Licking County residents have been expecting a big announcement, and on Tuesday, local leaders lifted the veil of secrecy.
Officials made a multi-million dollar development announcement as bells above the Licking County Courthouse chimed.
What is now a vacant gravel lot will soon become a revitalized Canal Market District.
“The project will connect the courthouse to the Pennsylvania station with a beautiful walkway. It will provide improved parking for downtown Newark. It will provide a beautiful venue for the best farmers market in the state of Ohio. It will provide space for other outdoor events to bring the community together,” said Sarah Wallace, Thomas J. Evans Foundation.
The Thomas J. Evans Foundation is funding the project. Wallace is the daughter of Gib Reese, the Licking County philanthropist who first envisioned the project decades ago.
"This specific project really goes back to his love of growing up in downtown Newark, and being in downtown Newark, and wanting to make sure that he did all he could to restore the way downtown Newark was when he grew up,” said Wallace.
Mayor Jeff Hall says the open air market will take a page from Cincinnati's popular Findlay Market.
"I took a team down there a couple times and got the specs off that, but this, as you can see, is quite large. It's going to stretch the entire block here,” said Hall.
Licking County and the Evans Foundation bought the property more than 20 years ago, to preserve it for future use. Long ago, it was the canal that brought goods and commerce to Licking County. Leaders say it will once again be a hub of activity.
From a blank canvas, it will bring a beating heart to this Downtown community.
Newark's Mayor estimates the total cost of the project at between $3 million to $4 million dollars. He says all of the cost except for maintenance, will be covered by the Evans Foundation.
Work is expected to begin this summer, with a possible completion by the end of 2015.