A proposal to build a new two-building condominium project on the current site of the Deyo-Davis Funeral Home and an adjacent office building on West First Avenue has met with resistance from residents.

Developer Scott Owens presented an informal overview of his concept for the property at the Sept. 20 meeting of the Grandview Heights Planning Commission.

An overflow crowd of residents attended the meeting, and while most seemed to favor some sort of residential development for the site and complimented Owens on the aesthetics of the project he proposed, virtually all said they were opposed to this particular concept.

"It was education," Owens said in an interview. "I was pleased with the turnout. It was more than I expected.

"I heard some good things -- 'we'd rather see residential than commercial on that site' and 'we love how your buildings look' -- but I also heard some negative things," he said. "Most of the concern seemed to be about the number of units and the additional traffic people think the development would bring to the neighborhood."

Owens said he plans to bring a formal application for a project to the city, but said his concept may receive some fine-tuning.

"We've asked our architects to take a step back and we're going to spend some time thinking about the feedback we received and determine whether to make any changes to our plan," he said.

Owens has purchased the office building and said he soon will close on the funeral-home property.

The land currently is zoned commercial.

"I don't think anybody disputes the property needs to be redeveloped," he said.

The concept presented by Owens would see the construction of two four-story buildings, each with 16 condominiums.

"That's the scale we'd need to make it viable," Owens said. "Our original concept was 19 units in each building, but people we talked to want condos that are bigger."

The first floor would offer parking for residents. Two condominium units would be placed at the front of each building to screen the view of the parking spaces from First Avenue.

A row of parking garages also would be built behind the main buildings to offer screening from the nearby Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School, Owens said. Some surface parking spaces also would be included.

All told, the project would include more than two spaces per unit to allow parking for residents and visitors.

Empty-nesters are the target market for the development, Owens said.

"They are the people we've been talking to," he said. "There are a lot of people in Grandview and Upper Arlington who want to sell their home but stay in the community."

Those people are looking for "mid-rise housing, not a high-rise development, in a location where they can walk everywhere they want to go," he said.

Some residents who attended last week's meeting suggested Owens consider a project that would incorporate commercial use on the first floor and condos on the upper floors.

"That's not really what I am looking to do," he said.

More than 30 residents spoke at the planning commission meeting.

The most-common concerns raised by residents included the height of the buildings, the number of proposed units, the additional traffic the development would bring to the neighborhood, the safety of students walking to and from Edison/Larson and Grandview Heights High School, and how the project might impact parking on First Avenue.

Steve Hamm, who lives on West First Avenue, said he believes the concept as presented by Owens "assumes these people will never have visitors."

"Thirty-two units are more than we can stand (in our neighborhood)," he said.

"It's a beautiful building and I know development has to go there," he added, but this plan "would set a precedent for what the owners of the other adjacent buildings want to see. It will set a precedent for what we will see for the next 20 years."

John Murphy, a Wyandotte Road resident, said Owens' concept "seems more aggressive than is appropriate for that site."

Owens may be targeting empty-nesters, but there is no guarantee that demographic will end up buying the condominiums, he said.

Broadview Avenue resident Jared Minerd expressed concern that traffic coming in and out of the development would pose a danger to students walking home from school.

Some planning commission members also said they have concerns about the concept.

"The height bothers me," commission member Frances Rourke said.

While Owens said the intention is that condominium residents would drive in and out of the property from First Avenue, Rourke said some undoubtedly will access their homes from Broadview Avenue, a street that already has a high level of cut-through traffic, she said.

The concept "is way too aggressive" for First Avenue, with a size and scope that wouldn't fit in with the character of the neighborhood, commission member Sarah Kelly said.

But commission member Robert Wandel said he likes the boldness of Owens' concept.

"I like the approach they are taking with this," he said.

The concerns about traffic could be alleviated by adding a second entrance to the development and limiting the hours that the main entrance could be used by residents, Wandel said.

The modern design is preferable to "the retro look," he said, and reflects what is happening in other areas of central Ohio.

If Owens were to precede with a residential concept, the city would have to approve the land's rezoning, Director of Administration/Economic Development Patrik Bowman said.

Most likely, a Planned Unit Development zoning would be required, he said.

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