HEATH — The city of Heath has always been attractive to commercial developers, but interest in city properties has suddenly sky-rocketed, prompting plans to add an employee in the city’s building and zoning department.
Mayor Mark Johns discussed the hiring plans with council’s Community Development Committee on Monday in response to business and residential development plans and inquiries, possibly as a result of the Intel computer chip development coming to western Licking County.
More:Old Navy, ranked high on residents’ wish list, coming to Heath’s CrossCreek Shopping Center
Johns, who took office in 2010, said the current development interest is during his tenure.
“Since I’ve been mayor, we’ve had two people in that department, and the pace of their workload you could easily argue two people were all we needed,” Johns said. “But the workload coming into that department now is a lot more. And, in all likelihood, will be more for the foreseeable future.”
Jared Lane, director of building and zoning since he replaced Eddie Hunt 11 months ago, is joined by zoning inspector Brandon Francis in the department.
“I think we need to hire somebody else in that department,” Johns said. “Things are going to change all over the county. It’s going to happen as sure as the sun rises at the east. have it work for us.
“I think we’re well positioned to welcome additional housing into the community, additional land for manufacturing development that could be perhaps used by Intel suppliers or ancillary businesses tied to Intel’s work.”
Lane said one area of interest is about 100 acres in the area around Franklin Avenue, Irving Wick Drive and Dorsey Mill Road, where land might be annexed for single-family and multi-family housing,
“There is some strong interest in housing and other types of businesses coming in,” Lane said.
Another development will be a Dunkin donuts on the corner of Hebron Road and Radian Drive, where a Loan Max building was recently demolished.
Sheetz, which opened a gas station, convenience store and restaurant March 29 on North 21st Street in Newark, has plans to also build in Heath. City officials said the project has not been finalized and they could not reveal the location.
The Newark Sheetz store includes a 6,077-square foot brick and stone building for the convenience store and restaurant, indoor and outdoor seating, and a fuel canopy for eight pumps.
The mayor said there has been interest in the 4-acre Hebron Road site where Knight’s Inn was demolished three years ago and Casto seeks to develop. Casto is the owner of Cross Creek Shopping Center.
“My understanding is there is interest on that property, but I don’t think there’s any kind of contract Casto has signed,” Johns said.
A Casto official said in 2019 the new development would consist of two to four buildings, most likely retail, including some recognizable brands, at least one restaurant, and no residential.
Further south on Hebron Road, Coughlin Hyundai plans a 5,000-square foot in addition to its dealership, using the space for a new service bay and sales area, Lane said.
John Hinderer has cleared land across from the Heath Municipal Building for an expansion of the dealership it purchased from Tri-County Chrysler.
Other developments include White Cottage Barn, a wedding venue coming to Heath Road, and storage units on 30th Street and Hopewell Drive.
Manufacturing sites critical to city
The committee meeting included a bus tour of Central Ohio Aerospace and Technology Center campus developments on James Parkway and Enterprise Drive, as well as land available for development around Thornwood Drive.
The tour, led by Rick Platt, president and CEO of the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, provided new council members with a look at projects the city and Port Authority cooperated on, and those Southgate Corporation developed.
“The theme of this is we’ve done this together,” Platt said. “I feel what Heath has achieved in manufacturing is the envy of the state. To have 11 spec buildings in a community of 10,000 population. There are whole counties that haven’t seen 11 spec buildings in their history, much less the last 11 years.”
The Port Authority owns and manages COATC, the largest self-sustaining port authority in Ohio with more than 20 companies and 1,861 employees on 350 acres, with a $137 million combined payroll.
Construction continues on the Port Authority’s 30,000-square-foot spec building on James Parkway, across from Nature’s One, which will be ready for occupancy on June 1.
Southgate plans to build a 150,000 square foot spec building at the end of International Drive, its sixth spec building on the campus and its largest. It will be the 11th spec building constructed by Southgate or the Port Authority in a dozen years.
International Drive, a road built in 2015, will have five spec buildings when Southgate constructs its latest facility. The cost of the Port Authority’s construction ultimately gets passed on to companies who purchase land and facilities.
Rob O’Neill, president of Southgate Corporation, said having available land without a building is no longer enough to attract development. Some companies have purchased a spec building, then chose to expand the facility.
“You’ve got to have a building.” O’Neill said. “You’ve got to have product on the shelf. There’s an ebb and flow to it. Spec buildings will sit for awhile. It is adding new product to the marketplace. It’s opportunities for new companies to come in and locate, which really diversifies things.”
O’Neill said the 150,000 square foot structure could be a multi-tenant building with two or three tenants, or one tenant could take it all.
“This will be bigger (than other buildings),” Platt said. “The site lends itself to that. We’re just seeing more demand for larger space.”
Behr Process Corporation, which supplies architectural paint and exterior wood care products to US and Canadian do-it-yourself markets, received state tax credits to build a 320,000-square foot facility on the COATC campus, just south of Boeing and Bionetics.
Platt said the Port Authority has been committed to manufacturing developments, not warehouses. It rejected an Owens Corning warehouse for the site Behr will occupy. Owens Corning still built its 750,000 square foot warehouse in Heath, between Thornwood and Keller drives.
Behr expects to create 90 full-time positions, generating $4.4 million in new annual payroll at the site.
The Port Authority also plans to develop 330 acres — 300 acres formerly owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus and 30 acres previously owned by the Ohio Department of Transportation — into the Seminary Ridge Business Park, located south of Seminary Road, west of Thornwood Drive, and extending south of Beaver Run Road.