The cities of Canal Winchester and Groveport both have their eyes on development projects heading into 2020.

In Canal Winchester, officials are considering ambitious plans for a new centralized hub for local government.

In Groveport, officials are hoping to pursue development of two properties on Main Street -- one at the northwest corner of Main and College streets and another next to Ace Hardware, 726 Main St.

Canal Winchester

Mayor Mike Ebert has asked Canal Winchester City Council to give him permission to purchase the former Bob McDorman Automotive Museum at 45 E. Waterloo St. for $2.4 million.

"With this one purchase, we would eliminate so many problems," said Ebert, who noted one employee at City Hall had a hallway office.

The current municipal building at 36 S. High St. and Town Hall, 10 N. High St., where City Council meets, could be repurposed for other needs, but those plans aren't clear yet.

If council agrees to purchase the 1.29-acre McDorman site, Lucas Haire, the city's development director, has said the neighboring Frances Steube Community Center, built in the 1980s, would be torn down to allow for additional public parking, which has been an ongoing concern for residents.

Along with relocating municipal operations, the community center and council chambers would move to the new building, which Haire estimates would cost an additional $2 million to renovate.

The Fairfield County Sheriff's Office, which provides law enforcement for Canal Winchester, also could move its substation out of cramped quarters in the basement of Town Hall and into the current municipal building, Ebert said.

"Where they are now is an area of about 600 square feet, and that's not a whole lot of room," he said.

The Canal Winchester branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, currently at 115 Franklin St., also is studying the idea of relocating to 45 E. Waterloo St., Haire said.

The ordinance granting permission to pursue the purchase was on the agendas for City Council's work session and regular meeting Dec. 2 but was tabled to allow more time for study. The city has until Feb. 12 to close on the 24,000-square-foot property, which initially was listed at $3.2 million.

The plan had its critics during a Dec. 16 public hearing.

Former City Council member Bobbie Mershon questioned the asking price.

"You had the right of first refusal, but there's nobody else out there that's even considering it at $2.4 million," she said of the McDorman property. "What does that tell you? It's still overpriced."

Council voted 4-2 during a Dec. 16 work session to take the ordinance off the table. Council members Mike Walker, Jill Amos, Bob Clark and Mike Coolman were in favor of the move with Councilmen Will Bennett and Patrick Lynch voting against it. Council President Bruce Jarvis abstained since he was leaving council Dec. 31 after an unsuccessful bid to be elected mayor.

The legislation then had its first reading at the Dec. 16 regular council meeting. Two more readings are needed before a final vote.

Groveport

The city of Groveport is eyeing Main Street development that could include property it purchased at 490 Main St. for $250,000 from Kenneth E. Stebelton in 2018 and green space next to the Ace Hardware store at 726 Main St.

The nearly half-acre Stebelton property was formerly the site of Stebe's Sales Inc., a used-car business that operated in Groveport for many years.

The goal remains to find a potential developer for the site, possibly a restaurant or retail business, Assistant City Administrator and Development Director Jeff Green has said.

Mayor Lance Westcamp also pointed to the area next to Ace Hardware as a future development spot. Baltimore Land Management LLC, which built the hardware store, has been leasing the adjacent space from the city with plans to construct a second building on the site.

The Groveport Community Improvement Corp. gave the company an extension of time allowed to get something built, but that expired at the end of 2019 without a building being erected. Westcamp said the next steps for the site will be up to City Council.

"We don't buy properties to develop ourselves, but if there's a need in which the city has to start the process, then council isn't afraid to do that," Westcamp said.

Groveport conducted a survey and market study in 2018, seeking input from residents on what they want to see in the downtown.

More than half (55%) of the nearly 600 survey respondents said they would like to see a restaurant or diner in town. Other ideas from the survey included: coffee shop (13%), sandwich shop (8%), brew pub (7%) and an interactive family cafe (6%).

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