Stonehenge housing OK’d on Oak Street downtown

Columbus’ Downtown Commission this week gave final clearances for a seven-story complex that would be built on the site of a former Boehringer Ingelheim Roxane Laboratories production facility at 330 E. Oak St.


Stonehenge Co. wants to build 104 apartments behind Capital Law School in downtown Columbus, but its aspirations have collided with development regulators’ push for assurances the project will succeed.


Commissioners called for a stronger promise that the $8 million to $9 million complex would go up after Roxane tears down the building.


Stonehenge owner Mo Dioun told the commission he has a contract to purchase the site and holds a letter from S&T Bank showing its commitment to financing the development.


“I don’t want to own a parking lot in downtown Columbus or manage one,” Dioun said. “We have a firm purchase agreement and financing commitment. There’s no way to get a firmer commitment.”


Dioun’s plans came under scrutiny because the commission has sought to prevent demolition without a viable redevelopment plan in a bid to halt the creation of more parking lots downtown.


Dublin-based Stonehenge has yet to complete pricing for the complex, which would include a 104-slot underground parking garage.


Roxane has said the building contains toxic residue from the production of cancer drugs. The commission last August rejected Roxane’s request to demolish the building and it tabled the company’s second request in December.


Stonehenge presented its apartment plan in March.


Commission Chairman Stephen Wittmann and other members pressed Dioun to secure a stronger financing commitment.


“There are a lot of unknowns,” commissioner Kyle Katz said of the demolition of a contaminated property.


Project architect Jonathan Barnes had already told commissioners that drug production made the building unfit for redevelopment.


“It’s reuse as residential is impossible and for other uses very difficult,” Barnes told the commission.


Dioun pledged to seek additional financing assurances after he examines financial letters other developers have secured for their projects. Still, Wittmann dissented in a 6-1 vote to OK the project.


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