Scioto Audubon-Area Development Gets Columbus City Council Approval

Columbus City Council has approved a $250 million development that would transform the Whittier Peninsula.

North Carolina-based Zimmer Development Co. plans to build three, seven-story buildings at 142 W. Whittier St., near Scioto Audubon Metro Park. The land is owned by CSX Transportation Inc.

Landon Zimmer, managing partner of Zimmer Development Co. said each building would have 260 units, with 10% of them available for those making 80% of the area median income, he said, or about 80 units.

This is a scaled-down version of the original project.

In 2019, Zimmer pitched a mixed-use development with a hotel alongside office, retail and residential. About 10 buildings were proposed at that time, including a handful of towers in the seven- to 12-story range.

Adam Tucker, director of development for Zimmer, previously said that the development was retooled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Zimmer said the developer originally thought the best use for the property would be denser and include a hotel. After hearing from park users and the Brewery District Commission, Zimmer said the final design is the right fit for the area.

The development will have green roofs with vegetation, a 1.5-mile trail and 10 acres of green space, which will be open to the public.

This is the developer’s first project in Columbus, but Zimmer said the development company has a history of buying and transforming CSX properties.

“We’re excited to bring this vision to the site,” Zimmer told Columbus Business First. “We’re excited to turn a contaminated industrial property to a residential site.”

Zimmer said remediating the site will open up areas that were previously unaccessible.

Zimmer Development Co. also has plans to donate $1 million to the city to help build a pedestrian bridge near the site to connect the Brewery District to the park or make other improvements.

Councilman Rob Dorans, chairman of the zoning committee, said the city, park and developer had been working six months on this latest version of the project.

Zimmer said the development company plans to build a new, privately-funded road to access the apartment buildings from West Whittier Street. The developer also will contribute funds to make improvements to the intersection at Whittier and Front streets.

Tim Moloney, executive director of Columbus and Franklin County Metro Park system, said the park system’s board wouldn’t grant an easement for the developer to build a road through the park because it would bring too many cars over a single bridge. Moloney said he was opposed to the project mainly for traffic reasons.

The parks system has granted easements for the “public good,” Moloney said, including the recent I-70 widening project.

Several council members providing more affordable housing is a city priority. Dorans asked that the Metro Parks and the developer continue to work on a solution.

“I really believe there is a path forward on this,” Dorans said at the council meeting.

Both parties agreed to work together. The developer also committed to work with the Grange Insurance Audubon Center as the project moves forward.

For its part, City Council on Monday approved rezoning the site from manufacturing to mixed-use development. The Brewery District Commission and Development Commission also were supportive of the project when it came before them in the fall.

Zimmer said it will take about a year to permit the site and hopes to break ground this time next year on the first phase of the project. The buildings will be built in three phases. Two of the floors would be dedicated to parking, according to the plans.

There will be one-bedroom, two-bedroom and studio apartments available, with pools and a courtyard amenity area planned. Some units would have a view of downtown, others of Scioto Audubon Metro Park.

NBBJ and Osborn Engineering worked on the project.