Plans for a New Westminster Thurber Tower Proposed

Westminster Thurber Retirement CommunityAt the September Harrison West Society meeting, Mike Milligan, president of JMM Architects, along with architects for the Westminster Thurber continuing care community center at the corner of Goodale Street and Neil Avenue, presented plans and a proposal for a new eight-story tower. The new tower would be located on a vacant portion of Westminster Thurber’s property just west of the Thurber tower.  JMM Architects represents Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services (OPRS), who is the applicant and owner of the property.

The proposed new tower would house 67 apartments and provide units in the 1,000 to 2,000 square feet range—larger than those in the current tower. According to Milligan, units of this size are increasingly in demand among retirees. The new tower would be built with an underground garage with 77 parking spaces and be shorter than the current Thurber tower, which is ten stories.

OPRS (Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services) is asking the city for several variances for the proposed tower:

  • Collins Avenue Parking Lot: On the west side of Collins Avenue is a parcel of land separated from the main parking area, which is on the east side of Collins. OPRS is requesting a variance for a surface parking lot on this parcel. The surface lot would provide an additional 31-33 parking spaces for the Westminster Thurber community. The parcel is zoned AR1; the variance would rezone the property to allow a parking lot.
  • Driveway Width: The current width of the driveway on Collins Avenue is 35 feet; OPRS is requesting a variance to increase the width to 43 feet.
  • Setback on Parking Lot: OPRS is asking for a variance to allow a zero-foot setback on the front of the proposed surface lot on the west side of Collins Avenue and a seven-foot setback on the rear.
  • Building Overhang: The upper levels of the proposed tower would overhand the sidewalk in some areas. OPRS is requesting a variance to allow the overhang.
  • Detached Garages Size: OPRS is requesting a variance to increase the height and area of several new parking garages on the east side of Collins Avenue.
  • Parking Spaces: When complete, the expanded Westminster Thurber community would need 472 parking spaces (1.50 spaces per unit per code). OPRS is requesting a variance to allow 353 spaces, an increase of 112 spaces from the current number.

Full details on all variances and discussion can be found in the September Harrison West Society minutes.

The Harrison West Society executive committee provided some feedback and concerns regarding one of the main variances: the new auxiliary parking lot on the west side of Collins Avenue. The committee expressed a concern that the variance for this parking lot would set a precedent for future noncontiguous parking lots in developments. Society members also were concerned about the atypical layout of the surface lot, which has two access points at potentially dangerous curves in the road. Further discussion included concerns with the safety of pedestrians accessing the lot and the surrounding area, including Wheeler Park; proposals for improved street lighting; and suggestions for possible parking alternatives.

Some residents present wanted more time to consider the proposal from OPRS, but Harrison West Society development chair, Jacob Sukosd, indicated a tight time schedule with the city of Columbus that required an expedited review of the proposed project.

At the end of the meeting, the Harrison West Society supported all variances for the project except those variances pertaining to the creation of the noncontiguous parking lot on the west side of Collins Avenue. The Society will send a letter expressing its thoughts on the project to the city. City departments will review the project proposal and the Society’s concerns and provide comments and suggestions to the applicant. Once OPRS addresses comments from the city departments and receives departmental approvals, the proposal will go to Columbus City Council for final approval.

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