Grandview Yard’s location has been paramount in attracting tenants, patrons in a slow economy

There are several ways to measure the success of Grandview Yard, the development rising from land once home to a huge Big Bear warehouse.

There’s the occupancy rate of its hotel and office building, which are 72.8 percent and 80 percent, respectively, and the tax dollars generated for Grandview Heights, which total $388,464.

And then there are the measures of success that can be counted by party platters and massages.

“We expected a little more foot traffic at first,” said Bobby Oberschlake, general manager of the Jason’s Deli at Grandview Yard.

That’s picked up steadily, month by month. Somewhat surprisingly, Oberschlake said, the deli’s catering business has skyrocketed and has more than made up for any weakness in the walk-in business.

“We’re getting businesses from Downtown, like Nationwide and Huntington, and all the way up to Ohio State and from over on Dublin Road,” he said.

The pace of massages also has muscled its way up steadily at Massage Envy.

“We’ve seen a solid and steady increase,” said Jonathan Turner, co-owner of the business. “And we feel we’re just starting to tap into this market, and Grandview Yard will continue to grow and mature and become a destination site.”

That is the goal of the site’s developer, Nationwide Realty Investors, which also built the Arena District in phases, just as it’s doing with Grandview Yard. Capitol Square Limited, the commercial real-estate arm of The Dispatch Printing Company, publisher of The Dispatch, owns a 20 percent stake in Grandview Yard.

The 100-acre site recently grew when Nationwide paid $6.6 million for a 7-acre parcel northeast of the 3rd Avenue and Edgehill Road intersection, which contains warehouse and retail space.

The first phase of Grandview Yard opened in September 2010 and includes the 126-room Hyatt Place Columbus/OSU hotel, a 92,000-square-foot office building, an Urban Active fitness center and a 500-space parking garage.

The Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill, owned by Nationwide, opened in November.

Work on the second phase has begun with the start of construction on the Apartments at Grandview Yard, a three-building, 154-unit complex.

“We should have our first residents in by the end of the year,” said Brian Ellis, president of Nationwide Realty Investors.

Grandview Yard eventually could total 1.5 million square feet of retail and office space, plus 600 housing units.

In the first 15 months of the development’s operation, Grandview Yard has created about 300 jobs, and sent $150,106 in income tax and $238,358 in bed taxes from the hotel to Grandview Heights, said Bob Dvoraczky, the city’s director of finance.

“I have to give Nationwide credit,” said Patrik Bowman, the Grandview Heights director of administration and economic development. “The economy started to recede when this was coming together, and they persevered and invested a lot in the first phase and got it going.”

As anticipated, the location — close to Ohio State and Downtown — has been key, Ellis said.

“It works well with anything university related and the (Ohio State) medical center and also Downtown,” he said. “It’s only about a mile from the convention center, and the hotel is getting the overflow.”

Ellis is following the Arena District model when it comes to new construction at Grandview Yard.

“We found anchor tenants for office buildings, Columbia Gas for example (in the Arena District), that would allow us to get an office building kicked off,” he said. “We haven’t identified anyone yet (at Grandview Yard for the next office building), but we’ve had a number of conversations.”

The success of Nationwide’s Flats on Vine apartments in the Arena District gave Ellis confidence to start construction on the Grandview Yard apartments.

“The market for rental properties in and around Downtown is strong,” he said. “People want to be part of a well-conceived urban neighborhood.”

Office tenants at Grandview Yard include M+A Architects, which designed the building; Weber & Associates, a marketing and consulting firm; Holbrook & Manter, CPAs; and Willis of Ohio, a global insurance broker.

“They’re making deals and signing leases, and that’s something in this economy,” said Mike Simpson of NAI Ohio Equities, a commercial real-estate firm. “It’s a well-located project I expect to be very successful.”

Willis is the newest tenant and moved from Upper Arlington into a 24,000-square-foot space in December.

“Our firm is positioned to grow and we wanted an office building that represented this and we wanted something with a lot of visibility and a lot of new energy and Grandview Yard has been exactly that,” said Frank McKain, regional partner of Willis.

McKain added that the design of Grandview Yard, which would allow employees to walk or cycle to work, as well as to shops and restaurants, helped make the decision easier.

The hotel’s occupancy rate of 72.8 percent for the first 11 months of 2011 is well above the 57.3 percent average for other university-area hotels, according to statistics compiled by Experience Columbus, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. It was more than the 69.2 percent rate for the Downtown hotels it also competes against.

“It was an absolute home run for year one of a hotel,” said Eric Belfrage, a hotel specialist with CB Richard Ellis in Columbus.

While similar to the Arena District in many ways, there is one big difference at Grandview Yard.

“The Arena itself was the catalyst for the start of the Arena District,” Ellis said. “One of the things they have in common is we were able to leave as little to the imagination as possible; we really wanted people to touch and feel and see the quality of what we planned.”