Springfield agrees to work with regional developer on plans for old Kroger site

The City of Springfield has agreed to begin working with a regional developer to design a plan for the former Kroger building on South Limestone Street and possibly the whole south side.

City commissioners voted on Tuesday afternoon to allow the city manager to execute a letter of intent with Dillin LLC to aid in the redevelopment of the former Kroger location, which closed in March.

The store’s closure led to the south side of Springfield being labeled a food desert — with the closest grocery store roughly four miles away.

MORE ON KROGER: South Springfield now a food desert with Kroger closing, health district says

As a part of the letter of intent, Dillin LLC president Larry Dillin will work with the city in its search for interested parties who may buy or lease the former Kroger building. He will also aid in the process of redeveloping another property under the city ownership which is located at 1841 Clifton Ave. and adjoins the Kroger property.

Tom Franzen, director of economic development for the city, said Dillin reached out to the city earlier this year after reading about the closure of the grocery store.

“He reached out early to community leaders to ask how he could help. He called a meeting to engage stakeholders to understand what the challenges and opportunities related to the Kroger store were,” Franzen said. “From there he began to think about potential development concepts that he started to share with us. So very early we realized Larry’s passion and interest in helping this community.”

Dillin is a longtime property developer. He took over the development of the Austin Landing Project in Miamisburg in 2016 until it’s sale in late 2019. He was also behind the Levis Commons development in the Toledo region.

Late last year, Dillin had plans for a proposed $130 million redevelopment at Ohio 48 between Sheehan and Spring Valley roads in Centerville, which included a vacant Kroger building and lot, according to previous reporting.

Dillin had been working with investors and proposed redeveloping Centerville Place into a mix of office, retail and restaurant space as well as about 350 housing units, however, in January the proposal was abruptly withdrawn. At that time, Dillin said in a statement that investors had the need “to focus on other parts of their business which prevented their comfort in an investment of this magnitude.”

MORE ON KROGER: ‘This impact will be deeply felt’: Groups say Kroger closure to hurt south Springfield

Dillin said on Tuesday his goal for redeveloping the South Limestone property will be about more than just redeveloping or, “flipping,” the Kroger building. Instead, he said he wants to focus on redeveloping Springfield’s south side as a whole.

During the meeting, Dillin presented the commission with a plan he called, “Springfield 4 Corners.” The plan featured renderings of the Kroger building redesigned as a “food mart”, complete with a garden and spaces in the front of the building for food trucks to park as well as stone signage on the corner of Limestone reading, “Historic South Springfield.”

“Our goal is to create environments that strengthen a community,” Dillin said. “So when we look at a challenge like the Kroger site, it doesn’t work for us to just look at the Kroger building we need to look at the area around it and how we can improve it.”

But the city has a long way to go before finalizing any of those plans, Franzen said, and will hold a series of forums to get public input on what the community would like to see in the former Kroger site.

By agreeing to the letter of intent on Tuesday, Franzen said, the commission is simply agreeing to, “work together and enter into a development services agreement.”

The city has not yet discussed a financial arrangement with Dillin.

“That services agreement will work to develop a business plan and will ultimately come up with what the final business plan will be,” Franzen said.

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