Residents opposed to plans to bring a second hotel and a J. Liu restaurant to West Lane Avenue now say they're satisfied with changes to the proposal and won't seek a referendum on the ballot this November.
Pending approval of a final development plan by the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning July 16, the developers behind a project bring a five-story, 116-room TownePlace Suites and J. Liu restaurant to West Lane Avenue, as well as two condominium buildings on Westmont Boulevard, can rest assured they can proceed with the project.
A group of residents collected more than 2,200 valid signatures last summer to hold a citywide vote this November to overturn a rezoning for the project.
"We feel as though the plans are more respectful of the neighborhood and will be a better fit for our community as a whole," said Amanda Hicks, a resident of the College Hill neighborhood near the proposed development site who led the referendum push. "So, we are very proud to say we will be dropping the referendum.
"Crawford Hoying is the right developer for this work and has been very accommodating," she said. "The city has been generous with neighborhood requests, as well."
Late last year, Dublin-based Crawford Hoying Development Partners bought the interests in the proposed mixed-used project from its original developer, Shanghai Enterprises LLC, and continued negotiations Shanghai had opened with residents, who were represented by Upper Arlington attorney Jim Becker.
Crawford Hoying principal Nelson Yoder and Hicks said the discussions showed promise from the outset of bringing a resolution that was agreeable to both sides.
Last July, Shanghai received approval from Upper Arlington City Council, with members Carolyn Casper and Sue Ralph opposed, to rezone houses at 2480, 2488, 2498, 2506 and 2512 Westmont Blvd. to allow construction of a parking garage and surface parking for a J. Liu Restaurant + Bar and a Home2 Suites by Hilton at 1640 W. Lane Ave.
Since taking control of the project, Crawford Hoying has tweaked it to develop it in two phases.
The first includes a five-story, 116-room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel along West Lane Avenue and two condominium buildings along Westmont Boulevard.
Phase 2 calls for 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. The proposal also calls for 121 apartments in the next 3 stories.
A three-level, 282-space parking garage is proposed in the middle of the building, wrapped by 10 2-story townhomes.
The proposal would require an existing commercial building at 1640-50 W. Lane Ave. to be razed, along with single-family homes at 2506, 2488 and 2480 Westmont Blvd.
Three homes at 1690, 1678 and 1670 W. Lane Ave. also would go, as would homes at 2500, 2492 and 2480 Chester Road.
However, houses previously eyed for demolition at 2516 Chester Road and 2512 Westmont Blvd. will be renovated and remain single-family homes.
New street in plans
Yoder said the plans call for construction of a new street to be lined with townhouse apartments to the south. That new street will connect Westmont and Chester "with significantly more robust new traffic-calming and all-way stops at the intersections," Yoder said.
"The new two- to three-story, for-sale townhomes on Westmont reduce the project scale and it steps back to the neighborhood and completely screens the hotel parking from the street," he said. "Before, the neighborhood was going to have a view of a parking garage."
Yoder said the referendum group was in favor of the changes, "but wanted to seek a totally unbiased third-party expert opinion to ensure that the project was indeed meeting the needs of all stakeholders."
In an atypical move, the developer agreed to hire a third-party consultant to perform its own traffic study on behalf of the referendum group. Yoder said Crawford Hoying paid $8,000 for the study, which was done in addition to a study his firm already had commissioned.
"As a result of that process, the consultant, Pete Sechler (of) GAI Consultants, suggested some relatively minor but important changes to the plans, including widening sidewalks and adjusting for-sale townhomes relationship to the street," Yoder said. "They otherwise validated and applauded the solutions that the city, neighborhood and developer had come together to develop over the previous months.
"Crawford Hoying is thrilled with the outcome of this collaborative process and we look forward to proceeding with next steps in the development process over the coming months."
Yoder credited the referendum group for "reasonable" negotiations, and city officials for working through the iterations of the project so a consensus "that works for everyone" could be reached.
Hicks agreed and said the third-party traffic study helped address concerns neighboring residents had about unsafe or disruptive traffic volumes and speeding motorists cutting through the College Hill area and affecting congestion throughout the area.
She said she is pleased residents went through with the referendum, as it slowed the progress of the development and allowed for discussions with the developers and city officials.
"This development will be a symbol of commitment, compromise and collaboration and we look forward to its completion," she said.