The redevelopment of Bexley's City Hall site that has been City Council fodder for more than two decades may finally become a reality.
At the May 14 council meeting, Mayor Ben Kessler announced a plan that would put a Giant Eagle Market District Express on the current City Hall site, alter the ownership of Bexley Square and generate funds to relocate the city's service and administration departments.
"We've tried to find a solution that would provide a new use to the City Hall site, new revenue to the city and the relocation of the service department and City Hall building without taking from the general fund," Kessler said. "Until now, no other plans have been self-sustaining."
Developer Frank Kass, a Bexley resident and chairman of Continental Real Estate Cos., joined Kessler in introducing the plan that would bring a two-story grocery store -- the first of its kind -- to Bexley by March 2015.
The first step of this self-sustaining plan that Kessler stressed still has "a lot of moving pieces," would be to transfer the current City Hall site to the Bexley Community Improvement Corp. The CIC would then lease the property to the developer to generate funds.
Once transferred, the site that is currently tax-exempt could be declared a tax increment financing district.
A TIF would allow the city to funnel the taxes paid on the increased property value for 30 years into a special fund that could be used to upgrade the area and pay for the new City Hall and Service Department buildings. Kessler said the city has negotiated the TIF with the Bexley City Schools to agree that the district would be left out of the deal and would continue to receive taxes from the property.
Also in the works is a deal to purchase Bexley Square from its seller, an affiliate of the Casto real estate organization. Owning the shopping center and collecting rent from its seven tenants would add to the City Hall relocation fund and grant access to the light at College Avenue and Main Street, which would be of use to the Market District Development, Kessler said.
The city could also use the open spaces in Bexley Square as a temporary location for its administrative department, but would not displace current tenants to do so, Kessler said.
While City Hall offices may fit in Bexley Square, the service garage that houses equipment and trucks has a much larger space requirement. Kessler said the city has been exploring spaces on Bexley's north and south sides and even some locations that are outside Bexley's borders.
Kessler estimated that if the plan comes to fruition, it would carry a total cost of $4.5 million to $5.3 million, including the purchase of Bexley Square and the relocation of City Hall and the service garage.
Although some of the contracts involved in the plan are time-sensitive, Kessler said each piece of the redevelopment will go through the typical three readings at council sessions before being put to a vote -- meaning it could take up to six months to finalize the project.
"We are moving forward deliberately, but I wouldn't say quickly," Kessler said. "We want to be careful that we have adequate time to make considerations and residents have time to learn about it."