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BERKSHIRE TOWNSHIP — It was marketed as “the entertainment venue of the future.”
It was compared to Disney World – a global attraction in the heart of Ohio.
Five years later, however, nothing has come of the planned Planet Oasis/Arcadia development in Delaware County.
The $2 billion entertainment complex was to be located on 350 acres in Berkshire Township, just east of the Interstate 71/U.S. 36/Ohio 37 intersection, across from the Tanger Outlets.
It was going to be the largest combination of action sports, attractions, dining, entertainment and health and wellness facilities in the country, developer David Glimcher said during the project’s unveiling five years ago. And it was going to be Ohio’s largest construction project in the last half-century.
Initial plans called for a giant Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a saltwater lake with sand beaches and a boardwalk, an amphitheater, a conference center, an e-sports facility, nightclubs, indoor skydiving, an indoor water park, an indoor multi-sport facility, a shooting gallery, a butterfly museum, BMX biking, climbing, skateboarding, surfing, paddle boats, go-karting, virtual golf, laser tag, video games, a movie theater, bowling, 75 restaurants, a spa, a fitness center, a grocery store, a nutritional supplement lab, retail shops, and up to 5,000 hotel rooms, the Delaware Gazette reported.
“Planet Oasis is about the future, it’s an escape,” Glimcher said at a press conference at A.D. Farrow Harley-Davidson in Sunbury on June 28, 2018, when the project was announced. Local and regional officials attended the event, the Morrow County Sentinel reported, with some wearing Planet Oasis baseball caps.
“It’s something for everyone,” Glimcher continued. “This is the largest project the state of Ohio has seen in 40-50 years. Nothing is impossible when you have a vision.”
The project caught the attention of Knox County officials. Centerburg Village Council discussed the development at its July 2 meeting, with several members voicing concerns over its proximity (it would have been located 20 minutes from the village).
The project’s announcement reinvigorated discussions among local officials about the importance of planning for growth, in order to control it.
“I’m concerned because it’s going to happen,” Centerburg Village Councilman Tom Stewart said at the time. “And we can’t stop it, but we can certainly control it a little bit.”
Planet Oasis was expected to employ up to 25,000 people and bring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue to Delaware County. It was expected to open in December 2019, with construction beginning in December 2018.
But according to Berkshire Township Trustee Rod Myers, no dirt was ever turned.
“They didn’t start moving dirt on this. It never got that far. …” said Myers, who has served as a trustee in the township since 2009. “It never developed. No land was ever moved. It just died.”
While the project received some pushback from local residents, it was a legal squabble between the two developers involved that Myers believes may have derailed it.
Blue Horseshoe Ventures, the New Albany-based development company in charge of the project, announced in October 2018 that it would be moving forward without Glimcher, who had served as the face of the project.
“(We) entered into discussions with David Glimcher about the possibility of Mr. Glimcher becoming one of the owners in the development group. While these discussions were taking place, Mr. Glimcher provided some limited assistance to the company,” Blue Horseshoe Ventures, founded by Tony and Alex Sekulovski, said in a news release at the time.
“Since the company and Mr. Glimcher were unable to reach agreement on the terms of him becoming an owner, the company is moving forward without him.”
Glimcher fought back, however, insisting he was still in charge of the project and that his own team would be handling it from here on out.
“Mr. (Tony) Sekulovski is no longer involved with the deal,” Glimcher told the Columbus Dispatch at the time. “We believe other things will surface that will involve improprieties.”
The two parties took the matter to court in November 2018, and nearly a year later, Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge James P. Schuck ruled that Sekulovski’s company would hold all rights and responsibilities under the contracts related to the development.
Glimcher and his company would hold no contractual rights or legal interest in the project and would need to waive any that they might have accrued.
Plans for the project shifted slightly between June 2018 and October 2019, when the lawsuit was settled.
Sekulovski’s group opted to remove some of the carnival-like features that had drawn ire from local residents, and it also launched a public campaign to rename the complex, eventually settling on “Arcadia” (Glimcher had locked up the “Planet Oasis” name in a corporation he’d created in May 2018, the Columbus Dispatch reported).
But since the lawsuit was settled, local officials say nothing has come of the project.
Myers said the township has received no plans from Sekulovski’s group in the three-and-a-half years since.
“It kind of went away. Nothing has been discussed about it since. I mean, nothing,” Myers told Knox Pages recently. “Nothing has been said. So I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
The same goes for the Ohio Department of Transportation, according to District 6 Public Information Officer Brooke Ebersole.
“We have not heard anything from that developer,” she said.
While a version of the project could technically still take place, Myers said, it likely would not look like the one originally promised, given the fact that some of the land has already been sold to other commercial developers.
“A lot of the land they were looking at has now been developed. Part of that land is now going to be (turned into) a Mercedes-Benz car dealership. Another parcel is going to be apartments. Ohio Health bought 60 acres up there,” Myers said.
“So honestly, I don’t think there’s probably enough land there to accommodate what they had planned, because some of it’s been sold.”
Sekulovski could not be reached for comment for this story.
While Delaware County continues to grow, Myers said many Berkshire Township residents still like their peace and quiet.
He believes Planet Oasis could have taken that away.
“I think when people move to Berkshire Township, they’re moving out and hoping to keep that rural-type atmosphere,” Myers said. “And something like (Planet Oasis) would have just – I mean, they were talking about having over 100 acres of just (rides). … I don’t think people here were for that kind of development.”
The Knox Pages Open Source section is brought to you by Habitat for Humanity of Knox County.