A down economy that made business financing difficult to obtain had an effect on Reynoldsburg development in 2009, but development director Lucas Haire said the city is "moving in the right direction for sure."

A down economy that made business financing difficult to obtain had an effect on Reynoldsburg development in 2009, but development director Lucas Haire said the city is "moving in the right direction for sure."

Haire said 21 new businesses opened in Reynoldsburg in 2009 compared to 32 in 2008 and commercial construction was nonexistent.

"We didn't have a single new commercial building built in Reynoldsburg this year, but we had some new buildings that were finished up," he said. "Considering what the economy has done this year, I think we've done pretty well."

Redeveloping existing space has been key, he said.

"Our concentration right now is to fill up vacant spaces, and we're down to the point where we're at about 11 percent of the retail square footage in this city that is vacant," Haire said. "That's what we're trying to concentrate on now, because currently ... it's very difficult to get financing to build new buildings."

Haire said one reason no new buildings were constructed in 2009 has to do with current lending standards: Banks are requiring builders to have 75 percent of their projects leased out before they even begin building.

"It used to be you could get a building financed if you had half of it leased," he said. "A lot of people can't wait nine or 10 months to open up a new store, so what we're concentrating on right now is filling in existing vacant spaces."

Examples include two businesses that opened in vacant spots in the Reynoldsburg Center on East Main Street.

True Value "filled a huge vacancy in that center that had been vacant for four or five years since the Sears Hardware left," he said.

Massey's Pizza moved into a former Fifth Third Bank building at 7070 E. Main St., which Haire said has helped revitalize the Reynoldsburg Center.

He said four spaces totaling 15,000 square feet remain to be filled in the Reynoldsburg Center. With the increased traffic there, he said, hopes are those spaces will attract more businesses to move in.

Other existing spaces filled in 2009 included a Dunkin' Donuts at 6144 E. Main St., space formerly occupied y Starbucks. City Books opened next door on Dec. 11.

"We still have vacant ground we can grow on," Haire said, noting there are about 1,000 acres or more of vacant ground within city limits.

Major projects that were finished in 2009 included a Target store that opened in March across state Route 256 from the Taylor Square Shopping Center. Verizon, Eye-Mart and Radio Shack stores opened in the outlot spaces in front of Target.

"That will draw in extra businesses as well and there's still about 30,000 square feet to be developed next to Target," Haire said.

He said he is talking with prospects interested in two of the three vacant restaurant spaces next to the Olive Garden in the Taylor Square Shopping Center, although nothing is yet final.

Haire said vacancies still remaining in Reynoldsburg include space at the southeast corner of Brice Road and East Main Street and the former Big Bear building on Brice Road. He said there is some interest in the Big Bear space and he hopes to have an announcement on that in early 2010.

"It's a priority for the city to look at that area," Haire said. "We have the Brice and Livingston strategic plan that we're working on and we're really putting on an effort to find a tenant for that location."

The renovation of Stoney Creek Plaza on state Route 256 just south of the East Livingston Avenue intersection was also a development highlight in 2009, he said.

"The renovations resulted in businesses moving in and existing businesses expanding in that center, like Plato's Closet and the Original Mattress Factory," Haire said. "It shows that after you're willing to make an investment in your building, it's easy to get a return, especially in that area and market with Route 256 being so hot."

An incentive program was established this year in hopes of attracting more commercial and industrial employers business to the city.

The program includes an incentive advisory board, which Haire said reviews applications, makes recommendations to city council and asks council for permission to offer incentives to companies that potentially are interested in locating in Reynoldsburg.

"We just granted our first incentive package for the Associates In Central Ohio Obstetrics & Gynecology Inc., who plan to relocate here next year," he said.

"We've got quite a bit of vacant office space in the city, so hopefully, in 2010, we'll see a lot more office tenants that are attracted by those incentives and that can bring back some of the high-paying jobs that bring in revenue to the city," he said.

Haire said the city is working to bring new business to the Shops at East Broad; the site includes about 25 acres yet to be developed.

"I continue to work with people and there are quite a few businesses that are interested in locating there, but it is the same thing -- it's so difficult to be financed in this market that it just hasn't happened yet," Haire said.

"But the future for 2010 looks good for the city," he said. "I think economic development looks good and we've got a lot of good projects and continuing efforts we're working on. We've got land to be developed and vacant space that is available."