Developer Brad DeHays plans to break ground on his new Trolley District development near Franklin Park this summer.

The $14 million project at 1600 Oak St., which will include a market, restaurant and Columbus Brewing brewpub, will take up to two years to build, said DeHays, of Connect Realty. He also plans to develop a $15 million, 102-unit apartment complex across the street. Construction on that should begin next year, he said.

The Columbus Development Commission signed off on the project last week. The Near East Area Commission has approved it as well. The Columbus City Council still needs to OK zoning changes.

“Everything is moving forward nicely,” DeHays said. He is talking to the Columbus school board to create some programming for students. One idea: a program in which students could learn about healthy food. The second: internships for construction management.

It’s a project that community leaders and residents have long awaited, not only because it will transform what had been a neighborhood blight — six vacant buildings previously used by the city’s electric trolley system — into an attraction for the area, but also because it could be an anchor and catalyst for development.

“People haven’t realized the potential over there,” said Kathleen Bailey, who leads the Near East Area Commission. “I think our neighborhood is ripe for it.”

The Near East Side has good housing stock and is a walkable community, Bailey said. “It lends itself to that kind of commercial development,” she said, though the area still needs a grocery store.

“The people over there are passionate,” DeHays said of the neighborhood.

James Flannery of the Franklin Park Civic Association said residents have been asking when the project will begin.

“It’s going to be a big economic boom to the neighborhood,” Flannery said.

DeHays said he’d like to begin work in June. The brick buildings have been vacant for years and are in rough shape, he said. Workers have been stabilizing the structures.

DeHays bought the 3-acre trolley barn site in 2014, which includes the six brick buildings that were built between 1882 and 1920. One building will house a market. Another will hold Columbus Brewing’s 13,000-square-foot brewpub. The Trolley District project received $2 million in state Historic Preservation Tax Credits to help finance it.

DeHays said that although there are no other large-scale developments planned near him, he does see other improvements such as the city spending $2.2 million for the second phase of a project to restore the Franklin Park Cascades, which were built for the 1992 Ameriflora exhibition. In 2016, the falls stopped running because of problems with the pump system. The city already has spent $583,000 on engineering and construction to renovate the system.

“The cascades are beautiful when they’re running,” DeHays said.

 

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik