'Opportunity is here'
Median proposed on stretch of East Main
This artist's rendering shows the proposed plan for a median on East Main Street, between Maplewood and Collingwood avenues.
Whitehall residents know where the city begins and ends on East Main Street. City officials want the rest of the world to know.
Whitehall officials plan to invest $1.2 million to convert a section of East Main Street, between Collingwood and Maplewood avenues, into a boulevard, with a median containing topiary and a stamped concrete entrance sign welcoming visitors to Whitehall.
The 150-foot median is the first of other similar features planned for the city's thoroughfares. The idea is to define Whitehall's boundaries with neighboring Columbus, Whitehall development director Zach Woodruff said.
"You know you're in Bexley, and you know you're in Reynoldsburg (when traveling on East Main Street), but there is no such clear delineation where Whitehall begins and ends on East Main Street," Woodruff said.
Representatives from EMH&T, an engineering and planning firm, and Woodruff unveiled preliminary renderings of the design during Whitehall City Council's Oct. 8 committee meetings.
"We think this is the best place to say, 'You're in Whitehall,' " Woodruff said.
The landscaped median would be constructed at the city's westernmost end of East Main Street. The entrance would feature a sign incorporating the city's new branding and motto: "Opportunity is Here."
Details still are being forged, but the median is likely to include pear trees and a variety of shrubs, Woodruff said.
Woodruff told council members he has been in contact with area business owners to ensure adequate access is provided to retailers and merchants on both sides of East Main Street.
The median is expected to have the added benefit of traffic calming, Woodruff said.
Mayor Kim Maggard said bonds would be sold to fund the project.
"No general-fund revenue will be used," Maggard said.
The bond debt would be retired using future revenue from a tax-increment-financing district that was established as part of the relocation of Priority Designs from Gahanna to the former Bill Swad Chevrolet dealership at 100 S. Hamilton Road.
"This is brilliant," council member Robert Bailey said.
Woodruff told council members to expect legislation approving and funding the project "sooner rather than later."
Construction should begin in the second quarter of next year and be completed by the end of 2014, Woodruff said.
An ordinance authorizing the incentive package with Priority Designs was scheduled for council's second reading Oct. 15, after ThisWeek's press time.
In other action Oct. 8, Woodruff announced an amendment to an economic development agreement with First Community Bank, 4300 E. Broad St.
The city was supposed to reimburse the bank an amount equal to 35 percent of income taxes due the city in 2014 and 2015 as reimbursement for the cost of renovation the bank had made to the property, resulting in the bank obtaining a lease for the second and third floors of the building.
The two floors had been vacant since 1996.
A yet unnamed state-level department will occupy the two floors, Woodruff said.
Woodruff said the city would reimburse First Community Bank $17,500 for each of the two years instead of a percentage because the bank and the tenant do not want to make publicly known the salaries on which the income-tax credit is based.
Woodruff said he expects the amendment to benefit the city, however, as the combined $35,000 credit is believed to equal about 29 percent of the payroll, or 6 percentage points less than the original agreement.
The amended ordinance was scheduled for a third and final reading at the Oct. 15 council meeting.
Also scheduled for a final reading and public hearing Oct. 15 was an ordinance approving a special permit to allow Village Baptist Church, 4880 Langley Ave., to conduct worship on property it owns.
Maggard introduced draft legislation Oct. 8 to authorize an expenditure of $128,000 from the law-enforcement trust fund to renovate the property room at the Whitehall Division of Police.
The property room is about 40 years old, Maggard said, and is long overdue for an upgrade.
Law enforcement is also required to keep property for longer periods of time, exacerbating the need for an upgrade. The room will not be expanded, but rather changes will be made to allow for more storage. Electronic entries also will be part of the upgrade, Maggard said.