development

All posts tagged development

Complaints lodged over First Ave condo proposal

Published September 26, 2017 by justicewg
Deyo and Office

The yellow brick office building and the brown roof Deyo-Davis buildings would be torn down for the development.

The meeting room for the planning commission was overflowing September 20th with Grandview residents who wanted to comment on the proposed condo to be built on First Ave. The majority of those who spoke were opposed to the plans that were presented by the developer. The site is now the Deyo-Davis Funeral Home and an adjacent office building.

According to a TVN story, most were in favor of the use of the property for residential use, which would require a change from the current commercial zoning. But speakers at the meeting were critical of the number of units and the increased traffic that would be flowing in and out of the area. The developer, Scott Owens, presented a plan for the constructing of two four-story buildings, each with 16 condominiums.

Many spoke about the nearby Edison school building, and worried that morning traffic leaving the condos would cross paths with children entering the school. There were also concerns about parking, although the developer had parking garages in the back, there would only be two spaces per unit. Residents who lived in the area said the on street parking is already tight, and worried that visitors to the new development would create parking issues for blocks around the area.

Some commission members expressed problems with the size and number of units in the new buildings. They said the new buildings would not fit into the present character of the neighborhood. But commission member Robert Wandel said he likes the “boldness” of Owens’ concept, and suggested that traffic issues could be ameliorated with a second entrance.

The only possible second entrance I could see would be a back exit onto Broadview Ave, but that still allows turning right and entering First. I don’t see how shifting traffic sightly improves anything.

The Powell development cautionary tale

Council member Steve Reynolds posted links on his “Grandview Heights USA” facebook page to a story that happened in Powell. Ohio. The city council in that town approved a large new housing development, but a group of residents created a city charter amendment banning high-density housing that was approved by voters. The city then withdrew the developer’s approval, and the developer sued. The city had to pay $1.8 million to settle the suit.

The present development under consideration is not yet approved by the council, and will require re-zoning for the new use of the land. Grandview doesn’t face the danger of a lawsuit. However, City Council members do have the power to approve development deals that are not wanted by the majority of the voters, and passing amendments after approval can cost the city (and voters) big bucks.

The issued of housing density in Grandview should be a top concern for the council members up for election this fall. Make sure you know what the position of each candidate is, and let the candidates know how you feel about housing in Grandview.

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City addresses long term plans for Goodale Blvd.

Published April 28, 2017 by justicewg

Brexton BldgConstruction of a five-story building on the former reTAGit site on Goodale, as well as street work and the nearing completion of the pool, has focused attention on the area. A TVN story gives the latest news on the city’s long term plans.

I think the parking and flooding issues are the main challenges the city must confront in developing the street. Although past work on the floodwalls has improved the classification of some of the area, there are still lots that might end up under water.

“Because the property sits in the flood plain, federal, state and city regulations limit the cost of renovation to being no more than 50 percent of the property value … The high cost of flood insurance also required the first floor (of the five story building) be used for covered parking rather than the retail or office use desired, Galvin said. “

Patrik Bowman, the city’s director of administration, recounted past efforts to work with the city of Columbus to build flood flap gates across the train tracks that would hold back flooding, but that never worked out. He mentioned a possibility of a re-calculation because of a lowering of the Olentangy River , but didn’t put much hope in that occurring.

The small size of the lots on Goodale makes any future tall buildings difficult to plan because of a lack of parking. The use of the first floor for parking is a serious strike on the profitability of any future construction, the utility of the first floor for retail businesses is a key to the income for most developers.

Bowman predicted that future re-development on Goodale would be limited to renovation of existing structures, rather than tall new buildings.

The newspaper article ended with a odd quote:

Galvin said he is concerned that property values on Goodale could lead some developers to seek approval of higher density, residential development along Goodale. He said he would rather see smaller development involving office or retail use.

The Galvin who is quoted in this part of the article is the CEO of Brexton, the developer of the five story building. I’m not sure why his wishes for the future are of importance for a story about the long term plans from the city of Grandview. (Edit) I was reminded that Galvin was a city council member from June 2014 – January 2016, but was not re-elected. His opinion on development for Goodale might be well informed, but he is no longer a office holder, so his wishes for the future of the city are not as important as the current council and city director of administration. The story would have been improved with their comments.

