Hilliard moved forward with a pair of landscape-changing developments, crafted a new logo and motto to market the city and launched a new "signature" summer celebration, among other notable headline events in the year 2013.
The two major developments were the Gateway at Hilliard and Landmark Lofts.
The Gateway at Hilliard, a 56-acre development at the northwest corner of Britton Parkway and Cemetery Road, is anchored by a Giant Eagle store and an OhioHealth facility.
Rezoning and development plans for the project were approved in late 2012, but construction began in 2013 and will continue next year.
OhioHealth opened its urgent-care center in December. The organization is on schedule to open multiple offices in 2014 at a 35,000-square-foot medical center known as the OhioHealth Hilliard Health Center.
The 84,000-square-foot Giant Eagle is expected to open in the first quarter of 2014. A GetGo gas station also is planned.
Apartments, restaurants and other retail uses are part of the development designed as a "gateway" into Hilliard on Cemetery Road from Interstate 270.
Meanwhile, Landmark Lofts advanced to the planning and pre-construction stage following approval of its development plan by City Council in June.
More progress came in August and September after the developer, Buckeye KRG, struck a deal with Sunbelt Rentals to add its neighboring property to the development and City Council approved an urban development tax-increment financing district.
As proposed, Landmark Lofts includes 170 apartments, as well as retail stores, restaurants and the refurbishment of the inoperable grain elevator on the site into a 7,000-square-foot community center.
Franklin Street and Luxair Drive also will be aligned with a traffic signal as part of the project.
The development was a source of controversy for several neighboring residents, who opined the development would have too many apartments and that its four-story buildings were not a good fit for the area.
The proposal nevertheless garnered the support of many city officials and the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce.
Hilliard officials learned last summer that another development project two years in the making had come to fruition: a Bo Jackson's Elite Sports facility.
Hilliard officials welcomed former two-sport professional athlete and Heisman Trophy winner Jackson Sept. 23 to oversee the groundbreaking for the $5.5-million, 114,000-square-foot facility.
The facility is expected to open by October 2014 at Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park, 3800 Veterans Memorial Drive.
It will be the second location for Bo Jackson's Elite Sports. The first opened in 2008 in suburban Chicago, where Jackson lives.
A new brand
In development news of a more abstract nature, Mayor Don Schonhardt used his annual State of the City address in March to unveil the city's new logo and motto: "Real People. Real Possibilities."
The new brand was created by Columbus-based public relations and strategic marketing firm FrazierHeiby.
"Our objective was to find a statement that defines Hilliard," said Doug Frazier, co-owner and chief creative officer at FrazierHeiby.
In introducing the logo and motto at his March 12 address, Schonhardt said, he was unveiling "a symbol of what makes Hilliard the special place we have come to call home, one that uniquely offers real people and real possibilities."
The logo and motto were applied to the city's letterheads and websites and, most visibly, emblazoned on the water tower at Cemetery Road and Municipal Way.
As usual, Hilliard hosted the Franklin County Fair and the Old Hilliardfest Art and Street fair in 2013, but a new event was added to the calendar: the Solebrate! Food and Music Festival.
The inaugural event was held at the Franklin County Fairgrounds and the adjacent Weaver Park.
Scheduled in conjunction with the summer solstice -- June 21-23 last summer -- city officials hope to make Solebrate! the city's "signature event" and a regional attraction.
Organizers told City Council in November the event lost about $18,000 in its first year and the weather kept attendance lower than expected.
However, they said they were not alarmed because many successful festivals struggle initially to get off the ground and they planned to learn from the first year.
They are considering a possible change of venue from the county fairgrounds to the Old Hilliard district for next year's event, tentatively planned June 20 and 21.
The first few months of the year were marked by two deaths.
On Jan. 5, a 40-year-old man was killed in an early morning blaze inside his apartment building at 3883 Linda Road.
Officials identified the man in February as Abdirazak Jama Adan and ruled he had set the fire as a means of suicide.
No other persons were injured in the fire, but several tenants were required to relocate.
A few weeks later, Hilliard experienced its first homicide since 27-year-old Donald Schlarman fatally stabbed two men inside the VIP Lounge, 3650 E. Main St., in the early morning hours of March 7, 2011.
Hilliard police arrested Tyler J. Dunkle, 22, in connection with the slaying of his mother, 44-year-old Terri L. Menendez, in her residence at 2596 Westham Way.
Officers arrested Dunkle April 2 at Doctors Hospital after he confessed that he strangled his mother, Hilliard police said.
Dunkle was found unconscious and unresponsive April 1 on a bed in the townhome at 2596 Westham Way in the Hilliard Summit apartment complex, police said.
At the same time, officers discovered Menendez's body.
At his arraignment April 3 in Municipal Court, Franklin County Prosecutor Assistant Marla Farbacher told the court that Dunkle strangled his mother March 29, hid her body in a closet and then drove her car to the Chillicothe area, where records indicate Menendez and Dunkle, a son from her first marriage, once resided.
Dunkle returned to Hilliard and apparently attempted suicide by taking pills and consuming alcohol, prosecutors said.
Dunkle pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and tampering with evidence, according to Franklin County Common Pleas Court records. The case remains active in the Common Pleas Court.
Three new members were elected to City Council in November: Tom Baker, Les Carrier and Bill Uttley.
Earlier in the year, City Council members appointed Baker to the unexpired term of Stephanie Kunze, who was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2012.
Baker had to run for the seat along with Carrier and Uttley, who will replace Jim Ashenhurt and Brett Sciotto, who both opted not to seek re-election.
Incumbent City Council Vice President Kelly McGivern also was re-elected.
All four City Council candidates were unopposed in the general election following wins in the Republican primary in May.
A new partnership
Hilliard and Norwich Township agreed to contract with the Dublin Division of Police for fire and EMS dispatching -- and eventually police calls.
Dublin is one of five primary public-safety answering points in Franklin County. Primary PSAPs are capable of pinpointing the location of callers using cellphones.
Because Dublin already was answering and transferring such calls to Hilliard for dispatching, Hilliard officials decided to discontinue their dispatching center.
Dublin began dispatching fire and EMS calls Oct. 1.
Police-only calls will remain in the hands of Hilliard police until Jan. 13, after which Dublin will dispatch all calls for service.
Hilliard also could expand its cooperation with Dublin.
Earlier this month, Police Chief Doug Francis lobbied City Council to invest $2 million to build a new digital tower and join the Central Ohio Interoperability Radio System. Hilliard would be the first new member since COIRS was founded in 2008 by the Dublin and Worthington police departments and Delaware County. COIRS became operational in 2009.
The move would provide Hilliard police, still using analog radios, with digital technology for cruisers and handheld radios, as well as providing virtually uninterrupted digital service anywhere officers would respond.
"This will be a robust and powerful system," Francis said.
The legislation received a first reading Dec. 16. It is scheduled for a second reading Jan. 13 and a third reading Jan. 27.
City Council would have to approve it as emergency legislation so it would be effective Jan. 27.