NorthGate and Northstar benefit as Tanger Mall launches Sunbury growth corridor.

NorthGate and Northstar benefit as Tanger Mall launches Sunbury growth corridor.

This summer's opening of the Tanger Outlets mall off Interstate 71 at the state Routes 36/37 interchange in southern Delaware County completes a saga on the location and development of the outlet retail center first proposed in late 2012.

It also pushes commercial and residential development near the village of Sunbury into a higher gear as two developers court tenants for other retail centers, office buildings and hotels even as planning continues to upgrade the interchange to serve the expected surge of construction.

Columbus developer Patrick Shivley has worked assembling land at the interchange for 10 years and had two outlet center partnerships formed before Tanger and partner Simon Property Group pushed their site and plans through a contentious approval process in Berkshire Township.

With the opening of the mall, Shivley says he already has plans to sell off a small fraction of the estimated 2,000 acres his NorthGate Centre LLC joint venture has bought, or has options on, for an auto mall of five dealerships, a 250,000-square-foot retail center and a hotel located just south of the mall. Those retail components are to be built by 2018 as part of up to 2 million square feet of retail, hotels and office space planned on nearly half of the land holdings.

"Everybody said I had a dream 10 years ago. It's an opportunity of a lifetime," Shivley says. "Not everyone gets to develop 2,000 acres. It's a big endeavor."

The NorthGate land that straddles I-71 south of Routes 36/37 could eventually have up to eight hotels with as many as 1,000 rooms.

Shivley and partner James Klingbeil, a California developer and Ohio State University trustee, also plan to develop a massive sports complex complete with a 120,000-square-foot indoor facility and outdoor tournament soccer/lacrosse fields and baseball/softball fields west of I-71. That complex will support much of the hotel business. "There's not a recreational facility built at this high of a standard within 600 miles of Columbus," Shivley says. The developer adds NorthGate may also attract an outdoor concert amphitheater. NorthGate will have big players competing for tenants in the area.

A joint venture between Columbus developers Robert Weiler Co. and Nationwide Realty Investors Ltd. has 400 acres in the northeast quadrant of the interchange set aside for commercial development to complement their 1,800-acre Northstar development. That mixed-use project launched a few years ago with 22 condos and last September added the first 10 single-family homes during the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio's Parade of Homes showcase.

Nationwide Realty President and COO Brian Ellis says retail, offices and hotels will eventually get built to serve the 1,300 residential units planned in the broader Northstar development and the customers attracted by the outlet mall.

"The outlet mall will be impactful, and that impact will only be positive," Ellis says. "Tanger has created an anchor that will be appealing to other retailers."

Nationwide and the Weiler organization are leading the search for retailers and other prospective tenants but have yet to sign businesses interested in joining the fray or committed to a timetable for the first projects. "We're out looking. The phones are ringing and we're bullish," Ellis says. "We're patient in terms of making sure we find the right tenants and put together a great project."

Ellis and Shivley have reason to have confidence in the interchange's prospects.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, a regional planning agency, states Sunbury, Berkshire Township and nearby Berlin Township have all experienced significant population growth since 1990, with the village of Sunbury already likely over the 5,000-resident mark that will formally qualify it as a city in 2020 when the next US Census is conducted.

Population statistics cited in a NorthGate Centre-funded study by Columbus-based Regionomics show population in the three jurisdictions will jump by 11,000 during the next 20 years. "The fact that the infrastructure will significantly improve with a (planned) new interchange and upgrades to the existing interchange, and increased sewer capacity suggests these projections may well understate future population growth," the report says.

The key to bringing in all the new residents and retail traffic is the Ohio Department of Transportation's decision to support the concept of another interchange to serve the area south of the existing interchange, where Delaware, Sunbury and other residents and workers have long suffered extended traffic lines getting onto Routes 36/37 from northbound I-71 during rush hour. The interchange and a network of surface streets will cost an estimated $230 million through 2033.

An additional interchange "is the critical component for the whole development of that area and having appropriate transportation for residents," says Bob Lamb, Delaware County's director of economic development. He also cites the planned Sunbury Parkway that will become the new Routes 36/37 path from Africa Road through the new interchange on and off I-71 and east into Sunbury.

The interchange, parkway and other surface streets will be funded through taxes and other fees charged on NorthGate developments through a New Community Authority, which will pay the bulk of the $230 million in roads and other public projects built in the next 17 years. Financing the projects "will get driven by the growth that occurs in the area," Lamb says. "We believe there's a lot of demand for the 36/37 corridor."

Sunbury Mayor Tom Hatfield says the village welcomed the NorthGate plan for a mix of commercial uses after years of brisk residential growth. "We wanted to see a lot of complementary businesses," the mayor says. "NorthGate adds that commercial flavor to it." He also lauds the financing plan for streets to serve the mix of commercial projects as they get built. "We didn't want a situation where development occurs and then years went by before traffic was fixed."

Meantime, Shivley says he is eager to get moving on the $15 million first phase of commercial projects and the sports complex, as planning continues on the interchange and Sunbury Parkway, which could open in three years under tentative timetables.

Still, he does not expect to remain active in the development into its final sections. "That will take 20 years," Shivley says. "I'll be retired by then."

Brian Ball is a freelance writer.