A new era at the Kingsdale Shopping Center began on Aug. 20 with the "Wrecking Ball," a celebration of the mall's long-awaited redevelopment.

A new era at the Kingsdale Shopping Center began on Aug. 20 with the "Wrecking Ball," a celebration of the mall's long-awaited redevelopment.

The celebration included live entertainment, carnival rides and a groundbreaking ceremony in front of the former Union storefront on the center's Northwest Boulevard side. City officials, developers and residents gathered to mark the beginning of Continental Real Estate Companies' renovation of Kingsdale.

"This community dream for Kingsdale becoming a town center has been on our minds for a long, long time," said Mayor Don Leach.

Continental CEO Frank Kass noted that his company's redevelopment plan will bring new shops and restaurants as well as an office component to the 50-year-old retail center.

"Kingsdale will not be the fashion center it was when it first opened. It will be a community center. You're going to have the coolest family hardware store. You'll have the coolest grocery store," Kass said. "All the tenants here want to stay. Some of them have agreed to be relocated."

The centerpiece of the renovated Kingsdale will be a new Giant Eagle store that will relocate from its current 56,000 square-foot space to a newly-built 110,168 square-foot space on Northwest Boulevard. The store is scheduled to open next summer and will be in Giant Eagle's Market District brand, which is geared toward aficionados of fine cuisine and wine.

"We're excited to be part of the future of the Kingsdale mall," said Dave Daniel, Giant Eagle's regional vice president of operations. "We're eager to add our new Market District store. It will be the first of its kind in Columbus -- actually, the first of its kind in Ohio."

Continental announced its redevelopment plan for Kingsdale last October. In addition to the $20-million purchase price for the 21.68-acre site, Continental plans to invest an additional $20 to $40-million in renovations.

Moving ahead with the Kingsdale redevelopment in the current recession presented a unique set of challenges, Kass said.

"Financing became almost impossible," he said. "We had five or six banks make the loan on Kingsdale. If this project was done in 2007, we would have had one bank."

Kass added that Upper Arlington's upscale demographics were a major factor in helping Continental close the deal and purchase Kingsdale from previous owner, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Regency Centers.

"The demographics here are the very, very best," Kass said.

As part of the redevelopment, the city will invest $5.3-million to facilitate office development on 5 acres at the Kingsdale site. To facilitate the new office component -- a key aspect of the city of Upper Arlington's master plan -- the city is creating a tax-increment financing district that will be established in two phases.

If the office component is successful, the city estimates it will add approximately $13.5-million in added property value, generating an additional $200,000 annually in new property tax revenue for the schools until the debt is paid. Once the debt is paid off, the schools' property tax revenue would increase to about $275,000.

Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks, a former member of Upper Arlington City Council, said the Kingsdale redevelopment will benefit not only Upper Arlington, but the region as well.

In addition to generating revenue for the city, "it also brings in revenue for Franklin County as well," Brooks said.

The redevelopment will be a major boon to Upper Arlington's commercial sector, said Upper Arlington Chamber of Commerce president Becky Hajost.

"This event is a testament to the shared sense of pride by the city, the residents and the business community," Hajost said.

The Wrecking Ball culminated with a bulldozer plowing into the old Union store, beginning demolition and rebuilding process that will lead to a new Kingsdale.

After waiting decades for a solid revitalization plan to emerge, "the time is now and we are delighted," said city manager Virginia Barney.