Two popular restaurants and a check-cashing business will relocate after the owner of retail strip center at South Hamilton Road and Fairway Boulevard agreed to sell it to the city.
Fans of Tacos Fogoncito will be happy to know the eatery already has secured a new location just south of its current home in the Broad and Hamilton Plaza, owner Angelica Gamino said.
“We knew it was coming so we already had a relocation plan,” Gamino said.
Gamino said the restaurant will move to 1121 S. Hamilton Road in Whitehall, “a few minutes (south)” of the current site.
She had yet to sign a lease as of June 1 but said the move “was almost 100 percent.”
Whitehall City Council on May 29 authorized the city’s purchase of the retail strip center for $1.25 million from Eugene Fletcher.
The Broad and Hamilton Plaza, 51-91 S. Hamilton Road, is on the west side of South Hamilton Road at Fairway Boulevard.
The current tenants are Tacos Fogoncito, the Shrimp Hut and Checksmart.
The city will provide each tenant $60,000 for relocating expenses, Whitehall Development Director Zach Woodruff said.
Short-term leases with existing tenants and payment remain pending, but the city has closed on the purchase of the strip center, Woodruff said June 1.
“We anticipate (giving the tenants) 90 to 120 days (to relocate),” he said.
Gamino said she learned from Whitehall officials rather than Fletcher that a sale agreement had been reached.
Fletcher and his attorney advised her, she said, that they were fighting the bid, “but then we got a letter (from Woodruff) telling us it was sold” and outlining the process for relocating, Gamino said.
The center will be demolished to build an access road from South Hamilton Road into Norton Crossing, a $50 million mixed-use retail development that Continental Real Estate is expected to begin building in the summer.
The city’s purchase ends its efforts to appropriate the parcel by eminent domain.
City Council introduced legislation in April 2017 to appropriate the parcel and negotiated with Fletcher, who in June 2017 called the city’s initial offer of $920,000 for the 1.16 acres “insulting.”
“To me, this isn’t about eminent domain – it’s the city wanting to build an access road to help a private developer,” Fletcher said in January.
Attorney Geoffrey Moul represented Fletcher during negotiations.
“We object to the city’s notice of appropriation and do not believe the eminent-domain process is being legally evoked,” Moul said last year.
However, other eminent-domain experts last year indicated the city was in a good position to use eminent domain.
Fletcher said June 1 the offer still “wasn’t enough” and that the city is “making it difficult for small-business owners.”
The purchase comes on the heels of the city’s purchase, for $8.86 million earlier this month, of the Woodcliff Condominiums at the northeast corner of North Hamilton Road and East Broad Street, ending an appropriation action that can be traced to 2007 when the city first filed a nuisance-based complaint against Woodcliff’s former owners in Franklin County’s environmental court.
The city’s successful effort to purchase Woodcliff mirrors that of the Commons at Royal Landing, a former 42-building, 270-unit apartment complex at the southwest corner of South Hamilton Road and East Broad Street.
The city levied the same complaints about code violations and calls for police service against the Commons at Royal Landing before the city and its New Jersey-based owners reached an agreement for the city to purchase it for $5 million.
It has been demolished to make way for Norton Crossing.
“We are striving to build a quality community and do not want to have substandard adjacencies at the entrance to Whitehall,” Frank Kass, founder and chairman of Continental Real Estate, previously told ThisWeek Whitehall News.
Kass said last week that an affiliate of Continental Real Estate has negotiated for the purchase of the three-building apartment complex immediately north of the strip center, owned by Rithy Ohio XXXI LLC, and plans to close on it no later than the end of July.
The company already has closed on a privately owned commercial parcel on East Broad Street, he said.
Both parcels are needed to provide access to the new development, Kass said, and structures at both sites will be demolished.
At council’s May 29 meeting, the ordinance to buy the strip center passed 7-0.
“I think we did good for our city (and) the right thing for the (tenants) who are affected by the move,” said Council President Jim Graham.