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Commission Tables Plan for Grant Oak Apartments

Brent Warren Brent Warren Commission Tables Plan for Grant Oak ApartmentsThe new building proposed for the corner of South Ninth Street and Library Park North. Renderings by Lupton Rausch.
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A plan from the Pizzuti Companies to redevelop a portion of the Grant Oak Apartments across from the Main Library was tabled by the Downtown Commission this morning after a last-minute appeal from another developer who would like to see the entire complex preserved.

David Bishoff, President of the E.V. Bishoff Company, came to the podium and implored the commission to vote no on the Pizzuti proposal, which calls for preserving four of the existing buildings and replacing three of them with a new apartment building.

“The Grant Oak buildings are historic in nature and deserving of being saved…they are an example of exactly what every other community is now struggling with, which is workforce housing,” said Bishoff, who cited his years of experience renovating historic buildings in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

“This can go in a different way,” he told the commission. “If you deny this, I’ll put a contract in and I’ll buy the Grant Oak and I’ll pay the library what they’re getting or more, and I’ll commit to keeping the Grant Oak, and I’ll repopulate it, it’s a win-win.”

The commission then voted to table the plan and requested that the Pizzuti team come back next month with changes to their design, although they also acknowledged that the request from Bishoff threw a bit of a curve ball into the whole discussion.

“This gives us another session to decide how to approach this,” said commissioner Otto Beaty. “I don’t remember this happening before…it puts us in a very interesting position.”

“We are in contract, we won the beauty contest,” said Michael Shannon, a lawyer for the Pizzuti Companies, who spoke in support of tabling the project (as opposed to voting against it, as Bishoff had suggested). He added that Bishoff “had his opportunity, and to second-guess the project at this stage is not appropriate.”

Becky West, Executive Director of Columbus Landmarks, spoke after Bishoff. She said that, “in a spirit of compromise,” the organization had supported the Pizzuti plan, although “we wish to reiterate that we believe all of the buildings are worthy of reuse.”

West confirmed to CU that they were contacted by Bishoff for the first time yesterday, the day before the meeting. She said that, although the plan from Pizzuti represented what many thought was the best opportunity to save four of the seven buildings, Bishoff’s comments will hopefully serve to broaden people’s perspective in Columbus about what is possible in the realm of historic preservation.

The Board of Trustees of the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) approved the sale of the Grant Oak complex to the Pizzuti Companies in January, and had earlier turned down proposals to renovate the buildings. A spokesperson at the time cited a desire to provide more direct access to the library’s parking garage and to “complement the recent investments we made in our Main Library.”

The access road to the parking garage, though, is no longer a part of the plans for the property. It was removed at the request of the library, according to Jon Riewald, director of development for the Pizzuti Companies, who spoke at the meeting.

Update: CML Marketing & Communications Specialist Ben Zenitsky provided the following statement when asked to comment on the library’s plans for the property:

Columbus Metropolitan Library has been very thoughtful around the sale and best use of the Grant Oak property. In 2017, the library issued a public RFP seeking interested buyers for the seven apartment buildings. The library’s position then and now is that redeveloping the site best complements the recent investments in Main Library and the Discovery District. Pizzuti’s proposal most closely aligned with the library’s vision and we continue to support it.

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