MONTGOMERY, Ohio -- Montgomery's historic business district is humming along, fueled by boutique shops, mainstays like The Original Montgomery Inn and blocks of charming red brick buildings.
But just south of the thriving business district, tucked in between it and Moeller High School, a tangle of ramps connecting to Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway have kept a prime location barely used.
That's set to change dramatically thanks to plans by city officials and a constellation of county, state and private supporters.
They've teamed up to replace the intersection with a roundabout that frees up five acres of land that will be used in a $45 million, two-phase project to add restaurants, condominiums, office buildings and a hotel along Montgomery Road.
"I think it's the best project going in Hamilton County in terms of economic development," City Manager Wayne Davis said.
Montgomery hired Strand Associates this month to help design the roundabout, which isn't due to be built until state funding is released in late 2019 or early 2020.
But the first $25 million phase of the project, which is called the Gateway Development, is scheduled to start in January 2018. Plans call for a blend of big ventures:
The second phase adds more of everything except hotel rooms, including 48 more condominiums, more restaurant space and another 171,000 square feet of office space.
The Hamilton County commission approved the sale of land near the interchange to help facilitate the development.
"They have great plans," Commissioner Denise Driehaus, who voted for the county land sale, said. "Wayne Davis is very excited about the potential."
The current intersection with the highway leaves a swath of land isolated in the middle of circular on- and off-ramps. The roundabout will be tucked into a fraction of that space just southwest of the existing intersection, freeing up five acres for development.
James Kiefer, Traditions vice president of engineering, said the roundabout will improve traffic flow and should result in fewer, less severe accidents.
Without cross streets, most accidents will involve side swiping rather than head-on or "T-bone" crashes.
"I've driven the one (roundabout) in Hilton Head, Sea Pines. It will take a learning curve on the traffic patterns," Kiefer said.
He's also enthusiastic about the project's economic benefits. "It will have a positive economic impact for the city of Montgomery with jobs and earnings taxes," he said.
Davis said there are more hurdles to overcome, including permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to move landing beacons used by Lunken Airport. He said the beacons have largely been replaced by more modern navigation technology and won't pose a danger.
And the city is working on establishing a tax increment finance (TIF) district with Hamilton County and the Sycamore school district. A TIF district allows development projects to be financed in part by directing increased property tax revenue derived from the project into a special fund.
"It continues to be a great, great project," Davis said. "We have restaurants, hotels. I think it's going to complement our wonderful downtown heritage district."
Bob Driehaus covers economic development. Contact him and follow stories on Facebook, Google, and Twitter.