Task force eyes two sites for Upper Arlington community center

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Upper Arlington Community Center Feasibility Task Force

The Kingsdale Shopping Center and the city’s Municipal Services Center are the two best options for a community center in Upper Arlington, according to a subcommittee for the Community Center Feasibility Task Force.

As it plans to present final recommendations to Upper Arlington City Council on Dec. 7, the 16-member task force continues to analyze what programs a local community center should offer, as well as how much a facility would cost to build and operate.

The task force’s facilities and partnerships subcommittee has decided to further study Kingsdale and the MSC as potential sites for a project after narrowing a list that also included Fancyburg, Northam, Northwest Kiwanis/Burbank, Sunny 95 and Thompson parks.

“As this review began, a goal of the facilities and partnerships subcommittee was to narrow its options to two locations so that the consultants could start to develop high-level concepts of what a building might look like in terms of its footprint and height, space allocation for the various desired uses, as well as access and parking considerations,” said Emma Speight, the city's community affairs coordinator.

Kingsdale became an option after city officials announced Sept. 8 that Kroger Co. planned to sell the property to Continental Real Estate Cos.

Continental CEO Frank Kass has committed to leaving a “placeholder” for a community center as part of his plans for a mixed-use development at the 6.23-acre site.

The MSC, the city’s government office headquarters at 3600 Tremont Road, has 5.36 acres of undeveloped land on the northern edge of the property.

However, City Manager Steve Schoeny said the project being envisioned there, if approved, would include rebuilding the government offices in addition to the construction of a community center. 

"The concept that the task force’s consultants are developing for the Municipal Services Center proposes a redevelopment of the site – i.e. razing the existing building and replacing it with a combined municipal facility and community center – all within the existing building and parking footprint," he said. "Therefore, it would have minimal impact on existing greenspace at the north end of the property – The Point – and at the south end of the property immediately adjacent to the Trouville neighborhood."

While the task force could recommend both sites and let council pick a site, Greg Comfort, facilities and partnerships subcommittee chair, said he doesn't anticipate that.

“I would expect us to kind of winnow it down to one preferred site,” he said.

As the two sites are under review, a finance subcommittee is working on construction and operations costs.

Both committees and the entire task force are being aided by three consultant firms – Williams Architects, PROS Consulting Inc. and OHM Advisors – which are working under a $145,000 contract.

Before the recommendation is made to council, Comfort expects the task force to continue community outreach.

“We want to get community input on both sites,” he said. “I think we are going to have some community meetings, and then we’ll go out with surveys and information.

“We welcome that. We want to hear what people have to say.”

According to Speight, the task-force consultants used a criteria matrix and scoring system to select prospective sites.

Locations had to have a minimum of five acres, the ability to accommodate desired center programming and provide adequate parking.

Each site also was scored for site control, including ownership and usage, potential acquisition costs, zoning and neighborhood compatibility.

The subcommittee gave preference to sites that are centrally located in the city and can be easily accessed by motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and bus commuters. Based on community input, subcommittee members sought to preserve existing parkland, Speight said.

Additionally, the subcommittee looked at the potential for creative funding mechanisms, such as tax-increment financing or partnership opportunities.

“The Kingsdale site received the highest score for reasons that included a central, accessible location; the recent announcement of Continental Real Estate Companies’ pending purchase of the site and their willingness to explore a public use with the city as part of redevelopment plans; the potential for creative funding and partnership opportunities and the fact that it would not impact existing parkland,” Speight said. 

“The Municipal Services Center scored higher than Kingsdale on the issue of site control and the same for creative funding and partnerships potential, but lost points as a slightly less central and accessible location, as well as the potential impact on existing green space.”

Comfort said Kingsdale and the MSC are “pretty close” in terms of appeal.

“There’s a lot of factors,” he said. “We want to look at it and kind of boil it all down to make a decision as to what’s the best site.”

Task-force consultants reported to council on June 29 that based on the amenities survey respondents have identified, they envision a community center of between 82,071 and 91,190 square feet.

Kingsdale’s zoning would permit such a use.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate