Article Featured in the Middletown News Journal on Saturday, June 6, 2015
By Chelsey Levingston
MIDDLETOWN — AK Steel’s new $36 million Research and Innovation Center to be built in Middletown is the first tenant in Schueler Group’s newest business park, and the Warren County-based developer is hoping to recruit more job-creating high-tech and medical office tenants.
A group of about 15 investors under the name North Pointe Farms LLC bought in 2013 more than 40 acres of land along Union Road, north of Ohio 122, with highway frontage.
The property also sits next to Middletown hospital Atrium Medical Center, which moved to new facilities east of the Ohio 122 and Interstate 75 interchange at the end of 2007.
Henkle Schueler & Associates, the commercial real estate division of Schueler Group that manages the 40-plus acres, formed at the Middletown site its 19th and newest business park called North Pointe Commerce Park, said Joe Kramer, executive vice president of Henkle Schueler.
Landing the AK Steel project, which is expected to start construction on approximately 15 acres later this month, is a quick turnaround for a land investment and could help attract more business expansion to the property, Kramer said.
“Usually construction generates activity,” Kramer said.
“We anticipate possibly some other medical firms that are compatible with the Atrium Medical Center and maybe some other industrial firms that are tied into AK or do some similar types of work as AK, maybe other research centers,” Kramer said.
Middletown City Council approved in May an incentives package for the research center project that includes borrowing $2.1 million to buy the land for the steelmaker. Targets are to finish construction and open the facility, which will replace an outdated research center on Curtis Street in Middletown, by the end of next year, company leaders say.
The future construction zone for AK Steel’s 120,000-square-foot research center should join its neighbors at Atrium Medical Center where new construction activity is also set to take place. Plans are to build a new 17,000-square-foot building on the hospital’s 200-acre campus for Cincinnati Eye Institute, with construction starting in October this year on the $4.5 million project. The eye care practice will relocate from its current Middletown location on Central Avenue to the new building, double the size, in summer 2016, according to a joint announcement made in May by the hospital and practice.
“It’s likely that we’ll have some other partners that will join us on the campus and that will expand services for the community and not just for the community surrounding Atrium, but northern Butler and Warren county,” said Carol Turner, president and chief executive officer of Atrium, during an April interview with this reporter.
The city’s plans for the area east of Interstate 75, known as the Renaissance District, have long included a high-tech health campus at the hospital, an office park, housing and retail.
The Renaissance District has attracted new investment in recent years. Located in the same neighborhood is the Greentree Health Science Academy, which opened in 2011 on the Atrium Medical Center campus on Innovation Drive; the Middletown Community Based Outpatient Clinic, part of the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center, that opened on North Union Road in 2011; and Hampton Inn, which opened on Towne Place Boulevard in 2013.
The 2007-2009 recession has also stalled other developments such as the East Pointe office park on Atrium Boulevard, south of Ohio 122. One office building in East Pointe has been built, when original plans called for three. And plans to build a 12-screen movie theater east of Union Road and south of Ohio 122 were spiked due to lack of interest, according to developer Anthony Properties.
“The selection by (AK Steel) to invest in Middletown signifies confidence in the community and the region,” said Denise Hamet, Middletown’s director of economic development, in a written statement issued at the time AK Steel’s new research center was announced in February. “It creates a far-reaching economic impact as a result of retaining and creating high-tech, professional positions.”
“The location here will stimulate additional high-tech growth in the Renaissance District; it also presents a tremendous opportunity for AK Steel and the city of Middletown to build on their history of community partnership and support, collaboration and cooperative programs,” she said.
The Fortune 500 company AK Steel Holding Corp. is headquartered in West Chester Twp. Between operations in West Chester and the Middletown Works steel plant, AK Steel employs approximately 2,400 full-time workers in Butler County, making it the county’s third-largest employer.