This summer, officials from Ohio University toured the abandoned Hickory Chase retirement community in Hilliard as a potential central Ohio campus and home to their college of osteopathic medicine.

This summer, officials from Ohio University toured the abandoned Hickory Chase retirement community in Hilliard as a potential central Ohio campus and home to their college of osteopathic medicine.

“They probably would have used the whole 80 acres, and that would have been an ideal use,” said Hilliard economic development director David Meeks. “Even though they liked it, unfortunately, it didn’t look like it would be able to meet their timeline to do something there. That was probably the biggest disappointment that we’ve had, short of the foreclosure.”

Construction on Hickory Chase ceased in May 2009, and builder Erickson Retirement Communities filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy two months later.

“When the market started falling apart, Key Bank shut off financing to all of the Erickson projects,” Meeks said.

There was interest, though: More than 2,000 people requested information on living in the $288-million retirement community, which would have been the largest project of its type in the country, and more than 100 people had made reservations to move into the first phase. About 90 days before they were to move in, construction halted.

Meeks said there is still interest in the site, but the complexities of making a deal may be scaring off potential buyers. Among the problems are liens filed by unpaid contractors.

“I think there’s about 37 attorneys involved in the whole thing,” Meeks said. “But it seems like they’re making progress on working through all of the stuff with the courts, so that if somebody were to come in with an offer, they might be able to see it through.”

Meeks said Hickory Chase has a new receiver, Gryphon USA, Ltd. Gryphon’s president, Richard F. Kruse, said in an email that he has been asked not to comment on Hickory Chase.

A spokeswoman for Key Bank did not comment on Hickory Chase as ThisWeek went to press.

In the meantime, the vacant grounds are being maintained, the empty buildings are being heated and cooled, and security guards patrol the fenced property.

Hickory Chase is still zoned as it was originally intended, as a continuing care retirement community. Meeks said that if a similar type of business were to come in, they would use only half of the property, and the rest would need to be rezoned.

“The one thing we have told everybody is we are open to a range of different uses on some of the other land,” Meeks said. “We recognize somebody’s going to have to do that, but the only thing that’s dead on arrival is anything that would add children to the school district.”

“We are certainly willing to look at the zoning on that specific parcel,” said Mayor Don Schonhardt. “It would depend on what’s being proposed. The one thing we didn’t have any interest in is any kind of non-age-restricted multifamily (housing), and we told everybody that was pretty much off the plate. I think we’re willing to listen to any other legitimate proposal.”

Schonhardt said that once there is a buyer for Hickory Chase, there should also be development along the couple hundred acres around the site.

“Between the economy and the legal issues involved with actually gaining title to the property, it’s just taken longer than we would like,” Schonhardt said.

City council president Brett Sciotto said that council is “open to either a return to the previous vision for it, or something even more.” He said council is supportive of the administration’s efforts to find a buyer for Hickory Chase.

“It was unfortunate that it happened,” Sciotto said. “However, I’m very optimistic about the future use of that property, the building and the infrastructure that’s already there. It’s in a prime position, there’s been a lot of interest in it, and I believe that we will find a buyer that will ultimately transition either into something of equal value or more. In the long run, it will end up being a successful development in our community.”