Delaware city officials say a number of long-discussed projects aimed at improving the way residents live, work and play in the community will come to fruition in 2016.

Delaware city officials say a number of long-discussed projects aimed at improving the way residents live, work and play in the community will come to fruition in 2016.

Construction began this past summer on a $30 million project to extend Sawmill Parkway from its current terminus in Liberty Township north into Delaware's industrial park. The city and Delaware County struck a cost-sharing deal on the extension in 2014.

"Sawmill Parkway is a very, very important project not only for transportation but for economic development," City Manager Tom Homan said. "It was decades in the making and we're thrilled that it's finally a reality."

The project will open hundreds of acres of land in and around the city to potential industrial development.

Homan said a municipality's ability to tout "shovel-ready" sites is an increasingly important part of attracting and retaining employers. He said he expects development discussions related to Sawmill Parkway to intensify after it opens to traffic in the fall.

"I think once the road is finished and dedicated and people are driving on it, it's going to accelerate the interest in developing around it," he said.

Residents will see two additional long-discussed extension projects related to transportation completed this year.

The Delaware Municipal Airport will be the site of a $4.8 million, 800-foot runway extension expected to bring additional commercial traffic. The project -- largely funded through an Federal Aviation Administration grant -- is expected to wrap up before the end of the year.

"It's a very good general-aviation airport," Homan said. "We'd like to see more aviation-related commerce ... generated at the airport."

Work will start this spring on a $3 million project to extend Sandusky Street to form a new intersection with U.S. Route 23. The project, funded through a mix of federal and state sources, will allow northbound drivers on Route 23 to access Pennsylvania Avenue and drivers on Pennsylvania Avenue to turn south onto Route 23.

Homan said the city's Veterans Memorial Plaza and Veterans Park -- both adjacent to the Delaware Community Center YMCA -- are set to open in mid-2016.

The plaza will feature a restored World War I-era cannon owned by the city as well as stone markers that commemorate each war in which the United States has taken part. The "spray-and-play" park will include a dinosaur-themed recreation area.

Homan said the original concept plan for Veterans Park dates back to the early 2000s. City voters approved an income-tax increase to fund park and recreation improvements in 2008.

"A lot of these things just take time and dollars," he said. "We passed the levy in 2008. ... By the time (Veterans Park) will be dedicated, it will be eight years since we passed the levy and 14 years since we conceived of the plan."

The city aims to hire a parks and natural resources director in 2016 to oversee Veterans Park along with Delaware's entire park system. The city has not had a parks director since 2012, when it inked a deal with the YMCA for recreation services.

As Delaware continues to bolster its park system, Homan said it is time to hire someone to protect its existing parks while planning for future improvements.

Mayor Carolyn Riggle said the city will start advertising the job opening this month and could make the hire in the spring.

Along with planned improvements to the parks system, Riggle said she's excited for the city to host Ohio's first Ironman triathlon in 2016.

The World Triathlon Corp. announced last fall it would bring 2,500 athletes to Delaware County on Aug. 21 to bike, run and swim at Ironman 70.3 Ohio. The athletes and thousands of volunteers are expected to generate increased economic activity annually for the foreseeable future.

"It will be huge for Delaware," Riggle said.

City officials pledged they will not forget the top two concerns raised by residents in a May 2015 survey: economic development and traffic congestion.

Homan said city officials are working to develop an "entrepreneurial center" next door to City Hall at the former Delaware Gazette building while selling Sawmill Parkway as a prime location for development.

As far as traffic is concerned, Homan said the city will work to identify ways to fund both local and regional improvement projects.

Homan said projects with strategic importance to the region, such as possible improvements to the Point, likely can be funded through a partnership among the city, county, state and federal governments.

He said projects with a narrower impact, such as the planned extension of Merrick Boulevard to Troy Road, will need a local funding source.

Homan said the city expects to hire an engineering firm soon to study possible improvements at the Point intersection, where Central Avenue and William Street meet. He said a multimillion-dollar project to reduce congestion in the area likely could not be accomplished without multiple governments partnering.

"That's an important artery for our region," Homan said.