The Walmart super center at the Taylor Square shopping center in Reynoldsburg is the main anchor of a thriving retail development on a site that was once nothing more than woods and an open field.

The Walmart super center at the Taylor Square shopping center in Reynoldsburg is the main anchor of a thriving retail development on a site that was once nothing more than woods and an open field.

Lucas Haire, who was Reynoldsburg's development director when this story was being researched and written, said Walmart was the first business to open at the shopping center. The 204,394–square-foot store occupies 21.28 acres of the 210-acre site at 2793 Taylor Road Southwest.

Haire said Walmart has a retail multiplier effect, meaning when a store goes in, it attracts multiple other retailers.

"All of what's at Taylor Square now is there because of Walmart," he said. "It really drove the rest of that development."

Walmart is the fourth-largest employer in the city of Reynoldsburg, according to Haire. City statistics from 2010 showed the store employs 400. He estimated about 2,000 people work in businesses in the Taylor Square shopping center area.

Before the Taylor Square shopping center opened in Reynoldsburg, many people shopped outside of the city, he said.

"Most of the retail options before it went in were in Columbus on Brice Road - that is, the big-box type retailers: Meijer, Target, Best Buy - and they all came to (state Route) 256 and Meijer relocated to East Broad Street," Haire said.

Before the development at Taylor Square began, Haire said some people in the area complained about a shopping center going in, but not specifically about Walmart.

"There's condos just north of where Walmart is located and I know those folks complained about the development because prior to that, it was all wooded and a big field," he said. "Those people lived there and it was a nice, quiet little area. Then all of a sudden, they had all this light and noise and they didn't want any of that back there.

"So the developers worked with them to do some screening and buffers and build fences to screen out the noise and the light," he said.

The Taylor Square shopping center is part of a tax increment financing (TIF) district. The city paid for roadway and infrastructure improvements to build the Taylor Road Southwest extension, which did not exist before the development, Haire said.

"Basically, old Taylor Road went to a dead end at I-70, so the city paid for the construction of the roadway from (state Route) 256 over to old Taylor Road, about an $8.5-million project," he said.

Reynoldsburg took out bonds to pay for the project and is repaying the bonds with TIF payments, he said. As a part of the TIF, businesses located at the shopping center make "payments in lieu of taxes" (PILOTs), Haire said.

In 2010, that amounted to $1,562,859.88. Walmart's contribution of $370,902.62 is one of the largest TIF payments in the TIF district, he said.

The TIF also benefits Reynoldsburg schools, Haire said.

"We pay off the bonds each year and what's left over we cut Reynoldsburg schools a check twice a year. It's on average about $600,000 each time," he said. "In 2010, we paid out a total of $1,187,014 to the schools. Overall in that area, it's very successful as a TIF project. It's one of the most successful TIFs in the state."

Olde Reynoldsburg trying to draw customers back

The city is trying to attract some of those Taylor Square shoppers into Olde Reynoldsburg.

In late June, Reynoldsburg City Council approved a strategic plan for Olde Reynoldsburg, which has again become the geographic center of town as development has moved east, but is underused as a retail corridor. The main focus of the plan is to create a vision for the future of Olde Reynoldsburg.

One suggestion that cropped up during discussions leading to the plan was to hang banners along state Route 256 in front of the Taylor Square shopping center to direct shoppers to Olde Reynoldsburg.

"Taylor Square is more of a regional retail center and most Reynoldsburg residents do shop there, but also, they shop there coming from Pickerington, Hebron, Baltimore, Kirkersville or the East Side of Columbus," Haire said. "They're coming from all over the east side of this region. It's a different market and a different draw. Olde Reynoldsburg would serve more local community businesses rather than the large national retailers.

"The hope is we make Olde Reynoldsburg the successful destination for local people to shop and to go to dinner and do those things, but also to draw in some of those people that are coming from out of town and draw in their dollars so they're spending it in Olde Reynoldsburg as well," Haire said.

Busier corridor means more calls to police

Lt. Scott McKinley has been with the Reynoldsburg police department for 20 years. He said the Taylor Square business corridor is great to have in the community, but with the good comes the bad.

"Obviously, when you have a huge number of commercial developments go into an area like that, the community is glad because it increases jobs, it increases tax revenues, additional resources for citizens," McKinley said.

"However, you've also got the bad things. Traffic is greater and people commit crimes when there's that many businesses. We take shoplifters out of there and people who steal things from cars.

"There's nowhere else to compare it to in Reynoldsburg because that is the business concentration," McKinley said.

Linda Paugh handles the police department's calls for service in Reynoldsburg. She said calls to Walmart and its parking lot are among the most common for police.

"There's a lot of other shops there besides Walmart," Paugh said.

"Marshalls there doesn't have as many calls for service and Jo-Ann Fabrics has a few."

According to Reynoldsburg police records, between January and May of this year there were a total of 170 calls for service to Walmart and its parking lot area, compared to a total of 490 calls for service to the entire shopping center during the same period. The incidents resulting in calls to Walmart during that time included 10 disturbance calls; 36 thefts, either from autos or by shoplifters; 12 reports of suspicious cars or suspicious persons; 12 traffic citations; 12 accidents and three reports of stolen cars.

Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce president Jan Hills said she is not sold on the fact that Walmart moving in caused other area businesses to disappear.

"You're always going to have people to look for the less-expensive place to shop, but then there's an awful lot of people who are just loyal to the folks that have been in our community forever," she said. "They continue to shop with them. I don't know there's a big impact (from Walmart)."

Hills said Walmart is a chamber member "so they've been involved in our community and our chamber. They've been loyal in our community.

"It's free enterprise," she said. "If not Walmart, it's somebody else that's going to come in."

Reynoldsburg Visitors and Community Activities Bureau executive director Mary Hudson said Walmart has been a great community partner.
"The visitors bureau doesn't have membership, and they (Walmart) work with me, which is strictly voluntary. They've been wonderful partners," Hudson said.

"They helped us get the city's Community Clean-Up Week off the ground a few years ago; they gave us seed money," she said. "The company is 'green,' so they thought our clean-up campaign with SWACO (Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio) was wonderful."

Chris Wood, shift manager at the Taylor Square Walmart, said store employees do their best to get involved with the surrounding community and many organizations reach out to them.

"We have numerous requests for donations that come through our service desk where we have our donation program set up, so every week, we're donating to countless organizations," Wood said. "Throughout the community, whether it's donating $50 here, $100 there, as far as different requests, we do what we can."

Customers looking for bargains, convenience

Reynoldsburg resident Barbara Meade, who was shopping at the store while her daughter's car was getting an oil change, said she goes to Walmart for convenience and low prices -- and it's convenient because she lives just down the street.

"We live on Taylor Road; they opened up our road for this, and no, we were not happy about it," Meade said.

Although she shops at Walmart, she said she also likes to shop at Meijer as well.

Brandon Williard, a resident of Pickerington, said he shops at the Taylor Square Walmart because it's convenient and has good prices.

"I come here for everything," he said. "We used to shop here, then Meijer opened, but I'm more used to the layout here so I guess it's convenience in that way.

"I don't think it impacted the area too much. I mean, it brought the stores on Brice Road over to here, so, I mean, it's impacted traffic, but I don't have any problem with Walmart," he said.