Westerville News & Public Opinion

Westerville's $17 million in bonds to buy 67-acre Altair tract

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Westerville City Council approved the purchase of 67 acres on the northern edge of the city, known as Altair, at its July 2 meeting.

The city plans to purchase the land -- located south of Polaris Parkway between Cleveland Avenue and Africa Road -- to market it for the development of retail, office and hotel properties.

For the purchase, council also approved the issuance of $7 million in bonds, as well as an additional $10 million in bonds to repay property owners Altair Realty Ltd. and North Westerville Ltd. the cost of infrastructure they have built on the site.

The city would have been obligated to repay infrastructure costs as the companies developed the land, but with the purchase, the city has received a discount on how much it would have owed the companies, said City Manager Dave Collinsworth.

Through the purchase and development of the property, Collinsworth told council that city staff expects to see the city's $17 investment paid off within 10 years, as jobs and commerce are brought onto the now vacant land.

"This is a true cornerstone development opportunity for the community," Collinsworth said.

A development plan has existed for the site since 2001 and was updated in 2005, but the land has remained vacant.

At the same time, city leaders said they have heard a demand for developable space in Westerville.

Purchasing the property will allow the city to attract and capture business that is now being lost, city leaders said when they announced the intent to purchase the property in June.

The city used a similar approach when developing the Westerville Commerce Center area along McCorkle Boulevard, city leaders said.

City Council unanimously approved all of the legislation allowing for the property's purchase.

Councilman Craig Treneff voiced his support for the purchase, saying the city has shown that it can create jobs with this strategy.

"The economics of this project, I think, are solid," Treneff said. "I'm confident that this will generate jobs. It will generate revenue to generate services for city residents."

Council Chairman Mike Heyeck agreed.

"These are landmark decisions for a greater return on investment for our citizens," Heyeck said.

The city's development staff now will look to market individual parcels on the larger site to developers. City staff may bring in brokers to help market less visible, harder-to-sell parcels, Assistant City Manager Julie Colley said previously.

The city also will begin creating infrastructure needed to support the development.

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