The first steps toward obtaining needed government approvals for Planet Oasis are underway, said David Glimcher, CEO of Blue Horseshoe Ventures, would-be developer of the sprawling entertainment complex outside Sunbury.
Plans were announced in June for the $2 billion, 350-acre development adjacent to the Tanger Outlet Mall on the east side of Interstate 71 in Berkshire Township.
Zoning for the development is in place, Glimcher said. But the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Delaware County Engineer's Office have said they must approve a detailed traffic plan. In addition, Berkshire Township leaders have said an application to the township is a requirement for any development in the planned mixed-use district in which Planet Oasis would be built.
Glimcher said Planet Oasis will be developed in stages, and a variety of details will be made public as work nears on each stage. Also to be identified in stages are a number of companies that will partner with Blue Horseshoe Ventures on the project.
One step already in motion, Glimcher said, is negotiations on a memorandum of understanding with ODOT and the county engineer. An agreement must be reached on the memorandum, which will precede the traffic study.
Glimcher said he anticipates Blue Horseshoe will pay to convert U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 fronting the site from two to five lanes, and also will pay for roads leading into the site.
Breanna Badanes, public information officer for ODOT's District 6, confirmed talks are being held on the memorandum of understanding, which was not yet approved Oct. 1.
Delaware County Engineer Chris Bauserman said, "My staff and representatives from ODOT met with the developer's representatives several times over the last six to eight weeks to discuss the project and specifically, the traffic study for the proposed Planet Oasis project. The purpose of the memorandum is to define the scope of the traffic study. For instance, it addresses what roads and intersections will be studied, what off-site roads and intersections will be included, and defines some of the basic assumptions and methods to be used in performing the study.
"The memorandum," he added, "gives the developer and his traffic engineers an understanding of the county and ODOT expectations before the work on the study begins."
Scott Sanders, executive director of the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission, said the commission reviews any subdivision processes in the county. Planet Oasis has been a topic at one of the monthly sketch plan meetings routinely held by commission, he said.
A consultant for Planet Oasis showed the layout of the proposed roadway changes, Sanders said, which didn't involve discussion of specific commercial development. Sanders characterized the sketch-plan discussion as a tentative step that would precede any application.
Application No. 1 near
Some of the buildings in Planet Oasis -- hotels and restaurants in particular -- will be designed, built and paid for by the companies that will operate them, Glimcher said.
In those cases, the companies will file their own applications with Berkshire Township.
The first application Blue Horseshoe Ventures will file with the township might be ready in about 60 days, he said.
It would involve Blue Horseshoe's deal with UltraStar Multi-tainment for a $40 million indoor entertainment center, he added.
Also, Glimcher said, Delaware County will need to approve Blue Horseshoe's plan to extend any needed utilities onto the site.
Planet Oasis' first phase will be 40 percent to 45 percent of the development, Glimcher said, and will involve some of the site's hotels and restaurants. Construction on that phase is estimated to start in December, with the opening a year later.
The second phase will be finished in December 2020, he said.
During the next six to nine months, Glimcher predicted, a number of companies that will open at Planet Oasis will be announced.
The heart of Planet Oasis will be a number of entertainment options, some unique to central Ohio, including indoor skydiving, go-kart racing, rock climbing, an indoor water park, a skate park, a BMX-racing venue, an e-sports arena and a saltwater lake with a beach.
Glimcher said plans call for the beach to be covered by a dome so it can operate year-round, with swimmers and ice skaters at a nearby rink able to see each other in the winter.
Most of the attractions will be in the second phase, which he said will involve an "immense amount" of work.
Those attractions will be in the center of the Planet Oasis site, and Blue Horseshoe Ventures will construct most of the buildings there, Glimcher said.
The attractions will be operated by different companies, he said, and Blue Horseshoe Ventures has letters of intent from about 20 of them. Most of the companies have not yet been identified, he said, because they aren't close to opening their operations.
"You can assume every major brand (of hotel) will be here," he said. That list will include Marriott, Hilton, Choice Hotels and InterContinental Hotels Group, he added.
Planet Oasis will have up to 30 hotels with 5,000 total rooms, he said. As a result, companies such as Marriott and Hilton are likely to have represented each of their sub-brands, which range in affordability.
Blue Horseshoe Ventures will fund its share of Planet Oasis construction with debt and equity, and probably bonds as well, Glimcher said -- "no different than when we did Polaris (Fashion Place)," which was opened in 2001 by Glimcher Realty Trust.
'Transition is tough'
The Planet Oasis plan has drawn objections and concerns from some Berkshire Township residents.
Glimcher said he didn't want to discount those worries.
"People don't want change. ... Transition is tough for human beings," he said. "Your way to get around that is you go out and complain about it. You probably have valid complaints ... This is how you feel. ... On the other hand, just because one guy has a concern, there might be nine other people that don't."
Lenni Male -- one of three Blue Horseshoe Ventures partners, with Glimcher and Tony Sekulovski -- objected to the characterization of Planet Oasis as an "amusement park."
"The ultimate goal is to offer an escape to people. ... Things not in the Midwest before."
It will offer something for "ages 3 to 83 and every budget," she said.