Upper Arlington State of the City address focuses on development in 2021
During this year’s State of the City address, Upper Arlington officials said 2021 will yield major development, including a possible community center and continued pushes to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in the community.
Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the city’s State of the City event was devoid of typical ceremonies such as a Community Fair or speeches delivered in City Council Chambers at the Municipal Services Center.
In what Emma Speight, community affairs director, said was a sad but necessary move dictated by the pandemic, a virtual State of the City address was held via a video of about 18 minutes and shown during council’s regular meeting.
“This annual event has always been a great opportunity for the community to gather, network, learn about local projects and issues and to celebrate notable accomplishments from the past year,” Speight said. “Rather than postpone the State of the City until the spring or possibly later, we felt it made sense to share a recap from last year with the community on schedule.”
Despite the change in format, the 2021 address echoed a number of initiatives and projects from 2020.
Like last year, City Manager Steve Schoeny and Community Development Director Chad Gibson said there will be significant development in 2021, with Lane Avenue at the forefront.
A key project – one hailed by city officials and developer Continental Real Estate Cos. CEO Frank Kass as a game-changer for the corridor – is the 11-story Arlington Gateway, which will be built at 1325-97 W. Lane Ave. and 2376 North Star Road.
The development is expected to feature 225 luxury apartments, 139,000 square feet of office space and 27,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. It also includes plans for a seven-story, 866-space parking garage.
It would represent a sweeping change to the landscape at an entryway, or gateway, to the city.
“The Arlington Gateway project is on a site that was annexed in 2005 for the specific purpose of expanding the city’s commercial tax base through mixed-use redevelopment projects,” Schoeny said. “The project meets numerous master plan objectives, such as the enhancement of income tax revenue, the expansion of Class A office space and the attraction of new corporate citizens to the city.”
Also expected is completion of “Lane II” by November 2021.
The remainder of the development by Dublin-based Crawford Hoying will yield two condominium buildings behind the hotel along Westmont Boulevard. Each building will contain four units, with one being four stories and the other being three stories.
On the west side of Westmont Boulevard, a five-story mixed-used building is being constructed that will house two ground-floor restaurants, 20,000 square feet of office space, residential units on the three upper floors and a 248-space parking garage.
“By staying focused on our key commercial areas and establishing a mixed-use framework for redevelopment, we are creating and building vibrancy that makes this district increasingly desirable for a natural evolution of what is already transpiring, further activating the north side of Lane Avenue," Schoeny said.
While not on Lane, another significant project that will take shape is the redevelopment of the former Macy’s site at Kingsdale Shopping Center.
As soon as this month, the city’s Board of Zoning and Planning is expected to review final development plans for a six-story building with 104 senior housing units and 6,000 square feet of restaurant space.
The project, also being developed by Continental, calls for a seven-story building that will hold 383 apartments and a two-story parking garage.
A third building at the site also is expected to yield 75 apartments and 50,000 square feet of office space.
It also could include a 95,300-square-foot community center, the construction of which would be financed primarily through a $55 million bond and a tax-increment financing fund set up for the Macy’s redevelopment project.
The community center will be included in the redevelopment if voters support it on the May 4 ballot.
Schoeny noted the city could build and operate the community center without raising taxes.
In addition to development, Schoeny said the city will continue an initiative he first announced during the 2020 State of the City to enhance “diversity, equity and inclusion,” or DEI, efforts in the city.
He said that initiative has resulted in two DEI officers being appointed in the Upper Arlington Police Division who will seek “to build relationships with everyone the division serves.”
Schoeny said City Council appointed nine members to the city’s first Community Relations Committee in September, which will “help us as a city figure out how we build a better community.”
Committee Chairman Floyd Akins said he wanted to serve on the committee so he could be part of change and “erasing the perception that Upper Arlington is not a community that is welcoming to all.”
“The committee’s vision for our community is simple: We want Upper Arlington to be a community of opportunity for all people,” he said.
Schoeny said the city already has reviewed and made small changes to its hiring procedures to “remove the potential for implicit or explicit bias” and will continue to foster community conversations about DEI issues.