City council halts construction

Columbus City Council temporarily put the brakes on a $14 million parking garage project at High and Rich Streets, after property owners Otto and Joyce Beatty complained that the construction would harm business for their tenants.

"We’re not trying to hold up the parking garage," Otto Beatty, a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives, told council.

But he and his wife, a state representative and the House Minority Leader, are concerned that customers will stay away during the 15-month construction period.

"We are going to lose tenants. This is a partial taking of our property, even if it is temporary," Mr. Beatty said. "If you are going to affect our property, you should buy it."

They have owned the buildings since 1980. The block includes an adult book store that they closed in 2000.

One of his tenants is a podiatrist’s office, with handicapped patients who could have difficulty getting through a construction zone, according to Beatty.

Other businesses are "in desperate need of pedestrian traffic," he said.

The construction of a new county courthouse down the block could further restrict traffic, the Beattys warned.

Other properties in the area have been purchased by the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, Beatty noted.

The garage, which would replace the abandoned Lazarus garage at Front and Rich streets, is part of a $29 million effort to add 1,455 spaces to downtown, including a structure at Fourth Avenue and Gay Street.

Council was set to vote on the authorization for the expenditure, including a guaranteed maximum price contract for the $14 million Front Street garage.

Councilman Kevin Boyce, chairman of the finance committee, asked that the ordinances be tabled for a week to work out an agreement with the Beattys.

"Has there been a logical, reasonable attempt to reach an agreement?" Boyce asked Columbus Development Director Boyce Safford.

Safford defended the need for additional parking for shoppers and residents downtown.

"We’re trying to move downtown forward, and make it vibrant," Safford said,

acknowledging that businesses can experience disruptions in the process.

Mrs. Beatty also complained of poor communication with city officials.

She only received a response after "a hysterical call" to the mayor’s office. Beatty said she was promised that Mayor Coleman would call her back personally, but that never happened.

Amy Taylor, with the Downtown Development Corporation, said that a meeting with the Beattys was held in December.

"We’re not trying to stop any development. There hasn’t been the type of communication that most cities would do," Mrs. Beatty said after the meeting.

"If this puts us in an environmentally unfriendly atmosphere, they should take the property literally. They’re taking it anyway," Mr. Beatty added.

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