More Bozos on the bus

Grandview doesn’t need to look far to find examples of small towns that were overwhelmed by new housing. Powell, Ohio shows what can happen when too many residents turn the streets into gridlock and government services stretched too thin leads to unhappiness.

New residential housing on Goodale would cause the least disruption on inner street traffic for rush hours, out of any other location in Grandview. However, choke points like the intersection of Goodale and Grandview Ave. will become worse.

Allowing more development without careful city planning is a sure fire way to turn Grandview into Powell. Careful watch of the city council members is needed to prevent pro-development boosters taking the city the wrong direction.

What’s wrong with the School Board’s optimism?

Published August 16, 2016 by justicewg
Happy faces

CC Lynn Friedman Flickr

The Grandview Heights school board is about to start a big PR campaign to build new school buildings. August 24, 2016 will be the kickoff of a sustained effort to convince voters to pass high levies in order to replace some or all of our present school buildings. The board will probably be pushing this line – “We are optimistic about the future of the city, and think the children deserve modern buildings” Knowing the way the board works, I think that anyone who brings up complaints about the costs and loss of historic buildings are going to be labeled gloomy downers who should not be listened to.

What’s wrong with optimistic thinking? The problem is that sometimes positive thoughts are used to reject pragmatic thoughts. There should be careful consideration of all negative points that might bring a future Grandview resident to say, “We made a mistake, the school board had a bad idea, they left us with high taxes and we lost the buildings that made us unique, now we have another education factory”. Going on the experience in the past with the board, I think those pragmatic thought which might have prevented the bad decisions will be stripped from the record, and ignored.

Please, if you have ten minutes, please watch this YouTube video that gives Barbara Ehrenreich ‘s take on the down side of optimistic thinking.

https://youtu.be/u5um8QWWRvo

The video is too important to allow a “Too Long; Didn’t watch” summary. Please watch it!

When happy think pushed out realistic thoughts

The Grandview School board has been operating as a group-think, no complaints allowed board for a long time. The professional education community calls this “Policy Governance” it is an intentional policy of “let the experts run the schools”, and ignoring the wishes and complaints from the anyone who has different perceptions. In order to reinforce the message that complaints will not be heard, the board “acts as a collective rather than making individual decisions”. The Columbus school board became a Policy Governance board, and suffered disastrous results.

There was no sudden change in Grandview’s board becoming a PG board, but I have to point out the meeting of October 2014 as a major turning point. In the past, parents would come before the board during the “Hearing of the Public“ part of the meeting and voice concerns, and ask for answers from the board. At this meeting, for the first time, the board president said “we don’t answer questions during this part of the meeting.” The board refused to answer then, and later refused via email follow up. This is exactly how the Columbus school board operates.

A long history of working on facilities policy without parents attending meetings.

How can a school board become an over-optimistic body, and start out on a path that attempts to bring the community on a disastrously expensive mistake? A major error is for the board to hold too many meetings with no parents in attendance. Closing their ears to criticism makes a board insular and over-optimistic.

The present board has a long history of special board meetings, at odd hours of the morning and evening. Almost no parents attend these meetings, and they are often held in inconvenient locations. The one that bears the closest scrutiny is the special meeting of May 13, 2015. The record shows that no parents or reporters attended the 8:40 AM meeting.

It’s Our Turn Now

An over-optimistic board will grab actions that past boards have taken in order to support the present wishes of the board, even when those past actions have little to do with the present.

The board began this meeting with a statement “80-­‐90 years ago the people of Grandview invested in school buildings and infrastructure; it’s our turn now.”

The big difference between now and 90 years ago? The school district was exploding with new residential housing construction in the 1920’s, most of the present housing in Grandview was built during those years. The new students required new buildings.

There is new housing being built in Grandview, but the great majority of the new residents are apartment dwellers with no kids. There are some single family housing on the way, but past experience has shown that retired couples and DINKs will be the new residents.

(Edit – The board ran a study that found there will be little increase in student numbers.)

