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Design of Downtown Building Doesn’t Match Plans Approved by Commission

Brent Warren Brent Warren Design of Downtown Building Doesn’t Match Plans Approved by Commission
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A six-story building currently under construction at 275 S. Front St. is not being built to the specifications approved by the Downtown Commission. 

The building, called The Matan and developed by Lifestyles Communities (LC), was initially approved by the commission in late 2015. A series of design revisions followed, including one in January of 2018 that sought permission to change the material used for a large section of the façade; trading brick for an imitation brick product.

The commission approved that change, but didn’t get a chance to weigh in on a final round of changes to the exterior of the building, which included eliminating some detailing above the first-floor windows and swapping out arches above two entryways for a simpler, right-angled design. 

The developer did bring those changes to the city, and even marked them (as required), on drawings submitted to the Department of Building and Zoning Services. Those marked drawings should have been forwarded along to the city’s Planning Division, which administers the Downtown Commission. They never were, so the new plans were approved by the building department without ever going before the commission.

The end result is that the building going up now does not match the design that the commission voted to approve.

A city spokesperson declined to get into specifics about who was ultimately to blame for this discrepancy, but did say that the city is “in the process of notifying the developer that the building is out of compliance with the [Certificate of Appropriateness] and that they will have to return to the Downtown Commission to rectify the situation.”

The case is not on the agenda for this month’s meeting, which takes place on November 20.

Columbus Underground reached out to LC for comment, but did not get a response. It’s not clear if the company and its representatives – the building was designed by Niles Bolton Associates of Atlanta – were aware that the proposed changes should have gone before the commission, although they had already brought it back several times for other exterior changes.

The issue was first brought to the attention of the commission during its September meeting, when the city’s Urban Design Manager, Daniel Thomas, explained that a 311 complaint had been lodged noting discrepancies between the approved design and what was being built.

Commission Chair Stephen Wittmann asked for clarification from the city about whether the final design was approved by the building department, but stressed that “if someone signed off on the changes, we need to know about that…we can’t have that happen, or we’re just sitting here talking to ourselves.”

“They should not make changes to the exterior of the building,” he added, “We’re the equivalent of zoning…that’s like changing from a single family house to a hotel; they can’t do that.” 

An early rendering of the project, from when it was first proposed in 2015.
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