Developers of a proposed residential and retail complex at Cemetery Road and Franklin Street have shifted into a slower gear while attempting to appease residents opposed to the development.
Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission members were expected Feb. 14 to consider a development plan for the project, tentatively named Landmark Lofts.
But Feb. 8, developers from Kohr Royer Griffith asked city officials to postpone the case until the March 14 meeting.
Plans for Landmark Lofts include multiple four-story buildings with approximately 185 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second, third and fourth floors. Ground-floor development would consist of retail shops and restaurants, likely including the relocated Starliner Diner.
The inoperable grain elevator on the site would be converted into a community center for tenants of the apartment buildings and would include a pool, gym and rental office. The first floor would be available for public use.
The $15-18 million project also would align Luxair Drive with Franklin Street at an unsignalized intersection.
Economic Development Director David Meeks said the developers asked for a postponement of the application to make adjustments based on residents' concerns.
"We're making progress, but it takes time and we want to make sure we do this right," Meeks said.
Developers and city officials met with groups of residents Jan. 16 and 30. In addition to the meetings, members of the Landmark Lofts Neighborhood Steering Committee have sent letters to developers and city officials outlining their concerns.
Ben Buoni, chairman of the steering committee, said previously he saw no need for future meetings with developers because so few changes had been made to plan since the Jan. 16 meeting.
Buoni said Feb. 12 it appears the developers are not attempting to compromise on density or align the project with the city's comprehensive plan.
In an email attorney Glen Dugger sent to Buoni and Meeks on behalf of the developers, Dugger advised there was progress toward acquiring additional property that "would change the footprint of the proposal" but did not address any reconsideration of the number of apartments, nor the four-story buildings currently proposed.
Buoni said he is concerned if developers acquiesce to reducing the number of apartments, some might be converted into three-bedroom apartments.
"We still want only one- and two-bedroom apartments," Buoni said. "Hopefully, a compromise can be made and we can all be good neighbors."
Meeks said previously that three-bedroom apartments with a higher rent might be suggested to compensate for a reduction in the total number of apartments.
Meeks said Feb. 11 that developers will meet with city officials and the steering committee prior to the March 14 commission meeting.
No meeting had been scheduled as of Feb. 11, Buoni said, but he expected to have at least one meeting to discuss possible amendments to the development plan prior to its expected formal presentation to the planning and zoning commission March 14.
City officials have said the residential component of the development will attract tenants that will provide a customer base not only for the retail businesses within the same development, but also for Old Hilliard, which would be connected to Landmark Lofts via an extended recreation path between the development, Old Hilliard and the Heritage Trail.
But opponents, including steering committee member Dan Bloch, oppose the development for a number of reasons, including the costs to provide such services as police and fire protection, the four-story height of the buildings and building materials.
In a letter to city officials, Bloch argued that while apartments would increase the number of residents, they would not increase the number of visitors or help make Old Hilliard a tourist destination.