Upscale shopping center planned for Urbancrest

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Could an Easton-like shopping center be on the horizon for Urbancrest?

Chris McPherson, the president of the Simmons/McPherson Property Group (SMPG), says yes, but Urbancrest officials claim that they have not been contacted regarding the massive project.

The company, out of Dallas, Texas, plans to develop 34 acres into a multi-purpose facility that integrates retail, commercial office and residential real estate properties. They have already named the $120 million project Metrovia Towne Center. The location is near the Interstate 270 and State Route 62 interchange.

"The southern side of the city (Columbus) is in dire need of this type of invigoration," said McPherson. "It takes care of every aspect of someone’s life. It’s a place where they can live, shop, play and work."

McPherson also said the facility would assist Urbancrest in its development and help in creating a tax base.

According to SMPG, the project will allot 484,000 square feet of space for retail and 369,000 square feet for office space. The company also plans to construct over 200 townhomes that will range in price from $200,000 to $300,000 and approximately 15 flats.

Peter Macrae, the lead architect on the project and president of TRIAD Architects, explained that the buildings will be four stories with the first floor being retail, the second floor will allow office space and the top floors will be the townhomes.

"Imagine Easton with residential sitting on top of it," he commented. "It will be a real tight knit village with excitement and intimacy."

Macrae also explained that this village atmosphere would revolve around a large centerpiece, which would be reserved for a major department store. McPherson said he would like to see a Macy’s, JC Penny or Elder Beerman as the anchor store. Unlike Easton, there would be more green space, parks and playgrounds.

While most of this property sits in Urbancrest, there is a parcel in Jackson Township. McPherson said his company had been in contact with government leaders of Urbancrest, Jackson Township and Grove City. Urbancrest Mayor, Marlon West said he had not been contacted at all by the developers though he is excited about the project.

"It will certainly beautify the whole area," said West. "It will create revenue for the village and create local jobs."

McPherson said his company had planned to meet with West and hold public meetings for Urbancrest residents. West said he had not heard of that, but said he is open to the meeting.

Jackson Township Board Chairman Dave Burris said he had only heard rumors of the project but said there was nothing official that had come to his office.

"I would like to see this succeed," said Burris. "Urbancrest is really starting to come on and get tax money but I’m afraid this might be an investor’s pipe dream."

Burris admitted that he does not know much about retail but questions the rationality.

"The location is a plus because it’s right off the freeway but do we really need another mall? Are they doing it to hurt other businesses?" said Burris.

McPherson said he would like the land in Jackson Township annexed into Urbancrest to keep the project in one area. Burris said he would not have a problem with that. He would have a problem if it went into the city of Columbus, which provides Urbancrest with sewer and water services.

"We would not want to annex the land into Columbus. We lose everything to them," he commented.

Jackson Township provides fire and emergency services to both Grove City and Urbancrest.

Grove City Mayor, Cheryl Grossman declined to publicly comment on the issue until she had more information.

SMPG has projects across the United States but nothing in central Ohio.

"This is our east coast development," said McPherson.

His company has already allocated approximately $56 million for the project. Development of phase one, or the groundbreaking, is set to begin in October and is expected to be completed by November 2008. They are already looking for occupants.

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