John M. Heaphy: Rhodes State project must move forward

By John M. Heaphy - Guest Columnist

One family with hometown connections holds up Rhodes State College project in downtown Lima.

As many in the Lima region wait with hopeful anticipation for the impact Rhodes State College will have on our downtown, others have concerns due to the lack of activity after the demolition of most of the buildings earlier this year. I feel it is time the public realizes and supports the impact this facility would have on the community and the reason the project has been slowed down.

I am a local businessman and have always been as supportive as I can be of our entire community. At times I can become very passionate about the positive opportunities that arise and also very frustrated with the negative comments or road blocks that stand in the way of progress. The addition of Rhodes State College to downtown Lima is the most exciting positive opportunity I have seen for our community in years, and one family stopping progress is the most frustrating.

The vision of Dr. Debra McCurdy and the board of directors at Rhodes State to build a new medical school in the heart of our county and city is a model of community spirit and partnership for the betterment of so many aspects of our region. The energy that the building and project will bring downtown is invaluable to the continued redevelopment so many are working on.

The 500 to 700 students and faculty that will be in our Town Square on a daily basis will bring foot traffic and youth, talent and opportunity. Many of the young people being educated will fill job openings and remain in our community for years to come. The improvement and image of the new building across from our Civic Center will complete four quadrants of our square that will create synergy to grow and develop. If this vision and project are not supported and brought to fruition, it will be a historic lost opportunity for our community and the future success of it.

For several years now Dr. McCurdy, board members, state and local officials, local Realtors and business leaders have worked diligently to secure resources, acquire land and clear sites. Much work and progress has been made. Some very generous local families have gifted land and vacant buildings; others have cooperated by taking fair market prices for their properties.

As I write this letter, pieces of land needed are being withheld by one family with local roots who, currently it seems, do not feel any civic-minded responsibility to negotiate in good faith.

As a businessman with real estate holdings, I am not a fan of eminent domain and feel property owners should have every consideration given when an impactful community project such as Rhodes needs their land. I am a witness that this family has been treated and offered compensation far and beyond reasonable fair market value.

Other issues which I believe need to be considered include: Is the property an existing business? Is the property a revenue-generating parcel? Does the property have potential in the future to be more valuable than it is currently? After evaluating all of these issues, I believe that these parcels do not qualify for any of the above.

The reason I write this letter and risk the consequences of speaking out is because I feel the public needs to know why the most impactful project for downtown Lima in decades, and possibly for decades to come, is taking too long. It seems that one family has been allowed to alter the direction of our entire community. This can no longer go unmentioned. It must be discussed.

As a community hungry for progress and redevelopment, a community full of economic development groups, chambers of commerce, visionaries, downtown associations and service clubs have been brainstorming how to continue momentum for the betterment of our city and county. How can we possibly let this slip through the cracks without a fight?

As a community full of positive thinkers and optimists, let’s not just be passive and ask ourselves five years from now what could we have done. How could we have helped? Let’s not give the naysayers and negative voices in our community something else to bash.

Rhodes State College will do tremendous things for us as a region. When our county seat prospers, thrives and looks good, our image and self-esteem grow with it. Speak up! Do something to help see this project through.

Let Dr. McCurdy, the board at Rhodes State, state, county and local officials and the Eleanor Baker family know: We want this project completed!

By John M. Heaphy

Guest Columnist

John M. Heaphy is the president of Good Food Restaurants in Lima, including Beer Barrel, Happy Daz and Old City Prime in downtown Lima.

John M. Heaphy is the president of Good Food Restaurants in Lima, including Beer Barrel, Happy Daz and Old City Prime in downtown Lima.

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