City Council approves plan for 'gateway' development
Construction of a mixed-use retail, office and residential development on a 56-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Cemetery Road and Britton Parkway will proceed as planned after Hilliard City Council approved the plan July 9.
An 84,000-square-foot Giant Eagle store and a 450-unit residential complex will be the anchors of the development, along with several medical offices, restaurants, a gas station and other ancillary projects.
"What we saw with this development is precisely how government works," Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt said about the six-month, back-and-forth process that culminated July 9 with approval of the project.
Developers first introduced the plan at the Jan. 12 meeting of the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission, appealing to the commission for preliminary approval of the project.
But city officials made it clear from day one that approval would be a slower process because of the intersection's status as a "gateway" to Hilliard.
The corner of the intersection has been unoccupied for about the past 10 years after the Dana Corp. relocated.
Proposals for development at the location were withdrawn in 2005 and 2009, and it appeared the latest effort was to meet the same fate when developers abruptly left a meeting in February and city planners announced the application had been withdrawn.
But developers reconsidered and negotiations continued until an agreement was reached.
Frank Kass, the chairman of Columbus-based Continental Real Estate who was representing First Industrial LP, the Chicago-based land owner, thanked city officials at the July 9 meeting.
"It hasn't always been easy. ... But we won't disappoint you," Kass said. "(This development) will bring jobs here (and) have the look you want."
Kass told council members at the June 25 council meeting that it must be approved July 9, in advance of council's summer recess, in order for the developers to meet a closing deadline for the purchase of the parcel for $5.3 million.
The development plan City Council approved July 9 is slightly modified from the plan Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission members approved in April.
One commission member, Thomas Lyden, dissented, stating the development did not rise to the level required for the city's gateway.
The components and uses within the plan are the same, but developers agreed to relocate some of the buildings, moving structures closer to Britton Parkway, moving a proposed restaurant closer to Cemetery Road and realigning sidewalks and drive aisles within the 56-acre parcel.
"If plans are so rigid, interest in development is lost," Schonhardt said.
One resident, Jason Brown of Leap Road, spoke in opposition to the plan, citing a survey that indicated residents desired unique uses for the city's gateway.
Brown also was skeptical that the 450-unit residential development would generate as few school-aged children as projected.
While not directly responding to Brown or inviting a comparison to Dublin, Schonhardt later said those who would criticize a grocery store at the site should consider the two grocery stores at Avery Road and Muirfield Drive, a gateway to Dublin.
"It's a quality, mixed-use development (and) there will be a synergy between the business and residential components," Schonhardt said. "This was truly a collaborative effort (and) an example of government in action."
City Council President Brett Sciotto concurred.
"A lot of hard work went into this important development for our community," he said.
Kass said OhioHealth plans a groundbreaking for its medical office before the end of the year and some of those tenants, as well as others in the development, will open in 2013.
The Giant Eagle store likely would not open until 2014. Kass could not identify the restaurants slated for the area, but compared them to those of Cameron Mitchell.
The accompanying development is necessary to make the project profitable for Giant Eagle, Kass said, as the new store is expected to draw customers away from its existing locations.