Dublin ARB likely sinks plan to redevelop five buildings, including Oscar's restaurant, during informal review
A plan for the construction of apartments, an events center and a restaurant in Dublin’s historic district might be dead on arrival after the city’s architectural-review board, during an informal review, expressed concerns and suggested revisions the developer said he is unlikely to consider.
Developer Dwight McCabe of the McCabe Cos. has proposed demolishing five connected buildings, including the Oscar’s of Dublin restaurant, from 72 to 84 N. High St., at the northeast corner of North High and North streets. In their place, his company would build a single U-shaped building fronting the Scioto River that would house 68 apartments, a 6,000-square-foot events center, a 2,400-square-foot restaurant and 1,800 square feet for retail.
The owner of the 0.9-acre site is listed as 72 Dublin LLC, for whom McCabe said he is the developer.
McCabe said he does not own any of the property, and the owners who are a part of the limited liability corporation, for which attorney Michael A. Mess of Gahanna is listed as the agent on the articles of organization filed with the Ohio Secretary of State, would remain owners through any development process. ThisWeek left a message for Mess asking for more details about the owners.
The site is across the street from the Dublin branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.
A two-story connector would join the two buildings, and a patio and plaza for dining and gathering would face North High Street.
But members of the architectural-review board said they were concerned about the size and height of the building, particularly the proposed events center, as well as the density of the housing units.
“If a 3-story limit is applied across this property, you won’t be seeing us back again,” McCabe told the board during the informal review Feb. 24.
A preliminary development plan would have been the next step.
Kathleen Bryan, chair of the board, made her concerns clear.
“I am a resident in Historic Dublin, so this is very personal for me," Bryan said. "I have concerns about the conference center (being) too big. I have very strong concerns about the safety, security and traffic (by) adding all of those small units.
"We feel very comfortable right now in the historic district walking around after dark, but you add a bunch of transient individuals into the district and that high density, I have to echo my neighbors. I’m not in favor of it at all."
Other board members raised questions about whether McCabe’s proposal meets the criteria for demolition permits to be issued.
Board member Gary Alexander said he was OK with demolishing all the buildings on the site, except for the Oscar’s building.
Oscar’s, built in the 1930s, is “well-composed” and “reflects the history of the community” more than the other buildings, Alexander said.
“I have a little heartburn with taking Oscar’s out,” he said.
Board member Amy Kramb concurred.
“The 1930s section is very unique and contributing to our district,” Kramb said.
The feedback appeared to come as a surprise to McCabe, who told board members that city staff members had not voiced such considerations.
“We’ve been at this for two years from the time we first had dialogue (with the city)," McCabe said. "We would not have undertaken any of the work we have done to date (if) a building had to remain on the property."
Bryan replied that the architectural-review board “looks at a broader picture” and that Dublin City Council recently had approved new zoning codes within the historical district and limitations, absent a variance.
The size of the proposed events center, which would require a variance if built at 6,000 square feet, also was a hurdle.
“That was intentional; we wanted something very small,” Kramb said about a 3,000-square-foot limit on an events center.
McCabe said such a small events center “doesn’t make sense”, and if it is required, then “there won’t be an event center at this location.”
Board members also balked at the size of the overall building, a portion of which is proposed as 4 stories.
“I can’t support this mass of a building no matter how it is laid out,” Kramb said.
McCabe described the feedback as a “deflation” and told the board he would not proceed.
“There is no practical way to advance (this) project with those constraints," he said. "To tear down these buildings and put back the same square feet doesn’t make any sense."
“We understand that,” Bryan replied.
If the proposal is to be resurrected, it will be up to McCabe, who said he will pursue the proposal only if city officials reconsider the restrictions.
“In the aftermath, if the feedback we got was improper, it would behoove us to go back," McCabe said March 10. “We are keenly aware Dublin sets high standards. But it was a real surprise the tactics being employed to effectively deny apartments on the west side of the river."
Lindsay Weisenauer, public-affairs officer for Dublin, said the information provided was in McCabe's hands.
“The ARB provided its feedback, including concerns about the height of proposed buildings, mass and density," Weisenauer said. "The applicant will take that information and determine whether to make modifications (or) submit a formal application.
Jenny Rauch, director of planning for Dublin, said the parcel in question requires due consideration.
“I was pleased to hear comments from the public and our architectural-review board members referencing the need for more diverse housing and workforce housing, in general, and the importance of that to Dublin and potentially even within the historic district,” Rausch said. “The discussion of any proposed project referencing more dense mixed uses, particularly within our historic district, will likely be a dynamic and challenging one, as such proposed mixed-use density of the scale and type proposed at 72-84 N. High St. is not typical within the historic district of Dublin.”