A MORAL IMPERATIVE to do something

If you are convinced that you are doing the right thing, might as well assert that you are taking the only moral action. That makes those who oppose you immoral. Groupthink and over-optimistic thinking makes this a good idea (the MORAL IMPERATIVE line, in all caps, was taken verbatim from the meeting notes).

Consensus minded” task force

The Facilities Task force that the board created at this May 2015 meeting was given a list of attributes that were wanted. “Professional and smart” were good things. “Consensus minded” was also a pre-selection criteria. They wanted people who would not dig too deep, that would not voice concerns, that would reflect the over-optimistic ideas that the board wanted to propose. Pretty much exactly what Ehrenreich warned about in the video.

The school board insured the isolation of the task force, they declared it a private group, and denied my request to sit in as an observer. Working in secret, unaccountable – no chance this group would do anything except praise and re-enforce the board’s unrealistic ideas.

(One important observation about that May 13, 2015 board meeting, note that there is no record of who said what. It is obvious from reading the minutes that there are people with very different ideas about how the process of facilities upgrade should be done, but it is all recorded in the “we” voice, in keeping with the consensus  rule. It also allows each member to shuck off responsibility onto the “we”, so nothing they say can be pined on them at the next election.)

Why complain about the over-optimistic board?

Some might think, “well, the board will try their best to build new buildings, and probably fail. So what? Isn’t that what boards do?”

School boards are supposed to be acting at the request of the community. The record of this push to build at the schools shows that it all comes from the board members themselves, not any community group.

The board has already wasted many hours in meetings and site visits in anticipation of building new schools. The board empaneled a task force, which might have spent large amounts of money on preparation for the new buildings (we don’t know, so far the task force actions are being kept secret). We do know the school hired an expensive planning firm to give the board a report on the school facilities.

(Update – the board couldn’t work with the first planning firm (HPG), and hired a second firm for the same job, doubling the cost)

We are still waiting to see what the board pulls out at the meeting August 24th, 2016. I’m guessing at the minimum fat stacks of paper, and possibly a slick video presentation. There will be a website created by the school to promote the building of new facilities. All this stuff is expensive and we taxpayers are footing the bill.

What can we expect from Grandview Voters?

I have reason to believe Grandview voters can make some bad decisions. I try to remain hopeful that they will make better decisions in the future.

Those who are like me and see the school board as over-optimistic and out of touch have some history to back up our hope the voters will reject the grandiose plans for new school buildings. During the end of the 90’s and into the 2000’s, the city council wanted to tear down the historic city administration building, and put up a shiny new office. The voters twice told the council, on two separate votes, “no way”.

The school board will be throwing everything they have into an effort to get you to vote some high taxes for building unnecessary new buildings. I’m cautiously optimistic that Grandview voters will recognize over-optimistic folly and vote the construction levies down.

While we are at it, can we bring some realism to the board, and vote these board members out of office too?

First plans for Grandview Crossing shown to commission

Published June 3, 2016 by justicewg

The Grandview Heights Planning Commission will review the first plans for the Development at the corner of Grandview and SR 33 at the June 2016 meeting (the meeting in which the plan will be reviewed is June 15).

Grv crossing 6-16 plan

First impression – there is a lot of green space to the left of this plan, that area is where the Grandview property line is located. I’m not sure where the line is, but it looks like very little of the new construction will be inside Grandview.

The larger building to the right will be the size that might hold a “Jr. Big Box” store, which is just what we were told last year. A Dick’s Sporting Goods was used as an example of that size business, but there has been no mention of who will be in any of these spaces yet.

Good news for traffic issues – I see the main entrance will be well down Dublin Road, a couple hundred yards from the intersection. This will ease any issues with traffic going downtown on 33 who need to turn left.

Bad news – there is an entrance off Grandview Ave, by the tracks. This area is already packed with cars most of the day, a left turn lane off Grandview into the shopping area could turn the street into a parking lot. Not sure how this will be planned out, but I can’t think of a good way to have an entrance at that spot that will not make Grandview Ave traffic worse. Imagine if there is a line to turn left, and then a train comes through, and drops the gates onto sitting traffic!

Read this older interview with former Pres Panzera, he has the same worries about that entrance into the development on Grandview Ave near the auto store, and said he would oppose plans that would create more traffic problems on the street.

