Worthington heads into 2018 with a series of large projects for which to prepare and two new council members, meaning the year ahead will be a busy time for local leaders.
Although City Manager Matt Greeson and council President Bonnie Michael said they do not have a focal point because they are trying to juggle myriad projects, a few topics come to the forefront.
Although it might not result in progress that will be seen by passers-by, the next year is expected to be an important one for the progress of the Northeast Gateway project.
The Northeast Gateway is the moniker city leaders have chosen for the renovation and redesign for the intersection of Sancus Boulevard and Worthington-Galena, East Wilson Bridge and Huntley roads on the north side of the city, just south of Interstate 270.
Michael, who has served on Worthington City Council since 1995, said the project is the largest she has seen the city undertake in her time with local government.
"It's huge," she said. "One of the beauties of it is that it connects one part of the school district to the other. It's going to connect businesses together. It's really going to be wonderful, and it's going to have bicycle and pedestrian access."
Greeson agreed. He called the project "our largest transportation project that we've managed as a city-led project."
He said he expects "the real, fundamental design finalization" for the intersection plans in 2018, as well as the beginning of right-of-way acquisition for neighboring residential and commercial properties, which will be led by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Although the city has applied for multiple grants, with some still in flux, Greeson said, he expects another round of funding applications in 2018 that will attempt to secure even more federal funding due to "the scale and complexity of the various phases of that project."
He previously said the entire project is estimated to cost $13 million, though a more precise figure would available after design and right-of-way acquisition are finished. As of August, the city had secured about $10.8 million in federal funds, largely through the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
Northeast Gateway construction is not expected to begin until at least 2020.
Just west of the Northeast Gateway on East Wilson Bridge Road lies another of the city's major 2018 projects: the redevelopment of Worthington's Holiday Inn site.
Witness Hospitality, property managers of the hotel at 7007 N. High St., have been planning a massive redevelopment project for nearly two years and have delayed closing the hotel for a full year.
The Holiday Inn is expected to close this summer, with demolition and construction beginning before the end of the year.
Witness' goal is to redevelop the site into a new hotel and a mix of commercial uses that would include retail businesses.
Given Worthington's land-locked nature, Greeson said, the project is "high up on the list" of major city concerns, despite it being privately funded.
"It's kind of interesting," he said. "It's desirable to have a quality hotel in the community. It's desirable to have high-quality architecture, good streeetscaping and an aesthetically attractive gateway to our community.
"It's probably not as economically impactful as, say, a big office project. But because of those other things, it's still very important."
Witness CEO Ohm Patel told municipal planning commission members in October he hopes the 111-room hotel would be a Hampton Inn.
Projects like the Northeast Gateway and the Holiday Inn redevelopment will need to go through City Council, which has two new members in Beth Kowalczyk and David Robinson, who were elected in November.
With so much going on, Michael said, getting the newcomers acclimated will be crucial.
"The city is bigger than they might think it is," she said with a laugh.
"There's more to it, and until you get on the inside it's hard to know how much there is. It's a lot."
Michael said council members also plan to improve communication with residents.
The city is launching a mobile application to use in a variety of ways, and council meetings will be recorded live so residents can watch at their leisure.
"One of the things that people talk about a lot is the concept of transparency and what's happening with the city," Michael said. "In my opinion, everyone at the city really wants to be able to hear what residents want and what they feel and we're always trying to reach out."
At least one big project isn't expected to see much traction in 2018.
Although Greeson and Michael agreed they would love to see movement on the former United Methodist Children's Home site, neither have high hopes for that this year.
"We haven't heard anything," Michael said.
Plans for the site have been a source of contention in Worthington since UMCH closed its residential facility for troubled youth in December 2010.