By Linda Dillman
Ten years ago, the village of Canal Winchester became a city when it pushed past the 5,000 resident threshold following the 2010 U.S. Census.
Initially, the preparations were superficial—a change in city signage and letterhead—but the implications meant Canal Winchester would compete with bigger cities for grants and low interest loans.
A decade later, Canal Winchester has held its own and is in prospering in ways beyond the hopes and dreams of the pioneers who created the town in the 19th century. Mayor Mike Ebert and the heads of the finance, development and public service were asked to look back and forward in time as the 2020 census heralds the start of the city’s next decade of growth.
“Probably the biggest changes we have seen has been a greater interest in Canal Winchester for commercial development, creating jobs in manufacturing and warehousing,” said Ebert. “What we see for the next 10 years is continued steady growth in housing, including condos and apartments and a continued vibrant downtown area.”
Development Director Lucas Haire reported commercial growth continued with more dining and services closer to residents and within the city.
“Restaurants like Chipotle, Panera, Barrel & Boar, Massey’s, Penn Station, Jimmy John’s, Dog Tap, and Scramblers opened,” said Haire. “Senior living options and services have significantly increased with the opening of The Inn at Winchester Trail and Canal Winchester Rehabilitation, Skilled Nursing & Senior Living. Medical options also significantly increased with the Diley Ridge and the medical offices there establishing themselves. As more residents move to the city, the opportunity to attract additional restaurants retailers increases as they always follow potential customers.”
Strong industrial growth also continues.
HFI moved to Gender Road, the former location of TS Trim; TS Trim expanded their operations; Nifco built a new warehouse and nearly doubled their employment over the last decade; Capsa Healthcare relocated their operations from Columbus to Canal Pointe; Manifold & Phalor expanded their operations by doubling in size and Mill-Tech built a new production operation.
“There are many other smaller industrial projects that occurred with Canal Pointe Industrial Park being nearly built-out,” said Haire. “There are also two new, large, speculative warehouse and logistics buildings under construction that will bring a new type of industry to our community in the near future. The most notable industrial change for residents was the opening of BrewDog’s new brewery, tap room, headquarters and then later the world’s first craft beer hotel. This has brought a significant number of new visitors to our community because it is such a unique business, and it changed the perception of Canal Winchester regionally. Their decision to locate here has brought about many other opportunities to help grow our economy.”
The city completed an Old Town plan setting the direction for future growth and prosperity in the historic core of the community. New businesses like Loose Rail Brewing, Barrel & Boar, the expansion of Fantasy Cupcakes and outdoor dining at establishments contributed to a flourishing streetscape.
“Retailers like CornerSmiths, Georgie Emerson, Sticks & Stones Studio, Harris Lane & Co., and Leander have brought new attention to our downtown as a shopping district,” Haire said. “They brought new visitors and customers by clustering in this portion of our city and driving sales through social media. The clean-up of the former Parker Marathon station and its redevelopment as a mixed use retail and apartment building will further enhance our Old Town area by bringing new residents and opportunities for new restaurants or retailers to establish themselves as part of this vibrant district.”
However, the housing boom experienced throughout Canal Winchester slowed down in the last decade. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, growth regularly exceeded eight percent, but residential growth was much slower over the last decade than the previous one.
“While this had trended upward over the last few years with growth near four percent annually,” said Haire, “there were many years early in the decade where annual growth in population was less than two percent—likely a result of the recession. So, while the public may feel like there is too much residential growth currently, it is much less than Canal Winchester has historically had over the last 30 years. Many subdivisions that have been under construction over the last 20 years in the city are built-out or nearing completion such as Ashbrook Village, Canal Cove, and the Villages at Westchester.”
Haire anticipates the city will likely see steady residential growth as the Columbus region continues to be the most economically successful part of the state and the fastest growing region in the Midwest.
Finance Director Amanda Jackson said Canal Winchester has come a long way financially since 2010 by adding funds, increasing revenue, and setting itself up in a comfortable financial position for the future, which paves the way for projects like McGill Park and the new municipal complex.
The city doubled the street program budget, increased street tree planting, and did upgrades to public facilities, along with hiring an information technology coordinator and a human resources coordinator.
Income taxes—the city’s biggest revenue source—more than doubled since 2010 and had the largest impact on Canal Winchester’s ability to take on large expenditures without asking residents for additional funds.
“The cost of doing business has increased since 2010 and we have been very fortunate that our revenue increase has been enough to cover those increases and still allow us to build our fund balance,” said Jackson. “Our fund balance at the end of 2019 was over $10.5 million. For comparison, our fund balance across all funds at the end of 2010 was $10.2 million. Again, this is what is allowing us to take on large capital projects.”
Water and sewer funds saw an increase in revenue directly related to residential and commercial growth over the last 10 years. Brew Dog accounted for approximately $313,000 in water and $716,000 in sewer revenues since coming to Canal Winchester.
“We have issued new general obligation debt only once since 2010 with the issuance of the bonds to build the Public Service Facility,” said Jackson. “We have also explored new ways to finance capital projects by utilizing our financial institutions to spread out payments of vehicles and equipment over 3 years and entering into 10-year financing agreements with property owners. These, along with receiving grants from state agencies such as Ohio Public Works Commission and Ohio Water Development Authority, have allowed us to maximize local revenues in large infrastructure projects.”
The Public Service Department, helmed by Matt Peoples, added buildings and properties including a new Public Service building, property at Gender/Groveport and Bixby/Rager, McGill Park, Union Grove Cemetery, the McDorman Building, Hanners Fields and renovated the Interurban Station.
“From a growth standpoint, there are approximately 5.5 additional centerline miles of roadway,” said Peoples. “We have added over 35,000 feet of main waterlines, over 13,000 feet of sanitary sewer mains and over 11,000 feet of storm sewer mains.”