With Wasson Way underway, talk about the Norwood Depot's role in the project ramps up

$14 million trails project may incorporate site

NORWOOD, Ohio -- The $14 million Wasson Way is starting to become a reality, and developers and Norwood residents are imagining the possibilities Cincinnati's rails-to-trails project might bring to an old depot site on Montgomery Road.

While the Wasson Way Project began tearing up tracks this spring, a for-sale sign appeared on the corner of Montgomery and Lexington Avenue. The Norwood Depot site, overgrown and littered, sits at the southern end of Norwood. It is across from University Station on Montgomery and from Stone Lanes, a bowling alley, on Lexington. 

Norfolk Southern still owns several pieces of property along the 7.6 miles of Wasson Way, including two on Wasson Road. But the Norwood Depot property, at five acres, is the largest of these sites.

Wasson Way organizers have no say over what will be developed at Norwood Depot or the other private properties. But they are working with city planners and sparking community conversation about the sites on social media.

On the Wasson Way Facebook page, a question asking what people would like to see built on the Norwood Depot property elicited more than a dozen responses. People wished for everything from a brewery and taproom and small businesses to a skate or dog park and a bicycle rental facility. 

“We hope (the development) is something that's very complementary to the trail and our vision for it,” said Susan Schaefer, board president of the Wasson Way Project. “We're hoping that maybe someone who's thinking of buying the property would see and use those community ideas.”

Norfolk Southern is asking $3 million for the property, which includes a building. The site -- and its proximity to Wasson Way -- already has attracted several offers, said Ben McNab, a director with Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate firm handling the sale for the railroad.

“It's a great piece with a great location,” McNab said. “The bike trail is exciting.”

McNab said potential buyers have expressed interest in developing the site for student housing, as a commercial property or as a mixed-use development, which would include both commercial and housing. No one has mentioned a park.

“Three million dollars is a lot to pay for a dog park,” McNab said.

The Norwood Depot property is part of Norwood's general business district zoning, which runs all along Montgomery Road and supports commercial uses. However, it also is zoned as a planned unit development, which means City Council must approve any new development on the property.

While potential buyers scope out the Norwood Depot site, construction will start in August on Wasson Way's first phase, a little more than a half mile that stretches from Madison Road to Tamarack Avenue. Track removal already has begun, and Schaefer said this section of Wasson Way could be ready to use by the end of the year.

Wasson Way will cross Interstate 71 and arrive in Norwood, at Floral Avenue, when the first part of the second phase of the project is built. Schaefer said designs for that portion are underway and construction is slated for 2019. 

“That will give folks in Norwood great connections and use of the trail, going to Rookwood for jobs or shopping,” Schaefer said.

The Wasson Way Project still is working to raise money through grants and private donations for the rest of the trail, which eventually will run from Victory Parkway to the Little Miami Bike Trail in Newtown. Wasson Way is expected to cost at least $14 million, and $3 million has been secured, including a $750,000 federal grant that will cover the section from Tamarack Avenue to Floral Avenue.

Stay updated on Wasson Way construction by following the Wasson Way Project on Facebook or emailing wassonway@gmail.com to be added to the organization's newsletter.

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