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‘New Urbanism’ at heart of plans for Beulah site in Grove City


Pat Kelley has had a hand in developing land all over town. His family is one of the developers of the massive Polaris Centers of Commerce in northern Columbus. They’re involved in projects in Dublin, on the east side and Kelley has a new development involving nearly 700 housing units in the works in Delaware County.

Grove City, however, is a new frontier.

About a year ago a “rare opportunity” presented itself.

“No other community in Central Ohio or beyond has 212 acres of readily developable land connected to an existing town center,” said Kelley, president of Falco, Smith & Kelley Ltd. in Columbus. “Beulah Park is a rare opportunity to master plan an iconic site that has such historical significance and nostalgia for Grove City.”

The preliminary site plan includes 380 apartment homes, 120 ranch-style condominiums, 60 townhouse-style condominiums, about 300 single-family detached homes, a 102-unit senior luxury independent living facility and 75-unit assisted living building.

The architectural style is rural/cottage and craftsman.

There also will be neighborhood-scale retail and office sites and a 60-acre park. Total investment is more than $300 million.

Reshaping a corridor

Beulah Park closed in 2014 after 91 years of racing. According to horse racing publication Paulick Report in Lexington, Kentucky, its demise came in part because of a dwindling demand for its product and because its owner, Penn National Gaming, didn’t want competition for its new Hollywood Columbus Casino.

“Beulah Park was a major piece of our identity,” said Kyle Rauch, the city’s development director. “When you think of Beulah, you think of Grove City, so when that came to an end it left us at a loss.”

Kelley said he was drawn in by Beulah itself – an abatement means improvements don’t get taxed for 15 years – “and Grove City’s willingness to invest in a town square connection.”

Plus, it was the right time to strike a deal with an out-of-town business that was ready to move on.

Originally, developer Joe Ciminello, who is working with Kelley on the Delaware project, had the land in contract but ended up not buying it; Kelley stepped in last year and bought it through an investment entity for about $5 million, he said.

Grove City officials had identified the Beulah site as one of three that would reshape its Broadway corridor, the others being a new library and Pizzuti Cos. Broadway Station, a 120-unit apartment community built on the site of a former lumberyard just west of City Hall.

The new $17 million library is just southeast of the site and Kelley hopes a connector road will be built to link the two together and that a new town square will be built.

New urbanism

The Beulah Park redevelopment is being planned differently than the typical housing subdivision found all across Central Ohio.

It is “new urbanist” by design and Kelley thinks it will be the only such neighborhood of its kind in Central Ohio, at least from an organic standpoint.

“They key to the successful transformation of Beulah Park will be the walkability of the development,” Kelley said. “A place where residents can live, learn, work, exercise and gather for music venues or yoga classes as well as shop, or dine in the town center, all within a 10-to-15-minute walk. Mayor (Richard “Ike”) Stage deserves a great deal of credit for having the foresight to promote such a new urbanist neighborhood that will serve as a model community and enable the adjoining town center and surrounding neighborhoods to flourish.”

New urbanism, Kelley said, emphasizes diverse, walkable, vibrant mixed-use communities. Street design is pedestrian friendly with buildings on compact lots close to the street, allowing for easy interaction with neighbors and an emphasis on luxury finishes with efficient designs.

The mixed-use Bridge Park in Dublin is new urbanist, but to make that happen the city had to spend millions to build a bridge to connect to downtown. It’s on about 25 acres, Kelley said. He has 212 to work with.

And Evans Farm in Delaware County is another going for new urbanism, but they’ll have to create a town center from scratch.

“Here, we don’t have to force anything,” Kelley said, “Most places don’t have the room to create it, but here you already have the connection to a nice, quaint town center.”

Stage said the new urbanist design dovetails into a project the city has been working on – GroveCity2050 – to be strategically positioned to accommodate the region’s growing population.

“A traditional housing development with large lots and larger homes is not going to cut it,” Stage said. “This is being designed to be a part of our core city.”

Another feature will be the diversity of product – from the apartments to homes with different styles and price points. This will be a community with a product for just about everyone, young to old.

For the single-family home portion, Kelley expects to line up about four builders. Entry-level lots will have homes in the $275,000 to $350,000 price range. Lots on the park will have a more custom home vibe and stretch from $400,000 to $600,000.

According to the nonprofit Congress for the New Urbanism in Washington, D.C., which has been advocating to change the debate from sprawl to a discussion on how to reinvest in cities and towns, “great walkable, urban places – buildings, blocks, and neighborhoods – in small towns or big cities, are powerful economic and social engines, improving community health and resilience while promoting sustainability and equity.”

Grove City’s role

The city crafted a “Beulah Park Conceptual Framework” in 2013 to identify appropriate development options for the site. One of the findings was that there was a lack of new housing stock within the town center area and that homes within one mile of the intersection of Broadway and Park Street are twice as old as the housing stock in the rest of the city. The report also said adding new residents within easy walking distance to the town center would help local businesses.

So, for the city, the development makes sense.

Kelley has been in ongoing negotiations to prompt the city to buy the 60- acre park and improve it with memorial gardens to honor Beulah and to create a pavilion for community entertainment and programming. Ideally, there would be a community center there in the future. That’s where those yoga classes would be.

“That (the park) really gives it the potential to be extra special for Grove City for years to come,” Kelley said.

Rauch said Beulah Park “was such a central place to hold community events. That park space allows us to continue to use that area for a recreational purpose.”

Details on the road and town center still are being worked out.

Kelley hopes his portion of the project can break ground in the fall.

“There’s nothing else like this in Grove City,” he said. “There’s Pinnacle, but that’s a golf course community.”

Saud Rauch: “This is potentially one of the best sites in Central Ohio. You have a 212-acre site next to the heart of your city. We’re excited about the planned uses.”

Newpoff, Laura. “‘New Urbanism’ at Heart of Plans for Beulah Site in Grove City.” Columbus Business First, 24 July 2017, Accessed 2024.