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Neighbors Gather to Oppose University District Development Proposal

Walker Evans Walker Evans Neighbors Gather to Oppose University District Development ProposalRendering via BBCO Design.
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An eleven-story development proposal on North High Street quickly drew ire from neighbors during December’s University Area Review Board meeting, and January’s meeting will likely see additional concerns raised. A flyer being distributed by a group of University District residents going by the name of “Protect Old North” is encouraging locals to attend en masse and voice their opinions on the project.

“As far as we know, this is the first time our neighborhood has organized to oppose any kind of development like this,” said Sarah Nocar, one of the organizers of the group. “We feel this is a unique situation in that it may be the first instance of a development of this scale to be proposed for this area.”

If approved as-is, the View on Pavey Square development would add 140 apartment units above ground-floor retail on High Street and a parking garage structure. To accommodate the new building, the proposal calls for the demolition of 10 smaller buildings — which make up almost the entire full block of High Street between Northwood Avenue and Oakland Avenue.

“I don’t want to speak on behalf of the entire neighborhood, but personally, I would like to see the existing structures untouched or restored keeping the history in mind,” said Nocar. “I think generally, we are not interested in stifling economic development of our neighborhood, but we expect that any plans, especially those on a scale as large as The Pavey Project, would have in mind the best interest of the community it seeks to inhabit. A project like The Pavey Project does not seem likely to better the community, but instead to change it.”

Nocar says that the in addition to local businesses being displaced through demolition, the project would likely cause rent increases for the surrounding blocks, posing a challenge for area businesses that are built upon affordability.

Places like Dick’s Den, Kafe Kerouac, The Blue Danube and The Mug and Brush, to name a few, would likely see a rise in property taxes and rents, and would suffer the loss of their main customer base as rental housing would become less affordable for the people in the community,” she explained.

Similarly, fellow organizer Lauren Lever wants to see the area character maintained, which applies to both the building stock and the existing business types.

“The idea of creating more housing for the student population does not bother me in and of itself, though it is probably unnecessary as OSU is now requiring all students to live on campus for the first two years,” she said. “However, I don’t think it’s justified to demolish these properties when there are likely other areas nearby that are not being fully utilized that could possibly accept a project like this.”

Typically, this type of public feedback process is handled through the University Area Commission or through City Council. But due to the project’s design, no variance approval is required by the Commission. That means that regardless of neighbor concerns, the project may be able to proceed as originally planned without any preventative measures in place.

“This is something I think we are trying to figure out with the coming meeting,” said Nocar. “It seems that creating a paper trail of opposition has the potential to have significant weight if the issue were to end up in City Council. We are hoping it doesn’t get to that point, but I intend to ask about the process at the meeting. It seems a bit convoluted to the layman.”

The January University Area Review Board Meeting will take place on Thursday, January 21st at 8:30pm at 2231 North High Street in Room 101. Lever said that she hopes residents can make a clear case to the Board about how they feel.

“I hope to discuss with the other people attending the meeting what the ultimate goal is of our actions,” she said. “I would like to walk away with more information on who is responsible for this project and what further actions we can take.”

Renderings via BBCO Design.

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