After expressing reservations and adding some conditions, members of the Northland Community Council's development committee voted last week to approve a graphics plan for a shopping center just west of New Albany.
The 63-acre Hamilton Crossing, which is to be anchored by a Target store, is just a portion of a major development at the intersection of Hamilton and East Dublin-Granville roads being undertaken by developers Casto, the Daimler Group and the New Albany Co.
Attorney Charlie Fraas appeared on behalf of Casto at the Sept. 27 development committee meeting. He and Brent Myers, representing Target, gave a presentation regarding variances from the city's existing graphics code they said are needed to entice the anchor store and other retailers to commit to Hamilton Crossing.
Target officials have been interested in opening a store in the area but have been waiting to commit until the site was ready for development and a graphics plan to the retailer's liking was in place.
"Graphics is up there with rent," Fraas said.
If all goes well, he said, the new prototype Target store would open in the first quarter of 2019.
"We're creating consistency through this entire project," Fraas said.
Some committee members, however, complained that developers are creating a sort of graveyard with 7-foot monument signs for individual tenant stores permitted on the perimeter of the center.
It won't be that bad, Myers said. He estimated the outparcels would include up to 15 stores.
Fraas said he had not anticipated objections on that portion of the proposed graphics plan.
"I've never heard of anyone being concerned about individual monument signs for every outparcel," he said.
"I don't know how you do retail without graphics. This is not anything more than you see at Easton."
Fraas also compared Hamilton Crossing to StoneRidge Plaza in Gahanna, a Casto property with the same monument signs for tenants.
"I'm still trying to figure out why we have to have a stinking monument sign for every outparcel on Hamilton," said Roger Davidson, NCC secretary and committee representative for Albany Park.
Committee member Dave Cooper, president of the Northland Area Business Association, sided with the developer on the issue.
"I can assure you it doesn't destroy the look of the property," he said, making a comparison with a Westerville shopping plaza.
The graphics plan, in addition to the monument signs, would include three "pylon" signs on the exterior of the site, one 35 feet tall, another 20 feet and the third 12 feet.
Fraas said each of the signs is considerably smaller than would be permitted under the city's graphics code.
He said many of the variances being sought under the plan are due to problem areas in the graphics code which city officials acknowledge require correction.
"We're trying to clean up a technical error which the city of Columbus has acknowledged in the code," Fraas said.
Although it's a single shopping center, the overall site sits on three parcels, so the development committee took three votes, all 12-1. Conditions applied in two instances prohibited exterior signs on end units.
The Hamilton Crossing plan now goes to the Columbus Graphics Commission. According to the city's website, the graphics commission holds regular meetings as needed, generally at 4:15 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at 757 Carolyn Ave.