Shorter King and High Proposal Still Faces Hurdles
A plan to redevelop the southwest corner of King Avenue and North High Street does not appear to be any closer to getting approval after a meeting of the University Impact District Review Board on September 24.
Representatives of the developer, Collegiate Development Group (CDG), were not seeking final design approval from the board at the meeting, but instead hoping to get a sign-off on zoning changes.
The plan was to come back with a final design that fit into an agreed-upon framework, based on the overall height of the building and, also, precisely how much each level would step back from the street.
Board members, though, were not willing to commit to such an agreement.
“I can’t see supporting this kind of request when the community has made so clear their opposition to the project, on very solid grounds,” said Kay Bea Jones, who noted that 27 letters of opposition to the project had been submitted to the board in advance of the meeting.
“My concerns is…how can we vote on variances without at least having what we’ve had in the past, and that’s some consensus on design,” said Frank Petruziello, adding that he doesn’t understand why, in this iteration and several previous ones, the design team has chosen to put the tallest part of the building on the west side of the structure, and not closer to High Street. “That’s the fundamental design issue that has not been addressed.”
CDG’s Brandt Stiles said that his team’s focus has been on responding to the many concerns expressed by the neighborhood, and a big one was a desire to see some of the buildings on the site preserved (including the two-story brick building on the corner that fronts High Street).
It’s been a year and a half since CDG first floated several concepts for the corner to the zoning committee of the University Area Commission (UAC). Last month, the UAC split on the latest zoning request related to the project, which means that it is recorded as a no-vote, or a recommendation against.
The recommendations of area commissions in Columbus are advisory, meaning that City Council can – and often does – vote to approve projects that were not approved by the local commission. For developments that are located within the boundaries of a historic or architectural review board, on the other hand, a positive vote is required for the project to move forward.
“Our board is the one you need to work with to get a design approved,” said Petruziello during the virtual meeting. “You’ve tried to appeal to everybody….you’ve spent lots of time trying to gather every opinion but ours.”
The latest proposal calls for a building that tops out at seven stories (previous designs called for 11 stories) and holds 210 apartments, preserving the facade and about 10 feet of the existing building at King and High, as well as portions of two other buildings. A parking garage would hold 240 cars, only nine fewer than required by the zoning code.
“We’re trying to be a good community developer,” said Stiles, after receiving the board’s feedback. “Based on the comments today, we’ve got to ask for a tabling, huddle up, re-look at the massing and design and come back to you guys…we’re committed to being a part of the community.”