Correction: Because of a reporter's error, the online and April 11 print versions of this story incorrectly said traffic signals would be put in place as part of redeveloping the Golden Bear Center in Upper Arlington. Developer Scott Patton said there would be traffic improvements done in accordance with the project's traffic study and the recommendations of the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Concerns over redevelopment plans for the Golden Bear Center on Riverside Drive have sent the project's developer back to the drawing board.
Scott Patton, managing partner of Arcadia Development of Ohio LLC, is optimistic a resolution can be found to address questions Upper Arlington city officials have over his plans to rebuild the Golden Bear Center into a multistory building that would feature offices, retail businesses and luxury condominiums.
"We have a five-year relationship with the city of Upper Arlington, working on major economic-development projects," said Patton, who also is involved in the development of an 11-story mixed-use project to be called the Arlington Gateway on West Lane Avenue.
"It's our intent to position a (Golden Bear Center) project everyone can be proud of," he said.
Originally, Patton planned to demolish the 53-year-old, roughly 32,000-square-foot Golden Bear Center at 3700 Riverside Drive and replace it with a six-story building that would include 28,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 34,000 square feet of second-floor professional offices and 112 condos on the upper four floors.
His proposal also called for the construction of a two-story, 326-space parking garage.
But those plans were scuttled after some residents to the east of the center raised concerns about its proposed height and impact on their neighborhood.
Further, the city's Planning Division has recommended that the Upper Arlington Board of Planning and Zoning reject the project.
In a March 25 staff report to BZAP, city Planning Officer Justin Milam said officials are "disappointed" Patton's plan doesn't incorporate a McDonald's at 3746 Riverside Drive.
The report said the staff "appreciates the applicant's investment into the community and the potential revitalization of this area," but believes the proposed six-story plan "is simply too far of a departure from code standards and the (city's) master plan."
The city zoning code states the maximum height permitted at the site is 54 feet. As originally proposed, Patton's project would be 75 feet.
"Allowing a building to be more than 50 percent of the maximum height limit in the zoning district would set a dangerous precedent and is beyond what staff would recommend that BZAP approve," Milam wrote in the staff report. "If at least one full story were to be removed, a variance would still likely be required, but would make the height more in line with comparable developments."
Patton countered by saying city staff didn't suggest bringing the McDonald's or an Arby's, located at 3650 Riverside Drive, into his project until well after he began discussing his proposal with them. In both cases, he said, the restaurants have "long-term leases" with national franchises and neither entity has expressed a willingness to be bought out.
"We don't control the Arby's, and we don't control the McDonald's," Patton said.
As for the height concerns, Patton said the layout of the Golden Bear Center site restricts him from developing an economically viable building with significantly fewer stories.
He said there is an existing cellular tower that must be taken into account, as well as a 50-foot wide stormwater easement on which he can't build anything.
"The master plan says they want retail, office and residential on this site," he said. "Those three programming aspects all drive the height.
"Unfortunately, the thing is, we can't make everyone happy in any development. You have to look at the benefits, and we think we've shown we're in compliance with the vast majority of the master-plan requirements."
Depending on its height, Patton said his Golden Bear Center project would result in an investment of $45 million to $65 million.
He said if he's forced to significantly reduce the size of the development, it would reduce the amount of income taxes and property taxes the project would generate for the city and for Upper Arlington Schools.
Still, he said he plans to reach out to neighbors to keep lines of communication open and to continue to collect feedback from them.
Patton said his architects would tweak the plans as much as possible, and that he's already committed to increase the landscape buffer between the development site and neighbors, as well as greenspace on the Golden Bear Center site.
Patton said traffic improvements would be completed in accordance with the project's traffic study and the recommendations of the Ohio Department of Transportation.
"There are going to be significant increases in the income-tax revenues and also the property-tax revenues," he said.
In order to talk to neighbors and revise his plans, Patton said he will postpone coming back before BZAP until May. The group has a work session scheduled for May 6, and its regular meeting that month is slated for May 20.
"I can't tell you where we're headed on the height, but we're sensitive to that issue," Patton said. "We're not coming back in with the same building."
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