Progress is all around us, says Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard.
Maggard used her 2018 State of the City address, held March 14 at the Wasserstrom Co., 4500 E. Broad St., to underscore recent accomplishments and showcase future goals.
The progress she mentioned can be seen everywhere, she said, from the future construction of the Community Park YMCA branch, upgrades to the city's five parks in the summer and, most notably, Norton Crossing, a $50 million mixed-use development at the southwest corner of South Hamilton Road and East Broad Street.
Maggard's message -- as well as those of Fire Chief Preston Moore, Police Chief Mike Crispen, Development Director Zach Woodruff and Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Sorrell -- resonated with the crowd of about 150 that included city officials, employees and residents.
"It's fantastic. I can't believe all the progress we've made," said Sharron Liston, a resident of Whitehall since 1967.
Ken and Dorothy Keefe have made their home in Whitehall for more than 50 years.
"We've seen a lot," Ken Keefe said.
Both agreed they like what they have seen lately.
Maggard and department directors used the annual address as an opportunity to make several announcements.
Woodruff revealed the city already has the commitment of a restaurant to open at Norton Crossing.
Hobnob Tavern, a new concept by the owners of central Ohio's Old Bag of Nails restaurant chain, will be among the businesses at the site, Woodruff said.
Maggard presented 2 Tones Brewing Company with an Ambassador Award, affording co-owner Anthony McKeivier the opportunity to announce the company's relocation from North Hamilton Road to East Broad Street to allow for the construction of a 3,400-square-foot taproom.
The mayor said the city's progress toward strategic goals is being met "with real, tangible results in our parks, in economic development, (and) in police and fire (services)."
Concerning the parks, Maggard heralded the opening of a splash pad last summer at John Bishop Park and the announcement of the city's partnership with the YMCA of Central Ohio to open the 24,000-square-foot Community Park YMCA branch.
An architect is expected to be announced in April and construction could begin in the fall, Maggard said.
Sorrell spoke about the start of a $1.5 million improvement project this year at Whitehall Community Park that includes new walking and bike paths, new shelter houses and the transformation of the park's lower level into a natural meadow with access to Big Walnut Creek.
"Whitehall Community Park will undergo a renaissance ... this underused gift will be transformed (into) a nature park (and become) a unique jewel," Sorrell said.
The city will invest $600,000 this year, Maggard said, to upgrade equipment at all five parks in the city: Norton Field, Lamby Lane, Robinwood Park, Bishop Park and Community Park.
Concerning economic development, Woodruff said 48 new businesses opened in Whitehall in 2017.
These were businesses that moved into unoccupied areas, not ones that simply were rebranded, Woodruff said, though he added he did not know how many businesses closed last year.
The residential side also flourished last year, Maggard said, with the continuation of city's Home Reinvestment Program and Sidewalk Replacement Program.
On public safety, Maggard showcased the police department's success in reducing crimes such as burglaries and robberies, now at their lowest level since the mid-1990s, she said.
Crispen credited the reduction to the department's "crime blitzes" and the support of the community through programs such as TRACS.
Moore spoke to the success of the fire department's new community paramedic program, piloted last year, and Maggard announced it will be a permanently funded position.
"The state of Whitehall is improving every day, and month, and year," Maggard said.