Westerville News & Public Opinion

2013 Year In Review

Development news marks Westerville's year

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

News of development -- from city land purchases to private business expansions -- topped Westerville city headlines for 2013.

The city also worked on plans for the future and earned top national honors for its Parks and Recreation Department.

The first murder in Blendon Township in 22 years also garnered attention, as did Westerville's first case of a police officer shooting and killing someone during a traffic stop.

A review of the year from the pages of the ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion turned up the following top city and township news stories:

 

CITY PURCHASES ALTAIR PROPERTY

After watching the 67-acre tract of land known as the Altair development sit vacant for more than a decade, city leaders decided to take the fate of the parcel into their own hands by purchasing the land at the southwest corner of Polaris Parkway and Cleveland Avenue.

In July, City Council approved the purchase of the property for $6.7 million from Altair Realty Ltd./North Westerville Realty. The Franklin County Auditor listed the property owner as Jerome G. Solove.

Council also approved refunding $9.5 million to the developer that had been collected by the city for public improvements on the site.

The city now plans to work with private developers to create a mixed-use development on the site, which city leaders hope will be anchored by a hotel and conference center.

 

WORTHINGTON ROAD EXTENSION

The city moved forward on plans to extend Worthington Road to Polaris Parkway, with a north-south connector to County Line Road, to make way for a high-density apartment complex and office and retail development.

In April 24, the Westerville Planning Commission approved a development plan put forth by NP Limited and Trivium for the Ravines at Westar, a 504-unit apartment complex that will line the Worthington Road Extension.

City Council approved a series of legislation to make way for the roadway, which is set to be constructed next year.

Developers began work on the site over the summer, saying they expected the complex to be complete by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

Preliminary plans for the site also call for retail development being constructed to the north along Polaris Parkway and the Worthington Road Extension, as well as for several office buildings.

 

ST. ANN'S EXPANSION

Following two years of construction, Mount Carmel St. Ann's Hospital celebrated the grand opening of its new four-story patient tower, grand entrance, cardiac ICU, parking garage and food-services facility earlier this month.

The $110-million investment was the largest ever in a hospital by Mount Carmel, officials said.

The expansion is meant to help St. Ann's meet growing patient needs, including the need for more beds, and providing care to patients who are more seriously ill.

The expansion came with a new cardiovascular care team and cardiac ICU.

The last component of the expansion -- two cardiovascular operating rooms -- will be completed early next year, and the hospital will be able to perform open-heart surgeries for the first time next spring.

 

MURDER SHOCKS BLENDON

Blendon Township leaders and residents were shocked and saddened by the murder of a 55-year-old jogger in the township's Ridgewood Park, near the corner of Buenos Aires Boulevard and state Route 161.

Blendon Township police discovered the body of Jane E. Juergens, a resident and mother of two grown sons, on Oct. 20. Her murder was the first in Blendon Township in more than 20 years.

Sixteen-year-old Jordan Stewart, a Westerville Central High School student and resident of a nearby group home, was charged with her murder.

The crime led Blendon Township leaders to call for better oversight of group homes, which they said long have been a problem in the community.

Franklin County vowed to review its group-home system, while Blendon Township trustees continued to work with state lawmakers on legislation regarding group homes.

 

OFFICER SHOOTS ARMED MAN

A Westerville police officer shot and killed a man armed with a gun Nov. 11 during an early morning traffic stop on Polaris Parkway.

It was the first time in the city's history that police shot a suspect.

Veteran Westerville police officer David Leighty attempted to stop John W. Montgomery, 59, because of a broken light on his vehicle.

As Leighty approached Montgomery's vehicle, police said, he noticed that Montgomery was holding a pistol in his hand.

Montgomery did not follow orders to drop the gun, which was later found to be loaded, and Leighty fired several shots.

Montgomery was pronounced dead shortly after at St. Ann's Hospital. A passenger in the vehicle was not harmed.

The incident is under investigation by the Columbus Division of Police, as is customary with a police-involved shootings in Columbus. While the traffic stop was initiated in Westerville, the shooting took place in Columbus.

 

PARKS AND RECREATION GOLD AGAIN

The Westerville Department of Parks and Recreation for the third time in a row received top honors from the National Parks and Recreation Association, earning the Gold Medal Award in October.

The department also won the award in 2007 and 2001, as well as in 1974.

Departments only are eligible to win awards every six years, and Westerville is the first department in the history of the award to win three times in a row.

 

WALMART OPENS

The renovated Westerville Square shopping center, at the northeast corner of Schrock Road and South State Street, wrapped up more than a year's worth of renovations with the opening of a Walmart store Aug. 14.

Center owner the Hadler Cos. spent $16 million to renovate the 45-year-old center. Three storefronts, totaling 90,500 square feet, were torn down at the core of the center to make way for a 108,000-square-foot Walmart.

The remainder of the center was renovated to match the new construction.

The redevelopment of the center garnered controversy in 2011, when residents even attempted to put a referendum on the ballot to overturn the City Council decision to allow the renovations.

 

AMISH ORIGINALS LEAVES THEATER

The face of Uptown Westerville changed dramatically early this year, when Amish Originals consolidated to a newly renovated northern location, at 38 N. State St., in March.

The furniture store had been located in the historic State Theatre building, 8 N. State St., since it opened 20 years ago.

Amish Originals owner Doug Winbigler said he decided to move the store to the northern building, which he owned, when the longtime owner of the State Theatre decided to sell the building.

The State Theatre building, which remains vacant, was purchased in August by a California-based investor calling itself Westerville State Street LLC.

The same investor has been renovating the building across the street, at 7 and 9 N. State St.

 

WATER PLANT OVERHAUL

The city launched an $11.2-million overhaul and expansion of the water treatment facility at 312 W. Main St.

The overhaul will install a new carbon filtration system, meant to lower levels of the bacteria cryptosporidium and chemical byproducts, that was needed to meet with new federal EPA guidelines.

The overhaul, the first renovations to the treatment facility in 20 years, also will add office space and bring about a change in the way the city chlorinates its water. The city has used chlorine gas since the use of chlorine was required in the 1920s and 1930s but will switch to liquid chlorine, which is less concentrated and considered safer.

 

CITY PLANS FOR FUTURE

City staff was busy at work on two plans in 2013, meant to create a vision and direction for the city.

The city's Planning Department has been working on the Uptown plan, meant to create a new vision for the city's historic business district.

The Department of Parks and Recreation has been looking at updating its existing master plan, and considering asking voters to extend the PROS tax passed in 1998.

Both plans are expected to be put before council early next year.

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