By Hannah Poling
At the Oct. 16 meeting, Westland Area Commission members approved a rezoning proposal to turn the old Regal Cinema into a used car lot.
Auto Boutique Limited requested a plan to turn the closed movie theater at the Georgesville Square Shopping Center into a used car lot. The current zoning was passed in 1994. This zoning listed used car sales as an exclusion for the allowable uses, so they are requesting a rezone to amend the allowable uses.
Auto Boutique Limited is a 5-year-old company which was started in Columbus.
Alex Levitskiy, owner said, “We have currently outgrown our location on Wilson Road and have purchased this building for our new location which we desperately need to continue our growth.”
Jeff Brown, an attorney representing Auto Boutique, said Georgesville Square is an ideal place for his client’s business to grow.
“He needs a bigger piece of property,” said Brown. “This is a 13.6 acre tract. It has over a thousand parking spaces and it has an existing building. It’s right off a freeway intersection. It has frontage along the freeway, so it has visibility. It’s a perfect location for automotive use.”
Levitskiy said that his company would be an economic asset to the community.
“Almost 30 percent of our customers travel further than 50 miles away from our current locations. We have customers as far as West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. They come from all over to get a great deal,” he said. “We have the lowest prices and that’s what drives them to hop in their car and drive for four or five hours. When they come here, they are putting money right back into our economy, benefiting the local restaurants, hotels and other merchants.”
The total investment for buying the property and doing the renovation, not including equipment, is about $3.1 million. The dealership has $2.3 million dollar purchase price in cash, so they would not need the preapproval for a loan.
“We are talking about putting an appropriate use to a regional shopping center and increasing jobs. The city of Columbus lives and dies on its income tax. Sales tax over $330,000 a month, funds a lot of services. We are trying to bring something back that has died,” said Brown.
Several residents in attendance had concerns about the proposal.
“The economic future of Georgesville Square will not be enhanced by a parking lot packed full of cars. And the promise of greenspace, landscaping and free movies is just that – promises,” said Betty Jaynes, president of the Westgate Neighbors Association and 37-year resident of the westside.
Westside resident Miranda Warner shared her concerns about the quality of life for the individuals who live in the area.
“With all of the industrialization that’s going on, yes it’s good for the economy. What about the quality of the neighborhoods and what about the quality of life for the people who were already living here?” she asked.
The motion to approve the request to rezone the property to allow for used car sales was passed 8-2, with one abstention.
In other news, Homeport, a non-profit housing development organization, requested a variance to build a multi-family development with 48 units in between Broad Street and Galloway Road.
Homeport has been active in central Ohio for 30 years and provides affordable housing.
“There is an enormous need in central Ohio for affordable housing, so we look for opportunities and places that make good real estate sales. We think this is such a location,” said Roy Lowenstein, a representative from Homeport.
It was explained that the site is commercially zoned and Homeport is seeking a use variance.
“The reason that we ask for a variance rather than to rezone is because we could be successful and get the zoning and then not be successful and get the financing and in which case we are not sure if we would be able to develop it,” said Lowenstein. “In Columbus, what City Council likes to do is rather than approve a rezoning that changes the zoning entirely if they issue a use variance that is specific in this case to Homeport in which if we were not successful with our financing plan the commercial use would still stay intact. So if we are successful with our financing, then we come back through the system and rezone the property.”
The plan is for there to be a 30-unit three story walk up building and an 18-unit building with a variety of one, two and three bedroom units.
Rather than having an access point on West Broad Street, it is planned to have the main access coming about 400 feet south of the intersection with Galloway Road at the south end of the property. There is also a turning lane on Galloway Road which could be used to assist with traffic. A secondary access point would be placed 200 feet south of the intersection.
Homeport is also hoping to get sidewalks along the property and see if they can get the COTA bus to come up toward them a bit further.
The motion was approved with a 9-2 vote.