Rocky Fork Enterprise

Creekside District

Commission still mulling apartments

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Gahanna Planning Commission postponed until Feb. 12 a vote on the Creekside District Apartments, 152 Mill St.

Despite some revisions to a proposal that originally was brought to the commission in November, members still expressed multiple concerns with the proposed four-story, 29-unit apartment building on 0.52 acre at the corner of Mill and North streets. A car wash currently is at the site.

Commission member Don Shepherd said he has looked at the lot from all angles in Olde Gahanna.

"I still think it's one story too high," he said. "I'm still having difficulty with that many units. I think the building design is nice."

Planning and zoning administrator Bonnie Gard said the density was reduced from 32 to 29 units, and the parking garage has been reconfigured to provide the 58 spaces necessary for the number of units.

Although the density might seem a little high, Gard said, the proposal is the type of density that's being exhibited in downtown Columbus residential building projects, as well as those in Westerville and Dublin.

Shepherd said downtown Gahanna is nothing comparable to an urban setting.

"It's not like Westerville, and it's not like Dublin," he said.

He asked if Strathmore Development Co. would consider taking out a floor to make the building smaller.

Commission member Joe Keehner said various issues were resolved during a Jan. 15 workshop, except for the massiveness of the proposal.

"I understand the reason for that is economic," he said. "I'm a little ambivalent about the massiveness of the four stories. My major issue in thinking about this is that it doesn't have a strong contribution to the pedestrian-friendly downtown."

Keehner said wheelchair guests would have to go through the garage.

"I'm not ready to say yes," he said. "I'm still toying with the massiveness of it. How the pedestrian areas will work between the street and sidewalk and entrances to the building isn't strong in the design."

Commission member Bobbie Burba said the density has been reduced by only three apartments.

"I still think it's still way too massive," she said.

Doug Dachenbach is a property owner immediately east of the proposed project. He said the proposal still includes seven variances. Only variances for the site planning and number of curb cuts were eliminated, he said.

"You still have the basic problem of too much going on in a spot not designed to handle that," Dachenbach said.

Scott Chappelle, president of Strathmore Development Co., said Creekside was a very bold vision, and he gives the city credit for that.

Strathmore owns the private portions of the development.

Chappelle said the commercial portion of the development still is struggling.

"We have days where there isn't a single person for lunch in a restaurant," he said. "It's important what we're trying to accomplish. This isn't a typical apartment unit. They're very high-end."

He said he bought the car wash that was in foreclosure.

"We're trying to make lemonade out of a lemon," he said. "I would think at some point, properties in downtown Gahanna will be redeveloped. People in your downtown are struggling. We're trying to increase the density. This would stimulate other redevelopment."

He asked that the proposal be tabled so another workshop could be held Feb. 5.

Commission chairman Thomas Wester said Chappelle brought up valid comments.

"The city is reconsidering code in that area," he said. "I think a workshop would be good to discuss. When you get into urban development, there is a whole new set of rules."

Keehner said he'd like to see actual materials.

"I appreciate what has been done from what was originally proposed," he said. "You made the fourth floor smaller. I'm having trouble figuring out balancing. I hear what you're saying, in terms of economics. A more residential-based downtown makes a lot of sense."

The commission approved a variance application to recommend to council that a sidewalk be built on only one side of the street at the Oak Grove subdivision, 4185 Stygler Road. The commission also recommends fees in lieu of a parkland dedication for the development.

A certificate of appropriateness also was approved for a Frisch's restaurant, 455 Morrison Road, to add a canopy at the existing drive-thru.

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