The possibility of extending Columbus Street through the Town Center remains an open and contested issue among developers and city and library officials.
Grove City Council convened an informational work session on Monday, June 9, to discuss and hear updates on the Town Center, the Grove City Library project and connectivity to Beulah Park.
Jennifer Son of Braun & Steidl Architects, the firm contracted by Southwest Public Libraries for its project to build a new building, said work is underway on developing conceptual designs based on programmatic needs of library patrons. It is to be built at the intersection of Broadway and Grant Avenue, in a long-planned cooperative venture with the city.
"We are in schematic design," Son said.
The current concept for the library presented would see 160 feet of frontage on Broadway, from Grant Street to Mill Street. Son said that a straight extension of Columbus Street would affect the footprint of the new library and make it more challenging to program it to be operationally successful.
Enter the possible future for the Beulah Park property, a now vacant 213-acre property expected to be redeveloped with a major mixed-use project. Officials have said they seek to have connectivity between the redeveloped property and the Town Center.
At council's June 9 meeting, Karen Dover, owner of the Mill Street Market located next door the new library site; Rod Arter, a design consultant retained by Dover; and Joe Ciminello, developer of the Pinnacle Golf Club and housing development, presented an idea that would extend Columbus Street by bending the extension and tying it into Mill Street. Doing so would cut into the library's footprint on Broadway
"We're trying to take a fresh look at this," Arter said. "It seems, with some doing, it's reasonable."
Ciminello said this alternative could be a "win-win" for everyone, adding that it could also open other back parcels for future retail development.
"The plan is bigger," he said. "It connects your Town Center to a great asset. That's the vision."
Dover said she would be "ecstatic" to have the library next to Mill Street but has concerns about traffic and safety because of the unaligned intersection. Dover also cited the Grove City Town Center Plan approved in 2008, which identifies extending Columbus Street to Meadow Lane and replacing Mill Street. She also said the layout of the library would cut off the north side of the Town Center.
"The design turns its back on the north end of town," Dover said.
Council President Ted Berry said he wants to know if the business owners' plan could work.
"I want the library downtown," he said. "We do not have very many opportunities in the Town Center to expand retail."
Son said the firm could study the issue if the city wants it to.
"This would set us back," she said, adding that she wasn't sure how long it would take to determine the viability of the proposal.
Library Trustee Jill Billman-Royer said the board wants resolution so the project can move forward.
"We have tried to follow the process and it's getting frustrating," Billman-Royer said. "We are losing trust. ... We're not opposed to connecting to Beulah, but it's not our responsibility."
Library Director Mark Shaw said the board had "serious misgivings" about the extension concerning safety of patrons, programming needs for the library and impact on the project's schedule.
Councilman Jeff Davis said bringing this idea up was "not even appropriate" and that the city can't keep the library "on the hook."
"This is supposed to be a partnership," Davis said. "We are down a path. ... We have to have some integrity. (The library has) a right to expect it's going to play out the way we said it would."
Dover said it would be disrespectful to discount the Town Center Plan.
"We've not heard anything from the city," she said. "This has been a very closed conversation."
Councilwoman Laura Lanese said the extension is an interesting proposal, but City Council needs to respect what the library wants.
"Somewhere we need to draw the stick in the sand," Lanese said. "Nothing seems to get done, and here's yet another delay."
Councilman Steve Bennett said he would hate have people look back on this project and wonder why the city didn't extend Columbus Street when it had the opportunity.
"We have one shot to do it right," Bennett said. "This can be a win-win if this works out. ... It's an opportunity, and we need to look at it."
Councilwoman Maria Klemack-McGraw said she has mixed feelings about the whole thing but thinks the extension could be an "opening to the future."
"I see the frustration on both sides," she said. "I still have to keep in mind that even though we have a partnership with the library, the city comes first."
Berry said a follow-up council meeting to discuss the issue would be scheduled.
Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said the administration would bring forward legislation for council at its next meeting that would appropriate funds for analysis of the new proposal presented to the city.
"It has to work for the library," he said.