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Council Approves Development on Former Giant Eagle Site

Brent Warren Brent Warren Council Approves Development on Former Giant Eagle SiteA rendering showing the north side of the development, by NBBJ.
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The Columbus City Council voted last night to approve the zoning changes needed for the redevelopment of the former Giant Eagle store at 280 E. Whittier St.

The project had already received support from the South Side Area Commission and the Development Commission, which normally would all but assure a positive vote from council. This development, though, has faced significant, organized opposition at almost every step in the process.

The Schumacher Place Civic Association voted against the project earlier this year, and the organization’s Facebook page served as a center of discussion on the proposal. Many of the complaints have focused on the height and density of the project, and the impact that it could have on traffic and parking in the surrounding neighborhoods.

A new organization, Neighbors for Responsible Development, was also formed to fight the project, hiring an attorney to represent its interests.

Although the 2.3-acre site is located just outside the boundaries of German Village, many residents and advocates for the neighborhood were active participants in the debate about the project.

The German Village Society, which sends out regular newsletters to its large subscriber list, has been including updates from Neighbors for Responsible Development in its emails for the past several months, encouraging its members to donate to the organization and to contact the city with concerns about the size of the proposed development.

At the council meeting last night, three speakers spoke in favor of the proposal, including Mindy Justis, one of the founders of the pro-housing organization Neighbors for More Neighbors.

The three speakers against it were Brenda Gischel, President of the Schumacher Place Civic Association; Brian Hunt, the attorney hired to represent Neighbors for Responsible Development; and Chris Hune, President of the Board of Trustees of the German Village Society.

The approved proposal calls for a building that ranges from three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half stories in height, topping out at 61 feet. It will hold 262 apartments and a little over 8,000 square feet of retail space, with an internal parking garage that will offer a single space for each unit.

The grocery store that had occupied the site for years closed its doors on December 31, after Giant Eagle made the decision not to renew its lease. Pizzuti Companies purchased the site in 2017.

The apartments in the new building will be market rate, so the project is not receiving a tax abatement tied to the inclusion of affordable housing.

Councilmember Shayla Favor said during the meeting that the city is in the process of reviewing its tax abatement and incentive policy and “we invite the community to weigh in on what they think [could be] some great solutions to solving our affordable housing crisis.”

Neighbors for More Neighbors Columbus, posted the following reaction to the council’s vote on Twitter shortly after it occurred:

We’re excited to welcome more neighbors to the South Side tonight! @columbuscouncil supported the redevelopment of the former Giant Eagle site on Whittier Avenue—and now hundreds more neighbors will be able to enjoy the beauty of our South Side communities.

Chris Hune, the German Village Society Board President, emailed out the following statement to the group’s membership this morning:

The German Village Society Board of Trustees wants to make you aware that the Pizutti project did pass City Council last night unanimously. The overarching theme of discussions was the need for more housing of all types including market-rate which this project is. The other consistent argument was that we as a city have run out of real estate and the only way to increase units is to build up. Parking and Traffic studies were accepted as presented. We will continue to work with neighbors to craft a Good Neighbor Agreement…Thank you to all that reached out to make our concerns known.  

Neighbors for Responsible Development did not respond to a request for comment before the publishing of this article.

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