Westerville Planning Commission to consider rezoning for Otterbein's proposed Campus West

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

Otterbein University’s plans for what’s called Campus West (formerly Uptown West), on property known as the Braun Farm is scheduled to return to the Westerville Planning Commission on March 24. 

The commission will consider a proposed rezoning, preliminary development plan and development-standards text for 58 acres from planned development district to a planned urban district for a mixed-use development.

Several concerns were raised when the proposal was last before the commission Sept. 23, 2020, including the amount of land being dedicated solely for residential uses.

“With respect to the issue of increased residential density, Otterbein believes that contemporary mixed land use principles, coupled with the move to more co-working and work-at-home models, created in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic but anticipated to continue, support the increased residential component of Campus West,”  the PUD Zoning application states.

This rendering shows the design for proposed buildings that would be part of a development known as Campus West (formerly Uptown West). It's currently 58 acres of farmland southwest of Otterbein University's campus, east of Cleveland Avenue at the intersection with Cooper Road.

As of ThisWeek's March 12 press deadline, Bassem Bitar, Westerville planning manager, said city staff still were evaluating Otterbein’s application and weren't ready to make a recommendation to the commission.

"We have big hopes for Campus West," said John Comerford, Otterbein president.  "We are very fortunate to have Uptown Westerville on our east side, and this is a chance to have a dynamic mixed-use community on our west side. That is important as campus has grown in that direction, including the Point."

The Point, 60 Collegeview Road, is Otterbein’s collaboration, education and innovation center. 

Comerford said the university plans to expand the Point into another building and have other offices in the development where students could have internships and other experiences.

The property for Campus West is owned by the university and is east of Cleveland Avenue along both sides of Cooper Road, near the Point.

The purpose of the preliminary development plan is to apply only for the rezoning of the property to a planned urban district divided into three subareas, according to the application submitted on behalf of Otterbein. 

Subarea 1 includes about 21 acres, or 38% of Campus West, consisting of land along the eastern boundary of Cleveland Avenue and property east of Collegeview Road and north of Cooper Road, with the exception of an open space and adjacent residential area at the northeast corner.

This area is designated as commercial, limited to offices, commercial activities, university and research purposes and retail activities, according to the application. 

Subarea 2 includes about 27 acres, or 45% of Campus West, consisting of attached residential units along Cooper Road, mostly buffered by linear open space, within the interior of the Campus West development. 

Subarea 3 is about 10 acres, or 17% of Campus West, consisting of open spaces and parklands, with a stormwater basin south of Braun Place and a linear and continuous series of open spaces along Cooper Road, connecting Cleveland Avenue to Otterbein Lake.

Density for residential development is proposed at 650 units within Subareas 1 and 2, according to the application.  

Otterbein would return to the commission for various others components of the proposed plan, pending rezoning approval.

The stated vision of the development is to provide a “true 21st-century mixed-use community."

The vision, outlined in the proposal, states, “Our consultants and stakeholders have advised that employers and their employees desire this type of community where the work force is more accessible to their place of employment, including co-working and at-home work spaces, with amenities provided in close proximity without the need for the use of automobiles. …

“In planning Campus West, Otterbein was also careful to make sure the development serves the needs of the university and its students. (It) will be designed and implemented such that Otterbein students will have access to food, activity, exercise, entertainment and other amenities located within Campus West through the use of their student access cards, a new pedestrian bridge will be constructed across Alum Creek for ease of access to the main Otterbein campus, and residential units will be attractive to faculty, staff and others interested in proximity to the Otterbein campus.” 

A Central Ohio Transit Authority Mobility Hub, a structured, multilevel parking deck for Park & Ride customers with amenities for COTA riders, also is proposed for the northeast corner of the gateway entry block at Cleveland Avenue and Cooper Road, with an adjacent structured parking facility.

Comerford said the hub would be a major asset for students, faculty and staff.

"Access to more retail, dining and park and recreation opportunities will attract people to Otterbein," he said. "The residential opportunities will add young professionals and retirees to our neighborhood. All these amenities will benefit Westerville, as well. This can be a real advance for the campus and the community."

The development partner for the project is Lifestyle Communities; landscape architect, MKSK; civil engineer, Bird + Bull; transportation engineers, Carpenter Marty Transportation; and land-use attorney, Kephart Fisher LLC

Comerford said the timeline for the project depends on the zoning process with the city.

In addition to Otterbein’s application, Bitar said, the commission also is scheduled to consider a preliminary development plan and development standards text March 24 for a new mixed-use development, what’s known as the Sharp Farm redevelopment, on Africa Road by Epcon Communities and Vincent Romanelli.

Bitar said the commission will have two meetings – one March 24 and the other March 25 – because of a packed agenda.  

He said a work session will start at 5:30 p.m. March 24 to review a conceptual plan application for the redevelopment of a 0.17-acre site within the Uptown District at 32 College Ave. for the demolition of a structure and construction of a 3-story, mixed-use building for approximately 2,880 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and four residential units on the upper floors. The applicant is Kontogiannis & Associates of Columbus.

The regular commission meeting and March 25 meetings both will start at 6 p.m..

For the March 25 agenda and the latest updates, go to the city’s website at westerville.org and then click on government to find board and commission agendas.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla