Members of Canal Winchester's Landmarks Commission like the concept plan for a senior housing project at the former Davis Paints site downtown but aren't sold on all of the materials the developer wants to use.

Members of Canal Winchester's Landmarks Commission like the concept plan for a senior housing project at the former Davis Paints site downtown but aren't sold on all of the materials the developer wants to use.

The Landmarks Commission got its first look at the proposal Monday, two weeks after planning commission members praised it. Wagenbrenner Development of Columbus is teaming up with the NRP Group of Cleveland on plans to build a three-story, 46-unit facility at the downtown location.

"We are in our due diligence phase, here looking through the project at all aspects, from site plan to environmental study to elevation study," Wagenbrenner spokesman Joe Williams said.

Williams said project architect Rob Harris spent a lot of time researching the historic aspects of downtown Canal Winchester with Main Street Canal Winchester before coming up with the proposal.

"We want to present early plans to you and get your thoughts on our direction, with the thought that we would be back next month asking for approval," Williams said.

Harris said one big advantage of the site is "walkability." The building will hug Waterloo Street, reinforcing a suburban atmosphere, he said. Parking will be hidden at the rear of the building.

Harris said the goal is to have the front of the building look like it has viable and active commercial space, since it faces Waterloo Street. The offices, fitness facility and dining area will be located in the front.

Harris said the building will feature a combination of brick and vinyl siding. Williams said plans call for using 50 percent brick for building materials with the rest vinyl siding.

Landmarks Commission members said that is a stumbling block. Member Tony Note said the village's guidelines on vinyl are pretty straightforward and vinyl siding is not allowed.

"Vinyl on the siding is an issue - at least for me, it is," Note said.

He suggested the developer look at a wood composite instead of vinyl siding.

Williams said the developer understands concerns about project materials but with today's technology, vinyl siding has come a long way. The cost of maintaining the wood composite would have to be factored into the rent for the residents who would be on fixed incomes, he said.

Commission member William Bennett said historic authenticity is the Landmarks Commission's concern, not maintenance or cost.

"Cost cannot be considered," he said.

Williams asked for feedback about the look of multiple storefronts called for in the design. He said five different colors were used to help generate the multi-building look.

"It is a pretty convincing streetscape compared to what I have seen in central Ohio," commission member Bruce Jarvis said.

Commission member Joe Abbott asked if the developer considered leasing a portion of the first-floor space. Retail space across the street in places such as the Harvest Moon Coffeehouse costs $8 a square foot, Williams said. The developer would have to charge in the mid-$20s per square foot for the new space.

"This is a relatively small project with 46 units," he said, adding that the developers hoped to produce the appearance of retail by putting active uses in front of the building.

Jarvis said the space is one of the last remaining for retail in Canal Winchester's downtown business district. He said retail spaces on Gender Road cost $15 per square foot, less than the $20 per square foot that would be needed for the senior housing project.

"It would be more expensive than any commercial property," he said

Jarvis said the project accomplishes the next best thing from an economic standpoint: getting people downtown to existing retail stores and generating pedestrian traffic.

In response to a question from commission member Patrick Lynch, Williams said the development is designed to be housing for senior citizens on fixed incomes. Rents would be around $600 a month for a two-bedroom apartment and common space.

"There is a catered kitchen, flat-screen televisions, laundry facility," Williams said. "They are very nice. This is a wonderful program."

The developer is in the process of taking environmental borings to determine whether it is feasible to proceed with the project. Village development director Chris Strayer has said Canal Winchester officials know of no contamination at the site.