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What's next for Liberty Center developer?

Posted at 9:29 PM, May 24, 2016

LAS VEGAS -- Liberty Center developer Yaromir Steiner debuted a massive new project at the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas this week.

But not for Cincinnati.

Lake Nona Town Center in Orlando, Florida, is a 100-acre shopping center designed to complement a $3 billion master-planned community that’s already attracted 10,000 residents, 7,000 students and 5,000 employees in the last eight years. The site is 36 acres larger than Liberty Center's first phase.

Tavistock Development Company recently hired Columbus- based Steiner + Associates as a planning, leasing and development-services partner for the monster retail project. It will include many of the same features as Liberty Center: Specialty retail and anchors, a cinema, hotel and office space. All of it will be built around public spaces in a fashion similar to Liberty Center.

Steiner model of Lake Nona

A Lake Nona scale model replaced the Liberty Center model featured in Steiner's trade-show booth in each of the last three years.

But don't assume Steiner has lost interest in Butler County.

He said site work will begin soon on the first of two Liberty Center expansions.

“We’re studying another expansion for 100,000-square-foot addition on on the west side of the project,” Steiner told WCPO in an exclusive interview in Las Vegas. “We're looking to add hotels and residential units on the south side, along with high-end condos and strip center. Everything we are looking at is probably a couple hundred million dollars … in the next three to five years.”

Steiner said the initial phase of Liberty Center is 95 percent leased and 85 percent occupied. Dillard’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and the AC Hotel by Marriott are all performing ahead of expectations. He declined to provide revenue estimates.

In fact, Steiner said every retail category except bars has performed better than he expected, even the Funny Bone Comedy Club.

“I was thinking a comedy club is an urban thing,” he said. “I think they are beating all their urban brethren and doing very high numbers.”

The region’s first AC Hotel by Marriott is “outperforming their own projections,” Steiner said, while Liberty Center’s apartments are filling “at light speed.” He expects all 240 units to be occupied by year end. So, he’s itching to start construction on land south of Liberty Way, a 19-acre plot on Tyler's Place Boulevard that Steiner purchased earlier this year.

Steiner said 96 condos and a 150,000-square-foot retail center are the first things planned.

“We’ll start doing site work in three to four weeks,” he said.

Steiner said Liberty Center is close to finalizing a deal with Crayola Experience, a family-themed attraction that provides hands-on entertainment for kids using Crayola products. Liberty Township trustees approved zoning changes in April to enable the retail attraction.

As for the western expansion of Liberty Center, Steiner said there are “big ideas but nothing immediate” in the works.