Olentangy Valley News

Apartments, maybe an eatery

Developer wants to build 'village within a village'

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Powell's planning and zoning commission considered plans Wednesday, Aug. 28, for a mixed-use project that could bring 64 apartments, a restaurant and multiple retail spaces to eight acres downtown.

The Center at Powell Crossing would front West Olentangy Street and sit next to the railroad tracks, while a wooded area would separate the back of the development area from the Murphy's Crossing subdivision.

A main focus of the development and an inspiration for the character of the buildings, which would feature triple windows and tiered roofs, is the historic Campbell House, which sits on the property.

Architect Chris Meyers said the entire project was influenced by the yellow home owned by a Powell obstetrician in the early 1900s who was present at the birth of many of the city's notable residents.

"We're going to preserve it and we're going to form a town square with the house at the center," Meyers said.

Two open green areas could provide a space for apartment tenants or retail businesses to gather and host community events, Meyers said.

"We want this to look like it's a community that's integrated into Powell," said property owner Charlie Vance. "We want to be a small village within a village."

The preliminary development plan shows four two-story buildings, each of which would house 16 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Each apartment would have a private entrance from an open breezeway.

In addition to the 132 proposed outdoor parking spaces, four garages that would be used by apartment tenants are planned for the perimeter of the development.

An existing bike path also would be extended through the development to Murphy Parkway.

Although there are no retail or office tenants signed on to the project yet, Meyers said he envisions a restaurant with an outdoor patio on the development's east side and office businesses working out of the Campbell House.

"We've seen four or five proposals for apartments in the last few years and I feel (this) is the most exciting one we've seen, because it's done with a better scale to downtown than we've ever seen before," said city Development Director Dave Betz.

The development falls within the boundaries of the downtown tax-increment financing district, meaning any taxed collected on improvements to the land would be placed in a special fund that could pay for downtown infrastructure.

Betz estimated the development could bring in between $5.5 million to $6.5 million over time, which could be used for projects such as adding turn lanes to the Four Corners intersection.

"This development seems to be fitting in quite well at this time," he told the commission. "We see this as an opportunity for some new downtown housing and retail."

The Center at Powell Crossing development plan is among multiple others that have proposed apartments in the city -- a niche that Powell doesn't currently fill. However, those proposals, including one for 480 apartments that was voted down by council in April, have fallen flat largely because of resident opposition.

Two residents attended the Aug. 28 meeting to voice their concerns about the possible development.

"Traffic is horrible and it's already difficult to get in and out of driveways," said Terry Doodan, who owns businesses across the street from the proposed development. "Any additional traffic is a real issue."

Laura Sefcik, who lives on Murphy Parkway behind the proposed development, said she is exited about the possibility of a bike path being extended to her neighborhood, but also questions what type of people might then find themselves on her street.

"The transient nature of renters is generally not a good thing," she said. "Renters don't promote community."

Commission member Bill Little said the community's attitude toward apartments may need to evolve.

"It seems that the demographics are changing," he said. "I think as a community, as a board and as City Council, we have to reconsider that and figure out what's the right amount of rental properties in our community."

Commission member Trent Hartranft agreed.

"Circumstances have changed," he said. "You do need apartments here and there."

Vance said leases would run the average of 12 months, but the rent would be about $1,400 per month to attract only serious tenants looking for upscale living. He said marketing would be aimed at young, married professionals.

In response to the first preliminary development plan, the zoning commission told developers to come back with a traffic study and a revision that will ensure getting in and out of the development won't be problematic for drivers because of its position between the Four Corners and the railroad crossing on Powell Road.

Members also asked developers to work with the Olentangy Local School District to determine the impact the proposed apartment complex could have on enrollment.

Once a preliminary development plan is revised to the commission's standards and approved, a final development plan will be presented to City Council and be contingent on a vote.

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