Developer nudges Grove City to start components of Beulah central park

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group

The developer of the Beulah Park Living project said his team has completed most of its work related to the planned 32-acre community park that will be in the central portion of the Grove City development.

Now, Pat Kelley said, it's up to the city to begin some of the work it is expected to do as part of the park development.

The city can't really determine which of its components could get underway until the park area is graded and the cost estimates for the city components are updated, said Grove City Council member Ted Berry, who chairs council's lands committee.

This sign shows the layout for the Beulah Park Living development in Grove City (on the site of the old racetrack). A central park is included.

The central park was discussed during a special meeting of council's committees Oct. 26.

Kelley said his team has completed landscaping work around the perimeter of a pond and is close to being ready to dedicate a sculpture that will be installed near the park entrance to commemorate Beulah Park, the horse-racing track that operated for decades on a portion of the development site before closing in 2014.

The second phase of a project to construct a roadway to encircle and surround the park is getting underway, and when that project is completed, it will include 16,000 linear feet of bike paths and walking trails in the development and about 8,000 linear feet of a single-loaded street (serving property on one side only) that will offer access into the park, he said.

The street will be longer than the comparable roadways at Schiller Park or Goodale Park in Columbus, Kelley said.

"We've about completed everything we were supposed to do – and as we represented we would do," he said.

It would be helpful for the city to start implementing some of its components as identified in the community-park concept master plan "sooner rather than later," Kelley said. 

"Our whole plan for Beulah has been to create an immediate synergy," he said.

Most of the residential components of the project are being completed as part of Beulah's first phase. In total, about 900 residential units are planned for the 212-acre development. The project also will include 171,000 square feet of commercial space and an 88,000-square-foot assisted living facility.

Kelley said he is eager to see city components – like planting the street trees, installing sod along the roadway, landscaping and building the stone wall around the pond – get started.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was some expectation that construction of the amphitheater planned for the park might begin this year, so the central park was deeded to the city, he said.

Many of the developers building the residential units at Beulah Park "are asking what will happen with the park and what are the plans," Kelley said. 

"The entire key to the redevelopment of Beulah Park is the central park," he said. 

The concept of new urbanism is to combine density with public spaces that provide walkability not only for residents in the development but also those who live nearby and even for people visiting the community, Kelley said.

The concept plan for the Beulah park completed in August 2019 estimates the total construction cost to the city of about $10.3 million, parks and recreation director Kim Conrad said.

None of the projects identified in the concept plan have been completed, she said.

Before anything else can be started, the city would need to complete grading work at the site "so we have it graded to what it's going to be," Berry said. "There's no use planting trees and putting in pathways and walkways unless (we determine) the final grading. And then after it's graded the right way, then, of course, we can put in the trees and things like that."

Along with the grading, the amphitheater, trees and walkways should be prioritized first, and then other components, including shelter houses and play areas, could be added to the park later, he said.

The first thing that needs to be done is to determine and complete the final grading, Conrad said. 

"That way (the park area) can be seeded, you can do some landscaping, some trees, and then other parts can be added as is necessary going forward," she said.

At this point, the city likely wouldn't have the money to fund the amphitheater project next year, council president Christine Houk said.

The city already has set aside money for a park project in the Pinnacle development next year, she said.

"In my mind, the major improvements to the Beulah park concept are going to happen when the project cash flows to the point that we can pay for it, and that (hasn't happened yet)" Houk said.

Tax-increment-financing funds totaling about $3 million have been appropriated to help pay for the Pinnacle park project, city administrator Chuck Boso said.

A TIF is an economic-development mechanism used by local governments to finance public-infrastructure improvements, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency. It locks in the taxable worth of real property at the value it holds at the time the authorizing legislation is approved, diverting the incremental revenue from traditional property-tax collecting entities to designated uses, such as funding necessary improvements or infrastructure to support a new development.

About $4.5 million in general revenue funds are expected to be available for capital improvements in 2021, he said. 

Council member Roby Schottke said that by his estimation, at a minimum, the city would need to complete the grading, install a stormwater system, create walkways, complete landscaping – including seeding, trees and shrub beds – and install signage "to make it look like a (basic, bare-bones) park.

The city has made a "substantial commitment" to establishing the central park for the development, he said. 

"We need to make sure it's not just dirt covered with weeds down there," Schottke said.

It would be possible for the city to fund the initial park expenses with a bond knowing that revenue to pay for them would come in about seven years, Boso said.

Berry asked the administration to provide updated estimates of the construction costs for the Beulah park to help council determine what can or should be done in the short term.

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