Liberty Center and Disney Springs: It wouldn’t take much

I always love a visit to the Liberty Center for a good movie, dinner or just shopping. I consider it one of the best destinations of its kind and I love that its in my neighborhood, and that takes into account that my very favorite spot is Disney Springs in Orlando. While on vacation recently in Orlando I had a fresh take on all the wonderful new additions they have added to Disney Springs which made it a hopping place of excitement and adventure. Everything is so nice and clean, as well as competent. My wife and I spent a lot of time, and a small fortune at Disney Springs and loved every moment of it. But as soon as we returned we went to our hometown Liberty Center to see Star Wars one of the many times that we would see it since its release on December 20th and I have to say that Liberty Center is really nice to have, and I appreciate it immensely.

One of the conditions of our vacation, which really took place most of the month of December, with a week in Orlando, was that we would visit at least five different amusement parks. With Disney being the best of the best in that category, I was impressed with Kings Island’s Winterfest and had been thinking that Cedar Fair Amusements had done a great job since buying it, and putting it into a another level of category as a national destination. Considering that the day we were at Kings Island on a Friday we had the day before been at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the experiences were both on the upside of quality. Then over that weekend and all through the following week we spent a lot of time at Liberty Center and I just have to say I am happy to have it in my town. Its really nice to have something like that in a region where tourism isn’t the primary hook, but business is. I use Liberty Center for those very important dinners all the time, but over the holidays I had to remind myself that I wasn’t still in the euphoria of Disney World, but was in Liberty Township, Ohio.

Now after several years of operating I can say with full confidence that going to a movie at Cinebistro is still the best way to go to the theater in the city of Cincinnati, or the surrounding area for hundreds of miles. It always has an uptown feel without the problems of going to such places, like New York, or Chicago. The parking is free, and easy. The streets are clean and well lit. The food is the top of the charts, but that movie theater is the best. Clearly the best in the city. I really like going there and being spoiled by the staff. I have become used to that treatment and really appreciate it. While watching the latest Star Wars film there, and the latest Clint Eastwood film ‘Richard Jewell’ it had the same feel of being on vacation at Disney Springs, only it was only less than a ten minute drive from my home and that is a treasure I do not take for granted.
There was a lot of news in November of 2019 where Liberty Center put a third party commercial real estate firm to handle the leasing, property management and marketing called Bayer Properties out of Birmingham, Alabama. This is the third chance since the Steiner group turned over their control to JLL. Hey, it’s a tough gig in a recovering economy where brick and mortars are struggling to find their voice. I spent some time walking around and looking at everything at Liberty Center and I consider it a great success story, but without question they are eager to fill up some of their empty lots with vigorous new business and for many of those businesses it’s a tough investment. But after several years of working it out, Liberty Center still has the feel of a destination market, a place that would be worthy to fly into town just to visit and stay at the Marriott that is on property.

However, there are things that could be done to improve the lure for new businesses to invest in the area, and to fill their office and condominium spacing that is available. I don’t think enough people still understand that there is a full mall on site that is part of the shopping and dining experience. Those problems could be overcome with just a few simple steps. Disney Springs looks like they are turning away leases, there are no empty spots for them anywhere. But then again, the big amusement parks are just a few blocks away. But that should not restrict Liberty Center from providing an equal value and create so much commercial value that they are turning away potential business plans instead of taking all comers. That is a problem that Cincinnati Mills choked on in Forest Park, and that same fate for Liberty Center can easily be avoided. The trick is that there should be more things to do at Liberty Center than just shop and eat, such as the big hot air balloon that they have at Disney Springs that is free advertising for many miles in every direction that something interesting is going on at that shopping complex. Liberty Center could use a bit more fun. It’s a shame they don’t have their own version of Main Event or Top Golf on the property to make a night out something that really is an all-encompassing experience. Disney Springs has a lot to do besides eating, drinking and shopping, and it should be doing it more than it is. That would help fill up some of those empty lots with vibrant businesses.

But more than anything everything needs to work that was put in, like the little pond in front of the wellness center on the top floor of the center of the complex. Loose bricks and poor landscaping should not be surrendered to because its hard to hire a staff motivated enough to keep up with everything. Disney management keeps their empire motivated with policy that their workers adhere to and it matters. I was very impressed with the workers at Cinebistro at Liberty Center because they had managed over time to retain that high level of quality and customer service. I always stay for the end of the credits and one of the attendants brought me a mint just for a touch of class. If the whole complex down to the custodians felt that way about the entire complex, that would go a long way to improving the charisma of the place. It’s a subtle thing, but one of the most important and is often the difference between a vacation like Disney and every place else, especially Vegas and New York. Those places its easy to see the dirt if you look a little closely. At any Disney complex, the dirt is well hidden from view and the workers are in on the illusion, which is what people are willing to pay for. Yet, Liberty Center is already mostly there, it wouldn’t take much. And for this new management group, I am firmly rooting in their corner for great success!

Rich Hoffman

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