Otterbein proposes 'Uptown West' development off Cooper Road
Otterbein University has announced plans for a mixed-use development called Uptown West on 58 acres of farmland, known as Braun Farm. It's property the university owns southwest of the school’s campus.
The property is east of Cleveland Avenue along both sides of Cooper Road, near The Point, Otterbein’s collaboration, education and innovation center.
Jennifer Hill, Otterbein's communications director, said the property is envisioned with 240,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of medical office, 25,000 square feet of retail space and 627 multifamily units.
The proposed mixed-use development is expected to include commercial, office and dining opportunities and a COTA Mobility Hub that would allow the Otterbein and Westerville communities access to all of central Ohio with more direct routes, according to a news release from Otterbein.
Otterbein will act as master developer for the project and recently selected its development partner, Lifestyle Communities, the release said.
“We are excited to welcome LC as our development partner,” said John Comerford, Otterbein president. “We believe they will do an excellent job working with us to implement our plans for Uptown West. In addition to creating a new place to live, work and play within walking distance of campus, we are excited about the value these sustainable options bring to the Westerville community.
“By positioning Otterbein between a vibrant Uptown and a new exciting area for Westerville, our community will have access to more amenities, shopping, dining and culture without the need for a car.”
Michael DeAscentis II, Lifestyle Communities founder and CEO, said, LC is grateful to have been selected as the developer.
“This is a remarkable opportunity with transformative potential right here in our hometown, and we are proud of our stake in this extraordinary collaboration,” he said.
Letters of intent already have been obtained from two interested tenants, according to the release.
The university began to acquire land for the Uptown West development in 2012 and made an additional investment in 2019.
“Otterbein purchased the land to ensure that, rather than a series of unrelated developments bordering our campus, we share our western border with a development that is complementary to our goals as a university and attractive to new students, faculty, staff and Westerville community members,” Comerford said. “We look forward to working with the city of Westerville and LC to bring forth a signature project for the city of Westerville and Otterbein.”
The plan was met with some concerns from city leaders, though.
Westerville City Council member Kenneth Wright provided a report to council Oct. 6, sharing highlights of discussion from a Sept. 23 Planning Commission meeting, where Otterbein had requested a rezoning and approval of a preliminary development plan and development-standards text for 58 acres from planned development district to a planned urban district for the mixed-use development.
“Where the commission had some issues was, it concurred with staff and believes that there are many refinements that are needed for this project to fully achieve the intended purpose for Braun Farm as a mixed-use property,” he said. “The Planning Commission agreed with staff’s concerns that the balance and locations of the proposed uses deviates from the current plan and from the ration between primary and secondary uses as outlined in the community plan's charter areas.”
He said Otterbein’s plan has residential space as being predominant, particularly with land use, and office use and commercial spaces are secondary.
“The commission echoed staff’s concerns about the amount of land being dedicated solely for residential uses,” Wright said.
As proposed, he said, the commission thought the plan would need to be supported by infrastructure and the findings of a traffic study yet to be completed.
Wright said the commission also expressed concern over the parks and open spaces, saying the current design doesn’t fully align with the city's vision.
He said Otterbein acknowledges the commission's concerns and would report back at a future meeting.