Mayor has new plans for Wallace Gardens, Grandview Crossing

Published April 12, 2016 by justicewg

A suggestion for anyone in the city or school administration – don’t schedule public meetings to answer questions from the residents at 6 PM. People are eating, and they don’t want to show up late, so you end up with one person attending your meeting (the same thing happened years ago when O’Reilly tried a 6 PM public meeting). Hopefully there will be a few more people at the Wyman Woods shelter on April 13th at 8:30 AM for the next public meeting.

Grandview Crossing may have plans by this summer

The Wagenbrenner owned Grandview Crossing development was promoted as a long term project that could have taken until 2025 to finish the fill with dirt and compaction (to cover the landfill that was under this area). According to the Mayor the work has gone much faster than expected, and Wagenbrenner may have plans ready to present before the city council this summer.

Nothing new in the plans for Grandview Crossing so far – mostly retail, some office, no residential. No new announcements since last summer when they said they had plans for “junior big-box” stores, similar to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Remember, most of the area is inside Columbus, so although Grandview gets to approve its part, we have no way to say what will be inside Grandview – if they want big parking lots on our side of the development, we lose potential tax income. A few years ago that would have been a big deal, after all the development going into the Yard, the G.C. seems almost unimportant. Traffic remains a potential big issue.

Wallace Gardens improvements

The Mayor had some renderings of new plans for Wallace Gardens, the area between Grandview Ave. and the plots will have new landscaping and a large Gazebo type building with room for picnic tables. The area behind the gardens (between the tracks and the houses) has potential to become play area for kids, essentially extending the McKinley park back into the area that is now woods. I got the impression that a lot of this depends on an anonymous benefactor who may be funding a lot of the potential million dollar improvements, but no money has changed hands yet * (read below).

(Later) The benefactor has been announced in plans presented before the council, it is the The Mirolo Charitable Foundation.

(Even Later) The city council put the Wallace Garden project on the shelf, and might lose the grant.

City Employees are not expanding

As the new Yard development gets under way, I was expecting the city to start hiring police, fire, and service employees to deal with the additions to the city. According to DeGraw there is no big need for many new people. Nationwide already had its own security patrolling the area around the construction, when the campus is complete there will be more private security, and the city will have minimal need for new employees. The campus will do its own service work – a few more streets need plowed in the winter.

The Mayor thought the expectations for new city services – more recreation buildings, etc., would be increasing in the future as the money from the Yard starts to build up. More than anything, the composition of the city residents is changing – more high income professionals – who see those sort of city services as expectations to be provided by any city that has the high reputation of Grandview.

Storm water diversion plans

Last summer’s flooding caused a lot of water in basements, and although it has been years since that sort of flooding has happened, the service work that the city has in the planning stage may help somewhat.

Interesting to learn that there is a major waste water line that travels from the area north (U.A. and 5xNW), then burrows under Grandview. Some of the water that back-flows after long heavy rain is coming from outside the city. There are plans for a Fifth ave diversion project that will take some of that water and turn it east to the river. All this has to happen in Columbus, so it isn’t our planning, but we can cross our fingers and hope for an end of the water in the basements.

Don’t mess with the trees

The Mayor heard you loud and clear on the trees cut down for the First and NW Boulevard work. New trees are in the plans for other areas of the city.

Can’t give money away without trouble

I was told that there is quite a story behind the donation of money for the Wallace Gardens improvements. Someone wanted to give Upper Arlington a donation for the parks, and it kicked off an epic battle between various factions over the correct use of the money and the  plans for construction. At some point the person making the donation said “Enough! I’ll just go somewhere else to make my donation”. And so Grandview got offered the money.

My suggestion – let’s start an epic battle here in Grandview! Are we going to let U.A. beat us in the race to tick off people looking to donate money?

(Later) Huh. Is it possible the UA fight over park spending, which resulted in a recall election for four council members, was the factor that pushed the Grandview council to spike the Wallace Gardens project?

