Person after person arriving at last week's monthly meeting of the Clintonville Area Commission stopped to offer congratulations to Bill Owens.
"I'm not retiring," he eventually said.
But the executive director of the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center is retiring the long and sometimes-frustrating search for a replacement of the settlement house's cramped quarters.
"Our big news this evening is that we have a new building," Owens told commission members.
After encountering vehement neighborhood opposition to the first choice of a new headquarters on Ceramic Drive and then losing out on the second and third options, Owens said it came as a pleasant surprise when real-estate agent John DeFourny, a former longtime member of the CAC, came up with perhaps the best location of all.
The purchase of the former Schlegel Construction Products building at 3222 N. High St. certainly will cut down on moving expenses as the center's administrative offices and senior services programs relocate from 14 W. Lakeview Ave.
The new building is a mere 441 feet away from the existing one, Owens said at the meeting.
"It's that close," he added. "It's just a great accomplishment for our agency and our neighborhood."
The purchase price for the 4,500-square-foot structure was $425,000, Owens said earlier in the week.
The resources center will retain its existing space, which has served as the headquarters of the operation since 1981. The food pantry will expand within the 3,300-square-foot building, which also will remain the location for community dinners, Sunday breakfasts and free meeting space for local groups and organizations, Owens said.
Acquiring the new building also brings an amenity the center never had at the current property: parking.
The North High Street location comes with 22 parking spaces. The West Lakeview Avenue building had none.
Owens said he has been with the center since 1995, initially running the food pantry and then becoming executive director two years later. In all that time, he told CAC members, the operation and its programs have been dogged by space issues.
"It's been a long time coming for us to find adequate space," Owens told area commissioners.
The senior services programs will move to 3222 N. High St. from rented space at Clinton Heights Lutheran Church.
The after-school program run by the center will continue to be housed at the church.
"Ideally, we would have everything under one roof, but getting a building like that is just hard to come by in this neighborhood," Owens said.
Indeed, getting any kind of building seemed to be a difficult endeavor for the center.
The preferred location for bringing all programs and personnel under one roof, the former Columbus Cancer Clinic building at 65 Ceramic Drive, was met with strong opposition when the idea surfaced a little over a year ago. Residents of the streets around the former clinic expressed fears about reduced property values and disturbances to their quiet existence by clients of the center.
"You're throwing some things into our neighborhood that we have not had to deal with, and which we don't really want," Croswell Road resident Gary Shoemaker said at a packed community meeting in March 2012.
Some consideration also was given to the former Cord Camera building at 2885 N. High St. and a former Goodwill Thrift store at 2784 N. High St. Both have been subsequently purchased -- the camera shop as a new Mozart's restaurant and bakery, and the thrift store as the first Ohio location for a Colorado-based grocery chain.