Westerville News & Public Opinion

Westerville looks to purchase 67 acres for development

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Westerville city leaders hope to purchase 67 acres at the southeast corner of Cleveland Avenue and Polaris Parkway for commercial development.

The land, known as the ALTAIR and owned by a private developer, has remained relatively untouched for nearly a decade, and city leaders said they believe they could attract retailers, a hotel chain and office developers to occupy the land, which is surrounded on three sides by successful commercial developments.

The agenda for Tuesday night’s Westerville City Council meeting, which was released late Friday afternoon, includes three pieces of legislation to allow for the purchase from ALTAIR Realty Ltd./North Westerville Ltd.

The land would carry a $6.7 million price tag, and city leaders would front $9.5 million to the developers that it would have owed eventually through an existing tax-increment-financing agreement that’s in effect for that parcel and the surrounding commercial areas.

In the mid-1990s, the city invested $30 million to add roadways and infrastructure to the northwest quadrant of the city – known as Westar – to allow for commercial development on 941 acres.

Since then, tax revenue from successful development on that land has paid for that investment, City Manager Dave Collinsworth said, and city leaders would like to see that success spread to the vacant plot near the heart of the development.

A development plan for the ALTAIR site has existed since 2001, said Julie Colley, assistant city manager. It was updated in 2005.

The economic downturn, however, brought the site’s progress to a standstill, Collinsworth said.

Colley said the city frequently hears about the demand for office and hotel space but is unable to help. By taking control of the ALTAIR site, Colley said, she believes the city effectively could market the land to developers, who could by smaller portions of the site to fit their needs.

The developed parts of Westar have brought 7,000 jobs to Westerville, and city staffers estimate the development of ALTAIR could bring an additional 3,000, said Jason Bechtold, Westerville’s economic development administrator.

Read the full story in the June 6 edition of ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion.

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