Nationwide Realty buys Byers dealership site in Franklinton

Steve Wartenberg, The Columbus Dispatch

May 21, 2014

The redevelopment of Franklinton has a new player, as Nationwide Realty Investors announced yesterday that it has entered into an agreement to purchase the site of Byers Chevrolet and surrounding land.

Financial terms were not disclosed, and specific plans for the site remain to be determined.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, Nationwide officials said.

Byers is building a new dealership in Grove City to replace the one at 555 W. Broad St. but will keep that location open until the new one is ready.

"Our target date to open in Grove City is Nov. 15," said George Kauffman, vice president of Byers Automotive, adding that the dealership has about 120 employees.

Nationwide was attracted by the location and the potential of Franklinton.

"It will take some time to realize that potential, but there will be opportunities," said Brian Ellis, president of Nationwide, the developer of the Arena District and Grandview Yard.

"And there's no question the city's interest and willingness to support the redevelopment of Franklinton heightened our interest."

City and county officials announced plans last year to remake the eastern Franklinton peninsula and create an educational and cultural district that will better connect to Downtown.

Plans call for razing and rebuilding Franklin County Veterans Memorial and building a large, mixed-use development that would include retail, office space and residential units.

Nationwide is exploring development options for the 8-acre Byers site.

"I think it's a fairly safe bet that it will be a mixed use," Ellis said. "Certainly residential will be a part of it, and we expect retail to be a part of it, and office is a possibility. It will be dictated by the market."

Nationwide could purchase additional parcels in the vicinity, he said.

"This is a bold move by NRI, and it gives legitimacy to the plans for the peninsula," said Mike Simpson, president of NAI Ohio Equities.

Nevertheless, he doesn't think the Nationwide purchase alone will create a stampede of development in Franklinton.

"It will take time. This acquisition by itself won't get the ball rolling," he said. "The redevelopment of the area is still in its infancy, and the market is waiting to see what the area will evolve into."

Ellis sees Franklinton as a long-neglected area that will eventually become an extension of the revitalized and growing Downtown.

"All the great things happening Downtown will support the growth of Franklinton, and the growth in Franklinton will support all the positive things happening Downtown," he said.

Capitol Square Limited, the commercial real-estate arm of The Dispatch Printing Company, publisher of The Dispatch, owns a 20 percent stake in Nationwide's Franklinton project, as well the Arena District and Grandview Yard.