Westerville Planning Commission members commended The Hadler Cos. for its improved redevelopment plans for Westerville Square on Wednesday, Jan. 26, but said the company still has improvements to make before a vote will be taken.

Westerville Planning Commission members commended The Hadler Cos. for its improved redevelopment plans for Westerville Square on Wednesday, Jan. 26, but said the company still has improvements to make before a vote will be taken.

The plans include tearing down three existing storefronts to construct a 108,000-square-foot Walmart store.

Representatives of the Hadler Cos. were before the planning commission for the third time Jan. 26 with plans for the shopping center.

Planning commission members reprimanded the firm at a meeting in December for not addressing concerns they brought up in October, which included a lack of four-side architecture, a landscaping plan and screening for the senior housing development to the north.

Commission members also said the proposed new Walmart did not visually tie in to the existing shopping center and that the planned entrance to the store did not fit with city design standards.

The new plans from The Hadler Cos. include a brick veneer for the rear of the building that will match the rest of the shopping center, and architectural elements that will mirror those used on the center's other three sides.

The new plans also show red brick being used throughout the center, and cornices and corner towers added to the center to enhance the architecture. The Walmart store had some design elements meant to echo those features.

The new site plan also includes a six-foot wooden fence at the rear of the facility to help screen the northern neighbors and brick walls to screen utilities, loading docks and trash components.

The Hadler Cos. also submitted a more detailed landscape plan that includes landscape islands and end caps throughout the parking lot, a large greenspace along South State Street with benches, pedestrian walkways and plans for public art; and low brick walls with landscaping along South State Street and Otterbein Avenue.

To aid with traffic concerns, the western entrance to the center on Schrock Road would be converted into right-in, right-out only, and landscape elements would be used to create a clear east-west traffic lane between the shopping center parking lot and the outparcels along Schrock Road.

While planning commission members said all of those elements helped greatly with the design, concerns remain about traffic and about conflicting architecture between Walmart and the rest of the center.

"If I showed this to 100 people that weren't architects, 100 of them could point out the boundaries of (Walmart)," planning commission member Brian Szuch said of architectural renderings of the front of the center.

He said that while the architecture was a vast improvement over what originally was submitted to the city, the modern architecture for Walmart clashed with the traditional architecture being used for the rest of Westerville Square.

"It's still just loads different architecturally," Szuch said.

Commission members also said they would like to see plans for the outparcels along Schrock Road, which The Hadler Cos. do not plan to redevelop with the rest of the center because of current leasing agreements.

"I would like to know how and when these properties can be improved," commission member Diane Fosselman said.

Szuch said seeing some future plans for the outparcels would help the commission ensure that once remodeling is entirely completed, the shopping center will have a consistent look throughout.

"Whatever we put here, it's staying for a long time," Szuch said. "We want this to look consistent, like it was all designed at the same time."

Fosselman said while the plan is an improvement traffic-wise, traffic concerns still remain, as The Hadler Cos. left all eight existing curb cuts open in its plans for the center.

"I think that's excessive. It impairs the traffic flow on State Street, Schrock Road and Otterbein Avenue," she said.

The Hadler Cos. representatives said the firm would work to address the remaining concerns and asked to be placed on the agenda for the planning commission's next meeting on Feb. 23.

The Hadler Cos. president George Hadler said he would like to see the commission make a decision soon. If the decision is delayed too long, he said he worries that Walmart could walk away from the deal, which he said his company has been working on for five years.

"I don't want to walk away from all of this," Hadler said.