Bexley economic development director Bruce Langner says he is encouraged by progress at the $24-million Bexley Gateway mixed-use development despite a challenging economy.

Bexley economic development director Bruce Langner says he is encouraged by progress at the $24-million Bexley Gateway mixed-use development despite a challenging economy.

"I think the retail part of it has been good," Langner said. "They've got all the retail on the first floor filled. What's still a little bit disappointing is filling the office space on the second and third floors."

Plans called for the first floor of the development to be retail uses, the second and third floors to be occupied by high-end office uses and an adjacent building to offer upscale residential.

"They have a good amount of space left on both the second and third floors," Langner said. "Each floor is about half occupied. I think each floor is about 10,000 square feet and they have about half of each of those filled."

Langner said a medical office user has discussed locating in the Gateway, but those discussions have not led to a contract at this point.

"There's no progress that I've heard of," he said. "I know they were talking but I haven't heard anything in the past two weeks about it. So I don't know if that is happening or not."

Langner said the economy has been a factor in the low office occupancy rates.

"I think back when they started the project their anticipation was they would have some high-end office users on those two floors and just because of what happened with the economy, that hasn't materialized," he said. "I'd say at this point they're real happy with the retail on the first floor and not quite so happy with what has happened on the second and third floors."

Langner said the residential component of the development has largely lived up to expectations.

"They've been running a sale down there for a couple of months and I think they have sold 15 or 16, roughly half of the 31 or 32 units they've got there," he said. "So they're at about 50 percent now. It has gotten a lot better since they have done these sales and we changed the tax abatement for them."

The project received a 15-year, 15 percent tax abatement for the commercial portions of the development. The residential building in the back started out the same, at 15 percent for 15 years, before city council changed the abatement last year to an average of 70 percent over 15 years for the Gateway with the abatement front-loaded so the first five years are at 100 percent.

While the residential abatements are automatic, Langner said there are job creation, payroll and investment goals tied to the commercial abatements. Those are reviewed annually by the Bexley Tax Incentive Review Council (TIRC), which met in May.

"They're doing OK on the job creation but not as well on the payroll," Langner said. "The TIRC actually revised and city council revised the payroll goal downward. Back when they did their application and started the project they were anticipating that a lot of those jobs would be higher paying office jobs and instead they've ended up with a lot more retail."

Overall, Langner said he thinks the Gateway is headed in the right direction.

"I feel good about it," he said. "If you look at Creekside in Gahanna, that's the thing everybody compares it to, they've lost a number of retail tenants. So far, we've only lost one and it was replaced. So, we've held our own on the retail part."