Upper Arlington council affirms rejection of Golden Bear Shopping Center plans

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
This rendering shows redevelopment plans for the Golden Bear Shopping Center. Developer Scott Patton, managing partner of Arcadia Development of Ohio LLC, made a final pitch to Upper Arlington City Council on Sept. 16 to redevelop the 54-year-old shopping center at 3700 Riverside Drive, but council upheld the Board of Zoning & Planning's rejection.

Despite Upper Arlington City Council’s rejection of his appeal to redevelop the Golden Bear Shopping Center, the man behind the project said he is committed to the site and is exploring options to move forward.  

Council voted Sept. 16 to uphold the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning’s 6-1 rejection of redevelopment plans for the Golden Bear Shopping Center, denying Arcadia Development of Ohio LLC’s appeal of the BZAP’s June 15 decision.   

Scott Patton, Arcadia managing partner, has proposed redeveloping the single-story Golden Bear Shopping Center into a 5-story, 199,847-square-foot mixed-use building that would include 22,000 square feet of office, retail and restaurant space, 102 condos on the upper four floors and a parking garage.   

Despite his appeal failing by a vote of 6-0, with council member Brian Close recusing himself from the case, Patton said, he is pressing on with the same proposal.   

“We’re horribly disappointed,” Patton said. “I really feel like the council did not pay attention to the economics of our project. We think we’ve shown this is the right project for the community. We’re committed to that investment, and we’re looking for our next step.”   

Council’s decision was the end of the road for Patton’s proposed $50 million project, at least in terms of appealing to the city.  

He could take the case to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, but he said he hasn’t decided if he would.  

“There are other avenues of legal recourse other than the county,” he said. 

While he considers his options, Patton also is continuing to pursue a public-records request to the city that includes asking for copies of emails and other communications the city has had with Golden Bear Shopping Center tenants since Jan. 19, 2019, as well communications between city administrators and department staff about the Golden Bear Shopping Center and communications city officials have had with Upper Arlington Schools about the center’s proposed redevelopment. 

On Sept. 8, the Upper Arlington City Attorney’s Office said the request was being denied because it lacked specific information to “reasonably identify the specific records being requested.”   

As for last week’s rejection, council sided with the BZAP and the city’s community-development staff members, who have maintained the project needs more dedicated office space so it can generate more income taxes to support city services.   

“This site really needs attention,” council President Kip Greenhill said. “I’m really glad to see some ideas and plans come forward. But I have to say – not just the goal of this council but council for the last several decades – the focus has been if there’s going to be redevelopment, how can we enhance our revenue growth? For the city, this project doesn’t meet that standard.” 

Council’s action came almost two years after Arcadia proposed redeveloping the 54-year-old center at the southeast corner of Fishinger Road and Riverside Drive. That plan received unanimous support from the BZAP in August 2019.   

However, the project was derailed when the developer removed 24,000 square feet of dedicated office space on the second floor.   

Patton has said the changes were needed to make the project economically viable after city officials 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. He explained to council that without a TIF from the city, he would need to rely on sales of condominiums at the redeveloped site to help fund the parking garage.  

At the Sept. 16 appeal, Patton committed to dedicating at least 5,000 square feet on the development’s first floor to office space and noted the project would bring in $1.9 million in new annual property taxes to Upper Arlington Schools, as well as $243,717 in income taxes to the city each year. 

Don Plank, an attorney for Arcadia, argued that when the U.S. Postal Service vacates its office at 3700 Riverside Drive in July 2021, the center will be 64% vacant. 

Additionally, he said the city’s Unified Development Ordinance calls for enhancing the design character of the Riverside Drive corridor at the Golden Bear Shopping Center – not to maximize office uses. 

Those points failed to move council members, however.   

“I believe that this site is ripe for development,” council member Jim Lynch said. “I believe it is aging. But I don’t believe (the redevelopment plan) meets our UDO and our master plan and the spirit of that – to make sure that we have the inclusion of office space.”  

nellis@thisweeknews.com  

@ThisWeekNate