The city of Bexley announced a new partnership with the city of Columbus to improve the East Livingston Avenue corridor at the 2018 State of the Community Address at Capital University.

The event, held Feb. 26 in the university's recently opened Convergent Media Center, brought together about 50 residents and officials from the city, Capital, the Bexley City School District, the Bexley Public Library and several community organizations.

The new partnership with Columbus is part of an ongoing effort Bexley has led to revitalize the southwest sector, said Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler.

"We're not exactly sure what that looks like yet," Kessler said of the Columbus partnership. "We have a verbal commitment, but it comes from the highest levels, and it's something we've been asking for, for six years at least."

In addition to enhancing East Livingston Avenue, Bexley also is developing the new Schneider Park athletics fields in the Ferndale Place/Mayfield Place neighborhood off Livingston. As part of the development process last year, the city discovered environmental contamination from the site's former use as a landfill. The city has initiated a new set of environmental testing in two residential rental properties purchased in December by the city's nonprofit Community Improvement Corporation.

The testing is scheduled to be completed this spring and is designed to determine the extent of contamination in the Ferndale/Mayfield area, Kessler said.

"If it is an issue of human health and safety, we have to be sure we know about it and we contribute to better living conditions," he said.

"One of the biggest challenges with that is not environmental remediation, but how do we make sure that we continue to provide affordable housing options in the city of Bexley, even as we address environmental concerns," he said.

Other initiatives that are scheduled to roll out this year, Kessler said, are an overhaul of local historic preservation guidelines and a city-sponsored program that would provide financial assistance to residents who make home improvements that conserve energy and reduce environmental impact. Timelines for those initiatives will be announced at a later date, Kessler said.

Kessler also announced new CoGo bike stations that will be installed this year at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.; Capital University, 1 College and Main; Johnson's Real Ice Cream, 2728 E. Main St.; and Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave. Residents provided input on where to place the stations, he said.

"There was a great public process to figure those out," he said.

In her remarks, Capital University President Elizabeth Paul offered an overview of efforts underway, including a new master plan that has been in the works for the past year. The master plan emphasizes the university's commitment to engage with Bexley as a whole and neighboring communities, Paul said.

"Community-engaged learning is a cornerstone of what we do," she said. "We believe in bringing partners in helping our communities to be better places."

Bexley City Schools Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller reviewed the district's priorities for the year, including a new strategic plan process that will begin this spring. The strategic plan will involve numerous opportunities for public input and help guide the district as the student population continues to grow, Miller said.

"We are projected to grow by over 400 students in the next nine years. That's a significant amount of growth for a community our size," she said.

"We're currently just under 2,400 students, which we believe is an all-time high in Bexley. It's definitely a 20-year high," she said.