Bexley City Council members want to compare Capital University's vision for the Bexley Square shopping center to existing development guidelines.

Bexley City Council members want to compare Capital University's vision for the Bexley Square shopping center to existing development guidelines.

At a May 25 public hearing, Capital representatives showed council possible plans for the shopping center, which is located on Main Street across the street from the university's campus.

Capital, which is evaluating whether to purchase the shopping center from Casto, has requested a variance that would permit "campus uses" at the property. Another variance request deals with parking requirements.

Several council members and Trinity Lutheran Seminary president Mark Ramseth were concerned about how Capital's plans would fall in line with the Southwest Master Plan that the city developed in partnership with the university and the seminary.

After a discussion, council members decided to review the Southwest Master Plan before the Bexley Square matter returns to council June 8, when the third reading of legislation and a possible vote are scheduled.

The university announced in April that it had signed an agreement to purchase the shopping center from Casto. Capital was given a 75-day window to take a closer look at the property. The due diligence period ends in mid-June.

Ken Weixel, chair of Capital's resources committee, told council that the university planned to keep retail uses at the center that would benefit both residents and students. Plans could include a bookstore, conference or meeting space, a health center or clinic, and an art gallery.

Capital attorney Don Plank said the parking variance would allow the university to maintain the current 90 spaces at the shopping center. Under code, the redevelopment would require 165 spaces, Plank said.

In response to council member Richard Sharp's concerns about the Southwest Master Plan, Weixel said Capital's possible purchase of the shopping center would provide an opportunity for the university to work with the city to improve retail options on Main Street.

"It is an incredible opportunity for us to do something we never thought of before," he said.

Council president Jeff McClelland said he was concerned about the potential loss of tax revenue that could come with campus uses. Weixel said Capital had no immediate plans to reduce the number of retail tenants at the shopping center, which was built in 1983.

Current tenants include the Bexley Monk, Bexley Copy Shop, Edward D. Jones and Co., the Pilates Studio of Bexley, Curves and a Cosi restaurant.

Council member Ben Kessler said the Southwest Master Plan was completed in 2003 after extensive public input and was intended to last more than seven years. It also stipulates campus uses will be kept to the south side of Main Street, he said.

"I don't want the Southwest Plan to be an afterthought," Ramseth added.

Council could add stipulations to the variances to address concerns, Plank said.

Bexley planning commission member Jan Zupnick said the city should not approve the variances because of the Southwest Master Plan. Capital had seven years to develop the south side of Main Street to no avail, he said.

"I see no reason in the world you should allow campus uses," Zupnick said.

John Reagan, who served on the planning commission for five years and the land-use commission for the past year, said Bexley Square is the largest potential development site within Bexley.

"No other location allows significant mixed-use," he said. "Our vibrant downtown is going to be compromised."

There could be other potential buyers for the property, Casto representative Charlie Fraas said at the May 25 council meeting.