Grove City's Beulah Park Living central park should take shape soon, but funding plan still uncertain

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group

In about a year, a 32-acre site in the Beulah Park Living development set aside for a community park should begin to actually resemble a park.

"A year from now, we'll expect to have the necessary grading completed, some landscaping, a parking area and paths put in," said Kim Conrad, the city's parks and recreation director.

"By the summer of 2022, people will be able to recognize it as a green space and begin to use it as a green space," she said.

The total build-out of the park will likely take five to 10 years to complete, Conrad said.

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 city's 2021 capital-improvements budget includes $1 million for the initial grading and landscape work at the park, which will be in the middle of the 212-acre Beulah Park Living development.

EMH&T is putting together a final grading plan for the site to help determine the size and scope of park components the land would be able to accommodate, Conrad said.

The general vision for the park remains true to the concept plan presented in August 2019 by Columbus-based MKSK, a consulting firm that worked with the city to develop the plan.

"What we're envisioning is a community passive park somewhat similar to Goodale Park or Schiller Park (in Columbus)," Conrad said. "There would be no ball fields or soccer fields. People would be able to come to our park to enjoy the setting and walk or jog around the lake."

The park is expected to include a playground "that would be more natural play in concept to blend in with the landscape," she said. Pickleball and tennis courts also are possible components.

The park also will include an amphitheater where concerts and other special events could be held, Conrad said.

A sloping grass hill on the front side of the stage area would offer space for spectator seating, and the back side of the venue could be used as a sledding hill, she said.

The size and scope of the amphitheater remains determined, Conrad said.

"There's still some discussion to have about whether we want the amphitheater to be a venue that offers events that will have a regional appeal," she said. "We're not talking about big rock-concert type events, but you could offer events that are large enough that would draw people from out of town."

The city has had "very preliminary" talks with the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts about the potential for a partnership in which the arts organization would sponsor and present events at the Grove City venue, Conrad said.

Nothing formal has been proposed, and the city has not been in contact with CAPA since the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, she said.

A price tag of about $9 million has been estimated to carry out the concept presented by MKSK, Conrad said. That's a ballpark figure, and the actual cost could be more or less, depending on the components that actually are added to the parkland, she said.

Building an amphitheater to support regional events possibly would increase the cost, Conrad said.

One potential option the city might consider to finance the park is the issuance and sale of bonds, city finance director Mike Turner said.

Grove City has used the option to fund a number of capital projects, including the Columbus Street extension and improvements to state Route 665, and to help fund the construction of the new Grove City Library on Broadway, he said.

It would cost the city about $500,000 per year over 24 years to pay the debt service on $9 million in bonds for the park project, Turner said. Including interest, the total cost over the 24 years would be about $11.78 million, he said.

Turner presented his estimates to Grove City Council on Feb. 1. The presentation was for discussion purposes only, and no action was taken, he said.

Turner told council members the approximately 20% increase in property valuation Grove City had received in the 2020 reappraisal by the Franklin County Auditor's Office should result in about $700,000 in additional revenue each year. But a limit would be put on how much of that money could be used to help pay off the debt service more quickly, city administrator Chuck Boso said.

The city's property-tax revenue is divided among three city funds: the general fund, the bond-retirement fund and the police pension fund, he said.

Much of the revenue the city will receive from the tax-increment-financing agreement for the Beulah Park Living development will not be available for paying off the debt service, Turner said.

The city issued $5 million of debt to put into public-infrastructure improvements for the Beulah Park Living development, he said, and that will be repaid for the first 15 years of the 30-year TIF under a community-reinvestment agreement.

"So the TIF doesn't become active until year 16 through 30," Turner said.

The South-Western City School District will be made whole at that point, "and we'll get the proceeds of what's left," he said.

"So the TIF money is kind of spoken for," he said.

A TIF is an economic-development mechanism available to local governments to finance public-infrastructure improvements and, in certain circumstances, residential rehabilitation, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency. 

A TIF locks in the taxable worth of real property at the value it holds at the time the authorizing legislation is approved, diverting resulting incremental revenue to designated uses, such as funding necessary improvements or infrastructure to support a new development. 

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