By Rick Palsgrove
What will Groveport’s historic downtown look like in years to come?
A comprehensive historic downtown Groveport strategy plan is being developed that will examine how the city’s downtown physical space will be used in the future. The plan is expected to be ready to presented to Groveport City Council by late April.
Groveport’s Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) contracted with Downtown Professionals Network at a cost of $35,000 to come up with the plan.
“We’re looking at our physical space in our historic downtown to see what can happen there and what will comprise our central business district,” said Groveport Development Director Jeff Green. “We’ll consider how our downtown could evolve and still be respectful of its historic aspects and preserve its character.”
Michael Schroeder, a consultant for Downtown Professional Networks, said Groveport has “an amazing village-like character. There’s a strong sense of place here. We’re pursuing evolution, not revolution. We’re looking at change in small steps.”
Groveport’s historic downtown extends along Main Street approximately from Wirt Road to West Street. Groveport’s downtown evolved differently from other small towns in the 19th century. Most towns of that era were platted and planned out in advance.
However, Groveport formed in the 1800s as what the historian Page Smith termed as a “cumulative community,” which is a town that forms without a set plan and instead sprouts up around a promising trading center based on common economic business interests. Hence, Groveport grew in the 1800s from the intersection of the Ohio and Erie Canal (near where Wirt Road is today) and Main Street along the length of Main Street as a mix of houses and businesses that appeared as opportunities arose. Plus, pockets of businesses areas also sprang up among homes along west Main Street and on Blacklick Street.
On Feb. 22 and Feb. 26, community leaders and members of the CIC met with Schroeder and Jay Schlinsog of the Downtown Professionals Network to bounce around ideas and come up with the makings of a comprehensive plan for the downtown.
Groveport Madison Schools Superintendent Garilee Ogden suggested that there is “a great potential to create a social gathering spot for people in the downtown. A place where people might get a coffee and meet a friend outside. A place to watch the parades or just pass the time. It would draw people.”
Schroeder noted the character of downtowns has changed over the years.
“Downtowns have changed from being primarily business districts to becoming social gathering spots with businesses that compliment them,” said Schroeder. “People search for those kinds of social experiences.”
Jim Beidler of the CIC said adding more technology structure to Groveport Town Hall would blend the modern and historic and further enhance the building and downtown as a destination for meetings and gatherings.
Ogden said Groveport Elementary and Groveport Middle School Central on Main Street, which are on the National Register of Historic Places, could be repurposed in the future for different uses if and when the school district builds new schools.
Schroeder said the idea is to build to fit the character of the downtown and noted there is a need for smaller scale retailers. He said considerations can be made to connect the downtown to the existing leisure trail near Main and Front streets and beyond. He said downtown gathering spaces could incorporate historic panels where people could learn about the history of Groveport at their own pace.
Other suggestions Schroeder and Schlinsog made included parking garages in existing parking lots as well as residential housing where Middle School Central now stands.
“Whatever you build in the downtown, build it for yourself first,” said Schroder.
Added Schlinsog, “Build things you love. If you love them, others will, too.”
1847 Main project update
Groveport City Council is considering contracting (at an amount to be determined) with Miller-Valentine Group for professional design-build services for the city’s 1847 Main project, which involves the construction of two new, two-story brick, mixed-use commercial buildings: one to be built at the northeast corner of Front and Main streets next to Ace Hardware (674-716 Main St. and known as the Rarey’s Port building); and the second at the northwest corner of College and Main streets (480-490 Main St. and known as the Wert’s Grove building). The city is the developer for both sites.
“The contract would cover the buildings to be constructed at both Front and Main streets and Main and College streets,” said Groveport City Administrator B.J. King.
The Wert’s Grove building will be about 12,184 square feet. The first floor will have five separate storefronts with the interior space divisible according to space requirements for potential new businesses. Second floor space for now will be open.
The Rarey’s Port building is tentatively planned to be 14,145 square feet, with 7,017 square feet of space on the first floor and 7,128 square feet on the second floor. The second floor space will be open for now and the first floor have six individual storefronts facing Main Street and the interior space divisible as required.
Green said the buildings’ designs are modeled on existing 19th and early 20th century business buildings and homes along Main Street.
The estimated cost for the two structures combined will be approximately $6 million.
Groveport Finance Director Jason Carr said money for the two $3 million construction funds for the two buildings in the 2021 budget will be funded by general obligation bonds. These are bonds from the bond market and are not property tax bond issues that would be voted on by the residents.
Main Street development timeline
For approximately the last 19 years, Groveport city officials took steps to re-develop the city’s historic downtown core along Main Street. The following is a timeline of what has transpired.
•2002 – The city bought the two former gas station properties at the northeast corner of Main and Front streets for $305,000. The city’s public works department demolished the structures.
•2004 – The city purchased the former ceramics shop and doctors’ offices at 716 and 728 Main Streets for $230,000. The buildings are demolished at a cost of $7,300.
•2005 – The city purchased properties at 651, 653, and 657 Main St. for $235,000.
•2006 – The city demolished the buildings at 651, 653, and 657 Main St. at a cost of $16,500 after it was determined it would cost $360,000 to rehabilitate the structures.
•2013 – The owners of the business at 649 Main St. purchased the 651, 653, 657 Main St. parcels from the city for $13,000 for possible expansion of their business sometime in the future. City officials indicate that currently the city has received no word on when the business owner will develop this site.
•2013 – Plans are made to build the Ace Hardware store at 726 Main St.
•2013 – The city budgeted $1 million to construct the large municipal parking lot, sidewalks, bike path, and landscaping near the Ace Hardware and the undeveloped grassy site extending from the northeast corner of Main and Front streets.
•2015 – Ace Hardware opened at 726 Main St.
•Various plans and proposals were made over the years to develop a “Groveport Town Center” project on the grassy area extending from the northeast corner of Main and Front streets.
•2018 – The city purchased the former used car lot property at 490 Main St. (the .492 acre property on the northwest corner of Main and College streets) for $250,000. Signage is erected to market the site for business development.
•2019 – The city’s contract with the owners of Ace Hardware to develop the grassy site on the northeast corner of Main and Front streets expires.
•2020 – The city purchases the property at 480 Main St. for $150,000 to expand development opportunities with the adjacent lot at 490 Main St. on the northwest corner of Main and College streets.
•2020 – In the city’s 2020 budget, council approved a Phase 1 environmental study and an architectural study for the city owned property on the northwest corner of Main and College streets at a cost of $25,000. Also in the budget, the city’s Community Improvement Corporation is slated to receive $25,000 to aid in the search for downtown business development.
•2020 – The 1847 Main project is unveiled.