Various city and county representatives and stakeholders gathered at the Brookshire Event Venue on Thursday for the 15th annual State of the City address, hosted by the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Spectrum.
The address, which was delivered by Delaware City Manager Tom Homan, included highlights of the city’s continued growth, the subsequent challenges associated with that growth, and the projects that are soon coming to Delaware.
Prior to introducing Homan, Mayor Carolyn Riggle told those in attendance, “We are growing. We all have issues. We have growing pains, but we will get through them.”
Homan began by thanking Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce President Holly Quaine and the chamber board for providing the platform before saying, “It’s always great to get out into the community, speak to the business community and other leaders about the things happening within the corporate limits of the city.”
As has been the case in previous addresses, Homan highlighted the four “pillars” on which the city focuses to best serve the community. Those pillars include building and maintaining a great community, a safe city, a healthy economy, and an effective government.
“You can’t start a presentation in Delaware County, whether it’s Delaware County, one of the townships, or one of the cities without talking about the growth. … We are fortunate to live in a region that continues to grow,” Homan said.
Homan noted the looming Intel development in central Ohio as a project that will impact the entire region, which will create challenges Delaware will need to be ready to handle.
“What happens with Intel, what happens in New Albany will impact all of us. Mostly, it’s going to be favorable, but there will be challenges, and we’re prepared to address them,” he said.
Delaware’s population has increased to 44,700, and Homan said he would not be surprised to see the city grow to 50,000 people by the end of the decade. The city is also becoming younger in terms of resident age, Homan said, with a median resident age of 34.5 years old.
He added that Delaware’s total number of households has increased to 16,500, with an average income of $74,130.
Sticking with the theme of building a great community, Homan highlighted the investments coming to Delaware’s east side, particularly with the Mill on Flax mixed-use development. The project, which received final approval from Delaware City Council in December, includes 162 apartment units across five buildings, as well as office space and amenities such as a swimming pool, walking paths, and community open spaces.
Homan said the city envisions a pedestrian connection ultimately being made from the development to Mingo Park as an additional step in transforming the city’s riverfront.
Other projects highlighted included the 270-acre Addison Farms mixed-use development, which was approved by council last year.
“That’s an important project for the city because it will allow us to extend Merrick Parkway,” Homan said of the development. “For anyone who lives on the west side of the city … the only way out of those developments is on Central Avenue. Our transportation plan envisions ultimately being able to take Houk Road going north all the way pass Kroger and hitting Hills-Miller Road, and taking Merrick Parkway, which runs along the east and west of those projects, out to Route 23. This project, through a public-private partnership, tax increment financing, and a new community authority, will allow that infrastructure to be extended.”
Of course, no discussion on the state of the city would be complete without mention of The Point and the massive reconfiguration project set to begin this spring. Homan said the contract for the project was awarded to Shelly and Sands two weeks ago in the amount of $31.1 million, $8 million of which is coming from the city.
“This is really exciting because it has been a source of aggravation and congestion for a number of years,” Homan said. “Once it’s complete, it will provide a more efficient way of moving traffic in and out of the east side.”
Speaking on building a healthy economy, Homan highlighted the construction of the Sawmill Pointe Business Park, which includes 1.3 million square feet of industrial space across 290 acres in Delaware’s industrial sector, and the associated extension of Sawmill Parkway to eventually connect to South Section Line Road.
Homan began his discussion on the final pillar of the city’s efforts — effective government — by highlighting the financial review task force that recently completed its work and presented its findings to the city.
The task force was comprised of nine citizens that met 23 times over 10 months, including with various departments in the city, to analyze the city’s finances and suggest the best way to address its shortfall in funds to address capital needs in the years to come.
“We are a community that is growing. We’re vibrant, and we have good stability financially,” Homan said. “But if you take a look at our ledger in terms of our capital needs, whether it’s new roads or existing roads that have to be repaved, that’s where the challenge is. And the way to address those challenges is through additional funding.”
The task force’s ultimate recommendation was to increase the city’s income tax rate to 2.25%, which would generate an additional $6.3 million in funds, according to the report.
Homan closed his presentation by stating, “The state of our city is strong, but for Delaware to reach its full potential, we must address looming challenges on the path forward.”