With its prime downtown location, Grove City's Town Center district serves as one of the community's retail centerpieces.

The nonprofit organization that promotes the Town Center has obtained a permit to operate as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

The change in status follows the organization's official name change earlier this year from Town Center Inc. to the Heart of Grove City.

"The name change was part of an effort to rebrand our organization," said Andy Furr, executive director of the Heart of Grove City.

"We wanted to create a name that was self-explanatory to folks, something that summed up where we are, what we represent and what we do," he said. "The downtown Town Center area is the heart of Grove City."

The transition to a 501(c)(3) organization will be completed over the next year, although the Heart of Grove City will retain its 501(c)(6) designation and the Town Center Inc. name for several years.

"They will overlap for awhile," Furr said.

Many of the signature events the Heart of Grove City holds in the downtown area, including the Wine and Arts Festival and the Bourbon Tasting, are trade named under the umbrella of "Grove City Town Center," he said.

The charitable designation will make the Heart of Grove City eligible for more grant opportunities than under the 501(c)(6) organization, he said.

"There will be more resources that we can apply for," he said. "We'll be looking to apply for funding from the Community Block Development Fund, SWACO and Franklin County that wasn't available to us before."

Under the Heart of Grove City's new charitable designation, donations made to the organization will be tax-deductible, Furr said.

That might help allow companies located outside the Town Center area to be more compelled to support the organization with a donation, he said.

Since July 20, a Designation Outdoor Refreshment Area has been available to visitors to the Town Center.

The DORA "has generated some good feedback" and while there isn't data available to correlate whether the DORA has increased retail sales, most businesses in the Town Center are reporting that people are taking DORA cups into their stores, he said.

The DORA operates from 2 p.m. to midnight Thursdays through Saturdays within the outlined 15.81-acre section of Grove City's downtown.

During those times, people can purchase drinks at bars and restaurants within the district and have them served in a DORA cup, which they can take with them as they stroll and visit shops in the designated area.

The open-container district did not operate July 26 during the Grove City Homecoming Celebration or Oct. 31 during Boo on Broadway, and will not be in effect during the Christmas Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 7.

"We never expected this would be something that would bring a horde of people into the Town Center, but it's another way to get feet on the street, which is what we're trying to do with all our events and initiatives," Furr said.

Three of the eight DORA-authorized establishments within the district have gone through their initial allotment of 1,000 DORA cups and placed a second order, he said.

There has been only one minor issue, when a person accidentally stepped outside the DORA district with their beverage, Furr said.

The Heart of Grove City will double the number of Food Truck Festival and Shop Hop nights it will host in 2020, Furr said.

"We hold those in conjunction with the Summer Sizzle Concert Series, and we'll be going from one a month to holding them twice each month during the concert season," he said.

Participating businesses hold special sales and activities and food trucks are set up in the Town Center during the events, Furr said.

At least one additional alcohol-themed event is planned for 2020, he said.

Tacos and Tequila will join the successful Wine and Arts Festival and Bourbon Tasting events, Furr said.

"As with the wine and bourbon events, we'll be bringing in a lot of high-end tequila producers for that event along with a lot of food trucks offering Mexican cuisine," he said.

"Some people may ask why we have to do so many alcohol-type of events, but that's what brings people to the area," Furr said.

Other alcohol-themed events may be planned, he said.

"These events draw people to our downtown area who may not have even been aware that Grove City has this wonderful, quaint Town Center," said Dennise Hunt, vice president of the Heart of Grove City board of directors.

"They see what we have to offer in our downtown area and they may decide to come back and visit another time," she said.

On Nov. 4, City Council approved legislation directing the administration to use the former site of the Grove City Library and an adjacent parcel on Park Street as a public recreational or park site.

"That's another feature that's going to help bring people to our downtown area," Hunt said.

In general, the Town Center is thriving, with all but one of its 100 or so storefronts occupied, Furr said.

Whit's Frozen Yogurt will open an outlet across Broadway from the Grove City Public Library in 2020, he said.

When the property at 4048 Broadway became available earlier this year, more than two dozen potential tenants expressed interest, Furr said.

The business that opened there -- the Chandler, which gives customers the chance to make their own candles -- has been an ideal addition, he said.

Nine years ago, when Furr came on board as executive director of the Town Center Inc. organization, the downtown district was mostly comprised of service-oriented businesses.

"They were good businesses, but they weren't the kind of businesses that would draw people to visit your downtown area," he said.

Over the years, the Town Center has evolved into a district filled with restaurants and retail businesses, Furr said.

With the events, activities, restaurants and stores, "the Town Center is probably in the best position it's been in for at least 10 years," Hunt said.

"There's a lot of buzz about the Town Center, and that's reflected by the amount of interest that's generated when a property becomes available," Furr said.