A Lasting Legacy

Brian Ellis and Mayor of Grandview Heights Ray DeGraw walk into the front entrance to the new Nationwide offices

(Columbus Dispatch photo by Brooke LaValley)

It’s not surprising that Grandview Heights’ former Mayor, Ray E. DeGraw has received such a ceremonious retirement send off for his 36+ year career of service to the City. In a recent This Week News article, DeGraw recounts major milestones throughout his tenure as mayor, in conjunction with former development director, Patrick Bowman.

In the article, DeGraw credits the positive impact of Grandview Yard and the redevelopment of the blighted Big Bear Warehouse site with both the economic stabilization and revitalization of the City.

DeGraw recounts his early days taking office in January of 2004 as the city faced what he called, “a potential economic disaster” and a “financial crisis,” with the Big Bear warehouse on Goodale closing after the collapse of parent company Penn Traffic.

At the low point, DeGraw stated that the city had “only about 17 days’ worth of cash reserves on hand.”

Historic building photo and modern day building

Nationwide Realty Investors’ $800M Grandview Yard mixed-use development was the City’s opportunity to rebound. The 125-acre development would nearly double the workforce of the entire City of Grandview Heights with 1.2M square feet of commercial office space, restaurants, retail, hospitality, and more than 1500 residences.

“The goal was to hold the land together with a vision of a redevelopment with a mix of uses and density,” DeGraw said. “That was the only way to make sure the school district and the city could benefit in a big way. That wouldn’t have happened if the parcels were developed separately by multiple owners.”

Nationwide Realty Investors unveiled plans for Grandview Yard in 2007 and opened the first phase just three years later with the 775 Yard Street office building anchored by Willis and M+A Architects, with multiple restaurants, the Hyatt Place hotel, LA Fitness, and a parking deck to support the development. The first phase of Apartments at the Yard followed shortly after.

Development commenced on the north end of the project with the Ohio Health medical office building south of Third Avenue, and the Giant Eagle Market District which opened in 2014 north of Third Ave. The next block was completed at the northeast corner of Goodale and Yard Street with the 800 Yard office building housing Ernst & Young and Northwestern Mutual, and adjacent Hofbrauhaus restaurant and parking facility.
Development in the center of Grandview Yard kicked off with the Keystone mixed-use buildings, followed by the 3-building, 700,000 SF Nationwide corporate campus and parking facilities adjacent to the 3-acre First Avenue Park.

“Nationwide’s announcement in 2014… to bring more than 3,000 employees to Grandview Yard changed the plan and met the city’s employment density goal,” said Bowman. “(Another priority) was to make sure a development as huge as the 125-acre Grandview Yard would not disrupt the small-town feel… We were fortunate that (Nationwide Realty Investors) stepped forward. You need the right developer to make something like this work.”

“Few, if any, other developers would have been able to proceed with a project as massive as the Yard during the recession years,” said DeGraw. “The important thing was we had the support of the community.”

In recent years, Nationwide Realty Investors has completed multiple new apartment buildings, the Yard Club residential amenity building, the Courtyard by Marriott hotel and The Grand Event Center, the 828 at the Yard condominiums, the Manchester and 1125 Yard Street mixed-use buildings, and additional retail along Third Avenue.

Aerial photo of yard club community center and outdoor pool with apartments in background Aerial photo of apartment building with Manchester lettering on top floor

Work is underway on 2 more office buildings – one which fronts Goodale Blvd anchored by Carlile Patchen, and a second along Yard Street. Additional multi-family buildings are also under construction including the Junction townhomes. M/I and Wagenbrenner have significant single-family residences completed and in various stages of development along the eastern edge of the project.

Tax revenue generated from Grandview Yard has continued to exceed projections, enabling the funding of impactful programs and public projects in Grandview Heights. In 2020 alone, Grandview Yard is projected to generate in excess of $17M in annual taxes that will continue to benefit the community at large.

Nationwide Realty Investors is proud to support the City’s parks and recreation efforts. The signature First Avenue park space adjacent to Nationwide’s campus was recently renamed to “Ray E. DeGraw Park” by Mayor Greta Kearns, honoring the former mayor and his lasting contributions and impact on the City with key projects like Grandview Yard.

The Ray E. DeGraw Park at Grandview Yard is an integral part of the City’s programming with events throughout the year. From Music on the Lawn, to First Avenue Fall Fest, there is something for everyone to enjoy! Check out the 2020 Grandview Heights Parks and Recreation activity calendar for more information on upcoming events (Page 4 for event listings).

Nationwide Realty Investors is proud to have partnered with Mayor DeGraw in this decade of change, building a mixed-use resource that has helped revitalize and define the now thriving Grandview Heights community.