City Notes: Whitehall preps housing options as region grows

Staff Writer
ThisWeek group
Zach Woodruff

In early September, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission released a much-anticipated regional housing study that clearly defines the core housing issues central Ohio is facing amid unprecedented population growth.

Key among the findings is a need for a diverse stock of new housing options, with more than 700,000 new residents anticipated to migrate to Franklin County in the next decade alone.

Regionally, MORPC calculates that 11,000 new rental units will need to be developed annually simply to keep pace with the new demand -- and more if issues of equity and cost burden are to be addressed holistically.

The findings of MORPC's housing study have multiple implications for the city of Whitehall. The city already has a long history of fostering naturally occurring affordable housing, or housing that is not subsidized, with a median rent of just under $850 a month.

We also have continued to foster the development of affordable subsidized housing, with more than 200 such housing units in the new Eastway Village, Hamilton Crossing and the Ashford on Broad areas. In addition, we soon will welcome another 32 units of affordable senior housing with the construction of Hamilton Annex.

These types of affordable housing projects bring a wealth of value to our community, providing residents with opportunities to live, work and play in the community of their choice without being burdened by their rent.

But as MORPC suggests, meeting the demand of the growth we anticipate in the coming decade cannot be left to chance or existing affordability factors alone.

To this end, the city is committed to continuing efforts to work with developers to bring new housing options for our community, keeping affordability, opportunity and access to quality-of-life factors, such as employment, education, health care and transportation front of mind.

Norton Crossing at the southwest corner of Broad Street and Hamilton Road represents a prime example of a municipality partnering with a local developer to bring new life to an underused area.

On the site of the former Commons at Royal Landing, Norton Crossing represents a $50 million investment, bringing new housing, restaurant space and a community park to Whitehall.

We're pleased to report that the Lofts at Norton Crossing quickly is finding tenants for its 360 upscale units, and we welcome the Old Bag of Nails Pub, which opened Sept. 14, to the development.

Just down the street, construction crews have broken ground on the Broadwood Apartment complex, a $7.4 million investment that will bring 96 market-rate units and a new coffee shop to the mix of new development on Broad Street.

Complementing the Norton Crossing redevelopment, plans are moving forward with the redevelopment of the 50-acre site at the northeast corner of Broad Street and Hamilton Road.

As this $250 million project comes to fruition, we expect to see no fewer than 1,000 new residential units, with 20% of those being dedicated to workforce housing, defined as less than 80% of the area median income.

Later phases of the development also anticipate new single-family homes to rise, further diversifying Whitehall's housing stock.

And beyond housing, projections anticipate the new development creating more than 3,000 construction jobs and 1,000 new permanent jobs to be housed in the office-space component of the mixed-use development.

Although this multifamily development has been underway, the city also has recognized the value of assisting homeowners in investing in home improvements.

Since 2015, the city has distributed more than $300,000 in grants to homeowners through the Home Reinvestment and Driveway and Sidewalk Approach Replacement Program. The city also has awarded $200,000 in grants this year to homeowners through the Project Prevent Backflow. These efforts, coupled with the city's previous down-payment assistance program, have helped hundreds of Whitehall residents invest in homes in ways that otherwise would not have been possible.

As the region continues to grow, Whitehall is preparing not only to meet the demand for new housing, but to do so in a way that benefits current and new residents of all income levels, while supporting a vibrant local economy.

We look forward to sharing more about future housing projects in the coming months.

Zach Woodruff is director of development and public service for Whitehall.