COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A campus bar frequented by Ohio State University students and Buckeyes fans has been spared a fatal blow – for now.
The University Area Commission rejected a proposed 8-story student apartment complex on the northwest corner of Lane Avenue and High Street at its January meeting Wednesday night. After emphatic public commentary and lengthy discussions among commissioners, the commission voted 11-4 to send developers back to the drawing board.
Representatives from American Campus Communities, a Texas-based real estate company specializing in off-campus student housing, have pitched iterations of the development project to the University Area Commission Zoning Committee since September. Originally proposed to be a pair of 12- and 9-story buildings standing at nearly 100 feet tall, the latest proposal outlined an 8-story, 560-bed development with room for the University Baptist Church on the first floor.
American Campus Communities sought a 1.72-acre piece of land currently owned by the University Baptist Church that is west of North High Street, taking up most of the block between West Lane and Norwich Avenues. Little Bar is separated from the rest of the parcel by an alley that developers envision will include a bridge between the two buildings. Where Little Bar stands, developers’ renderings show a parking garage with student housing above it.
But commissioners were not convinced by developers’ pitch for an 88-foot building that would dwarf the historical two-story storefronts next to and across from it.
“It just sticks out like a sore thumb and it breaks away from what the streetscape should look like for the campus,” Commissioner Debra Gallagher said.
Developers pointed to a taller building in the immediate area – Taylor Tower, a student residence hall – as evidence for their proposal’s ability to mesh with the neighborhood.
Developers applied for multiple zoning variances, including:
- To increase the maximum building height from 72 to 88 feet
- To reduce the number of required parking from 238 to 151 spaces
- To reduce the rear yard from 25% of the parcel to zero
- To allow non-residential parking in the garage
Previous versions of the proposal suggest that reserved parking spaces will be split between the church and apartment tenants. And although several commissioners lauded the developers for months of reworking and compromise, most commissioners balked at the parking – or lack thereof.
“If we can’t meet the very small parking requirements the city allows – which is laughably low – we’re just compounding a huge parking problem,” Commissioner Seth Golding said.
University District residents, too, expressed concerns about the proposal. One community member, a 40-year resident of the district, called the complex a “monstrosity” and criticized developers’ hardship statements – explanations for why they could not sacrifice more development for a shorter building.
“We are not responsible, and you all are not responsible, for [developers’] profitability and what they’re supposed to do in the future,” Zenia Palas told commissioners. “If they made a bad decision, it’s incumbent upon them to make concessions.”
After the vote, Sam Newman, vice president of development for American Campus Communities, told NBC4 that they planned to “evaluate the continued feedback” and come back with another version of the proposal.