Huber music center creates high hopes

$18M Heights’ anchor would seat 4,500.
City officials don’t see it competing with Kettering’s Fraze.

By Steven Matthews

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HUBER HEIGHTS — The $18 million music center proposed in Huber Heights is the city’s latest effort to generate economic interest in the $220 million Heights development near the Interstate 70 and Ohio 201 interchange.

More than a year has passed since the city’s announcement that the commercial component of The Heights would feature mixed-use development — retail, office space, restaurants and hospitality.

But there hasn’t been any movement on those sectors, while two other components — residential and recreational — have prospered in the form of the Carriage Trails housing development and Kroger Aquatic Center at The Heights.

“We’re doing this because there is nothing that’s occurred,” Councilman Mark Campbell said. “I honestly believe that if we don’t do this, it will be a long time before it develops. This venue will place us on the map. It will be a regional draw, and it will help Huber Heights specifically.”

The 4,500-seat, semi-enclosed music center would anchor The Heights, which was announced in August 2011 as a five-year project that would create hundreds of jobs and boast nearly $1 billion in value when complete.

City officials have said The Heights is expected to generate $31 million in tax revenue annually and have an economic impact of roughly $1 billion

over the next 30 years.

“I believe it’s going to develop,” City Manager Jim Borland said. “How it develops, that is still to be determined. If we put a music center there, you may see restaurants and those kinds of venues that would develop around that. The economy will let us know which direction to go on that. It’s real early in the game to make that determination.”

Campbell said Huber Heights hasn’t identified how the music center would be funded, but didn’t rule out potential sources such as federal grant money, sponsors and selling the venue’s naming rights. That could generate about $6 million to help offset the cost, Camp-bell said. TIF money also could be used to build it and once the music center is fully operational, Camp-bell projects it would generate about $500,000 in profit per year.

projected to start in early 2013, and it would open in the spring of 2014, according to a press release from the city.

City officials said the music center would not compete with the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering, a popular 4,300-seat venue that opened in 1991. The $2.6 million venue was funded 100 percent by community donations, according to Amy Berlean, Kettering’s community information manager.

Campbell hopes the city can work with Kettering to “enhance the region.”

“The Fraze doesn’t have the same type of location we do,” Campbell said. “They have longevity. The buzz in government is cooperation and working together. It’s a really good opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. What’s good for us is what’s good for the region, and vice versa.”

In 2012, the Fraze — which is owned and operated by the city — drew a total attendance of 173,000. It generated $4.2 million in revenue and netted a profit of $400 000.

Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman said it’d be premature to say the two venues would be competing against each other, nor has he had any discussions with Huber Heights city officials.

“I don’t want to speculate what (Campbell) said and what I’d say in response,” Schwieterman said. “Another venue to the north of us has the possibility of a competitive impact. We don’t know what Huber Heights has in mind for its final product. We’ve been doing it for over 20 years, and we’ve developed relationships and a method for very consistent programming.”

Huber Heights City Council unanimously passed legislation Dec. 10 authorizing staff to spend $100,000 to investigate the music center proposal. The city has not contracted with anyone to do the research to date. No new tax dollars will be used to pay for the study. The money will come out of a TIF fund that was set up in April 2003.

Campbell said he expects city staff to complete its research in 60 to 90 days.

“Nobody’s frustrated about the lack of development more than me,” he said. “We have two choices — accept or change the landscape. I’m for changing the landscape.”

Tom McMasters, a Huber Heights resident, wonders why the city didn’t build the music center in the first place, rather than constructing the $1 million Eichelberger Amphitheater at The Heights.

“I really wish a lot of this planning was done more in the public view so they’d get a better feeling of what the rest of the residents would really like to see in some of these projects they’re putting forward,” McMasters said.

Huber Heights resident Janell Smith said she is in favor of The Heights project, but said an $18 million music center is a “bit out of our league.”

“They’re jumping the gun,” Smith said. “I want them to think about what they’re doing first and slow down a little bit. There’s nothing up here yet that constitutes this kind of money.”

George , managing member of Carriage Trails at The Heights, LLC and 201 Corridor Management, LLC, said he didn’t know a lot about the music center, but that it would be a “wonderful centerpiece for the development.”

However, it would be another “three to six months” before there would be any news on the 140-acre commercial development piece of The Heights, he said.

“We’ve said from day one that it’s not going to happen overnight, particularly in this real estate economy,” Jenkins said. “I’m still confident we’ll be able to do that.”

Brian Kinzelman, senior principal with the Columbus-based architectural firm MKSK, presented Huber Heights City Council with the site plan on Dec. 10. He said he did the work on his own time and hasn’t been paid by the city. Involving Kinzelman further in the project will be part of the city’s research, Borland said.

“This is a great location off the interstate and high visibility from the interstate,” Kinzelman said. “With the improved infrastructure of Brandt Pike and the connection between 201 and 202, it will satisfy the local residents and also be a regional connection.”

Scott Koorndyk, executive vice president of economic development and operation with the Day-ton Development Coalition, believes the region can support two music venues.

“That will improve the quality of life for citizens in the Dayton region, and for that reason, it’s something we get quite excited about,” Koorndyk said. “Anything to make it a better place to live and work we support that and give the folks in Huber Heights a lot of credit for. We applaud the vision they have.”

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2281 or Follow him on Twitter@StevenWMatthews.