By Linda Dillman
The site of the former Marathon service station at 18 W. Waterloo St., now a gravel parking lot, will soon be under city of Canal Winchester ownership.
Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire said city council is moving forward with the purchase of the property because Franklin County’s Central Ohio Community Improvement Corporation wants to get it off their books by year’s end.
In November 2008, after a decades-long struggle, the gas station—built in 1975—was demolished with hopes it would serve as an example of cooperative redevelopment between the county and the city.
The crumbling structure was removed and village crews smoothed out the surface. Underground storage tanks were left in place because funding was not available at the time to remove them. They were later taken out by the county in late 2013.
Council was told by then Franklin County Treasurer Ed Leonard in 2007 that, although the county worked with the prosecutor to get the distressed property sold at a sheriff’s sale, there were no bidders. Franklin County then assumed ownership from the original owner and turned it over to the COCIC.
Haire said after all of the underground storage tanks removed, the Ohio EPA issued a “No Further Action” letter in regard to the site clean-up.
“This means that, in the eyes of the Ohio EPA, this site is no longer contaminated,” said Haire. “We hope to see this site redeveloped in the near future into a multi-story, mixed-use building with the adjacent parcel at 26 W. Waterloo St. that the city acquired in late 2017.”
Haire noted there are no specific developers in negotiation for the site at this time. Financing for the purchase was approved by council through a budget amendment, which was on the Oct. 1 agenda.
The COCIC expended $283,564 for environmental testing and remediation, nearly half of which was reimbursed through a U.S. EPA grant. The city expended approximately $21,990 for demolition, sidewalk repair and tree removal.
The agreed purchase price was $75,000. However, at closing, the county is crediting the city against the purchase price for funds Canal Winchester previously expended.
“We got a screaming good deal,” said Council President Bruce Jarvis. “People had given up about doing anything with the old station, but then Ed Leonard got to work on it years ago.”
Before the station was demolished 10 years ago, former councilwoman Marilyn Rush-Ekelberry believed a station existed at the site back in the 1920s or 1930s and said she remembers when it featured just a small wooden building with two pumps, not unlike other filling stations in the village at the time.
Public Works Director Matt Peoples said the city is applying for a Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant up to $500,000 that could help fund $2 million in entrance amenities at McGill Park, such as parking, sports fields and a shelter house.
“We are looking forward to moving forward,” Peoples said.
The application is due in November, with results announced in the spring of 2019. If the city is successful in securing the grant, Peoples said he plans to “hit the ground running” by starting the full design phase of the project.