City employees doing two jobs

Another point the Mayor made has stuck with me – so many of the city employees are wearing two hats, as a result of long ago cuts in funding. The fire chief is also the computer systems tech guy and website updater. Patrik Bowman is both Director of Administration and head of Economic Development. There is no H.R. department at the city, the Mayor mostly does that. It is possible we will find people who can do two jobs when those people retire, but it is not likely they can do both of them well. At some point the city will need specialists who do one job, and hire more administration staff.

Mayor responds to complaints from The Lorax

Published March 25, 2016 by justicewg
Lorax on Flickr

CC Broken Simulacra on Flickr

Mayor DeGraw posted a second message on the Grandview city blog about the removal of trees from the Northwest Boulevard and First intersection. The first message, posted a week before, attempted to explain the reason the city has been working to re-do the trafic pattern for that area, and why the trees must be removed. This week’s post reported that a couple of additional trees would be cut down due to safety concerns.

 

Ribbons didn’t save the trees

I gave a short report on the kerfuffle over the trees in a post last August. A protest lead by (at the time former, now current) city council member Steve Reynolds complained about the cutting of trees for this project, even placing blue ribbons around the trees (which the city removed the next day). The protest didn’t save the trees, but they did point out that there was not enough meetings being held to take comments from the community, and the additional meetings produced a modified plan that saved some of the trees.

A long planning process

The first blog post by the Mayor was a comprehensive accounting of the entire process that lead to the tree cutting on NW Blvd., please read that post for all the good info on the history of the planning that has been done around the Grandview Yard project. Worth your time!

Also, read the Character Framework for Community Investment,(Pdf) a 2013 planning document that was produced by an outside consultant. Five focus group meetings were held that looked at the direction the city could move in the years ahead, knowing the G.Y. would dominate the planning process. It is a good doc that covers some basic info on traffic flow and potential upgrades to the city.

The cars must flow

The biggest reason that the city is remodeling the NW Blvd intersections is to improve traffic flow into and out of the Yard. I think there will be bumper to bumper traffic jams when the 3000 employees at the Nationwide campus (plus other businesses inside G.Y.) are all driving to work in the morning and going home in the evening. The entrances on Third and Goodale are supposed to handle the majority of the flow, but that will be primarily traffic from 315 and areas to the east. I expect that will be how most employees enter at first, but they will quickly find houses to live in the near area. The new employees living inside Grandview and U.A. will be trying to enter from the west side of the Yard, and NW Blvd is the major route. Some will use First Ave too, there was talk about modifications to the intersection at First and Oxley to prevent this, but I don’t know where that is in the current plans.

Back in the dark ages before 315 was upgraded into a freeway, NW Blvd was the standard route for anyone living in the U.A and further north to get to downtown. It was choked with traffic, even after they banned all parking during rush hours and turned it into a four lane throughway. I can see it returning to that state if the traffic into G. Y. gets bad, which will be difficult for the residents who depend on those parking spots. This temporary loss of parking on NW Blvd is a sign of things to come.

Walkable – to what?

A part of the planning process for the Yard was figuring out how to connect it to the rest of the city. We have the Arena District downtown as a stark warning of how development can be localized, leading to choking businesses outside the new development area. There was much talk about how the Arena would bring up all of downtown, but it turned out to be the vampire that sucked the life out of the City Center mall.

The intersection of NW Blvd and First is also being remodeled so that it can be an extension of the walkways already completed that lead into the center of the Yard. Hopefully there will be some people that will walk from the Yard to the strip of businesses on First across from the park. I can’t imagine anyone walking further up the hill to the Grandview Ave shopping area – Americans just don’t like to walk that far.

Here is a possible scenario for the future, one that I have not heard mentioned and is not in any planning document.

The school board has been making lots of warning signals that they want to build new schools. A panel to review the school physical facilities has been created, an outside firm is working on recommendations, which I’m sure will somehow align closely with the already stated wants of the board, which has paid the consultant generously.

Stevenson school will no doubt be pointed out as a “decrepit building” that needs replaced. Nothing wrong with it right now, but I’m sure a 90 year old building can be declared shockingly outdated and hindering the education of our children, if the board is in the mood to get on the gravy train and build schools. Closing Stevenson and building a massive new building that included other grades can be an expected path for the school board.

