Centerville history in spotlight as entertainment district approved by city to boost business

CENTERVILLE — Some residents have expressed concerns about how a proposed entertainment district will affect Centerville’s historic area as the plan moved a step closer to state approval.

But city officials who signed off on an application for a 113-acre entertainment district said the plan will enhance the city’s history — which dates back to the late-1700s — while bolstering business in the town’s center.

“They can work together extremely well,” Centerville Mayor Brooks Compton said.

Local businessman Patrick Beckel’s proposal approved 7-0 Monday night by Centerville City Council mirrors the city’s Architectural Preservation District, where many structures are more than 100 years old. The plan now heads to the Ohio Department of Commerce.

The boundaries of the plan, which requires $50 million in investment to be approved by the state, drew concern from longtime Centerville resident Brenda Badgley.

“I question that we have the physical space in the AP District to bring in breweries and entertainment facilities, especially without endangering and dismantling our historic structures and visible heritage,” Badgley said.

The city is home to Ohio’s largest collection of early stone buildings, according to Centerville-Washington History’s website. At least 10 of the more than two dozen structures — many of which are 200 or more years old — are in or near the proposed entertainment district, records show.

‘Benefits’ on both sides

Beckel’s plan, if approved by the Ohio Department of Commerce, would expand the number of liquor permits available in an area that spans about six blocks on Ohio 48, or Main Street, and about five blocks on Franklin Street, records show.

It would provide up to 15 new liquor permits — three times the current number — and remove a “barrier,” helping attract high-end restaurants and other businesses, Centerville Development Director Michael Norton-Smith said.

Beckel’s proposal, Norton-Smith said, also aligns with the city’s Uptown plan. Uptown is an $11.4 million, multiyear phased project to improve access, parking, business, greenspace and entertainment in the historic center of town.

Having an entertainment district that includes a significant portion of the city’s heritage can better promote Centerville’s past, Compton said.

“The two of those, they’re not mutually exclusive,” Compton said. “They can coordinate themselves together very effectively. And it’s incumbent upon the city to be able to manage that expectation.

“And I think we feel very comfortable” through a coordinated effort by various officials and organizations “that this will be very closely looked at and very closely monitored and there will be benefits from an historical side, in addition to the benefits that the community will generate from an economic standpoint,” he added.

Beckel’s proposal “would actually encourage investment in our older buildings,” City Councilman Bill Serr said.

Serr referred to Salar Restaurant and Lounge co-owner and executive chef Margot Blondet’s June announcement to expand from Dayton’s Oregon District and open a second location on West Franklin in Centerville.

That decision came after it was known that Beckel planned to apply for an entertainment district.

Getting ‘push back’

While Badgley was the only one who raised concerns about the plan during Monday night’s public hearing, Beckel said he has received push back about the purpose of the district.

Bars that attract what Badgley called “late night noise and potentially rowdy crowds” are “not the intent,” Beckel said.

“The whole idea behind this (Uptown) action plan and the entertainment district was to bring our Centerville residents out,” he said.

“Somewhere safe where they can walk business to business, restaurant to restaurant. Come out and enjoy the evening … to benefit the local community,” Beckel added.

Centerville has an aging population and “people don’t want to have to drive long distances as we get older to seek out fun things to do, good restaurants. We would like to have that here,” he said.

Uptown has “historic buildings. And they need to be preserved,” Beckel said.

His plan will likely be reviewed by the Ohio Department of Commerce within two months of submission, Norton-Smith said. If approved, the liquor permits would cost $2,500 each, he added.

Beckel’s application is being submitted under one of a series of the state’s population guidelines, according to Norton-Smith.

That option requires that the municipality have at least 20,000 residents and either an amusement park or that $50 million “or more will be invested in development and construction in” the district, state records show.

The area has seen $20 million in public investment since 2015, Norton-Smith said. “Conservative” estimates call for another $30 million in public/private investment as the Uptown plan — for which construction is targeted to start next year — moves forward, he added.


•$50M: Minimum amount Ohio requires for investment to gain entertainment district designation under Centerville plan.

•1796: Year Centerville, then called Centreville was founded.

•150: Estimated parcels of land in proposed entertainment district.

•30: Number of early stone buildings in Centerville.

SOURCES: City of Centerville and Centerville-Washington History.

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