During an informal meeting with residents Saturday, July 19, Mayor Ben Kessler provided an update on City Hall's planned relocation to the Bexley Square Shopping Center later this year to make way for a new Giant Eagle grocery store.
Kessler also discussed revised policies to notify residents of pending developments. Councilman Jed Morison, who was appointed to council in June to fill a seat vacated by Anne Lewis, also joined the discussion.
Kessler told five residents who showed up for the Coffee with the Mayor event at Cosi deli, 2212 E. Main St., that city crews have mostly completed demolition on the interior of the shopping center space that formerly housed the Barrel 44 Restaurant. But before construction can begin on the space where City Hall is to relocate, the city will have to revise its bid package, Kessler said.
"We're now going to rework our bid documents and go back to bid ... in the next two or three weeks," he said.
City officials had estimated that construction bids would come in between $750,000 and $800,000, but the lowest bids came in around $920,000, Kessler said.
In order to obtain lower bids, "what we are going to be looking at is how to rework some of the architectural features."
Kessler said City Hall is still on track to reopen at the new location in the Bexley Square Shopping Center by the end of the year so that construction can begin on the new Giant Eagle store.
"Our hard-and-fast deadline is Dec. 25," he said.
Kessler added that progress is being made on relocating the city's service garage to the site of the former Ci Bon furniture store at 526 N. Cassingham Road. City crews have begun demolition on the old store and foundation work for the new service garage is expected to begin in early to mid-August, he said.
Kessler and residents also discussed changes to the process by which the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals notifies residents about development applications. The city made the changes after 39 residents filed an appeal of the commission's May 19 approval of the Gramercy project, a proposed four-story condominium and retail development at 2412-2418 E. Main St. The site currently houses a two-story building with the Cup o' Joe coffeehouse and other retailers.
Though City Council upheld the Planning Commission's approval in a 6-1 decision issued June 26, city officials have vowed to address how residents are notified of proposed developments.
Kessler said that for all future Planning Commission and BZA plan review hearings, the city administration has expanded notification boundaries to 200 feet within the proposed development for residential hearings and 400 feet for commercial hearings. The city also will post synopses of upcoming hearings and links to application materials in its weekly "Bexley Blast" email newsletter, he said.
"The intent of this is to broaden this so that anyone who is going to be immediately impacted (by a proposed development) is going to get notification," Kessler said.
Euclaire Avenue resident Connie Lewis said she thinks the city should place tighter restrictions on building height, which was one of the issues raised in the Gramercy project appeal.
"I think things like height need to be codified" rather than mere suggestions in the city's Main Street Guidelines, Lewis said.
The city plans to undertake a comprehensive review of the zoning code with a series of public meetings this fall.
Kessler periodically holds Coffee with the Mayor events at locations throughout Bexley. An Ice Cream with the Mayor is being planned for Aug. 20 at Johnson's Ice Cream, 2728 E. Main St.