The earliest tenants of Landmark Lofts, the mixed-use development at the corner of Cemetery Road and Franklin Street, are expected to move in by the end of October, according to Elford, the firm managing the project.
"Work is moving right along," said Keith Miller, an Elford project manager and senior superintendent for Landmark Lofts. "We expect to begin paving Franklin Street and install landscaping and street lighting later in September."
The 44,000-square-foot Landmark Lofts development will have more than 200 apartments and 14,000 square feet of retail space, and it will include four buildings and a clubhouse for residents. One of the buildings, a four-story apartment complex with 20 units on each floor, is nearing completion.
"We already have applications," said Lauren Zahler, community manager for Oakwood Management Co., the company leasing the 204 apartments at Landmark Lofts.
The clubhouse will include a pool and is crafted from the original grain elevator on the grounds. It and three of the buildings are not expected to be completed until the second quarter of 2018.
Landmark Lofts will have surface parking lots and parking garages, as well as multiple restaurants, according to David Meadows, Hilliard's economic-development director.
"We are talking to several restaurants currently and are in the final lease negotiations with one," said John Royer, president of Kohr Royer Griffith, the commercial real-estate company that initiated Landmark Lofts.
Other developers also are involved, including the Kelly Cos. and the Robert Weiler Co.
"This is a significant investment in our community," Meadows said.
Mayor Don Schonhardt said the project has multiple benefits for the community.
"The goal of Landmark Lofts was to add residents to the Old Hilliard district," he said. "It's an ideal site."
The development also eliminated blight in the center of the city, Schonhardt said, referring to the grain elevator once operated by Landmark Grain Co. and other deteriorating structures.
"Landmark Lofts brought to us the opportunity to eliminate blight and continue to increase the walkability of our community, attracting even more people to the heart of Old Hilliard," he said.
Some of the connections will have to wait.
A walking and cycling path between Landmark Lofts and Main Street to the north was not built as soon as the city hoped.
Schonhardt said the city is continuing talks with the Norfolk Southern railroad to gain the required easements or land to extend the Heritage Rail Trail from Main Street to Landmark Lofts.
"I hope the trail can be done soon. It's an important part of the project," said Norwich Street resident Ben Buoni, who represented neighbors at planning and zoning commission and Hilliard City Council meetings during the planning stages of the development.
Buoni said he and his neighbors are surprised the development has not proceeded more quickly.
"I've heard quite a few people say they were overwhelmed at the height of the buildings ... but we knew it was coming," Buoni said.
During the lengthy planning period that included discussions of a tax-increment-financing district for the project, he said, the project never drew the whole community's attention.
"If more of the larger community had been involved, it might have resulted in more concessions," Buoni said.
One such concession was the change of one four-story building into a three-story structure during the planning process.
Still, Buoni said, he and his neighbors want Landmark Lofts to succeed.
"Although we were opposed to it, we want to see it be a success and not a white elephant in our community," Buoni said.
City Council approved the development plan for Landmark Lofts in 2013. Construction began last year.
As part of the project, Franklin Street, the previously unimproved road between Cemetery Road and Main Street, will be aligned with Luxair Drive on the south side of Cemetery Road. However, the intersection will not immediately have a traffic signal, as previously reported.
Letty Schamp, Hilliard's deputy city engineer, said a traffic study conducted during the rezoning of the property indicated a traffic signal was not warranted.
"Obviously, a study conducted during zoning is based on projected, not actual, traffic volumes," she said.
Franklin Street from Main Street south to Landmark Lofts is under design as a capital-improvements project for Hilliard, Schamp said.
"The city's project will improve Franklin Street, similar to Norwich Street, with reconstruction, curbs, sidewalks, street lighting and trees," she said.
Construction is scheduled in 2019 and is contingent upon funding.
Meanwhile, the intersection at Cemetery Road will have no turning restrictions.
"We will evaluate the new intersection in the future to determine if a signal is warranted on actual traffic volumes," Schamp said.