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Redevelopment Concepts Floated for King and High

Brent Warren Brent Warren Redevelopment Concepts Floated for King and HighThe existing buildings on the corner, photo by Brent Warren.
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A St. Louis-based developer who wants to redevelop the southwest corner of King Avenue and North High Street presented several concepts for the site to the zoning committee of the University Area Commission last night.

Brandt Stiles of Collegiate Development Group (CDG) and architect Renato Gilberti, from the Chicago office of BKV Group, explained to the group that their first idea for the site was to tear down all the existing buildings and replace them with a seven-story, 215-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail.

They soon abandoned that approach, however, after they “discovered that some of the buildings were considered to be of historic importance,” said Renati.

The cluster of buildings that currently occupy the site include a two-story brick building on the corner (home to the Hippie Hut), a two-story building to the south that holds Ohio Exterminating, a small car lot, an auto repair shop, a five-unit row house on King, and several smaller buildings that have been added on to the larger ones over the years. Not included within the scope of the project is the row of renovated townhouses on Clark Street.

Gilberti presented a second concept in which the facade of the building at the corner would be preserved, but the remaining buildings demolished.

Those first two concepts, however, were presented not so much as actual proposals, but more to illustrate how much the developer’s thinking about the site had evolved. It was the third idea that the project team was most interested in hearing the committee’s thoughts on.

That one calls for preserving the Ohio Exterminating building, most of the corner building, and the facade of the row house on King Avenue. New buildings would be set back behind the preserved buildings, and on the southern portion of the site a much taller building would rise to a height of 133 feet.

Each of the three scenarios presented at the meeting would accommodate a similar overall square footage and a similar number of apartment units.

“What the height gives us is a preservation strategy,” said Tim Bass, Principal of Bass Studio Architects. “Tall isn’t the enemy of the urban fabric…maybe it’s ok to make part of the site more dense to allow you to preserve more of that fabric.”

Bass is one of two local consultants brought in by CDG to help develop the third concept. The other is Randy Black, the former Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Columbus, who helped to identify which buildings should be preserved.

A conceptual rendering presented at the meeting shows the massing of the proposed buildings behind the existing building on the corner.

Zoning changes enacted by the city in 2017 established a height limit of 72 feet for this section of North High Street, so a significant variance would be required for the project to move forward as proposed.

Several members of the committee expressed concern about the height, although some said that they could support the density of the project if the architecture was of a high enough quality.

“You would need to do something to wow (the group),” said committee member Craig Bouska. “It’s pretty high, you’re going to have to win people over to get them excited.”

Michael Shannon, a lawyer representing the developer, said that in addition to a height variance, a use variance will also likely be necesary, but that “we don’t anticipate any parking variances.”

“This is our first cut at it, if there’s some type of middle ground, we’re all ears,” he added. “We realize that this is not going to be a quick process, we know we still have a ways to go…but we wanted to come in as early in the process as possible.”

The project was only presented conceptually, meaning that no vote was taken. It would need to be brought back to the zoning committee for a vote before proceeding to the full area commission, and would also eventually need to be heard by the University Impact District Review Board.

“We’re trying to do something really special here,” said Styles, after his team heard feedback from the committee and from members of the public at the meeting. “We’re here to have an open dialogue and work with you guys, and we’ll come back and tell you what we can do and can’t do.”

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