For Westerville, 2017 will be a year of maintaining momentum.

For Westerville, 2017 will be a year of maintaining momentum.

City Manager David Collinsworth and Economic Development Director Jason Bechtold both described the "exciting" state of the city, and Collinsworth said he expects 2016 to be a preview of what's to come.

"We saw a year in 2016 like we hadn't seen in probably a dozen years, in terms of building permit activity, construction activity and number of projects coming through the pipeline," Collinsworth said.

"So what we had really been waiting for was that breakout year where things really started rapidly kicking into gear. I think 2016 represents that transition year for us, and I think we're due for at least another two years' worth of development activity," he said.

Work in progress

Development highlights that are in progress include both the Renaissance Marriott hotel at Wester Place and the new Aloft Hotel on Heatherdown Drive on the south side of the city, which Collinsworth said are both "coming out of the ground and taking shape."

Other projects include residential developments at Bingham Ridge, the Villages at Central College and the Courtyards at Village Crossing.

"A lot of things are coming together," he said, "things that we have been planning for and working on."

Bechtold said the success and continued development is a sign of the city's healthy economy. He said 2016 "set the stage for" the next two years and expects growth to continue.

"We have a driving Uptown, two great hotels being constructed ... and you see this public infrastructure reinvestment going on to accommodate all the growth we're having," he said.

Many of the developments fit Westerville's strategy of attracting five "target industries" that officials believe help the city the most. Those fields include corporate headquarters, healthcare, finance and insurance, tech support centers and logistics.

Bechtold believes the amenities such as childcare, restaurants and hotels popping up in crucial areas to the north and south of the city will help attract even more of those target companies.

"Because of that (infrastructure), you're going to see some great opportunities over the next year," he said.

The crown jewel of the city's economic efforts is still Westar Place. The 62 acres of city-owned property cost more than $4 million to fill with the needed infrastructure, and the city is in the process of selling portions of the land surrounding the Renaissance Marriott.

While selling 62 acres seems like a process that could take a decade, Collinsworth said the strong economy has helped exceed expectations.

"Right now, we're in negotiations with four other prospects for different parcels of ground for Westar Place," he said.

"There are a couple of parties interested in the others, but we're not negotiating any sale agreements with any of those yet. In 2017, I could see us closing out (the year) with 25 of those 62 acres sold or under contract to be sold."

Collinsworth said that pace is "maybe faster than what we planned, but not faster than we anticipated," but city staff members had an idea that the process could accelerate under the right conditions.

"We took a pretty conservative view that it was going to take 10 to 12 years to get the vast majority of that property sold," he said. "So if, in fact, we hit 25 acres under contract by the end of 2017, that would represent pretty good progress toward that goal."

But with a boom in development comes a need to move about the city.

Transportation

Westerville is expecting to see benefits from the Ohio Department of Transportation's extension of Gemini Place, and work on South State Street near Schrock Road -- which Collinsworth knows is "at the forefront of a lot of people's minds" -- should be finished by May.

The State Street project should wrap up in time for work to begin on Cleveland Avenue, which Collinsworth said is the ideal timing.

"For as much as we've been eager to start Cleveland Avenue, we didn't want to have it torn up at the same time as South State was," he said. "So having that completed before we start Cleveland Avenue was kind of good timing from that standpoint."

The coming year will also include the expansion of Hoff Woods Park, the emergence of the Point at Otterbein -- which Bechtold said could help create an "innovation district" in the area -- and the conclusion of planning for the city's community center expansion, which will begin construction in 2018.

So while 2016 served largely to set up 2017, Collinsworth said there's plenty to come.

"A lot of it is continuation of things that started in 2016, but that we'll continue to see come to fruition this year," he said, "but there's a lot of new stuff."

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