With some reluctance, a clear majority of Northland Community Council development committee members voted Dec. 5 to approve a proposal that would replace the shuttered Giant Eagle store with a self-storage business.
The vote was 14-1 with one abstention, according to the committee's chairman, Dave Paul.
"Honestly, it's kind of not what I would have pictured for the front face of that whole area, to be a storage space," said George Schmidt, chairman of the Northland Area Business Association State Route 161 Task Force. "It's nice. It looks like retail. It's not orange doors and barbed wire fences.
"In the rebranding of 161, I just don't think it's what any of us envisioned for that property, but they passed it."
Dave Perry of the David Perry Co. Inc. represented Atlanta-based RCG Ventures LLC at the advisory panel's final meeting of 2018.
The firm's website says RCG Ventures LLC is a privately funded real-estate investment group that acquires and develops commercial real estate in the continental United States. Its primary focus "is value-add anchored shopping centers with the potential for long-term ownership," according to the website.
Giant Eagle officials closed the store at 1000 E. Dublin-Granville Road, along with two others in central Ohio, in March 2017. In addition to transforming it into a self-storage operation, the rezoning request includes two outparcels for retail development in the parking lot that fronts East Dublin-Granville Road.
"I think the applicant succeeded in giving us reasons to think of this as something more than your traditional self-storage facility," Paul said. "What the applicant showed us in terms of the product that they're offering is very different from what most of us think of when we're talking about self-storage.
"I think it overcame some of our fears and prejudice about what this product, what this site might look like and how it might reflect on the adjoining properties.
"It's not going to be, as the applicant suggested, rows of metal, roll-down doors. It will not appear, based on the examples they offered, to be an industrial facility, a warehouse."
"What they showed us last night was pretty impressive," said Dave Cooper, president of NABA and a member of the committee. "I think the development of that site in that manner, I don't think it would be anything negative. I just think that there are a number of people who would like to wait and try to develop the Continent and that site together.
"A lot of that property has been sitting vacant for years."
Both Schmidt and Cooper lamented that the self-storage proposal came before the panel and was recommended for approval before a marketing study being done by city officials about revitalizing the once-thriving commercial corridor was completed.
"There's really a split feeling about that as far as the committee was concerned," Cooper said.
"It's a shame," Schmidt said. "The city's doing this marketing study that will be done in the next few months and it will tell us what experts think is best for the Continent area. It would tell us better what will go there. I'm no expert on what's the best use of retail property."
"As the applicant suggested, you sort of need to start somewhere, and there's no one else knocking on the door to being overall redevelopment of the Continent site," Paul said.