New Albany developers turn sights toward U.S. 62, state Route 161 interchange

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NEW ALBANY − The city of New Albany wants to know what residents, business owners and community leaders think when it comes to developing one of the city’s areas targeted for growth: A 573-acre chunk of land around the intersection of U.S. 62 and state Route 161.

The city has created a 21-member steering committee to lead a planning process for what is called the 62 Interchange Focus Area Plan. The plan is meant to become a guide so that as the area develops, it reflects the community’s values.

“We’re doing this plan because we’ve seen a lot of retail and commercial growth happen along the U.S. 62 corridor,” said Stephen Mayer, the city’s planning manager.

The area is a mix of residential, business, and undeveloped land that is directly north of state Route 161. The northern boundary runs along Central College Road. and the eastern boundary is Blacklick Creek. On the west, the boundary flanks residential parcels next to undeveloped areas of land.

Residents filled the Heit Center Tuesday night to pore over maps of the area and place stickers on them to highlight things they would like to see and locations where they should go. They also filled out surveys that asked questions about how often they’re in the target area and what changes they would like to see.

Interest in locally owned full-service restaurants along with small, specialty stores seemed especially high.

“I’ve been in New Albany for 23 years. It’s definitely changed a lot. The community seems to seek out and value our opinions,” said Jason Hoy, a member of the steering committee.

Hoy owns a State Farm insurance agency in the target area, along with the building where the agency is located. He also lives in the area.

While he has opinions about what he would like to see, Hoy is more interested now in hearing what others think.

“I’d like to see what everyone has to say,” he said.

He also believes traffic patterns might change in the area in the coming years because of Intel factories being built nearby, and planners need to take that into account.

Mink and Beech roads are being widened for Intel, meaning commuters who normally use U.S. 62 now might instead drive on those roads.

The managers of the Marriott Courtyard along U.S. 62 say they would like to see an upscale restaurant close by that would be open after the hotel’s Bistro restaurant hours. They also would like to see boutique shops or a specialty market within walking distance of the hotel.

The new walking path and bike trail close by are a welcome addition, they said, and the idea of a boardwalk-type walking path would be something they think guests would like as well.

“It’s good they’re asking for public input,” said David Wespiser, the managing member for the New Albany Hotel Associate, a joint venture between Hotel Development Services and American Hospitality Management that owns the hotel. The hotel was the first to be built in New Albany.

There are 81 households, 104 businesses, and more than 800 workers there now, according to the city.

The planning effort starts in February, with the goal of finishing by the end of the year. That group of neighborhood residents, business leaders, and government officials will act as a sounding board to review the findings and recommendations.

The city has hired the planning, urban design, and landscape architecture firm MKSK to oversee the process.

A second community workshop will be held sometime this fall, where the committee will release its recommendations and gather more input from the community.

The final work will then be voted on by the council and become a document to help guide development in the area.

“Updating the plan is very important to make sure the values of our community are reflected in this planning update,” said Chris Christian, one of the city’s planners.