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Plan to Demolish Historic Marble Cliff Building Meeting Resistance

Brent Warren Brent Warren Plan to Demolish Historic Marble Cliff Building Meeting ResistancePhoto by Anne Evans.
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A building in Marble Cliff that was designed by one of Columbus’ preeminent architects is once again being threatened with demolition. The latest plan calls for replacing the tudor-style mansion with a three-story, 67-unit apartment building.

The building, located on 1.25 acres at 2015 W. Fifth Ave., was designed by Frank Packard, architect of the Atlas Building, the Sells Mansion and many other landmarks in Columbus.

The Village of Marble Cliff held a public forum on Monday to give the community a chance to weigh in on the proposal. Several residents spoke out against the plan, raising concerns about the added density and traffic, as well as the potential loss of a historic landmark.

Rendering of the proposed building, via Village of Marble Cliff.

Becky West of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation spoke at the meeting, laying out the economic and preservation case for incorporating the existing building in any redevelopment of the property.

That case was also made in a letter sent by West to Mable Cliff’s mayor and council members in advance of the meeting.

“Sacrificing the 1907 Gateway Mansion for a new building will erode your community’s unique identity,” stated the letter. “Why opt to construct a faux Tudor-style building when you already have the real thing?”

Kent Studebaker, Mayor of Marble Cliff, said that no votes on the proposal have been taken and that the review process could stretch into the summer. The next hearing will be on March 19, “where I anticipate the developer might present to council possible modifications to the original concept plan based on what they heard from residents/interested parties at the public open house.”

“To date, council continues to collect information from the developer and the public, so if and when a proposal comes to a vote, they have what they feel is the best information possible,” he added. “Their decision will be based on balancing what is best for the overall community and its residents.”

The developer and the building’s owner (Kathryn Gardner, who bought the building for $1.15 million in 2003) contend that it would be too expensive to renovate it, the same argument that was made in 2015 when JDS Companies presented a redevelopment plan for the property to the council. That plan was eventually dropped.

Justin Collamore has rented out a small office space in the building for about five years. His company, Collamore Built, specializes in renovations, many of them of historic homes.

“I love coming into the office and spending time here, it’s a beautiful space,” he said. “It’s crushing my soul that this could be torn down.”

“Of course the owner and developer are pushing that it’s in poor condition,” he added. “I think it’s in amazing condition for the age of the building and (considering) the lack of repairs that have been made in the last five years…it has a lot of original detail and I don’t think it would take much to bring it back.”

West said that Columbus Landmarks is ready to work with the owner to evaluate options and identify resources for restoring the building, including applying for historic preservation tax credits.

“I would really like to see the building owner presented with the other side of the story, and to see if she would work with them,” said Collamore. “One side says that the only way to make money is to tear (the building) down, but there’s a real case to be made from the historic renovation side of things.”

Bob Loversidge, President and CEO of Schooley Caldwell, wrote an impassioned plea for the building on the Columbus Landmarks Foundation website:

This is certainly a travesty in the making. Frank Packard was probably our most significant architect — ever, and this mansion is a very visible reminder of his impact. Surely it could be adapted, surely it could be incorporated into a desirable new development project that would benefit the developers and the community. Remember, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Representatives of the two developers associated with the project – Elford Development and F2 Companies – did not respond to requests for comment.

For more information on the building, see www.columbuslandmarks.org.

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