By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester continues to ride high on the development growth curve with more businesses moving into the city and expansion of residential housing.
Earth movers lumbered onto a property north of the Gender Road Madison Township fire station in preparation for a Scottish company’s first stateside brewery. Stakes dot the ground for 30 new residential building lots in the next phase of a residential subdivision east off Waterloo Street/Hill Road. Also, 15 other new businesses opened in town in 2015 with more to follow by the end of the year. In 2014, 16 new businesses came to Canal Winchester.
“Businesses are attracted to Canal Winchester for a variety of reasons,” said Canal
Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire. “The most common is to make a profit. They can do this because of location, access to customers, access to labor and affordable space/land. We try to remain a business-friendly community and reduce regulations and assist connecting businesses to resources they need to succeed.”
According to Haire, the most active area for development continues to be the Gender Road corridor. Projects recently completed in this area include The Inn at Winchester Trail and Panera and many tenants moved into existing space in the area shopping centers.
“The vacancy rates in Winchester Square and Waterloo Crossing Shopping Centers have significantly decreased this year with new restaurants and retailers opening,” said Haire, citing a new Goodwill Store under construction on West Waterloo Street and a new Primrose School being built on Winchester Boulevard. “BrewDog just broke ground on their North American headquarters, brewery, and bar/restaurant location at 96 Gender Road, and a new nursing home was approved for construction on Gender Road across from the elementary schools.”
Winchester Boulevard will be extended 400 feet this year to serve the new private school and open up new ground for development of approximately 85 acres. However, there are no plans currently for development on either side of the new roadway. Any new development will be required to show its impact on surrounding traffic and make improvements to accommodate their development, if necessary.
“We are constantly evaluating infrastructure needs in the community. We have a five-year capital improvements plan—updated each year—that looks at all infrastructure improvements planned for the next five years,” Haire said. “It evaluates these improvements based on the growth of businesses and residents in the city.
Haire said Canal Winchester is fortunate to have a large amount of available land and the ability to grow into surrounding areas.
“The largest impediment to attracting businesses is the lack of existing buildings for them to locate in,” said Haire. “The vacancy rate in Canal Winchester is very low and there is little to no available space in the community for office users, industrial businesses or restaurants.”
Even though new businesses are attracted to the city, some close permanently for various reasons. Seven businesses closed each year for the last two years. Haire said some may have closed or moved to another location to better serve customers, to spend more time with family or for health reasons or due to financial issues. He said most of those shutting down operations in 2014 and 2015 were small businesses with just a few employees.
Downtown Canal Winchester continues to survive and thrive. Haire cited organizations such as Destination Canal Winchester and the Canal Winchester Art Guild that sponsor events and projects in the area, which enhance Old Town Canal Winchester.
“The historic core of the city has experienced a lot of recent success. The streets are active with shoppers and diners during the day and in the evenings. There are very few vacancies and typically as soon as a space becomes available there is a list of potential businesses seeking to locate there,” said Haire. “We have great property owners in the historic district that take a lot of care with rehabilitating and maintaining their properties and enhancing the heart of our community. We also have dedicated businesses owners that are the best at promoting this area as a place to do business, and assisting with recruiting new businesses to the area.”
Haire said his mission is to provide a progressive, responsive, clear, and timely development process that focuses on protecting the public interest and results in a balanced, sustainable community that will allow the residents and businesses of Canal Winchester to prosper.