Thanks to the efforts of several individuals, construction is slated to start this spring to revitalize Kilbourne, a census-designated place located in the eastern part of Brown Township.
“It’s definitely a passion project for us. It doesn’t make sense. There’s no infrastructure,” said Garrett Gandee, president of the Westerville-based engineering firm of Gandee & Associates, Inc.
Originally called Eden, Kilbourne was founded in 1836 and has had some hard luck in its past. Plans to mine salt evaporated, and the potential of being along a railroad track was cruelly bypassed.
“At one time, there were four gas stations in Kilbourne, which is impossible to fathom,” Gandee said.
In more recent times, its post office closed. The 2010 Census reported a population of 139 people in Kilbourne.
In late 2018, Gandee and his business partners — Nate Hatfield, Aaron Heydinger and Josh Scheutzow — acquired a general store on state Route 521, renovated it, and added dining and drinking on the premises. The Kilbourne Market now has dining and carry-out, pizza, subs, craft beer and wine, along with ice cream and live bait.
“That’s really the only business operating in Kilbourne,” Gandee said. “It turned out to be an awesome way to be a part of that community, because Kilbourne is a tight-knit, little niche community. It provided a great way to make a lot of friends in Kilbourne.”
The four men, who are now owners of 15 parcels and nine buildings in Kilbourne, then met with Delaware County’s Economic Development team.
“It was pretty apparent that Kilbourne was on a list of areas the county would like to see revitalized,” Gandee said. Last November, the properties were rezoned to a Planned Commercial District to become a possible downtown.
“We had to go through an entire rezoning process last year,” Gandee said. “That involved a lot of public hearings, community engagement, and tremendous cooperation from Brown Township. At the end of the day, our zoning got unanimous zoning and trustees approval. When we finished, the same people that came to complain at the first meeting were at the last meeting, stood up, and laid letters of recommendation on the trustees’ desk — it was like something out of a movie.”
In two years, the civil engineering firm Gandee Heydinger Group, along with Scheutzow’s custom wood furniture business, A Carpenter’s Son Design Co., hope to be anchors of a commercial development district block in Kilbourne. In addition, Gandee said there are plans for roadways, eateries, retail, and a commons area for outdoor events. The architecture will be based on residents’ old photos, Gandee added.
In turn, more stakeholders are becoming involved in the Kilbourne Project, Gandee said. And, more changes may be coming to the area — the Ohio Horseman’s Council is attempting to get a grant for a horse bridge over Alum Creek.
The apex of 45 miles of horse trails is in Kilbourne, and there is a kayak launch at Alum Creek State Park. In addition, more than 3,000 cars a day travel state Route 521. Gandee said he hopes Kilbourne becomes a “micro-destination” for outdoor enthusiasts in the future.
“It’s been well-received so far,” Gandee said. “I think the fact that we want to rebuild and restore Kilbourne has a lot of people in favor. No one wanted to see a dollar store and gas station.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.