Revised plans for Golden Bear Shopping Center in Upper Arlington rejected
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of estimated income-tax revenue the project would generate for the city.
The developer seeking to redevelop the Golden Bear Shopping Center plans to appeal his case to Upper Arlington City Council after a revised proposal was rejected June 15 by the city’s Board of Zoning and Planning.
The new plans for the Golden Bear Shopping Center, 3700 Riverside Drive, reduced office space and added residential housing. It was denied by a 6-1 vote with Kevin Carpenter being the only member to support the proposal.
Scott Patton, managing partner for Arcadia Development of Ohio LLC, said he hasn’t given up on the proposed 5-story, 199,847 square-foot project.
“We’re going to appeal to council, and then we’re also looking at other legal -- our other avenues that we have,” Patton said. “We’re completely dedicated to this project, and we’re going to move forward with the project and work towards trying to get it to go forward."
Patton called the rejection “very frustrating.” His first proposal in November 2018 called for a 6-story redevelopment of the 54-year-old shopping center. He received unanimous support from BZAP for a 5-story development plan last August.
While the building’s footprint hasn’t changed and would still feature 25,000 square feet of office, retail and restaurant space, the revisions would increase the residential component from 79 condominiums on its three top floors, to 102 condos on its upper four floors. It also would reduce the office space by 24,000 square feet.
Patton and his attorney, Don Plank, said estimates show the project would generate about $1.4 million in annual property-tax revenues for Upper Arlington Schools at a time when district officials have said state budget cuts caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will result in a loss of $2.059 million in funding for fiscal year 2020.
School officials are mulling putting an operating levy on the ballot to fund expenses such as teacher salaries, instructional and pupil support, technology and transportation.
“It’s a great project,” Patton said. “It’s a great benefit for the city of Upper Arlington, (and) this board voted for this project unanimously previously.
“To say that they’re not going to vote for it this time is quite astounding.”
Patton said the amended plans meet Upper Arlington’s zoning standards in the U.S. Route 33/Riverside Drive corridor. He said the changes are needed to make the project economically viable after city officials in August told him they wouldn’t extend a tax-increment financing deal through which the city would provide initial funding for the project’s parking garage and other infrastructure upgrades.
The city’s Community Development staff and BZAP members, however, said the plans don’t meet the city’s master plan objectives to maximize office uses in the corridor.
““It had more of a mix than it does now,” BZAP member Shannon Tolliver said. “It is a different use. We have precious land, and it was a different project. We don’t have to worry about the financial aspect, but it is the uses of it, and that has changed significantly.
“We’re not saying the whole thing has to be office. Three levels of residential vs. the two levels of commercial office, I think for this area, was a better use than this new proposal for me.”
A June 15 staff report to BZAP from Justin Milam, city senior planning officer, called the amended proposal “a thoughtfully designed multi-family residential building with ground floor retail at an important gateway into Upper Arlington.”
It also said the shopping center and properties around it are “ripe for redevelopment” and staff is hopeful the shopping center redevelopment “could potentially spur future projects in the area.”
“Unfortunately, the total absence of dedicated office space is simply too much for staff to support,” Milam wrote. “The master plan makes it quite clear how and why office is the primarily desired use in any new development.
“The Study Area Plan for Route 33 clearly recommends mixed-use retail and office, not residential and retail, and the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) emphasizes that office use is particularly important in the Route 33 PMUD (Planned Mixed Use District). Office uses are the best way to support municipal services and critical infrastructure needs.”
The single-story shopping center currently has 34,000 square feet of retail space with tenants that include an FCBank branch, Colin's Coffee, Figlio Wood Fired Pizza, Dale Cleaners, Thai Basil and a post office.
Patton said the post office soon will be vacating its space because its lease is up. The majority of other tenants, he said, are on month-to-month leases, but some remain on long-term leases.
Before the rejection of his revised plans, Patton distributed an information sheet to BZAP members that stated the Franklin County Auditor’s Office values the shopping center at approximately $3.24 million, and his project would increase it to about $72.66 million.
In addition to raising property-tax revenues to UA Schools from $73,372 per year to about $1.42 million annually, the information sheet stated, the project would bring in 120 new employees. Those workers would pay at least $182,841.83 in annual income taxes to the city, the sheet stated, and the city would receive $39,828.73 in property taxes each year.
Patton has 21 days to file an appeal. It would take a simple majority vote by council to overturn BZAP’s decision.
Should council uphold BZAP’s decision, the matter could be challenged in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.