By Rick Palsgrove
The face of Groveport’s Main Street is going to change soon as work will begin on two new commercial buildings that will bring restaurants and more to the city.
“Our 1847 Main redevelopment project is one of the biggest transformations our downtown has seen since businesses began locating in Groveport in the early 1800s,” said Groveport Mayor Lance Westcamp.
About the 1847 Main Project
The Rarey’s Port and Wert’s Grove buildings are part of the 1847 Main Project and the city is the developer for both sites.
Construction on the 14,145 square foot Rarey’s Port building, located the northeast corner of Front and Main streets next to Ace Hardware (674 Main St.), was set to begin July 28 with completion expected by late March 2022. Construction of the 12,184 square foot Wert’s Grove building, located at the northwest corner of College and Main streets (480 Main St.), will start on Aug. 12 with completion expected by April 2022.
The two new buildings will be two-story brick, mixed-use commercial buildings.
The cost to construct the two buildings is approximately $7.6 million. It is funded by a combination of non-tax revenue bonds and tax revenue bonds. According to Groveport Finance Director Jason Carr, non-tax revenue bonds equal taxable bonds and tax revenue bonds equal tax-exempt bonds. He said the project will be funded by general obligation bonds, which are bonds from the bond market and are not property tax bond issues that would be voted on by the residents.
Three restaurants will occupy the lower levels of the Wert’s Grove and Rarey’s Port buildings. They include: Delaney’s Diner – a breakfast, lunch, brunch restaurant that will occupy 4,000 square feet of space with a patio on the west end of the Rarey’s Port building; Preston’s: A Burger Joint and Honey’s Fried Chicken, which will occupy a little under 3,000 square feet on the west end of the Wert’s Grove building; and Mmelo Confectionary & Café – a high-end chocolates and confections place that also offers breads and pastries, a full lunch and dinner menu, and made to order specialties, coffee and espresso – will occupy around 2,300 square feet, plus patio, on the east end of the Wert’s Grove building.
On July 27, Groveport city officials, business owners who will occupy the buildings, contractors, and others participated in a groundbreaking ceremony at the Rarey’s Port building site.
Westcamp recognized the efforts of Groveport City Council, the city’s Community Improvement Corporation, and business owners who will occupy the buildings.
“This project was a big decision and a huge leap of faith,” said Westcamp. “I know it is going to be one we’re all going to be proud we made.”
Jeff Miller of Delaney’s Diner said Groveport is exactly what his business needs and the type of small town his business represents. Michelle Allen of Mmelo Confectionary & Café praised Groveport for choosing independent businesses to fill the two buildings while Letha Pugh of Preston’s: A Burger Joint and Honey’s Fried Chicken also praised Groveport for its forward thinking vision.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Groveport Economic Development Director Jeff Green of the 1847 Main Project. “Our historic downtown is moving forward with some exciting businesses.”
Green added the city has 25 million square feet of warehousing under roof that is the revenue engine supporting “what we do.”
Following the groundbreaking ceremony, lifelong Groveport resident and long time Groveport City Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert praised the project and the new incoming businesses, but she also took time to reflect on the past businesses that once occupied the site of what will be the Rarey’s Port building. Those bygone businesses included two gas stations, a pizza restaurant, a realtor, a ceramics shop, a dry cleaner, and a doctor’s office.
“The new businesses will enrich our community. They are destination businesses offering things you don’t find everywhere. Those previous businesses of our past had a good relationship with the community and all the owners were community minded,” said Hilbert, noting Bill Branscomb of Rich’s Sunoco and Dean Beretich of Groveport Pizza among others.
Now that some restaurants are on board for the two new commercial buildings, city officials are considering using some space in the structures to nurture new, home grown businesses.
The proposal is to use the second floors of the Wert’s Grove building and the Rarey’s Port building as “business incubators” in an entrepreneurship program.
At council’s June 28 meeting, Matt Yerkes, executive director of Cultivate (which provides educational and advising support to small and emerging businesses), laid out a business incubator proposal for council’s consideration. Cultivate proposes to implement an entrepreneurship support program that includes workshops, e-learning, advising sessions, and referrals for potential small businesses.
If council accepts the proposal, the city would pay Cultivate $50,000 annually for three years starting in September, as well as $1,500 a month for the Wert’s Grove building and $1,000 per month for the Rarey’s Port building for facility and member management. In return, the city would receive $1,500 per month in rent for the Rarey’s Port building spaces.
“This program is for people who are trying to start a business,” said Yerkes. “They may need an office, a desk, a cubicle, meeting room access, or just a business mailing address.”
Yerkes said the Wert’s Grove building space would serve as the business incubator for those who need start-up or operational office space for their businesses. He said the Rarey’s Port building space would be organized into seven large professional retail suites for businesses like realtors, title companies, or insurance.
Green said the business incubator proposal “reflects the realities of today.”