Developer Pitches Plan for Historic Brewery District Buildings
A collection of vacant historic buildings near the entrance to the Scioto Audubon Metro Park has been bought by a local developer.
Representatives of the Stonehenge Company presented preliminary plans for the buildings – located at the northwest corner of Front and Whittier Streets – to the Brewery District Commission last week.
The concept presented calls for renovating the largest of the buildings; a six-story structure that was once home to a shoe heel manufacturing facility and sits on the western edge of the site, closest to the railroad tracks. Along Front Street, a warehouse building, a garage, and a single family home would all be demolished to make way for a new building that would hold a parking garage and about 100 apartments.
Becky West, Executive Director of Columbus Landmarks, spoke against the plan, particularly the demolition of the home (a brick Italianate structure located at 835 S. Front St.) and the warehouse building (known as the Jones Heel building, located at 841 S. Front St.).
“Sacrificing these buildings and completely obscuring the manufacturing building would erode the neighborhood and be a major blow to the dwindling inventory of significant and historic buildings that remain in Columbus today,” she said. “Columbus Landmarks recognizes the need for more housing and density in Columbus and acknowledge that there are structural issues with these buildings – as is the case with most buildings of this age – however, we are confident that this talented architectural team can work with their client to deliver a plan that delivers an appropriate number of units with respect for the existing architecture and important history of this site.”
Several commissioners also stated that they consider both the warehouse building and the single family home to be contributing structures, meaning they are historically and/or architecturally significant and not recommended for demolition under the Brewery District Commission guidelines.
Stonehenge President Mo Dioun told the commission that he believes the taller building is the “crown jewel” of the site, which is why his team has focused its efforts on preserving that building.
Architect John Eymann, of M + A Architects, said that the other buildings do not lend themselves to adaptive reuse in the same way that the taller building does. The warehouse building, for example, would be difficult to restore and doesn’t have the type of large windows that would allow natural light into the interior space.
Dioun said he is happy to speak with Columbus Landmarks and is open to hearing ideas about how the other buildings could be incorporated into the project.
“You look at my portfolio, I’ve not touched anything but challenging projects…that’s what drives us,” he said, citing the company’s work in Dublin’s historic center, on the Creekside development in Gahanna, and on the Pierce apartment building Downtown.
Dioun pledged to return to the commission after taking another look at the site, and to “come up with best creative answer we can.”
Also heard at the August 5 commission meeting was a revised redevelopment plan for the former Copious building at 514-518 S. High St. The latest plan calls for demolishing a larger portion of the existing building, with the new addition holding 67 residential units over a multi-level parking garage. The review of the project was only conceptual, meaning that it will need to return for a vote of approval from the board.