The year 2008 was a busy one for Gahanna, with the opening of Creekside, the closure of the Bedford landfill and the announcement of the redevelopment of the former Big Bear site on Hamilton Road.

The year 2008 was a busy one for Gahanna, with the opening of Creekside, the closure of the Bedford landfill and the announcement of the redevelopment of the former Big Bear site on Hamilton Road.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said she was excited about the opening of the Creekside development.

"I think people kind of forgot it has just been seven months since our grand opening (in May)," she said. "We have come a long way in that development in a fairly short time, given the economy and everything else."

Stinchcomb said redevelopment of Olde Gahanna is expected to continue for a long time.

Work started on the Olde Gahanna downtown vision plan, which includes a detailed profile of the characteristics of the Olde Gahanna area, an analysis of specific development potential and a detailed physical inventory and architectural analysis.

Gahanna could have the final results of the Olde Gahanna downtown vision plan as soon as the first quarter of 2009.

On Nov. 24, representatives of Bird Houk Collaborative presented results from a survey of businesses, property owners and Olde Gahanna residents.

"We are getting some bites from people wanting to look at Olde Gahanna," Stinchcomb said.

She said the planning commission recently approved plans for a new pizza store beside Donatos on Granville Street. She said Granville Street would be the next major redevelopment project for Gahanna. Some of the businesses on Granville are celebrating 50 years in the city, but Stinchcomb said redevelopment pressure continues.

"Even in (this) economy, people are tearing down old houses," she said.

One task of the Olde Gahanna vision plan is to bring buildings closer to the street, creating more of a downtown urban feel, Stinchcomb said. She said the planning commission applied those standards to the new pizzeria proposed for Granville.

The city also would have to consider whether Granville should become more pedestrian-friendly. Granville Street is a bit of a challenge because it is a major thoroughfare in the city, Stinchcomb said, similar to High Street in Worthington.

"It runs through the heart of our community," she said.

The creation of the economic-development-manager position is another important milestone. The position was created in the spring, and funding has been allocated for the position in the 2009 appropriations budget.

"We wanted the person for a while," Stinchcomb said. "We made it revenue-neutral by eliminating intern positions."

The economic downturn poses a challenge for the city of Gahanna. Stinchcomb said Gahanna has to be careful about expenditures. Every staff member is prioritizing spending. That will continue and even intensify, she said.

"We really have to watch everything we do," Stinchcomb said. "We have to make sure everything we do is important."

The strategic-plan process city administrators and council participated in last January was an important initiative that resulted in the creation of the economic-development manager. Many times strategic plans are created and then put on a shelf, Stinchcomb said.

Residents identified park and recreation opportunities as a priority. Gahanna has chosen to invest in the day-camp program by opening a second summer-camp site at Hannah Farms Park.

Gahanna City Council approved taking over the leadership reins of the Gahanna Swim Club this year, adding a second pool to the city's recreation opportunities.

"That is a lot of money," she said. "There are immediate repairs that are needed."

Residents who buy memberships to one pool would be able to visit both city pools. Offering both pools brings a tremendous competitive advantage, she said. Young families might prefer Hunter's Ridge while older youth like the Gahanna Swim Club.

"If we cross membership, hopefully, it will be a thing (residents) embrace," Stinchcomb said.

Redevelopment of the Big Bear site will be a milestone for 2009. In July, council approved emergency legislation authorizing an office and industrial incentive for Ohio State University Inc.

According to the plans first presented during council's development and parks committee, OSU plans a specialty medical facility at 920 Hamilton Road, redeveloping the former Big Bear site. The facility would house about 70 employees with an anticipated payroll of $6-million.

"What a wonderful reuse of a property," Stinchcomb said. "We have been really lucky."

tstubbs@thisweeknews.com