Work started March 23 that will lead to a replacement for the Junior Fair Building at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, and the county agricultural society has a plan to relocate during this year's fair the events normally held in the structure.

The 24,000-square-foot facility will be called the fairgrounds' Agricultural Center. It's estimated to cost $3 million and will be completed in time for the 2020 Delaware County Fair.

The building will replace the 8,800-square-foot Junior Fair Building constructed in 1964.

Fair officials earlier hoped part of the new building could be used this year.

Fair general manager Sandra J. Kuhn said the development and construction process has been too time-consuming to allow that.

"We'd love to snap our fingers" and have the building completed, "but that's not the way it works. We have to go through the process (that requires) time and effort."

Kuhn compared the process to those used to building Sawmill Parkway and the new county courthouse, both of which took considerable time.

During the fair, the Junior Fair Building has housed displays created by 4-H clubs, plus Junior Fair clothing and photography exhibits and some judged events, Kuhn said.

The good news, she said, is the building's interior fixtures used during the county fair are portable. For most of every year, the Junior Fair building sat empty, with the fixtures and exhibit areas removed from storage and installed preceding each county fair.

Those materials also will be used at this year's fair, but in the Coliseum Building, Kuhn said, adding that's where still exhibits normally displayed in the Junior Fair Building will be housed.

Some of the commercial vendors normally housed in the Coliseum Building will be moved to the Merchants Building for 2019, she said.

Following a groundbreaking ceremony March 23, B & K Lehner Excavating of Delaware began demolishing the existing building, Kuhn said.

Harper Architectural Studio, a Westerville company, designed the new structure that also will house the fair offices and the Agricultural Hall of Fame, Kuhn said.

The new facility will have a heating and cooling system, restrooms, a "warming" kitchen and seating for up to 500 people, enabling it to be used year-round, the county said in a press release.

Kuhn said Harper Architectural will hire the contractors following a bidding process during the next two to three months.

The project will be funded by the county bed tax, which raises money for infrastructure improvements at the fairgrounds.

The 3-percent tax on hotel bills was approved by county voters in 2016 and is scheduled to run five years.

Fair board member Chip Thomson earlier said the board is grateful for the public's support in enacting the tax and is determined to be good stewards of the funds.

Delaware City Council earlier approved an ordinance including the project's combined preliminary and final development plan.

City Planning Director Dave Efland said the fairgrounds includes several "paper alleys" that once were set aside as right of way for alleys that never were constructed. The agricultural society will petition to have those alleys "vacated," which would remove their alley status.

Kuhn said one such alley is under the Junior Fair Building site.

Efland said the fairgrounds that sits inside city limits is zoned residential.

The ordinance calls for the agricultural society to submit a request for rezoning to "something more appropriate, probably a planned district," Efland said.

The deadline for that submission is June 1, 2020.

One condition of approval for rezoning, Efland said, is that the agricultural society give the city right of way for a bicycle path running from Pennsylvania Avenue to West Central Avenue.

The agricultural society has been working on a future master plan for the fairgrounds, he added, which is likely to form a basis of its rezoning request.

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