A new meeting space designed for those who work at home could open in Bexley this spring if a plan is approved by the city's Board of Zoning and Planning and Architectural Review Board.
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler and resident Robbie Friedman, co-founder of the ootBox temporary meeting space, presented the idea at the review board's March 14 meeting at Bexley City Hall. The city is applying to the zoning board for an ootBox meeting space to be placed at 2671 E. Main St. The site, zoned as mixed-use commercial, previously was a Sunoco gas station and has been vacant since 2014, Kessler said.
"The concept is a temporary conference room. It's an 8-foot-by-10-foot conference room repurposed from a portion of a shipping container," Kessler said. "The users would literally book the space with a mobile device. It's a temporary installation that would be in place between the months of May and September 2019 only."
In 2014, council approved an ordinance requiring owners of vacant properties with underground storage tanks to clean up any contamination or be assessed a $2,000 monthly fee. The city has been working with Ismail Jallaq, the owner of the 2671 E. Main St. site, to begin the environmental-remediation process, Kessler said.
Kessler said he recently met with Jallaq about redevelopment ideas for the site. Around the same time, Kessler said, he spoke with Friedman about bringing the temporary meeting space to Bexley.
As part of the temporary meeting space project, Jallaq has agreed to demolish the building, canopy and asphalt and restore the curbs around the site, Kessler said.
"After removal, we'll have a grass site that's still contaminated but ready for remediation and ready for development; and at least the structural eyesores that have been there for so long will be removed," Kessler said. "I think we'll be in a better shape to see redevelopment on the site."
Friedman said the ootBox meeting space would have wireless internet, heating and air conditioning and be able to accommodate up to four people at a time. He said the space is intended for entrepreneurs and other individuals like himself who often meet in coffee shops or other public places.
"I work from home and can't have a private meeting," Friedman said. "It's for people who don't have an office to go to to have a meeting."
The Bexley location would be one of several test sites throughout central Ohio, Friedman said.
"We're in the process of building lots of these," Friedman said. "This is our summer where we're testing out four prototypes in different environments."
ARB members expressed concerns about preventing vandalism, ensuring that users don't overstay their bookings and other security issues.
"We'll have a security camera on the inside, just to make sure," Friedman said.
ARB members and residents who attended the March 14 meeting also expressed concerns about where people who rent the ootBox would use the restroom. The ootBox as proposed doesn't have one.
"There are plenty of public facilities in very close proximity," Kessler said.
ARB member Suzanne Toney suggested that ootBox have signs explaining its purpose.
"I think it would be really helpful if you had something there that explained what it is, how it works and how people use it and some of the rules that go with it," Toney said.
ARB Chairman Peter Bardwell suggested making the ootBox compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.
In addition to ADA guidelines and the demolition of the existing structures on the site, review-board members also recommended the ootBox unit be placed on grass, that it be painted in a color that would need final approval from the board and that electrical utilities be placed underground.
The recommendations will go to the zoning board, which will meet at 6 p.m. April 11 at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.