When Whitehall paid $1 million for a shuttered Chevy dealership in 2011, city leaders were adamant: Whitehall doesn't need any more car dealers in town.
When Whitehall paid $1 million for a shuttered Chevy dealership in 2011, city leaders were adamant: Whitehall doesn’t need any more car dealers in town.
“We have enough,” said Zach Woodruff, the city’s director of economic and community development, noting that a customer could find practically any make and model within Whitehall’s borders.
But what would become of the 5.4-acre property at the corner of S. Hamilton Road and Fairway Boulevard? For a while, Woodruff wasn’t sure. The building sat crumbling and empty. City officials thought about tearing it down.
The solution came unexpectedly, after Paul Kolada took one of his lunchtime drives and found himself wondering about that abandoned car shop.
“I’m always looking for things that are interesting,” said Kolada, a principal at Priority Designs, a Gahanna-based industrial-design company that develops a broad range of items including tools, fitness equipment and vending products. “It’s in our DNA to kind of redo old buildings.”
Now, the city and Priority Designs are finalizing a deal that will move the growing company and its $4 million payroll into the old dealership. Priority Designs plans to buy the property for $475,000, and Whitehall will give the company a 50 percent break on income taxes for six years.
Woodruff believes the purchase of the city-
owned property is a breakthrough for a city that’s been working hard to change its image. In recent years, Whitehall, a place often associated with rental housing and check-cashing businesses, started a $78 million project to rebuild its five schools, and it recently broke ground on a new public library.
Priority Designs coming to town, Woodruff said, might cause other private companies to take a second look at Whitehall.
“We think this is the first kind of domino to fall in our revitalization efforts,” he said.
Plans call for turning the dealership into a kind of campus, replacing blacktop parking lots with patios and green space and possibly installing basketball courts and a putting green for the 50-plus employees.
Kolada expects the company’s new home to open by summer, after some significant work to transform the 49,000-square-foot building. The new shop is more than twice the size of Priority Designs’ current location, a former racquetball club.
The move will take the business about 3 miles south and out of Gahanna, which is sorry to see it go, development director Anthony Jones said.
“We worked tirelessly to keep Priority Designs here in Gahanna,” Jones said, though he acknowledges that Whitehall was the company’s best option. “They’ve left their mark, and hopefully we can have them back.”
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services