German Village Gazette

Columbus: Architectural review not needed for bike kiosks

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Columbus officials are planning to install bicycle-sharing stations similar to this in German Village and other neighborhoods throughout downtown Columbus.

As the city of Columbus prepares to implement a bicycle-sharing program downtown this summer, it will do so without the usually required consent of architectural review commissions in historic districts.

The city says that, as a courtesy, it will share the specifications with the appropriate commissions, which will then share their recommendations with the city's Recreation and Parks Department.

But the commissions will not issue the appropriate signoff unless the kiosks are located on private property, said Randy Black, the city's historic preservation officer.

The city plans to install 30 kiosks, which can hold 10 to 15 bicycles each, in various points across downtown and surrounding communities.

Under the plan, affected historic districts include German Village, the Brewery District and the Italian District.

However, those locations could change, officials said.

Generally, historic district commissions are given a say on any exterior alterations.

But because the kiosks will be placed in the right of way, either on the street or sidewalk, such an approval isn't required, Black said.

It's not unprecedented, he said. When bike shelters are located in the public right of way, the city has contacted the historic preservation office staff and given the site locations and shelter specifications to share with the individual commissions.

There are three basic designs for the bike-sharing kiosks: 6-by-30-foot, 6-by-40-foot, or either of those styles facing each other, doubling the amount of bikes in one station. The goal is to have a total of 300 bicycles circulating downtown. The kiosks will be operated by a card-swipe system.

The issue was raised two weeks ago when recreation and parks officials brought plans to the German Village Society, which has an architectural review commission.

The plan is to install three bike racks in the neighborhood, but the long-range planning committee questioned the chosen sites: at South Third and Sycamore streets in front of Starbucks, Fifth and Kossuth streets near Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus and Mohawk and Reinhard Avenue near Schiller Park.

Other sites were suggested, such as closer to the Meeting Haus, on the grounds of the Golden Hobby Shop, which is owned by the city, and at a less busy intersection near Schiller Park.

That touched off a question as to whether the German Village Commission, the local architectural review board, would have to get involved.

If so, a lengthy architectural-review process could very well have hampered the neighborhood's ability to get the kiosks by the July kickoff date, officials from recreation and parks told the German Village Society's long-range planning committee.

"That being said, we do not want to be a bad neighbor and want to get support of the communities and commissions where we want to locate the stations," said Alan McKnight, director of recreation and parks for Columbus.

"We do not have the flexibility to redesign the kiosk systems so will need to work with what we have."