The outdoors soon will become a living classroom for Columbus Academy students.
The Gahanna Planning Commission on April 23 approved a final development plan and certificate of appropriateness to allow a 1,285-square-foot classroom with a 975-square-foot patio to be used as an outdoor learning center at the school, 4300 Cherry Bottom Road.
Planning and zoning administrator Bonnie Gard said Columbus Academy wants students to be able to work within the natural landscape during classes so they could have direct access to the subject being taught.
The learning center will be 450 feet from the nearest residence in a heavily wood area of the 74-acre campus. It's planned north of the primary campus and west of the athletics fields.
The classroom will be 16 feet high, with an enclosed area of 1,285 square feet and an open air patio of 975 square feet.
"It has an outdoor fireplace as well," Gard said. "The building exterior is appropriate for the area, natural and kind of rugged looking for the outdoor classroom."
Daniel Mayer, of OHM Advisors, said Columbus Academy representatives had approached the local architect firm to create a space where students could go outside and bring outside materials into the classroom.
"They can see specimens in their true habitat," he said. "We wanted to create an open space, yet a space where students could be protected from the weather. We wanted to focus on an effective solution."
The learning center will have cedar siding, a metal roof and a sliding metal barn door.
"Ideally, the goal is to allow students to get out of the everyday classroom, see the woods," Mayer said. "The kids won't be out there more than one class period at a time. There is still a lot of supervision involved."
Commission chairman Tom Wester asked if the facility includes sanitation.
"There will be sinks to rinse the specimens but no sanitation," Mayer said.
City engineer Karl Wetherholt said the building code is met because of the proximity of the proposed learning center to Columbus Academy's other buildings that have sanitation.
"I think you did a great job," commission member Dave Andrews said. "It's a beautiful building."
MiTradicion adding outdoor seating
The commission also approved a certificate of appropriateness for MiTradicion Restaurant, 111 N. Stygler Road, to add outdoor seating and a fence.
Gard said the restaurant already has a covered drive-thru on the south side of the building that would provide the roof for the seating area.
"The fence is similar to other outdoor seating areas approved in the past year or so," she said. "It's black metal. It will make a nice area for them to have fenced off. I would encourage some planters in this area since it's already a sealed surface to soften it up a bit. There is some soft lighting, nothing to bother neighbors."
Alex Paredes said he and his family purchased the restaurant seven months ago.
"We've been in business over 14 years, and we love what we do," he said. "We love to be around people. We want to make it a great restaurant in the neighborhood, and we want to try to bring more traffic to the area."
Gard said the outdoor seating area and fence will be a welcomed addition to the business and an amenity to the west side and beyond.
The commission also voted to recommend to council a final plat for the 14-lot Meadowbrooke Green on 3.9 acres on the south side of Havens Corners Road.
"This is the final configuration," Gard said. "It's exactly what you looked at when you approved the preliminary plat."