With the completion of the Bexley Gateway project and a number of other developments along the Main Street corridor, talk has once again returned to how Bexley City Hall site could be best redeveloped.
From an economic development standpoint, all eyes are on the intersection of College Avenue and Main Street in Bexley.
Capital University's recent interest in the Bexley Square Shopping Center has revived interest in an adjacent property - Bexley City Hall.
With the completion of the Bexley Gateway project and a number of other developments along the Main Street corridor, talk has once again returned to how the City Hall site could be best redeveloped.
City Councilman Mark Masser is among those who feel the time has come to relocate City Hall.
"That's the most valuable property left on Main Street," Masser said. "There's really no reason for City Hall to be there when it could be used for other things. So, we're looking at some other locations."
Masser said the status of the Bexley Square Shopping Center, which has been for sale, bolstered his interest in the prospect of relocating City Hall.
"The stimulus for me was that Casto has been and is interested in selling that piece of property," he said. "I'm hoping a developer would want to use both pieces of property."
Councilman Jed Morison said he agrees with Masser.
"Now that the police station has successfully moved, it is an ideal time to consider development of the city hall site," Morison said. "We could also consider relocating the service department facilities, allowing for creative proposals for the entire site. Developers may also want to consider the site next to city hall (Bexley Square) which is for sale."
Morison said the idea of redeveloping the City Hall site makes sense to him.
"We already have a wonderful theater and other outstanding restaurants and businesses just east of city hall so additional development should compliment these businesses and enhance pedestrian friendly opportunities for residents and others visiting this area," Morison said. "Development could include street-level retail and restaurants with other commercial, residential or possible governmental uses, such as city hall, for higher floors. Developers should also consider parking options in their planning."
Morison said it's time Bexley had a handicap-accessible City Hall.
"In addition to encouraging development that would be good for residents, businesses and would result in more tax receipts, it is important that a new city hall is fully accessible for individuals who have disabilities. A relocation would make this possible."
Councilman Ben Kessler said he also favors the idea of relocating City Hall.
"Increasingly, the city has talked about relocating City Hall off of Main Street or off of our current site in order to free up that space," Kessler said. "It's my feeling that area of Main Street, specifically in the Drexel-Parkview area, is the core of retail-commercial development in Bexley. It's where a lot og the higher density type uses are occuring and succeeding."
Kesler said the current City Hall is no longer a practical, efficient facility.
"We have a building that was built in 1953," he said. "It's pretty much a split level. It's like a five level split office building. The way it's configured, it's a fairly inefficient use of space. Not only do we have an old building that's inefficient, we also have it on top of a site that could really be a valuable site for new development."
Kessler also noted that the Bexley land-use strategy committee has recommended that City Hall be molved away from its current site but some feel it should remain somewhere on Main Street.
"There are some people who are much smarter than me who believe Main Street is still a good place for City Hall to be," he said. "They think it's such a civic landmark that if it should be molved it should still be somewhere on Main Street and there are others who think another area such as North Cassady would be a suitable place for City Hall."
All three council members said the costs involved in relocating City Hall would have to be carefully studied and the numbers would have to make sense for such a move to take place.
Mayor John Brennan said he is open to either relocating or colocating as part of a new development.
"We're probably on the last, most valuable big parcel in the city," Brennan said. "We probably need to look at being elsewhere or if someone could develop this into a three or four story and give us the bottom floor or the top floor with handicap access that would be worth considering."
He also raised another possibility.
"There's still space available in the Bexley Square Shopping Center and it looks like there is going to be more space available," he said. "There's space at the Gateway although it would probably be cost-prohibitive to rent there. And I know they have looked at the Cassady Avenue corridor and that has promise, too."
Brennan said he has heard from some who want City Hall to remain on Main Street.
"There are some folks who are married to the fact that they think we need to stay on Main Street," he said. "I'm not totally committed to that we have to stay on Main Street unless we had a vacant spot that we could build on that made sense and wasn't cost prohibitive."
Brennan said the discussion isn't a new one and cautioned that the biggest obstacle could be current economic conditions.
"They've talked about this for 15 years now that I'm, aware of," he said. "They had people look at that in 1995-96-97 and it just got put on the back burner. The big problem now is the state of the economy and no one is doing any projects of this size, in our area anyway. If that ever turns around I would certainly look at more talks with developers and businesspeople."