Three years after the closing of Beulah Park, redevelopment is on tap.
Billy Plank fondly recalls when the horse trainers and others from Beulah Park would stop by for a bite at his family's bar and grill down the street from the thoroughbred racetrack.
“We got some business from Beulah,” the Plank's on Broadway general manager says. “But mostly people who worked there, not the gamblers.”
The closing in 2014 still had a big impact on the restaurant and the rest of Grove City's Town Center area. Penn National Gaming transferred its horse racing license out of central Ohio to a new racino near Youngstown. “When the buildings went down, so did business,” Plank says.
Grove City Development Director Kyle Rauch says Beulah Park also boosted other Town Center businesses, such as a bowling alley that hosted events for Beulah Park workers. “There was a great connection between the track and the Town Center,” he says. “The impact was meaningful when (the racetrack) closed.”
Revitalizing took precedence several years ago as the city anticipated the demise of the track, which had long since lost the throngs of race fans who once visited Grove City. A former lumberyard site just west of City Hall attracted the interest of the Pizzuti Cos., which just welcomed the first tenants in the 120-unit Broadway Station apartments.
A block north of City Hall, the Southwestern Public Libraries opened a new, $15.6 million main library in November. “That's one of our biggest draws into the Town Center,” Rauch says of the library, an anchor facility built in a joint venture with the city. “It was of utmost importance.”
The city created a promenade between the Broadway Station and library as a pedestrian connection, with plans to expand a small plaza into a memorial honoring Gold Star families.
Those public amenities, he says, are designed to make downtown even more attractive to potential Beulah Park residents.
Columbus developers Continental Real Estate Cos. and Ciminello Inc. each took initial runs at the Beulah Park redevelopment opportunity but dropped out. A team led by Columbus developer Patrick Kelley emerged in mid-2016 with plans to redevelop the 212-acre site immediately west of Town Center into a mixed-use development heavy on various residential styles and a 60-acre city park.
Affiliate GC Beulah Park Investments paid $5 million for the land last fall. “With new development, we're optimistic what will happen at Beulah Park,” Rauch says
Kelley says he expects construction to begin later this year on the first of 350 apartments, 120 empty-nester condos and 75 condos. The project also calls for 275 single-family homes and a 100-unit assisted living facility.
“The key to all of this is the city will have a 60-acre park and other open areas and walking trails,” Kelley says. “What we want to do is maintain Beulah Park as a community gathering place.”
The apartments likely will get built by the Kelley family's Donald W. Kelley & Associates affiliate, with longtime joint venture partner Robert Weiler Co. Patrick Kelley says the broader development partnership has five potential single-family builders lined up, but only two will get chosen later this year.
“It's very rare of an opportunity to have 200-plus acres right in the middle of a city ripe for development,” Kelley says. The Beulah Park project “will help that whole area flourish.”
Economic development in Grove City for much of the last 20 years has hinged on the attraction of light manufacturing and distribution projects. And those projects continue with hydraulic jack manufacturer Columbus Jack Corp.'s planned relocation from its South Side facility to Gantz Road near the Tosoh America headquarters and production facility. The relocation into a 75,000-square-foot facility now under construction will bring 75 jobs to Grove City.
The expansion of the city's commercial and industrial base and increase in the city's residential base in recent years has made the community of 38,000 even more fertile ground for medical office projects and, now, hospitals.
Columbus-based Trivium Development, LLC, will break ground in late spring on a 41,000-square-foot medical office property on N. Meadows Drive, just north of the I-71 interchange at State Route 665. The Veterans Administration clinic now off Stringtown Road will anchor the facility as it doubles its Grove City space to 15,000 square feet.
OhioHealth Corp. has an emergency department and 26-bed, 80,000-square-foot surgical hospital under construction on Stringtown Road just east of Buckeye Parkway; Columbus developer Daimler Group also is building a 40,000-square-foot surgery center and medical office building next door on the 22-acre campus.
The Mount Carmel Health System, meanwhile, has a $355 million, full-fledged hospital offering 210 private beds under construction adjacent to an emergency room and medical office facility it opened in January 2014.
Sean McKibben, the Mount Carmel West president who will take charge of the Grove City medical complex upon its late 2018 completion, says the healthcare network found 60 percent of its Mount Carmel West patients came from Grove City.
“So it was apparent we needed to expand our footprint in that community,” he says. The new hospital, he adds, becomes an alternative for patients “coming from the south” via I-71.
McKibben says the competing emergency facilities just a few miles apart will not present much conflict. The OhioHealth facility “really doesn't affect our strategy,” he says. “Emergency room visits continue to rise.”
Rauch says he expects the hospitals to have a major impact on the community.
“It will add not only jobs, but improve the quality of life in the community,” he says.
While the steady population growth in Grove City has helped drive the medical facility development, increased healthcare options also will help sell Grove City as a place to live.
“With Mount Carmel andOhioHealth building in the area and the rest of the city's development, there will be continued demand for housing created,” says Joe Ciminello, the Ciminello Inc. vice president who has led development of the 1,400-lot Pinnacle residential community on a site between the two medical campuses during the last 15 years.
About 85 percent of the homes in the Pinnacle Golf Club-anchored development have sold, and he expects the rest to sell within a few years.
Ciminello and Dublin-based condo builder Epcon Communities have their eyes open for additional housing opportunities. Epcon Vice President Nanette Overly says the condo builder quickly sold out its 49-unit Courtyard at Pinnacle project in Ciminello's residential development. She anticipates Epcon's 64-unit Courtyard on Hoover will sell out by year's end.
“Grove City has always been a steady market for our product,” Overly says. “We're looking for what's next.”
In the meantime, Grove City officials still await plans for the 340 acres owned by the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio at Route 665 and I-71.
Ruscilli Development Co. annexed 230 of those acres into the city in the late 1990s before SWACO purchased the land near its landfill. Plans announced four years ago for Orlando, Fla.-based Team Gemini to turn the expanded site into a $400 million recycling and waste-to-energy industrial complex fell through in 2016 when the technology company fell behind on its lease payments.
SWACO is considering its options but has not announced a specific timetable or direction. City officials say they want to see a plan before extending utility lines into and through the site.
A new SWACO proposal to expand landfill operations south of Route 665 does not affect the former Gemini site, which is north of Route 665.
“It is a critical piece of land for the city,” Rauch says. “It will drive future economic development.”
Brian Ball is a freelance writer.