November 2012 Issue
Best Hometowns 2013: Grove City
Every year, Ohio Magazine honors five communities across the
state for their livability, as measured by education, parks and
recreation, arts and entertainment offerings, services and, most
important, citizen involvement.
The 2013 Best Hometowns meet and surpass these criteria. In the
following pages, you'll get a glimpse of Findlay, Gallipolis,
Greenville, Grove City and Peninsula — and some of their proud
Franklin County, eight miles southwest of Columbus
16.62 square miles
Type of government:
Mayor and six-member council
Hot-air balloons look spectacular at night. When yellow flames light the
inside of billowing fabric envelopes, grounded balloons dot the
landscape like giant glowing lanterns. Their brightness and magic rival
the moon and stars.
Nighttime balloon “glows,” along with daytime balloon ascensions and
tethered rides, are part of Balloons & Tunes, the annual late-summer
hot-air balloon festival in Grove City.
But balloons aren’t the only things in Grove City that rise. Consider
population. For the sixth year in a row, the city ranks first among
Columbus suburbs for new single-family housing starts. According to the
Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Grove City will be the largest
central Ohio community outside Columbus by 2030.
The city’s location is a huge plus for families who want to live near
Ohio’s capital. It is only a 10-minute commute to downtown Columbus.
Also, this summer the I-71/St. Rte. 665 interchange opened with a
five-lane bridge that benefits commuters and local businesses.
But there has to be more than just proximity to a major city and good
access to make families want to move to a community. A city must also be
a memorable hometown to both longtime residents and newcomers. Grove
City rises to the challenge.
According to Mayor Richard L. “Ike” Stage, the catalyst for Grove City’s
spirit is the way the city is managed and perceived by residents. The
community “is one big neighborhood,” not just a “city” by definition.
The downtown area is “our living room, the signature place to assemble,”
says Stage, who also acknowledges Grove City’s solid foundation.
“Our roots go back to being a conservative, German farming town. That’s
not all we are today, but the qualities associated with hard-working
families remain,” agrees real estate agent Greg Skinner of ERA Real
Solutions, who grew up in Grove City. “We still have all the good, solid
brick ranch houses built in the 1950s. But now we are seeing new upper
middle- and upper-income housing that attracts hard-working
Pinnacle is an upscale golf course community developed by M/I Homes that
includes a large community center and Cimi’s Bistro, open to the
public. The community surrounds the Pinnacle private golf course.
“There is a new energy in Grove City,” says Brian Younkin, managing
partner of Pinnacle Golf Club, who bought a home in the community this
year. “Everyone in Grove City rallies around local involvement.”
Civic pride is particularly notable in Grove City’s exceptional park
system. When the city realized children had nowhere to go sledding in
its flat parkland carved from cornfields, it built a giant hill at the
110-acre Fryer Park. In the summer, the hill is also the site of the
popular Fryer Flicks, where families gather to see outdoor movies. Fryer
Park also boasts of an innovative space-themed play area for children
of all abilities, a stocked lake and Century Village, a collection of
authentic mid-1800s buildings.
At the Gardens at Gantz Farm, 10 herb gardens, a meditation labyrinth,
hiking trails and outdoor sculpture make the park a welcome sanctuary
from daily stress. And nothing says “hometown” more than 60-year-old
Windsor Park, one of the first civic fields in Ohio to feature Little
League Baseball teams.
Available land and a city with a rising future have attracted large
companies, including FedEx Ground, Pier 1 Imports, T. Marzetti and
Walmart Distribution. The city estimates its businesses provide more
than 20,000 jobs.
Grove City is part of the South-Western School District, sixth largest
in the state. The Ohio Department of Education gives the district an
“Excellent” designation. According to Superintendent William Wise, an
emphasis is placed on staff training. The district’s in-progress $260
million building project also ensures new and renovated schools.
Grove City prides itself on its number of free family-friendly events
all year long, from arts shows to fireworks, concerts, car shows and
wine festivals. The Winter Lights Holiday Celebration and Community
Parade on Dec. 1 serves as the official opening of the holiday season
with music, tree lighting and ice carving.
When local resident Kelli Milligan Stammen moved to Grove City from
Cincinnati in 2002, it was by default. She and her husband picked out
Grove City on a map because it “was a southwest suburb of Columbus and
closer to home,” reasoned a then-homesick Stammen. But now her family is
happily involved in the city’s recreational opportunities, community
events and organizations.
“I would miss Grove City if I ever had to move,” Stammen says.