A new day care option in one of Clintonville's historic buildings is moving along but is still months away from operation.
The third location of Balanced Family Academy, a child-care franchise that started in Upper Arlington, is in the process of taking over the former Southwick-Good & Fortkamp Funeral Chapel building at 3100 N. High St.
The former Clinton Chapel was built in 1838 and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The funeral home closed in 2017.
The new franchise is owned by Courtney Lewis, who began her relationship with Balanced Family Academy as a mother, taking her daughter to the Upper Arlington location.
There she met owners Sarah Fite and Rebecca Handley. Years later, they're business partners and friends.
"We kind of formed the friendship over the last five years," Lewis said, "and we've been working to figure out the prefect location for another school. That's kind of how we got to Clintonville."
Lewis, who said she works for a "financial institution" in Columbus, and others have been working on the Clintonville project since at least mid-2018.
Because of the odd space, which technically is five separate parcels combined into one, the process of turning the historic building into a day care center has been a long one.
Stephen Hardwick, chairman of the Clintonville Area Commission's zoning and variance committee, said the new owners were required to purchase two of the parcels that currently hold single-family homes. He said they plan to sell those homes and successfully changed the properties' zoning to residential so they can be sold as residences rather than businesses.
But Lewis said the long process has been worth it for the unique building.
"We love the building; I think there's a lot to be said for the character of it and the fact that everybody knows it in the community," she said. "It obviously has multiple pieces put together, so that's been an interesting process.
"But we've been pleasantly surprised as we've gone through it with our structural engineer and architect. It's going to be an incredible product when we're done, but we're keeping a lot of the same interior walls because of the uniqueness of the building."
The key, however, is "when" they're done with the project.
Lewis said it isn't far enough along to show off the inside, and said tours for prospective clients that begin later this month will take place at the Upper Arlington location.
She said she hopes to be open in "late fall" but said she doesn't want to set anything in stone yet.
"I think we have the right team working on this," she said. "If everything goes as planned, it will be late fall. But ... we don't want to give a specific date because we don't want to put any families in predicaments if we say this date and it doesn't happen."
When the new location does open, everyone involved said they believe it will be a success. Lewis said she has 26 reserved spots already, with another 50 families on the "interested" list.
Fite said that's not a surprise, given the demand they've seen for a Clintonville location.
"We have a lot of families that currently attend our Upper Arlington location and drive from Clintonville," she said. "They've essentially been begging us for years to open something in that area that's close to home so they can walk their kids to school and add that to the community."
Libby Wetherholt, the CAC chairwoman and representative of the district where the property sits, said the project is "really exciting" for area residents. She said the new use for the historic building is a welcome one.
"Anything that keeps one of our most historical buildings intact -- it's a landmark, even over and above some of the history of it -- is beautiful," she said. "We just love having somebody being able to reuse it."