BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With nearly 5,000 vehicles driving west on SR 64 every day, land around the Finzel Road roundabout is ripe for development.
“This is our gateway,” Whitehouse administrator Jordan Daugherty said during a January 26 Economic Development Committee meeting.
Committee members Wes Beham, Steve Holland, Brad Mauk, Dallas Paul and Jennifer Rozic-Scroggs met virtually with Daugherty and Mayor Don Atkinson to narrow their focus on four village properties – including two at the roundabout.
Since the committee was formed in 2019, the members’ focus has been on using their own business and personal contacts to promote business growth and development in the village and joint economic development districts that involve the village.
“We’ll look at three to four properties and have that be our focus rather than the whole canvas of issues this year,” Daugherty said.
The top priority is 11 acres of village-owned land at the northwest corner of the roundabout. Zoned commercial, the corner is preapproved by the Planning Commission for two curb cuts and has ample room for a small office or retail center with parking in the back.
“Given the mixed-use concept, I think this is perfect for medical/dental, also possibly a small strip center anchored by a restaurant,” said Paul, who serves as committee chair.
The 33-acre parcel on the southeast corner includes an 1887 barn and is in a trust held by Bruce and Judy Miller. The property was annexed into the village in 2016 and has water, sewer and gas lines available. While zoned agricultural, the property has a lot of potential, Daugherty said.
The SR 64 corridor generates plenty of traffic on a daily basis, according to a 2019 Ohio Department of Transportation study. Of the 10,354 vehicles traveling between Waterville and Finzel Road, 4,970 are westbound and 5,384 eastbound. Approximately 900 turn right to head north on Finzel Road.
Traffic between Finzel and downtown Whitehouse is about 8,329 daily, with 4,046 westbound and 4,282 eastbound. That means the corner of SR 64 and Providence Street is busy.
Because of its prime location at that intersection, the former PNC Bank is also a priority. The 4,600-square-foot 1910 bank building is listed for $499,000.
“Thousands of people see that – so to have a vacancy is a concern of ours,” Daugherty said.
The building is in good condition and has a vault, safe deposit box area, a drive-thru and a good-sized parking lot that would offer room for expansion. A sit-down restaurant would fit right in with that area of downtown, committee members agreed.
One main appeal is the proximity to the Blue Creek Metropark, which Atkinson said will be undergoing some improvements this year, since voters approved a levy last November.
The largest target property is the nearly 200 acres in and around Whitehouse Square, which is home to Dollar General, a commercial strip, CedarCreek Church, apartments and townhomes.
At least half the property around Whitehouse Square and the large quarry is owned by the Metroparks, while Jeff Chamberlain has 59 acres fronting SR 64. Peinert-Dunn Funeral Home owns 26 acres along SR 64 across from Cemetery Road and JCT Enterprises has about 15 acres along Whitehouse Square Boul-evard.
The village recently approved form-based code that would give a more focused vision for the area, including retail with second-floor living, office, restaurants and a variety of housing mixed in with green space and multiuse paths. With the growth at Waterville Landing down the road, the focus would be more likely on neighborhood commercial and retail services geared toward those who live in and around the Whitehouse Square area, Paul said.
“That needs to be planned out in totality, in my head, so we can have a roadmap. Two hundred acres is huge,” Paul said.
A survey of the community would be an integral part of that plan, said Scroggs, who suggested using postcards or online surveys to reach every household in the village as well as township residences in the 43571 ZIP code.
“We can ask them: How long have they been here? What makes them stay? What are they missing? What kind of services would they like to see the community offer? We could hire a survey expert to extract data and show us the relevance of the answers,” Scroggs said.
The last Whitehouse survey was done in 2009 and involved council members walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors, asking questions and dropping off surveys. It was immensely helpful in determining the course for the village, Daugherty said.
In addition to residents, Whitehouse has an influx of visitors who come for the bike trails, quarries, outdoor entertainment and run/bike events, Atkinson noted.
As the entire Anthony Wayne area grows, so does the interest of retailers, restaurants and medical professionals to locate where the rooftops are multiplying, Paul said.
“In my mind, Whitehouse is totally underserved on a lot of different fronts. Our challenge is to figure out and get one thing that we focus on and bring it home. We can start to create an even better lifestyle in Whitehouse,” he said.