Gahanna's development department presented to Gahanna City Council's development and parks committee plans to redevelop the former Big Bear site on Hamilton Road.

Gahanna's development department presented to Gahanna City Council's development and parks committee plans to redevelop the former Big Bear site on Hamilton Road.

OSU Physicians Inc. is proposing to build a specialty medical facility at 920 Hamilton Road. The facility would house about 70 employees with an anticipated payroll of $6-million.

OSU is negotiating to purchase the property for about $6-million and plans to spend an additional $5-million to renovate the facility.

The office and industrial incentive proposed for the company involves refunding 50 percent of municipal income taxes for a period of five years. The development department Monday night recommended a five-year incentive.

"This is an exciting time for the department of development," assistant development director Anthony Jones said. "They are purchasing the old Big Bear site on Hamilton Road and converting it to a specialty medical facility."

Jones said because OSU is looking to purchase the property itself, the project is expected to have a longer life span.

He said the project would bring a significant payroll the city currently is not seeing. The office industrial incentive is an important part of securing purchase of the property, Jones said, resulting in a net gain of almost $250,000 for the city.

"I think this is a wonderful project," Jones said, adding that it would have an additional impact on an area the development department is promoting as the medical triangle.

As part of the plan, OSU would be required to commit to a 10-year stay at the site. Another project involves improving infrastructure to increase capacity for visitors and employees of the site, Jones said.

Council member Tom Kneeland said the city's tax-incentive review council unanimously approved the rebate.

"It will continue growth in that area, reclaiming one of our big-box stores we have a desire to have filled," he said.

Richard Sobieray, chief financial officer for OSU Physicians Inc., said OSU has been working diligently to get physicians out to the community instead of maintaining a campus environment.

He said the office could offer radiology, sports medicine, obstetrics, cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation. Sobieray said OSU Physicians also is interested in acquiring additional room to expand the practice in the strip center as space becomes available.

Council member Tom Evers asked if OSU would maintain its current facility on Havens Corners Road.

Sobieray said those offices would be consolidated in the new space. He said 10 family-practice physicians would be there in the beginning.

"I'm excited; this is a great opportunity," Evers said.

Sobieray said the facility could begin seeing patients as early as 2009.

Council member John McAlister said physicians are well-paid and asked why the city should offer an income-tax refund for the development.

Sobieray said OSU has considered other communities, as well. He said the refund gives OSU a reason to operate in Gahanna instead of another community.

McAlister asked what message the refund would send to other practitioners in Gahanna.

"They didn't get a tax rebate," he said. "How fair is that?"

Kneeland said if other medical professionals offered to redevelop the former Big Bear site on Agler Road, he also would encourage a tax incentive.

Council member Nancy McGregor said the tax incentive doesn't go directly to the doctor but would be used to help the corporation rehabilitate the building and buy land.

"I think it is a great idea," McGregor said. "It has been a vacant eyesore for a long time."

White said the medical facility fits with existing uses. She said a dermatology office is across the street and development officials would look to promote additional medical facilities.

tstubbs@thisweeknews.com