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Developers Present Updated Pavey Project, Neighbors Weigh In

Walker Evans Walker Evans Developers Present Updated Pavey Project, Neighbors Weigh InPhotos by Walker Evans.
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An updated version of The View on Pavey Square development proposal was presented to the University Area Review Board last night in a crowded room filled with concerned neighbors who primarily live within close proximity to the site. The updates represent some major changes in massing, scale and height of the development — dividing the site plan into three separate buildings, reducing the tallest portion from 11 stories to eight stories, and reconfiguring the architectural elements fronting High Street.

Architect Bhakti Bania from BBCO Design indicated that they had taken feedback from December’s Review Board meeting into consideration and had worked to address issues raised during the first conceptual presentation. She walked attendees through a slideshow featuring the new design and discussed how a central public space would serve pedestrians and restaurant customers, while parking access would be serviced with the rear building from an alleyway located in between.

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The proposal still calls for the demolition of nearly the entire block of existing buildings, saving just one of the original Pavey properties in the process. The original proposal in December had two buildings marked for repurposing. Residents in attendance who spoke up largely seemed to agree that demolition of the structures was the biggest problem.

“I feel this is unnecessary and disrespectful,” stated University District resident Lauren Lever. “Other projects are making use of underutilized spaces, like the Taco Bell or the gas station at Lane and High. This is a characteristic and historic area of High Street. We have no mountains or lakes in Columbus, so what we have to preserve is our cultural history.”

Long-time resident and neighborhood activist Joe Motil voiced agreement.

“I think tearing down these properties is about as bad a tearing down Union Station,” he said to applause.

Other residents brought up issues related to parking and traffic, as well as the increased demand on sewer and utility infrastructure for the area. Some voiced concerns about the increased rental rates displacing students as well as area businesses.

One of the supporting voices in favor of the development came from John Massimiani, owner of the Little Bar, located just one block south. He said that he has opposed other development in the past that didn’t meet parking requirements and pointed out that this project’s developers — Solove Real Estate and Celmark Development Group — are going above and beyond by making sure that existing restaurant tenants are being retained in the new development.

“I’ve been on campus for 20 years, and these guys do things right — they don’t cut corners,” said Massimiani said in reference to Pavey’s developers. “They’re not asking for variances, and they’re meeting parking requirements. The View on High — I think it’s phenomenal — and I think they’ll do the right thing that fits in the area for this proposal.”

The individual members of the University Area Review Board each weighed in with their opinions, with varying degrees of both trepidation and acceptance of project updates since last month.

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“We’re between rock and a hard place,”  said Board Member Pasquale Grado, referring to the fact that the board does not have specific authority to prevent the demolition of the existing properties. “This project is overly ambitious for this site. My suggestion is — as good neighbors — let’s do something that has a density that can be accommodated by infrastructure. Maintain all of what’s on already on High Street, and design a piece along the alley that is complementary in scale to what we as a community want to see developed. There’s an opportunity for a win-win solution.”

Board Member Doreen Uhas Sauer cautioned that beyond demolition, any architectural elements approved with this development proposal could ultimately impact future development applications for the neighborhood.

“The bigger picture issue is that this neighborhood is under development pressure,” she said. “These architects do high quality work, so I’m hopeful. There are issues that have been recognized, so you are listening, and I think that should be noted for the record.”

Board Chair Ted Goodman added that the updated proposal with three stories on High Street was very much in line with what area plans define as appropriate mixed-use on a commercial corridor, indicating that it would be a great fit if not for the demolition of the existing buildings. He concluded that the meeting raised a lot of good points to consider and expected the developer to return to the group at a later date with another revised plan for review.

All renderings by BBCO Design. Photos by Walker Evans..

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