No joke: Construction of the long-planned Norton Crossing development in Whitehall is expected to begin around Monday, April 1, said Frank Kass, chairman of Continental Real Estate Cos.

The $50 million mixed-use development will rise in place of the former Commons at Royal Landing, a 42-building, 270-unit apartment complex the city demolished last year. The city purchased the 17-acre site in April 2016 for $5 million from its New Jersey-based owner.

The city deeded the land to Continental Real Estate Cos. to allow the development to move forward, Whitehall development director Zach Woodruff said.

Earlier this year, Whitehall City Council approved public roads in the future development, including those for its residential component, to be known as the Lofts at Norton Crossing.

The future roads, according to the legislation, include Norton Park Drive and Opportunity Way, south of East Broad Street and north of Fairway Boulevard.

Fairway Boulevard between East Broad Street and South Hamilton Road closed permanently March 25 to allow for the start of construction, Woodruff said.

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

Norton Crossing also will include a 1-acre parcel at 115 Shumaker Lane where an apartment building once stood. The city bought the land for $25,000 and demolished the building in August 2015.

Another 1-acre parcel that the Whitehall Community Improvement Corp. gave to the city also is part of the development. That site was a former McDonald's restaurant 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 group purchased the parcel for $80,300 in November 2016, Potter said.

Access to the future development will be built through the former Broad and Hamilton Plaza at South Hamilton Road and Fairway Boulevard.

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

Continental Real Estate Cos. 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., that will be part of Norton Crossing, Woodruff said.

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, Woodruff said.

When all the parcels are combined, Norton Crossing will be about a 25-acre development, Woodruff said.

Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said the new development is a crucial part of the city's effort to reimagine the corridor.

"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.

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