The owner of the Giant Eagle property near German Village presented conceptual redevelopment scenarios for the property March 3, and many of the dozens in attendance that packed a library room were none too happy.
Representatives of the Pizzuti Cos. and an architect made the presentation during a meeting of the Schumacher Place Civic Association at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Parsons Avenue branch.
Curtis Davis of the Columbus South Side Area Commission had said Pizzuti officials told him Feb. 28 that they are looking at a couple of possibilities for the property.
Giant Eagle leases the space from Pizzuti. Among the possibilities, Davis said, are a restaurant or cafe, a small business and a “residential component.”
“It will be a mixed use,” Davis said. “They don’t want to throw something out there.”
Pizzuti presented concepts that included a 4-story apartment building that many in the audience rejected, saying it didn't fit with the neighborhood's character. One called it bland. Nate Pingel, an East Whittier Street resident, said, "It looks like a government building from 1978."
Another said any development should not be more than 2 stories tall. And resident Michael Ottinger said, "I will do anything in my power to stop what they shared."
The site is bounded by Whittier, Jaeger and Kossuth streets and Grant Avenue.
Brenda Gischel, who leads the Schumacher Place Civic Association, said although she’s open to ideas, she wants the store at 280 E. Whittier St. to remain.
“We want to maintain the grocery. It serves a real purpose,” Gischel said during an earlier interview. “If we’re going to be a walkable community, we want to maintain the grocery. Let’s not take away our resources.”
Giant Eagle spokesman Brock Schmaltz said in an email that the grocer “has contractual options to continue operating our store through the end of this calendar year and beyond.”
In a letter to Gischel, Mike Shannon, a zoning lawyer representing Pizzuti, wrote, "TO BE CLEAR ... the current tenant has rights under their existing lease and are currently maintaining their tenancy at this site on Whittier.
“However, as the property owners we need to be responsible stewards of this site and plan for every eventuality. In the current business climate, it is not only important to share conceptual alternative uses for this site, but failure to do so would have negative effects on you, the stakeholders in this community.”
Pizzuti Cos. president Joel Pizzuti lives in nearby German Village.
Shannon told the audience Pizzuti was exploring some development scenarios.
Mike Chivini, Pizzuti executive vice president, told the crowd, “We are trying to be very thoughtful with the site."
Some in the audience said the neighborhood needs the Giant Eagle because its residents would be able to walk to it.
Jim Griffin, who leads the Columbus South Side Area Commission, told those in attendance that if they want to save the store, write corporate headquarters.
Pizzuti bought the property for $5.35 million in October 2017, according to the Franklin County Auditor’s Office website. Giant Eagle acquired the store in December 2003 as part of a bankruptcy auction held by Penn Traffic, which owned the Big Bear grocery chain.