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Concerns Raised About Proposal for 16th and High

Brent Warren Brent Warren Concerns Raised About Proposal for 16th and HighRendering via Acock Associates Architects.
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A proposal from Edwards Communities to replace eight existing buildings on North High Street between 16th and 17th avenues with a six-story apartment building was met with concern at last night’s University Area Review Board meeting.

“I wonder if there isn’t a missed opportunity here,” said board member Doreen Uhas Sauer, referring to language in Campus Partners’ plan for 15th and High that cites the need to “preserve and enhance the unique design characteristics of the district.” The underlying zoning that implements that plan was approved by the UARB, the University Area Commission and City Council last year.

“A public, land grant institution needs to think about alumni and donors, and what do they see when they come back?” she asked. “This is a very loyal university community, and I think some kind of reference to those buildings would be very meaningful.”

Uhas Sauer gave some background on two buildings in particular — Wellington Hall, at the corner of 16th and High, was originally conceived as “bachelor apartments” for well-off students and businessmen not quite ready to settle down and buy a house, while the Sigma Nu building at 22 E 16th was designed by Ray Sims, a well-regarded architect associated with a firm that would later become Schooley Caldwell Associates.

“These two buildings opened to huge fanfare in 1920’s because of their quality, and they have stood the test of time,” said Uhas Sauer, who also wrote an extensive history of the block that was recently posted on Columbus Landmarks’ website.

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“If any of the character that’s there can be preserved,” added board member Brian Horne, “it’s to your advantage.”

With an unusually large crowd on hand — most there to comment on the View on Pavey Square development — a number of people in the audience also expressed concerns about the Edwards proposal.

Deb Supalak, an area resident who also sits on the University Area Commission, bemoaned what she called the “uniformity and homogeneity” of the proposal.

Because this was a conceptual review, there was no vote taken on the project, and the developer will likely be back with a revised proposal in the near future.

“Our team will be working over the next few weeks on a revised submittal that will try to address many of the UARB’s concerns,” said Ryan Szymanski, President of Edwards Communities. “At this point, I cannot comment on what those changes will entail.”

Photo by Walker Evans.

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