Landmark Lofts, a proposed residential and retail development at Cemetery Road and Franklin Street, now is in the hands of Hilliard City Council after the city's planning and zoning commission members March 14 unanimously approved a development plan for the project.
"This site will be a great asset to the city," commission member Thomas Lyden said at the conclusion of a two-hour hearing for the case.
Residents opposing the project reiterated their objections, which were centered on the residential density of apartments and the height of the new buildings, but they appeared resigned that city officials would approve the measure. About 20 residents attended the meeting.
"We never said 'no' to redevelopment at this site," said Ben Buoni, chairman of the Landmark Lofts Neighborhood Steering Committee. "The main concern is the amount of (apartments) and the height being four floors. (We) realized this development would go forward regardless of how we approached it but brought our concerns before the developer."
Buoni, however, recognized the developers from Buckeye KRG for making amendments that included the addition of garages and increasing distances of the apartments from the back lots of Norwich Street residences.
Hilliard officials and representatives of Buckeye KRG met with steering committee members twice in January to discuss the developers. The developers also asked the planning and zoning commission in February to postpone their application, and met once more with the steering committee March 7.
But, Buoni said, the proposed 181 one- and two-bedroom apartments on 5.81 acres create a residential density of about 31 units per acre, a figure in excess of the 20 units per acre recommended in the city's comprehensive plan.
"I appreciate some of the changes ... but 181 apartments are too many in such a small area (and) I'd like to see a reduction in the height of buildings," said Erich Keller of Hamilton Road.
The 75 one-bedroom apartments would be 600 to 700 square feet and the two-bedroom apartments would be 800 to 880 square feet. The apartments are expected to rent for $800 to $1,200 a month.
City Planner John Talentino said Hilliard officials are satisfied with the density because young adults without children are the most probable tenants.
If the number of apartments were reduced, city officials said, three-bedroom apartments would be included, thus increasing the likelihood of adding children to the school system and increasing the number of people at the apartments.
"(As one- and two-bedroom units), this will have (little or) no impact on the school district (and) the total population will be smaller," Talentino said.
City officials have cited a desire to attract young adults with disposable income, frequently citing the 1,500 new employees arriving at Verizon on Britton Parkway next year and new employees at a Tuttle Crossing-area IBM office as potential tenants at Landmark Lofts.
Developers, responding to residents' requests for more retail space at Landmark Lofts, increased the size of proposed restaurants and retail stores from 9,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet.
Libby Gierach, president and CEO of the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke in support of the proposed development, as did Tom Herlihy, an owner of residential and retail property on Main Street.
"The success of Old Hilliard depends on (people) coming to the area," Herlihy said.
As proposed, the Landmark Lofts plan includes the construction of two new four-story retail suites at the northeast and northwest corners of Cemetery Road and Franklin Street. Retail uses would include Starliner Diner, which would have to relocate as part of the project.
Three floors of apartments would be built above the various retail centers and two additional apartment buildings would be north of the retail centers.
The inoperable grain elevator and silo on the site would be remodeled as a recreation center for the tenants but also would have portions available for community use.
The $15 million to $18 million project includes construction of an aligned intersection of Cemetery Road with Franklin Street and Luxair Drive.
The name Landmark Lofts is in reference to the Landmark Co. that once owned and operated a mill next to a former rail line near the site.