Amazon Web Services identified as buyer for Grener land

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
The Hilliard school board on Oct. 12 unanimously approved an option-to-buy contract with the city of Hilliard for the sale of 20 acres on land known locally as the Grener tract. The sale is contingent upon the city selling land it already owns on part of the same tract between Cosgray and Leppert roads and the 20 acres owned by the district, said board member Paul Lambert. The city appears to have a buyer in Amazon Web Services, according to legislation expected to be introduced Monday, Oct. 26, by Hilliard City Council.

Amazon Web Services will purchase 104 acres known locally as the Grener tract from the city of Hilliard for $14.76 million, according to legislation expected to be introduced Monday, Oct. 26, by Hilliard City Council.

It is expected to lead to the construction of a data-center complex on the site, said Hilliard economic-development director David Meadows.

The Grener tract is named for the family that once owned the land between Cosgray and Leppert roads, south of Hayden Run Road and east of Homestead Park.

Coinciding with the proposed sale is the city’s proposed purchase of 125 acres east of Alton Darby Creek Road and south of Scioto Darby Road, adjacent to Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park and the Hilliard Ohio Soccer Association complex, for $4.41 million.

The land also is named for the family that owns and is known as the Jerman property.

“If City Council approves the (Amazon) purchase, then the city will buy the Jerman property,” Meadows said.

Approval of the purchase looks likely after the city recently moved to acquire all the land on the Grener tract.

On Oct. 12, the Hilliard City Schools board approved an option-to-buy contract with the city for 20 acres it still owns on the Grener tract. The school district previously owned the entire tract but sold most of it to the city in 2014.

Previous story:City, school board agree to purchase option for likely data-center site

As part of the pending proposal, the city would pay the school district $2.8 million for the 20 acres it owns and add it to 84 acres the city already owns, Meadows said.

If approved by City Council, Amazon Web Services then would purchase all 104 acres from the city for $14.76 million, Meadows said.

The seven pieces of legislation for Oct. 26 include approval of the city’s purchase of the 20 acres, Amazon Web Services’ purchase of the 104 acres and the city’s purchase of 125 acres from the Jerman family, said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.

The legislation is expected to advance to a second and final reading Nov. 9, and a vote will be called then, Ball said.

The data-center deal would expand Amazon’s footprint in Hilliard.

Amazon has three data-center facilities at the southeast corner of Britton Parkway and Hayden Run Road.

A fourth is under construction, and Amazon has approval for the construction of a fifth facility, Meadows said.

The proposal by Amazon to build a data center on the second site stemmed from “ongoing conversations” the city has with the company as a current corporate client, Meadows said.

The city had planned to build the Grener Sports Complex on the Grener site, but earlier this year, after a study indicated it would cost about $38 million to build out the complex, officials opted against it.

City Manager Michelle Crandall said in July that Hilliard lacked the financing to advance development of the Grener tract for recreational purposes in the near future, but a data center would be “a good secondary use" for the 104 acres.

On July 13, City Council rezoned the 84 acres of the Grener tract owned by the city and the 20 acres owned by the school district from a sports-facilities district to a planned-unit-development district that would allow a data center.

Previous story:UPDATED: Hilliard council gives OK to set Grener land up for data center

The entire Grener tract came into the school district’s possession in 2003, when it purchased 124 acres for $50,000 per acre from the Grener family as a potential site for Bradley High School, which instead opened in 2009 on Walker Road.

In 2014, the city bought 104 acres of the tract from the school district for $4 million.

Twenty acres from that purchase were not part of the 84 acres of city-owned land rezoned in July.

After the July rezoning, City Council approved a resolution that stipulates 75% of the proceeds from the sale of the Grener tract would “be dedicated to parkland acquisition, development and associated infrastructure.”

Previous story:Hilliard would use most proceeds from sale of data-center land for 'parkland acquisition'

Meanwhile, the city will use a combination of funds and possibly issue bonds to purchase the Jerman tract for $4.41 million, Meadows said.

The city cannot use proceeds from the sale of the Grener tract to Amazon Web Services because of the simultaneous transactions, but after that sale is final, the city would use the proceeds to pay down any debt on the purchase of the Jerman tract or purchase parkland or associated infrastructure according to the terms of the resolution, Ball said.

In addition to expanding the city’s recreational opportunities, the purchase of the Jerman tract facilitates the city’s desire to extend Cosgray Road south of Scioto Darby Road to connect to Alton Darby Creek Road, Crandall said.

“The Jerman purchase allows the city to deliver on the promise made when the Grener tract was purchased,” Crandall said.

Amazon’s investment in the proposed data center on the Grener tract is expected to be $200 million, according to Meadows.

It would create 100 new jobs with an annual payroll of $8 million, Meadows said.

The school district would receive annual revenue of about $2 million as a result of the project, Meadows said.

Crandall said the Amazon proposal is “a great opportunity to increase the city’s income-tax revenue and will be a significant property-tax source for the school district,” all while having a minimal effect on the city’s infrastructure.

The agreement between Amazon and the city calls for the completion of “due diligence," approval of a final site plan and closing within 270 days of the approval of the sale but does not require construction to begin on any given date, Meadows said.

When asked about the project, Lauren Lynch, a spokeswoman for Amazon Web Services, said, “AWS has a practice against commenting on our future road map.”

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo