

According to Alan Kyger, economic development director for the City of Oxford, part of the new project will entail housing that will be geared toward Miami University students as well as other commercial retail space.

The proposal calls for tearing down the current building at the old Walmart site and starting over completely. According to Kyger, the design is a "stacked look," meaning the front buildings will be one story, the buildings behind that two stories and the last building three stories.

Rebecca Smith, Oxford branch manager of the Lane Public Library, said the two one-story buildings will be stand-alone restaurants. The two buildings behind the restaurants will be commercial buildings and the third building will be residential housing.

The preliminary plan was approved in 2007, but the project was put on hold after the economic downturn in 2008, according to Kyger. The first phase included the overall plan of the project, the number of buildings and location. The second phase of the project is in progress now. This phase includes presenting the drawings for the project.

Robert Fiorita, a Miami graduate and architect for the new site, will be presenting the final plan for approval in March.

The original plan required 40,000 square feet for commercial and retail space according to Smith. Lane Library, 15 S. College Ave, is looking to move into this new site. With the addition of the library, the space will move up to 50,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.

Kyger said when the beginning stages of the project began in 2007, Level 27 apartments and Campus Courts Apartments had not been built and Uptown had not been developed to what it is today. Over the last five years, Kyger said there has been an increase of residential units in areas geared towards students. The new site will look somewhat like Stewart Square, but with shops on the first floor and residential housing on the second.

Lane Library is working with the contractor to move into one of the commercial spaces. Smith said the library's current location on College Avenue does not allow it to expand. The staff is exploring the option to create four-person study rooms in the library as well.

"If we do become a part of this exciting new development at the old Walmart site, we anticipate seeing a great increase to patrons visiting the library," Smith said.

Junior Megan Ridenour said she would benefit from extra study rooms.

"King gets so crowded, especially around times for group projects and exams," Ridenour said. "Having another building to go to could definitely benefit students."

If Lane Library does move to the new site, its current building will be leased. Smith said the building would be perfect for a doctor's office, as it is a professional building.

The 48 residential rooms in the three-story housing will be commercialized specifically for college students. Kyger said there are more students looking for housing than non-students.

"Hopefully we'll be good neighbors to students and they can see the great value we have to offer," Smith said.

The Housing Advising Commission in Oxford met with the developer a few weeks ago. Representatives from the Senior Committee were present in hopes to implement senior housing in the new complex. The developer has decided that it will not be economically feasible to build senior housing, according to Kate Rousmaniere, a member of City Council.

"The developer looked into funding, but at the time it's just not possible to meet the needs of senior housing," Rousmaniere said.

Nothing will be finalized for this project until March, when Fiorita presents his final plan to City Council. According to Kyger, generally, when the final plan matches the preliminary plan, there are no major differences and there is no issue with passing it.

"He hasn't presented it yet so it's too early to make any kind of speculation," Kyger said. "Not until he presents the final plan that people will react to it."

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