Wouldn’t it be just an amazing coincidence if the board wanted to close Stevenson and build an elementary building somewhere else, and then the old Stevenson building became the perfect place to extend the retail shopping area on First? “The Shops in Stevenson” has a catchy name.

Mayor to hold “Community Conversations” meetings

Mayor DeGraw has announced meetings at the shelter house at Wyman Woods on April 12 at 6:00 p.m. and again Wednesday, April 13th at 8:30 a.m, so he can answer questions from the community about current and planned city projects, and discuss community issues.

Council President Panzera on the Grandview Crossing development

Published July 9, 2015 by justicewg
The dirt pile

The dirt pile

The developer of the Grandview Crossing shopping center at the corner of Dublin and Grandview Ave. has not talked very much about his plans for the tenants he will try to bring in. The only hint we have is the announcement that he was looking for “junior big-box” stores, similar to Dick’s Sporting Goods. I asked the city council President if he had any clues to the future of the development, and how it might affect the traffic on that section of Grandview Avenue.

Why developers are so secretive

Picking the perfect mix of tenants in a shopping center is not a matter of finding the businesses who will offer to pay the most rent. A highly complex formula is needed to find the needs of the nearby communities, and build a mix of businesses that will attract shoppers enough to spend time in multiple stores. As you might guess, there are software solutions that are formulated as a nonlinear integer program and solved using a linear approximation. Businesses who can predict the needs of the developers will ask for lower tenant rates, knowing their acceptance into the center is a vital part in the mix. It’s a complex dance, and it doesn’t enhance the profitability for developers to telegraph the next moves.

It also doesn’t help to give opponents to certain retail chains a head start in organizing community opposition. During the previous attempt to build on this corner Walmart was named as a possible anchor, and council member Panzara was one of the leaders in the opposition.

Thoughts from the city council president

I asked Mr Panzera two questions, will we see a return of Walmart, and how will the city deal with more traffic in the G.C. Area.

Little is confirmed regarding the Grandview Crossing development, and, as you pointed out correctly, much of it lies inside the municipality of Columbus.  The history of the site certainly has made it a great undertaking, and it has been tried before on a couple of occasions within the past 15 years.  This time it obviously looks like it will be a reality.

The last time this was seriously considered was around a decade ago, with a developer named Bear Creek.  Although I don’t believe they publicly named a user at that time, it was widely believed (pretty much known) that they were working with Wal-Mart, as they had a number of sites developed “for” Wal-Mart.  They seemed to work with them regularly based on the developments featured on the Bear Creek website – and those that were familiar with their work.

In this case, it seems that we have a more dynamic developer, and Wal-Mart is not a desired tenant.  We will again be required to work with the city of Columbus to make it a unified development, and hopefully one that provides benefit to the area.  As you know, retail is among the lower performers of revenue to the city, but it does have a necessity.

We were successful in keeping Grandview Yard largely void of big-box and “junior” big-box stores, yet, had it not been valued at some 500k per acre, it would have been far more attractive to big-box.  The Kaplan Tract land acquired for this Grandview Crossing development was *significantly* less, like a fraction.  I’m afraid we have a bit less traction in this case due to so much land being in Columbus, but I do feel a certain comfort knowing that we have a more locally involved developer.  So, it’s a balancing act; we don’t want to end up with simply a giant parking lot on the Grandview Heights side – one large enough to hold a sea of cars for a big-box that Columbus could approve on the land that they control.  At the same time, we have to be practical about the appropriateness of a retail-style development on Dublin Rd.

Our hope is that the developer will keep to their stated desire to avoid big-box, that would be a worst-worst-worst case scenario for Grandview Heights, and one that would certainly not have our support.

As for the traffic on Grandview ave, I have strongly asked for the ingress-egress to be limited to Dublin Rd, far east of Grandview ave. There’s already increased traffic expected on Grandview ave south of Goodale from Grandview Yard, and I am aware that this could be an additional burden. I am not in favor of an entrance near the current Napa store.  I believe (as a resident and Council member – not a traffic engineer) that this would overly-congest and complicate the railroad crossing among other complaints.

There’s a glimpse of my thoughts, stay in touch.

– Anthony Panzera