Development begins around Caesar Creek Lake [Dayton Daily News, Ohio :: ]
(Dayton Daily News (OH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 29--HARVEYSBURG -- Ohio Renaissance Festival founder Peter Carroll has broken ground on a 165-acre residential and commercial development between Caesar Creek Lake and Interstate 71, seven years later than expected.
Excavation, begun earlier this month on the first 28 lots of the 222-home Caesar Creek Estates, was stalled last week but is expected to resume in April, according to Carroll and local officials.
In July, Carroll and builder Chad Ellis are expected to begin marketing homes near the shore of the lake, the centerpiece of a 3,741-acre federal and state park.
Carroll first unveiled plans for Caesar Creek Estates and the Festival Marketplace in 2005. Warren County Commissioners approved $650,000 in sewage treatment improvements tied to the project in Harveysburg, a small village on the shore of the lake near the Warren-Clinton county line.
In 2007, Carroll funded a lift station and extension of sewer lines across an adjoining county park to the development, according to Chris Brausch, sanitary engineer in Warren County.
"The original plan was we were going to have three model homes open on Labor Day of '07," Harveysburg Mayor Dick Verga said. "That's when the real estate market tanked. Everything got put on ice."
In addition, Carroll's plans were based -- and continue to count -- on development of a $15 million marina complex planned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) across Caesar Creek Lake from his 273-acre complex, which already features a 100-acre festival site and offices.
Centered around a 2,830-acre U.S. Corps of Engineers reservoir, federal and state park facilities at Caesar Creek Lake already include camping, a beach, hiking and biking trails, and nature and visitors centers, as well as put-in docks for power and sailboats.
"This is a recreational paradise. There's nothing in the state equal to it," said Carroll, who turns 87 in June.
The latest state plan calls for a marina, featuring 400 slips and other amenities, including a fishing pond, built in two phases.
"The current plan is to have a fully functional marina by 2016 with 250 to 300 slips," said Eileen Corson, a spokesperson for ODNR.
The state project was delayed earlier this year by an underwater archaeological survey, requiring the water level to be lowered 10 feet. By the end of April, the depth is to be back to normal, and the state is expected to move forward with design and the permit process.
"The facility will become Ohio's newest public inland marina and one of the largest of its kind in southwest Ohio," according to a January press release on the ODNR web site.
Once Caesar Creek Estates is well under way, Carroll plans to begin development of an adjoining 18.6-acre parcel off Ohio 73, where he envisions a grocery, laundromat, offices, banking, medical facilities, "maybe a child care center."
He also plans to develop another 45 acres for residential uses and to begin using the festival's 100-acre parking area for outdoor concerts and other events, in addition to continuing to operate the Ohio Renaissance Festival.
Carroll, a former champion racing sailor, has experience developing farm fields, having built the Georgia Renaissance Festival on 180 acres outside Atlanta before turning the Ohio festival site into a regional draw that he said has attracted 4 million people over the past 24 years.
Still Carroll said he was counting on festival director, Cheryl Bucholtz, and his son, Philip Carroll, a banker in Miami, to carry through his vision in Warren County.
"You start to die the day you are born," Carroll said. "I'd settle for five more years."
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