Looking back on 2008, village officials said despite a rough economy, Canal Winchester kept development moving, made the community safer and revitalized some of the historic downtown.

Looking back on 2008, village officials said despite a rough economy, Canal Winchester kept development moving, made the community safer and revitalized some of the historic downtown.

Development in the past year moved forward with the opening of a Meijer store and beginning construction of a new emergency medical center near Diley Road.

"If we can bring the good-paying jobs to Canal Winchester, the better off the community will be," said Mayor Mike Ebert.

The mayor said by the end of 2009, machining company Manifold and Phalor is expected to locate to Canal Pointe in the northeastern part of the village, bringing 60-80 jobs to the community.

Development director Chris Strayer said approximately $35-million worth of investment has come to the Hill-Diley Road area and Canal Pointe.

"In the last 18 months, we've seen a tremendous amount of investment out there," he said. "That is the corridor of the future, and we're doing all of this in an economy that is not prime."

The village only saw the loss of 27 jobs from Princeton Delivery Systems in the past year, Strayer said.

Strayer said village officials are working to plan development and possible traffic patterns in the Diley Road area to make it as functional and sustainable as possible.

"With Diley (Road) we want to make sure we plan everything for endgame in the beginning," he added.

Councilman Bruce Jarvis said he expected the medical center to be the first big development in the area. Meijer developers showed interest and opened a store on Diley Road at the end of April. He said in his opinion the Meijer store is "nothing stupendous," but is a welcome development all the same.

Jarvis said with the introduction of the medical center, new businesses likely will follow in support of the medical center, especially if it eventually becomes a full hospital.

"Having a hospital is a huge amenity," he said. "If you could pick a business, a hospital is -- if not No. 1 -- in the top three."

The office jobs and support businesses expected for the area will fill space in Canal Winchester that is underrepresented, Jarvis said.

"I'm real thrilled about that," he added.

Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon said the Meijer store was "just the tip of the iceberg."

"We're going to see a lot of things pop there (near Diley Road)," she added. "It's good for the taxpayers, good for the schools, good for everybody."

Mershon said she was excited about the medical center, because "it's going to generate the kind of jobs that pay more than minimum wage."

Along with development in the Diley Road area, Canal Winchester officials expressed their support of the Northwest Fairfield County Joint Economic Development District, also known simply as the JEDD.

Council members should see legislation for the approval of signing the JEDD agreement at their first meeting in 2009 on Jan. 5.

Officials said short-term benefits of the JEDD agreement come from the cooperation involved with the agreement. Longer-term benefits could be the generation of another revenue source for the village, which might not happen for another 30 years, Strayer said.

The mayor said he liked the idea of adjacent communities working together.

"That's what I've pushed for since the day I took this office," he said.

Mershon said the agreement will create a uniform look of development in the area as new businesses locate there. It will create a tax base coming from an area that would never be a part of Canal Winchester.

"Cooperation goes a long way with businesses coming in," she said. "It's just a win-win for us."

Also, 2008 saw the end of a seven-year annexation case between Canal Winchester and Pickerington.

Last month council members approved the annexation of 227 acres owned by Alyce Lucille Thornton, and Robert and Wilma Snider.

"I don't think anyone thought it would happen this year," the mayor said. "It took us by surprise."

Mayor Ebert and Strayer said there aren't any plans for the property yet.

"It's so fresh and so new we don't have anything going for that right now," Strayer said.

Mershon said the property will "play into the development of that area," making more space for possible commercial development.

Development aside, the community became safer in 2008.

This year saw the commissioning of a cruiser for Community Watch volunteers and the recommendation for the purchasing of a speed trailer to curb downtown speeding.

"The biggest benefit I can say right now since the very day (the cruiser) has been put into works, our crime rate has gone down drastically," Mayor Ebert said. "It's been quiet."

The mayor said normally there about five car break-ins reported weekly. Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen donated the cruiser to Canal Winchester Community Watch volunteers the first week of December.

"That's one of the great things that Mayor Ebert has helped us with," said Mershon, chairwoman of council's safety committee. "It's like a whole set of new eyes. The community will be a little bit safer because of it."

Safety committee members recommended the purchase of a speed trailer for the village in the summer of this year. Mershon said the addition of the device to the village will control speed problems in the village.

"Speeding is the No. 1 concern of residents in Canal Winchester," she added.

Officials earmarked $5,000 for the speed trailer in 2009.

Finally, 2008 saw the beginnings of revitalization in the village's downtown with the demolition of the abandoned Parker Marathon station and preliminary renovations to the Interurban building.

The old gas station was demolished in early November, and according to village staff reports, fuel tanks should be removed from under the property by spring 2009.

Strayer said interested entrepreneurs have approached him about developing the property, but he said it's hard to sell since the fuel tank removal price has not come from the state yet.

"We really need to get the money from the state finalized," he said. "There are tenants that want to be downtown and we don't have a spot for them right now."

The mayor said more than $150,000 have been put into the lot just to sell it.

"With the way the economy's going, if we get anybody in there the next three years, we'll be doing good," he added.

Mershon said she predicts the property will be sold in 2010.

No matter what happens to the property, any development is better than the "eyesore" that stood there for almost a decade, Jarvis said.

"It's not a very tough act to follow," he added.

A tougher act seems to be renovating the Interurban building.

Jarvis, chairman of council's old town committee, has spearheaded an effort to renew the Interurban building since early 2007. Council approved a contract to restore the building to Quality Masonry Co. Inc. for $97,050 in early November. Construction began last week.

Jarvis said construction only has just begun and 2009 should see much more for the historic Interurban building.

"It's taken longer than first anticipated," he said. "But the building will undergo a dramatic transformation early in 2009."

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com