Developers behind a proposal to bring a second hotel and mixed-use project to Lane Avenue have expanded plans to include two condominium buildings.
And thanks to months of work with neighborhood residents, a referendum slated for this November's ballot that would overturn rezoning approved for the original project last year might not go forward -- although one of the leaders of the initiative said it's still a possibility.
Last July, Upper Arlington City Council voted 5-2, with members Carolyn Casper and Sue Ralph dissenting, to permit a rezoning of five Westmont Boulevard properties to allow Shanghai Enterprises to build a parking garage and surface parking for a J. Liu Restaurant + Bar and a Home2 Suites by Hilton at 1640 W. Lane Ave.
The rezoning and the project were opposed by some residents, largely in the neighborhood around Westmont known as College Hill, and they collected more than 2,200 signatures to put a referendum on this November's ballot to overturn the rezoning.
In the meantime, opponents of the plan have been talking with Upper Arlington-based Crawford Hoying Development, which is buying interests in the project from its original developer, Shanghai Enterprises LLC.
Those talks have been favorable, according to both sides, and Crawford Hoying has brought forward expanded preliminary plans the firm hopes will allow the project to move forward with support from neighbors.
"That new design tucks project parking behind the hotel and new proposed townhomes, and allows two existing developer-owned homes that had been slated for redevelopment to remain in place instead to provide additional buffering for the neighborhood," said Nelson Yoder, Crawford Hoying principal.
"We have found the neighbors in College Hill to be a delightful, intelligent and reasonable group of people," he said. "We have thoroughly enjoyed working with them thus far and look forward to advancing the project over the coming months."
According to a staff report from Upper Arlington planning officer Justin Milam, the new proposal calls for a two-phase project.
The first would include a five-story, 116-room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel along West Lane Avenue and two condominium buildings located along Westmont Boulevard.
Phase two would include a five-story mixed-use building that would contain a ground floor J. Liu-owned restaurant and commercial space, with office uses proposed for the second floor. It also calls for 121 apartments located on the next three stories.
Additionally, a three-level, 282-space parking garage is proposed in the middle of the building and is wrapped by 10 two-story townhomes.
The proposal would require an existing commercial building at 1640-50 W. Lane Ave. to be razed, as well as single-family homes at 2506, 2488 and 2480 Westmont Blvd.
Three homes currently at 1690, 1678 and 1670 W. Lane Ave. also would go, as would the southernmost three three homes at 2500, 2492 and 2480 Chester Road.
However, houses previously eyed for demolition for the project at 2516 Chester Road and 2512 Westmont Blvd. will be renovated and remain single-family homes.
"This preliminary development plan and rezoning application includes the next important redevelopment for the Lane Avenue corridor, continues the impressive transformation of the north side of the street and is one that is substantially better than the previously approved plan," Milam said in his staff report to the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning.
"The plan is a more coordinated development that is a result of extensive neighborhood input that occurred in advance of city meetings or applications.
"Recent city surveys indicate strong support for the way the Lane Avenue corridor is developing; retail and lodging uses continue to be in strong demand," Milam reported. "The city appreciates the applicant's efforts to bring this project together, through its many complexities, and propose buildings that will enhance the corridor and protect the neighborhood."
BZAP members agreed, approving both the preliminary plan and rezoning request for the new proposals by unanimous votes May 21.
Milam said he believes the new project will eliminate residents' desire to move forward with their referendum, which if passed, would have scuttled the previous project.
"The idea is that the referendum petitioners will withdraw their petition for the rezoning of property on the east side of Westmont Boulevard, allowing last year's rezoning to stand," he said.
Amanda Crawford, who lives on Westmont and led the referendum petition initiative, said the referendum "is still a possibility," but the two sides "are making great progress and are hopeful it won't be necessary."
"I am incredibly proud of the collaboration that has taken place between the developers and residents on this project over the last few months," she said. "Last year, the project was not acceptable to the majority of the community, but together, we have worked hard to build something that I believe everyone can be proud of.
"It is my sincerest hope that our city officials have learned a few lessons from this experience, including how development must be handled going forward.
"No longer can developers be allowed to play monopoly and dictate their objectives onto our community."
Crawford went on to say she hoped the debate and discussion over the mixed-use project shows that residents "need be given a seat at the planning table and have weight in the decision-making process."
"I am most grateful that Crawford Hoying appreciates and understands the need for community involvement and has been flexible, patient and accommodating," she said. "The new development design is much more respectful to the surrounding neighborhood and encompasses all the properties owned by the developers."