Whitehall is expected to begin a metamorphosis in 2018, illustrated in large part by the demolition of the Commons at Royal Landing.
Expected to wrap up by the end of March, the $1.5 million demolition of the 42-building, 270-unit apartment complex -- thought to be built in the late 1940s and a chronic source of aggravation for Whitehall police for many years -- sets the stage for the construction of Norton Crossing, a $50 million mixed-use development by Continental Real Estate.
Groundbreaking at the southwest corner of East Broad Street and South Hamilton Road is scheduled for spring, Whitehall Development Director Zach Woodruff said.
"Norton Crossing will dominate the redevelopment landscape in the city," Woodruff said, adding it will serve as a model for subsequent improvements, including plans for the former Four Seasons Golf Center site to the immediate northeast.
"We expect to begin the marketing of the former golf-dome property in the first quarter," Woodruff said. "We believe there is good interest in the property for office and medical development."
The golf center closed Feb. 28 as part of an out-of-court settlement between its operators and the city of Whitehall, stemming from a lease dispute that began in March 2016.
Since 2001, the city had leased the land and the facility to Four Seasons.
The inflatable golf dome -- once central Ohio's only indoor driving range -- was sold, along with ancillary property, via online auction in July.
The dome was deflated in September and removed from the site.
The city will open up to development about 13 of the 37 acres it once leased, with the remainder being absorbed into the adjacent Whitehall Community Park, Woodruff said.
"Revenue from new development (at the golf-dome site) will financially support park improvements," Woodruff said.
With frontage on the north side of East Broad Street, east of North Hamilton Road, the 13 acres is uniquely suited for office and medical considerations because of its proximity to Mount Carmel East Hospital, just to the east, and John Glenn Columbus International Airport, to the north, Woodruff said.
While the city focuses on identifying developers for the former golf-dome site, construction is expected to begin during the second quarter of 2018 on Norton Crossing.
The city purchased the 17-acre site for $5 million from a New Jersey real-estate agent and handed it to Continental Real Estate for development, ridding the city of property that had been, according to city officials, a "heavy user" of police resources and the subject of multiple building-code violations.
"(Norton Crossing) will serve at (one of) the gateways into the city of Whitehall and an example of progress and development in Whitehall in the coming years," Mayor Kim Maggard said.
City leaders also look forward to improvements in the city's parks and recreation programming and services in 2018.
"We will be working with (the YMCA of Central Ohio) to finalize designs and begin renovations and improvements to the activity center at Whitehall Community Park," said Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Sorrell.
The city and YMCA officials announced in October that a new YMCA branch, dubbed Community Park YMCA, would open in 2019 at Whitehall Community Park.
The city also plans to make trail improvements at Community Park and John Bishop Park; replace play structures at Norton Field Park, a neighborhood park south of the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library; and expand educational and wellness programming, Sorrell said.
Maggard said additional goals for 2018 include continuing the city's retail-theft blitzes conducted by Whitehall police in 2017; and further reducing crime through the deployment of the department's K-9 units and narcotics bureau.
Whitehall leaders won't overlook its most treasured traditions in 2018, either.
"We will build upon community events and festivals such as the fireworks viewing (at Whitehall-Yearling School, held there for the first time in 2017) and the Food Truck Festival," Maggard said.