There were some chuckles when Delaware City Manager Tom Homan mentioned transportation during the State of the City address Thursday afternoon.
The annual event, presented by the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce at SourcePoint, 800 Cheshire Road, was more than two months after residents rejected a road income tax levy for road maintenance and transportation improvement projects.
“We can spend a whole meeting just talking about it,” Homan said.
He acknowledged that the levy failed by a “considerable margin” of about 60 percent and the city will try to get feedback from the community.
“The need is still there,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is considering a $15.8 million award in federal funds to the city to address improvements at The Point, or the intersection of U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37, and upgrades to the city’s signal system.
The city will need about $6 million to match the $13.3 million of funds designated to The Point, said Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle. The levy could have provided funds for the local contribution, city officials have said.
Homan said the city is doing well overall with the population at about 38,863 people based on building permits, and is up 12 percent since 2010 and 20 percent for the past decade.
Last year had the highest level of residential permits at about 300 since 2005 at 258. Such growth is evident with construction for the city’s fourth fire station at 821 Cheshire Road.
Additionally, the downtown has become a destination of food, entertainment and retail, Homan said. About 95 percent of the downtown’s buildings’ first floor are occupied.
“Small businesses drive the economy,” he said.
Some of the credit goes to the city’s facade program to improve the historic area’s building stock and has issued 25 grants since 2012. The program has provided a public and private investment of more than $800,000.
The city also is looking to improve downtown parking, although recent signage has helped the situation, Homan said.
He and Riggle both welcomed the new Delaware County judicial building that is set to open June 2017.
“I’m appreciative that they chose to stay downtown,” Riggle said.
Homan said the city wants to make the east side more part of the downtown and to capitalize on the river. That will depend on the how the land use is configured because of the way U.S. 23 was built.
On the economic development side, the city plans to raise funds for an entrepreneur center with potential locations at either the former Gazette buildings on Williams Street or the Willis Intermediate School. The center would provide resources and space for start-up businesses.
City Economic Development Director Sean Hughes said at a gathering for entrepreneurs Thursday morning that Homan wants the center to get off the ground before the end of the year.
He did not provide an update about what tenant would replace the Buehler’s Fresh Foods grocery store on Central Avenue. But Homan and Riggle both said almost in unison that a Der Dutchman restaurant is not a potential tenant.
The event was sponsored by Proscape Lawn & Landscape Services.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.