Developers pull Metrovia out of Urbancest/JT


Plans for an upscale shopping center in the Southwest area have been pulled.

Developers with the Simons/McPherson Property Group (SMPG), made the announcement on Aug. 24 that Urbancrest would no longer be the location of the proposed Metrovia Town Center.

Nathan Simons, executive vice president for SMPG, explained that the reason for the decision stems from environmental issues, the inability to anchor major retail commitments and ongoing subjective concerns by Jackson Township residents.

The company had planned to develop 34 acres, in Urbancrest and Jackson Township, into a multi-purpose facility that included retail, office space and living space. The $120 million Easton-like project was to be located near the Interstate 270 and State Route 62 interchange.

"We have done extensive studies on the land east and west of 62," said Simons. "There were just too many barriers we came up against."

According to a SMPG press release, an environmental site assessment was performed east of State Route 62. The study found potential environmental concerns, particularly in the 25-acre mobile home park. Jackson Township Chairman Dave Burris said that land had problems with its septic system but said it has since been annexed into the City of Columbus. The study also found soils of unknown origin and open dumping disposal areas in the wooded area at the south end of the property.

Simons also explained that residents in Jackson Township were negative towards the development.

"It was apparent that they were not looking for development of this magnitude," he said.

The Jackson Township Trustees held a public meeting in July where Metrovia developers attended and fielded questions. Since that time, Simons explained that residents have voiced additional concerns via telephone and e-mail. Their main concern was the increased traffic and safety hazards that come along with it.

"I think some residents wanted to see it succeed," said Burris "but others just do not like change."

Simons added, "They just wanted to keep that urban feel."

In addition to the increased traffic, residents expressed concern regarding a possible increase in property taxes if the value of their home went up and increased crime.

"Some thought that bringing more people to the area, would bring more crime," Burris explained.

Burris noted he doubts the main reason for the termination of the project was Jackson Township residents, but rather the company not finding retailers. Simons explained that the demographics of the proposed location did not bring in retail commitments.

SMPG explained that other reasons for yanking the project included the timeline and costs associated with the lack of city utilities to the land and that the composition of the site incorporates three government entities (Urbancrest, Jackson Township and Columbus).

"I don’t know what is going to happen to that land now," said Burris. "Columbus could put something in there that would be a lot worse. I would have loved to see Metrovia go in."

Simons explained that the idea of Metrovia is still alive, they will just pursue other locations. SMPG is still pursuing eight acres of land west of State Route 62 in Urbancrest.

"Urbancrest has been 200 percent supportive," Simons commented.

He said this project will likely include small retail stores and office space. A convenience store and coffee shop have reportedly already committed to the location.

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