More Discrepancies Found Between Finished Buildings and Approved Plans
A 311 complaint was lodged earlier this year with the City of Columbus, alleging that the design of a building going up at 275 S. Front St. did not match the plans for the building that were approved by the Downtown Commission.
That complaint led to an investigation by the city, which uncovered similar issues in two other buildings developed by the same company, Lifestyle Communities (LC).
In both of the company’s RiverSouth buildings – the eight-story tower at 205 S. High St. that has been referred to as the Trautman Building, as well as the 10-story Beatty Building, at 245 S. High St. – discrepancies were found between what was approved and what was eventually built.
Earlier this week, two representatives of LC came before the Downtown Commission to offer their explanation for what happened and to work out how the issues would be resolved going forward.
John Kennedy, a lawyer representing the company, told the commission that the long time span between the initial approval of the buildings and their eventual construction played a role in what he characterized as a series of innocent mistakes.
“It was nothing intentional, it was more a lack of knowledge,” he said, explaining that the problems with the Front Street building – called The Matan – started to arise when the estimated cost of preserving the historic building in the center of the project swelled to “north of seven figures.”
The LC team was then tasked with recommending other places where costs could be lowered, and some of the people making those design recommendations were not around when the project first went before the commission, Kennedy said, adding that they also were not aware that the changes would need to be approved by the commission.
On the Beatty Building, eight decorative columns on the High Street side of the building were never installed, although the design approved by the commission shows the columns spanning the seventh and eighth floors.
And problems were discovered with the Trautman Building as well, primarily related to the courtyard – it was supposed to have two points of entry from Rich Street instead of one.
Kennedy said that he made a good-faith effort to find out what had happened, and that LC had been working with the city’s Planning Division to come up with a remedy for the discrepancies in the three buildings.
He also said that the company believes that the initial 311 complaint was made by a disgruntled former employee.
The proposed remedy calls for LC to install the eight missing columns on the Beatty Building, to figure out an appropriate solution for the missing stairway on the Trautman Building (possibly involving a mural of some sort), and to put in arched entryways over top of the square ones that had been inappropriately installed on The Matan.
However, LC will not be required to add in the more detailed brickwork that was initially approved for The Matan but never made it onto the building.
The commissioners largely agreed with the compromise worked out by city staff and the developer, although they made some additional suggestions – like painting some cementitious panels on The Matan that were supposed to be made out of metal — and also insisted that LC come back next month with more detailed drawings showing exactly what the changes will look like (particularly the arched entryways).
The chair of the commission, Stephen Wittmann, said that he thought the brickwork on The Matan ended up looking fine as built, but he warned that “we don’t want to find ourselves on a slippery slope, where developers go out and make changes [to the approved design] and then come to us and say ‘oh, shoot,’ and beg for forgiveness.”
“Overall, we have not had a tremendous amount of problems…I’d say 90 percent of the time, what we approve is what is getting built,” he added. “But we need to be very careful…here we are looking at three buildings [with issues] from one company.”