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Whittier Street Proposal Moving on to Council

Brent Warren Brent Warren Whittier Street Proposal Moving on to CouncilThe south side of the building proposed for 280 E. Whittier St. All renderings by NBBJ.
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The Pizzuti Companies’ proposal to redevelop the former Whittier Street Giant Eagle will be heading to City Council after receiving a vote of approval from the Development Commission last night.

The 3-2 vote from the commission came a month after the same board voted to table the project, and after many months of contentious neighborhood meetings. The Schumacher Place Civic Association had previously voted against the project, while the South Side Area Commission voted narrowly in favor of it.

The approved proposal calls for a building that ranges from three to five stories in height, topping out at 61 feet. It will hold 262 apartments and a little over 8,000 square feet of retail space, with an internal parking garage that will offer a single space for each unit.

The grocery store that had occupied the 2.3-acre site for years closed its doors on December 31, after Giant Eagle made the decision not to renew its lease. Pizzuti Companies purchased the site in 2017.

Representatives of the developer and the architect – NBBJ – spoke at the virtual meeting, laying out the case for approval and highlighting actions they had taken to improve the way the building interacts with the street and fits in with the existing historic streetscape.

They also touted commitments to plant more street trees and install public art along the building, and to support alternative transportation by buying annual CoGo passes for residents without cars.

A new sun study was presented that showed the shadows the building would cast during different seasons and at different times of day, and new renderings were shared that zoomed in on street-level views of the project. The design of the building itself, though, was unchanged from what was presented to the commission in January.

Residents who spoke out in opposition to the project pointed out that the developer had not actually made any concessions related to their primary concerns – the height and overall size of the building – and that despite several meetings between neighbors and the developers in the last month, they were still against the proposal.

Commission Chair Mike Fitzpatrick said that he believed the applicant had “made the effort to make this a contributing project for the area,” citing the changes that had been made since it was originally proposed, as well as the fact that the area commission and city staff had both signed off on it. “I think this project has done a lot to fit in.”

Commissioner Amanda Golden, who was the lone member of the board to vote yes on the project last month, said that she believes the Whittier proposal meets or exceeds the standards laid out by the city for infill development in urban, walkable areas. She also suggested that the failure of the commission to vote to approve it in January may have had more to do with the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods than on the merit of the building’s design.

“We have passed, unanimously, many dense developments without any significant pause for much lower-quality development in other areas of the city,” Golden said. “I cannot help but feel that there is not equitable treatment across all neighborhoods in Columbus, and we are reserving scrutiny toward the most desirable neighborhoods in the city that have wealthy, well-connected and hyper-engaged residents…many of the same demands that have been made by the neighbors of this development have been requested by other neighborhoods and we have not responded in the way that we did here.”

The next and final step for the proposal is City Council, although it’s not yet known when it will be scheduled for a vote.

A new rendering showing the north side of the development.
A pedestrian entry into the north courtyard, along Jaeger Street.
A cross section of the development, as shown during the virtual meeting. The building would be 38 feet tall at its northern end, 49 feet tall on the south side, and 61 feet tall in the middle.
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