Grove City has begun the process that could lead to a new chapter for the old Grove City Library site on Park Street and surrounding parcels.
And that redevelopment, tied into other Town Center projects and the plans for the former site of the Beulah Park thoroughbred horse racetrack, could have a significant impact on the city's core downtown district.
Much has changed in the area, with the Southwest Public Libraries moving its Grove City branch to 3959 Broadway and opening the facility Oct. 16, 2016. Last December, Grove City Council approved a preliminary development plan for the 212-acre property of Beulah Park, which closed in 2013.
Late last year, the city sent out a request for proposals for the former library site, an adjacent city-owned parcel to the east and other potentially available nearby parcels, including the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum, 3378 Park St.
The two developers who responded already are connected to the Town Center.
Beulah Park developer Patrick Kelley of Falco, Smith and Kelley Ltd. submitted a proposal in partnership with the Weiler Group and Casto Communities.
"Our vision for this specific site is a true mixed-used development," he said.
The group's proposal includes a mix of residential, small retail and restaurants in the old library building and in the parcel to the immediate west.
"There would be some residential, but the primary need there is some retail and restaurant uses, things that will give people even more reason to come to the Town Center," Kelley said.
The retail uses would be similar to what can be found in Columbus' Short North, he said, including artist and specialty shops.
The proposal includes pedestrian access, open green space, restaurant patios and general outdoor seating areas, Kelley said.
"Our ideal would be to close the alley between Broadway and First Street to vehicular traffic to create an environment that promotes the area as a walkable community," he said.
"There isn't going to be so much office and retail use in Beulah Park," Kelley said. "It's all about connectivity. People want to be able to walk and bike to those type of places."
Office or low-density urban residential use would be located behind the old library site facing Civic Place.
The other proposal was submitted by the Pizzuti Cos., which developed the Broadway Station Apartments behind City Hall and served as the owner's representative for the development of the new Grove City Library at the corner of Broadway and Grant Avenue.
The main component of the Pizzuti proposal is a three-building, 117-unit multi-family projects fronting Park Street. The apartments would complement but not replicate the Broadway Station development, according to the company's proposal.
Six for-sale, two-story townhomes would be planned for Voeller Avenue.
Pizzuti includes a proposal for a restaurant to occupy the museum building across Park Street from the library and adjacent to the police department. The restaurant would have a price-point slightly above the eateries currently in the Town Center.
The plan includes 160 parking spaces for the apartments, one for each bedroom on site. An additional 22 spaces would be dedicated public parking.
A pocket park would be planned for the southwest corner of Civic Place and Arbutus Avenue. First Avenue would be vacated.
"We're excited about the opportunity in the Town Center and have had great success with Broadway Station," Joel Pizzuti, president of the Pizzuti Cos. said in a statement released by the company. "We've spent decades working with the city on industrial, residential and civic projects and we look forward to the next steps in the selection process."
Because the proposal still is under evaluation, Pizzuti declined a request for an interview.
The city held a meeting involving city officials, planning commission members and Town Center business owners and stakeholders Feb. 21 to review the proposals and gather feedback, said Kyle Rauch, the city's development director.
The request for proposals was "the first step in due diligence" to get an idea of the type of redevelopment the development community think the marketplace and Town Center could support, Rauch said.
How the process will unfold from here is still to be determined, he said.
"We could accept these proposals as presented. We could ask for more information. We could ask that the proposals be revised," Rauch said.
"The main thing is that we want to go in the right direction and make sure we get the right kind of development for the site that would benefit the Town Center, the businesses that are already there and the community as a whole."
The Town Center's potential is ripe right now, enhanced by recent and planned projects, including Broadway Station, the new library facility and Beulah Park, said Andy Furr, director of Town Center Inc.
"That opportunity is also a challenge," he said.
The big challenge is controlling and managing growth in the Town Center, Furr said.
"It's a balancing act," he said. "The very thing that makes the Town Center so attractive to people -- its quaint hometown feel -- could be lost if you're not careful. You want to have just the right amount and type of redevelopment that keeps the Town Center vibrant but doesn't take away its character."
Grove City's Town Center has played a role in city events, ranging from Arts in the Alley to Boo on Broadway to the Wine and Arts Festival.
Three major parcels are available for redevelopment within the Town Center, including the plaza between the new library and the Mill Street Market building, the old Fifth-Third Bank site at 3990 Broadway and parcels between Park Street and Grant Avenue.
Parking remains an issue in the Town Center, Furr said.
"I hear complaints about parking all the time," he said. "But that's another area where your success brings a challenge. You'd much rather have a situation where people have a hard time finding parking than one where there's always ample parking available because people aren't coming to the Town Center."
Last year marked the first year since the Town Center Group began tracking that all businesses in the district were retained, Furr said.
"I think all of the things that are going on in and around the Town Center will continue to pay dividends," he said.
"The interest the Town Center is receiving is an indication that it's still a desirable place to do business, to visit and to live," Rauch said.
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