By Bowdeya Tweh & Emily Eaton
Yaromir Steiner said he felt like a proud father Thursday as he stood near the public square of his company’s $350 million real estate development in Liberty Township.
Steiner, founder and CEO of Columbus-based Steiner and Associates, also admitted he was a bit scared. A lot of the sweat equity put in over the last few years has translated into retail, office, and residential buildings on a 65-acre site along Interstate 75 between Liberty Way and Ohio 129.
Now, he – as well as Butler County and Liberty Township leaders – are ready for people to support it.
“I hope it works,” Steiner quipped in front of more than 300 people.
Thursday was opening day for Liberty Center. Stores and restaurants welcomed people to see the site’s amenities. Butler County and Liberty Township officials joined curious shoppers to walk around and see Cobb Theatres’ CineBistro concept, the infinity garden outside Kona Grill and the Cincinnati Children’s Discovery Center inside the Foundry mall Building.
“We’re excited about the restaurants and all the shopping close by,” said Jean Nguyen, a West Chester Township mom who stood next to her 4- and 5-year-old sons in the mall building. “It’ll nice to not have to go to Kenwood (Towne Centre) to go shopping.”
Walking around after a purchase at Old Navy, Radhika Namburi of Mason said she wanted to visit Liberty Center Thursday out of curiosity to see what was there. She said the development in the last 10 years along I-75 between Tylersville Road and Liberty Way has had a dramatic impact on the area.
“This mall is adding more value to the community here,” she said.
Steiner thanked local leaders, lenders and tenants for supporting the project, acknowledging the big financial and political risk involved. Public improvements to the site are now totaling about $63 million and early talks about Liberty Center began when the region hadn’t fully recovered from the effects of the Great Recession. And building a big shopping destination at a time when the retail industry itself is going through major changes can also be difficult to swallow.
“Wow, what a dream,” said Liberty Township trustee Christine Matacic. “Can you believe this? This is fantastic.”
Matacic said what Steiner has delivered has exceeded the expectations of what the township envisioned as part of its central commercial corridor a decade ago.
“Thank you for making this a reality,” she said.
While stores such as Victoria Secret, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Old Navy were open to customers, many buildings and retail stores remain a work in progress. Some shops have their doors and windows papered over while construction crews and retail store employees moved about in preparation for their opening days.
Community events are planned at Liberty Center throughout the week, but individual stores are also planning events and celebrity appearances as well. Fashion designer Betsey Johnson is expected to be at Dillard’s in Liberty Center from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Two Cincinnati Bengals players are also expected to make appearances at Dick’s Sporting Goods on Sunday. Wide receiver Marvin Jones is expected to be at Dick’s at Liberty Center from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is expected to be there from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.