A $25 million, 128-unit apartment development is up for discussion between Gahanna City Council and Metropolitan Holdings of Columbus.
The development is proposed for 2.3 acres on the east and west sides of Mill Street, south of Carpenter Road and at the northern boundary of the Creekside development.
Michael Blackford, Gahanna's deputy development director, said the city was approached in June 2018 about the possibility of the residential development that would consist of two separate buildings on the east and west side of Mill Street.
Official discussion began with Gahanna City Council during a Sept. 9 finance committee meeting and is scheduled to continue during council's next committee meeting Sept. 23.
Council President Brian Metzbower said council is waiting on additional information regarding the project.
"I do feel projects like this are very important for the continued growth and development of our community, but we are still very interested in what the public has to say," he said. "It is through an active process of deliberation that we can make sure we have the right fit for Gahanna."
The proposed development site is the current location of Blank Slate Coffee, a former car wash and an office building on the east side of Mill Street and the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau and Worthy Total Fitness on the west side.
Blackford said the final development plan submitted by Metropolitan Holdings is the application the city formally has received.
"There's also an incentive that has been submitted on behalf of Gahanna Mill Street Investments," Blackford said. "I'm not 100% certain the difference in those ownership groups, if there are any at all."
The draft development agreement lists the developer as Mill Street Investors LLC, in care of Metropolitan Holdings, 1433 Grandview Ave., Columbus.
Matthew R. Vekasy, founder and CEO of Metropolitan Holdings, said the Mill Street project is a new design and is not similar to others Metropolitan has done.
"We are referencing some similar unit floor plans from other projects, but a 5-story building with parking around the site is something new for us and very exciting," he said. "The design is based on an old Mill building as it is our understanding that Mill Street itself is named because at one time an old Mill existed along Big Walnut Creek."
He said prices would range from $995 for a one-bedroom unit to $2,100 for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit with a den.
"We will have one bedroom townhomes in both buildings that will have front doors that front Mill Street," Vekasy said.
Metropolitan Holdings "develops, builds, acquires and operates high-quality apartment communities and offers commercial real estate brokerage services" for the benefit of its employees, clients, vendors, partners and investors, according to its website, metropolitanholdings.com.
Its newest community is the Yardley in Olde Town East at 122 Parsons Ave. in Columbus. Other projects include Grandview Village, luxury apartments near Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington, and Concord Square at 1648 Kenny Road in Columbus.
Blackford said the height of the proposed 5-story apartment buildings is about 70 feet to the top of the roof for both.
"We're in the preliminary stages," Blackford said. "The application and final development plan have just been submitted. There's a separate process that's also tracking through our city council right now. The developers have requested a developer's agreement with the city. That would be an incentive package to help facilitate the construction of this site."
The incentives in the draft include a 15-year, 100% tax abatement on all improvements, bike path and parking access easements and vacation of right of way on North Street.
According to Metropolitan, revenue generated from the project is expected to be significantly greater than the revenue from the present site. The revenue would come from property-tax and income-tax collections from construction operations, property-management staff and residents.
In its first year, 2020, Metropolitan projects revenue to Gahanna to increase by more than $30,000; from 2020 to 2036, the project is projected to generate additional revenue of $1.2 million for Gahanna. In 2037, when the tax abatement expires, the project is expected to generate $795,000 annually for Gahanna.
Mayor Tom Kneeland said he hopes to have a response from the city's financial expert at the next committee meeting, providing council with solid information related to requested incentives and the project cost.
"I think the project is much needed; however, I'm not convinced that it should be 100% residential," he said. "It is currently a 128-unit apartment development. One approximately 2,500-square-foot commercial space would potentially be created for CVB if there is a letter of intent received."
Blackford said it's a complex project for Gahanna, and the city sent the proposal for outside legal review.
"My discussions have been completely about residential," he said. "If they want to incorporate commercial, the zoning allows for it. Their plans are strictly residential as submitted. We're at the very beginning of the path for approval. Their plans are rough and conceptual. We're looking at months. There's no rezoning required, but there's still a lot of moving parts."
Blackford said council prefers that Gahanna's Community Improvement Corp., which is included in the draft development agreement, not be involved in the request.
He said the city doesn't have architectural renderings that show elevations, colors, materials or landscaping plans.
"Those will have to be submitted at some point in time," Blackford said. "Those are all approved, along with the final development plan, through the planning-commission review-process public hearing."
He said council would have to approve a developer's agreement before the project moves forward through the planning-commission process.
Generally speaking, Blackford said, the proposed use is consistent with planning and zoning efforts.
"We want to see density in the downtown," he said. "It's fitting with the vision we have."
In February 2014, the planning commission approved a previous plan by Strathmore Development for what was called the Creekside District Apartments, 152 Mill St.
That plan called for a 4-story, 29-unit apartment building with parking below it on 0.52 acre at Mill and North streets, at the site of the car wash.
Kneeland said that deal "went away" and Doug Maddy of Brookewood Builders and Developers bought the car wash.
Blackford said the administration should have time for a formal analysis of the incentive program for the proposed project by Monday, Sept. 23.
"And we're going to have our feedback on the appropriateness of those incentives that will be presented to council that will be up for them to consider," he said. "Then, I believe, probably, council will have increased dialogue with the developers about the project. Right now, it's in committee. It's really an opportunity for council and the developer to have discussions."
Blackford said all incentives go through a public hearing, and that would occur after the committee process.