Grandview's central location is a boon for development.

Grandview's central location is a boon for development.

Developer interest in the urban enclave of Grandview Heights has expanded to a former landfill site along Dublin Road even as Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. continues to transform the former Big Bear Stores-anchored industrial district on Goodale Boulevard just west of Olentangy River Road.

Wagenbrenner Development Inc. and partner Gallas Zadeh Development LLC in mid-October gained approval from the Grandview Heights Planning Commission for the city's portion of a 370,000-square-foot retail center along Dublin Road set for 40-plus acres split between the suburb and the city of Columbus. The latter jurisdiction must still approve some variances for the planned $40 million Grandview Crossing project that will get under construction in the spring of 2017.

Developer Gregg Gallas says the redevelopment site just north and west of the Columbus water treatment plant has attracted junior box retailer interest because of its proximity to the residential markets of Grandview, Upper Arlington, the Short North, Downtown and German Village. "Major retailers want to explore these urban sites and capture that (well-heeled) urban crowd," Gallas says.

"Several of the users came to the same conclusion about the (Dublin) Road site independently of each other," he adds. The developer declined to reveal anchor tenants until formal contracts are signed, but a website advertising for in-line retail tenants identified a Meijer grocery format, PetSmart, Kohl's and Burlington Coat Factory as likely "key users."

Interest in redeveloping the site ebbed and waned for 15 years before Wagenbrenner in early 2012 identified potential in the quarry that later became an unregulated landfill. It originally expected the brownfield could get redeveloped for a mix of retail, office buildings and apartments.

Despite significant physical compacting of the soil on the site, the site's history as a landfill reduced the developer's options to just single-story retail. "Driving deep pilings (to support multi-story buildings) could become a problem because you don't know what you might hit," says Patrik Bowman, Grandview Height's director of administration. "That would make the whole site plan go south."

The city agreed to the retail plan despite a desire to attract office tenants to at least a portion of the site. Bowman notes the site has remained underutilized for nearly five decades. "It will generate property tax revenue and the income tax won't be bad," he says. "It will start to dress up the city's Dublin Road corridor a little bit and make it look more unified."

Gallas says the Lennox Town Center at Kinnear and Olentangy River roads remains a top retail center closer to the OSU campus. "There's never been turnover or a vacancy at Lennox," the developer says of the former manufacturing site, "so there's a whole line of users that want the Grandview Crossing site."

Expanding Yard opens opportunity

Interest in the landfill site and the adjacent site of a long-demolished Knights Inn motel that the Wagenbrenner/Gallas Zadeh joint venture has in contract comes a few years after Grandview Yard developer Nationwide Realty Investors abandoned plans for junior box retailers in the suburb's former industrial district.

"Nationwide Realty decided not to do retail," Gallas says, "so a good competitive site (to Dublin Road) was taken off the chessboard."

The developer of the Yard, which is built in an area where the now-defunct Big Bear Stores grocery chain once had its offices and distribution operations along with several other smaller businesses, now has its own retail plans as it nears completion of the first phase of a corporate office campus for its Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. parent.

Construction began this fall for the first 13,000-square-foot phase of street-level space with 123 apartments on the four floors above. Future mixed-use phases will connect the 100-plus acres in Grandview to the 15 acres in Columbus north of W. Third Avenue where Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle Inc. operates an upscale Market District grocery store.

"Giant Eagle has exceeded its expectation in terms of the activity the Market District generates," says Nationwide Realty COO Brian Ellis, "even though it doesn't have retail shops around it. We think we have the opportunity to put those (smaller) retail shops just south of Third." Future expansions of the Manchester retail and residential complex will build toward Third from the Nationwide corporate offices.

Residential development has picked up from the initial 154-unit Apartments of the Yard complex that opened four years ago. Nationwide Realty has since opened a remote expansion of that project near the Hofbrauhaus restaurant and expects to deliver its first condo flats in mid-2017.

Nationwide Realty sold off land along the western edge of the Yard close to the Wagenbrenner Development for construction of 25 for-sale townhomes and 19 detached single-family homes with condo-style exterior maintenance. Wagenbrenner Partner Joe Williams says the Homes on Pullman Way housing, with price tags beginning in the upper $400,000s, have attracted older, empty-nest adults as well as young professionals and even a few families.

"Grandview's a proven market when it comes to appreciation," Williams says. "There's not a lot of (existing) single-family product on the market." The developer has not had time to build an inventory of the two home products which had already proven popular in its Harrison Park residential development in the Short North. "Everything we've completed we have sold," Williams says of the Pullman Way residences. "It's an underserved market in that respect."

Ellis says Grandview Yard could eventually have 1,300 residential units, including more for-sale opportunities. "It's an integral part of our residential strategy," he says of condos. "We want to create a nice mix of residential units." Many of those units could go to office workers in the two existing multi-tenant properties and the two completed office properties with a combined 480,000 square feet where 2,200 Nationwide Insurance employees now work. A third 240,000-square-foot building for Nationwide will get underway soon for delivery in 2018.

The retail and office expansion comes as the Yard welcomed the Oct. 23 opening of Nationwide Realty's second hotel, the 135-room Courtyard by Marriott, and adjacent Grand Center, a conference center serving the Courtyard. Those hospitality projects join the six-year-old Hyatt Place hotel, which has 126 guest rooms. "The event center will create a synergy with both hotels," Ellis says, "and the rest of the Grandview Yard and Grandview Heights."

Despite the flurry of activity, Ellis promises there's more to come in the redevelopment project, which covers 125 acres with the inclusion of the retail development north of Third. When built out, the office and retail will represent 1.2 million square feet of construction. "We still have plenty of ground to develop," Ellis says. "We have the ability to meet the demand."

Brian Ball is a freelance writer.