The first apartments and businesses are expected to open in less than two years at Norton Crossing, a $50 million mixed-use development at the southwest corner of East Broad Street and South Hamilton Road.

"(Norton Crossing) will set the tone for what is possible (in Whitehall). ... You will be proud when it is done," said Frank Kass, chairman of Continental Real Estate Cos.

Kass said construction of Norton Crossing will begin early next year.

It will take two years to complete the project, but the first apartments and businesses are expected to open a little sooner -- about 18 months after the start of construction, Kass said.

Further demolition on the periphery of the parcel also will begin early next year.

A majority of Norton Crossing will be built on the 17-acre former site of the Commons at Royal Landing, the 42-building, 270-unit apartment complex the city of Whitehall purchased in April 2016 for $5 million from its New Jersey owner.

The city deeded the parcel to Continental Real Estate Cos. for $1.

Norton Crossing also will include a 1-acre parcel at 115 Shumaker Lane, formerly the site of an apartment building the city bought for $25,000 and demolished in August 2015; and another 1-acre parcel that the Whitehall Community Improvement Corp. gave to the city.

The latter site was a former McDonald's store just south of the shuttered Broad and Hamilton Plaza and was the contribution of the organization toward the Norton Crossing development, said Tom Potter, president of the corporation.

The Whitehall CIC purchased the parcel for $80,300 in November 2016, Potter said.

Earlier this year, Whitehall closed on the $1.5 million purchase of the Broad and Hamilton Plaza, a 1.16-acre retail strip center at 51-91 S. Hamilton Road that once included the Shrimp Hut and Tacos Fogoncito, among other businesses.

Continental Real Estate also negotiated the purchase of three apartment buildings immediately north of the Broad and Hamilton Plaza and a former computer store on East Broad Street, just east of Holiday Lanes, 4589 E. Broad St.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency and the Franklin County Community Improvement Corp. organized and funded the $1.5 million demolition of the Commons at Royal Landing that began in December 2017, Whitehall Development Director Zach Woodruff said.

When all the parcels are combined, Norton Crossing will become a development of about 25 acres.

"Today marks the start of new progress in Whitehall ... and it will not be the last," Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said at an Oct. 25 groundbreaking ceremony for Norton Crossing.

"Norton Crossing is an important next step in the transformation of the Broad Street and Hamilton Road gateway into our community that will be a community hub for young professionals, residents and visitors," she said.

Norton Crossing will have offices, retail, residences, restaurants and a public park for community events, and as such, "is the most significant redevelopment in our city's history," Maggard said.

"A lot of exceptional partners made it a reality," Woodruff said Oct. 26.

Norton Crossing will have 40,000 to 60,000 square feet of office space, about 20,000 square feet of retail and "thousands of upscale residential units for young professionals and empty-nesters," Woodruff said.

The "transformative" development will be a "model" for future projects, Woodruff said.

"We've just broken ground and we are already seeing the positive impacts," he added.

Potter, a former Whitehall City Council member, said Norton Crossing is the fruition of careful planning and collaboration.

"This dynamic initiative was not approached on a whim but rather a solid focused path with clear expectations and long-term sustainability," he said. "It's an exciting new chapter for Whitehall and I am confident this is just one of many to come."