A regional restaurant and other businesses are expected to be part of a new multiunit retail development at Beecher and Hamilton roads.
The 14,500-square-foot shopping-center project by Gallas Zadeh Development LLC, comprising two buildings on 4.5 acres, received approval May 10 from Gahanna's Planning Commission. It will be called Hamilton Commerce Center.
One building is expected to house a regional restaurant that hasn't been named, and the other building calls for five units with smaller users on the north and south ends, with Gallas Zadeh in the middle.
Commission member Joe Keehner said he voted for the development because it fits with the current Community Commercial and Planned Commercial Center zoning, which permits a shopping center.
"People can get to this development and the developer is moving into it," he said. "They will be working there, so it won't be fly-by-night."
Commission member Jennifer Price cast the only "no" vote, saying the development doesn't fit with the character of the area, and she thinks the city could do better than a retail strip center.
Keehner, Bobbie Burba, Thomas Wester, John Hicks, Don Shepherd and Michael Suriano voted "yes" with the condition that a traffic study is completed and meets the satisfaction of the city engineer.
Several residents opposed the development, with traffic being one of the main concerns.
Beecher Road resident Tracie Clay, a Gahanna Middle School West English teacher, said two of the state standards she teaches are persuasive writing and oral speaking. She had her students help her write her statement to show how these standards are used in everyday life.
"I believe the proposed development with a curb cut on Beecher Road will affect our neighborhood more than the average neighborhood because Beecher Road is the only way in and out of our neighborhood," Clay said. "Even though this development affects all the houses in my neighborhood, I believe this development will affect those on Beecher Road a little bit more if the traffic generated by the development does what I predict and will get drivers so frustrated, they seek another way out through our neighborhood."
A right-in and right-out will be provided on Hamilton Road to the center.
Ron Stahl, president of the Academy Ridge Home Owners Association, said the group isn't opposed to new development but is opposed to certain aspects of this development.
"The No. 1 concern remains the cut-out on Beecher," he said. " Beecher is the only way out of there, and there are already serious traffic-flow issues during certain times of the day."
He said existing traffic would be worse with the additional curb cut off Beecher Road.
Shepherd said the traffic problem is from Columbus Academy, not this project.
He said opponents are asking the developers to make this property useless.
Shepherd said residents wouldn't like it if they owned the property and were asked not to do what is legally allowed.
Burba said the city has a longstanding relationship with the developers and they have served the community well.
Because no rezoning is needed, the planning commission's action approved the project; no action by City Council is needed.
A certificate of appropriateness also was approved for the Hamilton Commerce Center, but only by a 4-3 vote.
Price, Shepherd and Suriano voted "no," largely because of the color and materials.
Suriano said he's concerned about the color, as shown in the plan.
"When I look up and down Hamilton Road, I'm a little concerned about the red," he said. "I think it will be a heavy element. On Hamilton Road, you see a more neutral palette. I understand brands for specific tenants. I'm more likely to approve if there's more natural materials."
The plan calls for the exterior to be an exterior insulation and finish system (synthetic stucco), brick, limestone and tile in earth tones.
"We came up with the idea of using natural material versus EIFS," Shepherd said.
Project architect Carter Bean said the brand of this restaurant user is the color and material that is being presented.
"This is very specifically prescribed by the user," he said. "The EIFS stucco look is what they're after in addition to the color. There's a palette of materials the brand is insisting on using."
Jason Zadeh said it's a corporate brand of 35 units.
"Establishment of a brand is important," he said.
Zadeh said the developer is committed to brick on the front and side.
"We struggled but thought we could accommodate it," he said. "The second building will soften the tone."
Developer Gregory Gallas said he expects construction to begin in September, with the center being operational in March or April 2018.
In other action, the commission denied a conditional-use request from applicant Steve Geiger, Reklamation LLC, to allow stockpiling and retail sales of salt and topsoil in addition to the currently approved recycled materials at 1000 Bricklawn Ave. A variance application to allow stockpiles to be 25 feet in height also was denied at the property.