Nearly a decade after announcing plans to help develop a project called Albany Park, Casto is preparing to start site work for a retail center at the 300-plus-acre mixed-use development.
The Columbus retail developer plans to build a shopping center with dozens of stores, anchored by two big-box retailers, at the project on the Northeast Side. The first stores should open in the second half of 2009, said Charles Fraas, Casto's vice president of development.
Columbus approved the project last summer after years of starts and stops over details. When Casto announced plans in 1998 to build a retail center on the property, the land was zoned industrial.
Zoning finally was changed last year to commercial after Casto agreed not to build on about 40 acres of wetlands. That cleared the way for what Casto says will be more than 300,000 square feet of retail space. There also is land set aside for small offices, and Casto said it is working with a builder on some type of residential development at Albany Park.
"Our ability to get everything through the city zoning was an important step," Fraas said. "The intensity of what we could have done with distribution and warehousing wasn't the highest and best use for it. It was zoned before New Albany became (the current) New Albany."
Fraas wouldn't talk about specific retailers because final contracts have not been signed. But it is no secret that Target has been looking at the site. A Target spokeswoman said in November that that still was the case.
Fraas said shoppers should expect a different combination of stores than that of Taylor Square, Casto's bustling development at Rt. 256 in Reynoldsburg.
"We're clearly trying to have the tenant mix match up with the demographics of the area," Fraas said. "You've got a great population with Gahanna and New Albany and southern Westerville, as well as Plain Township."
Casto said he believes Albany Park will be a draw as far east as Granville because of the ease of travel on Rt. 161.
"If you're a student at Denison (University), it's an easy place to do your shopping."