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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‘Micro-unit’ apartments proposed for Short North

Columbus has plenty of microbreweries, but is it ready for micro-apartments?


The Dublin development company Stonehenge hopes so.


Stonehenge has proposed a “micro-unit” apartment complex at the southwest corner of N. High Street and 3rd Avenue in the Short North.


The six-story building would include 32 studio apartments, all of them 540 square feet — about half to two-thirds the size of a typical central Ohio one-bedroom unit.


“There’s a tremendous movement toward efficiency, that less may be better,” said Stonehenge President Mo Dioun.


“We would like to be a pioneer in that area, to test this. We believe the community is ready for a smaller residential option.”


The ground floor of the complex would include a lobby, retail space and spots for 32 Smart cars, which take up about half the room of conventional cars.


Dioun and Jonathan Barnes, the principal in JBAD architecture firm, who designed the building, said the project is a response to high demand for Short North apartments coupled with the high cost of building apartments in the neighborhood.


“This is a trend in cities where there’s a lot more pressure to develop, in New York and San Francisco,” Barnes said. “We have our own version of that in the Short North. So this was a matter of taking an idea that’s been successful elsewhere and applying it to the Short North.”


Barnes presented the design to the Victorian Village Commission last month, where it was well-received, he said.

“I think it’s great,” said commission member Marc Conte. “It’s great to use a small unit to keep the rent down for someone trying to move into the neighborhood.


“Five hundred square feet isn’t that small. It might be small in Columbus, but if you look at the micro units proposed for places like New York, they can be 200 or 300 square feet.”


Commission members’ main concerns were how the building, which would replace a small one-story building and a parking lot, would mesh with the former car dealership to the south and homes on the west, Conte said.


“We want to make sure that what’s built is compatible with the buildings next door,” he said.


Barnes and Dioun emphasized that the proposal shown to the commission was preliminary and that the final plan would be more fully developed.


If the project is approved, which would require a variance to allow for the smaller parking spaces, Dioun would like to begin construction in the spring and complete the building by the end of 2015. He said he expected apartments to rent for between $750 and $900 a month.


While older apartments can still be found in the Short North for less than $1,000 a month, new apartments top that.


At the new Hub apartment building at Hubbard Avenue and High Street, for example, rents start at $1,475 for a one-bedroom, 750-square-foot apartment and reach $2,600 for a 1,671-square-foot, two-bedroom unit.


The nearby Aston apartments, also newly opened, start at $1,245 for a 737-square-foot, one-bedroom and reach $1,910 for a 1,227-square-foot, two-bedroom unit.


While the Stonehenge project is the first in central Ohio to be billed as a “micro” apartment complex, similar, or even smaller, apartments can be found in other new Columbus buildings.


Downtown’s Atlas building, which was recently converted to apartments, includes 10 studios measuring 392 square feet.


In the Arena District, the Flats on Vine complex and Arena Crossing apartments feature 508- and 510-square-foot studios. And the new Highpoint on Columbus Commons has several studio layouts starting at 449 square feet.


Unlike those apartment buildings, however, the Stonehenge project would exclusively feature efficiency apartments.


“What is intriguing for us is promoting and creating a platform for thinking about efficiency and lifestyle,” Dioun said.


“For sustainable living, there’s a void in the marketplace.”


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Ibel Building at Third and High Next Up for Redevelopment

Although plans appear to be in the early stages, the Stonehenge Company is looking to build on the current site of the Ibel Building at the corner of West Third Avenue and North High Street in the Short North.


Architect Jonathan Barnes presented a proposal for a six-story, 32-unit apartment building to the Victorian Village Commission at their August 14th meeting. Renderings show a modern design featuring glass and metal materials, although it was stressed that elements of both the design and the configuration could change in future iterations.


One notable feature of the proposal is the parking garage, which is designed to hold 32 smart cars, with additional space for hanging 24 bikes. The garage would sit behind a small lobby and a 1,900-square foot retail storefront.


Since it was a conceptual review, no vote was taken on the proposal by the commission.

Commissioner Marc Conte said he was eager to see what the developer came back with, given the constraints of the site (it is relatively small and sits right up against a pair of two-and-a-half-story residential buildings to the west). He also said he was intrigued by the ideas presented for the garage.

“I think that’s great,” he said. “Now that we have all these options – Car2Go, Uber, Lyft, CoGo – the ability for Short North residents to forego a car is there in a way it wasn’t before, and it’s good to see developers responding to that.”


The existing single-story building located at 1055 North High Street was the location of the Ibel Gallery until its closing in 2011, and gallery owner Rebecca Ibel is now the curator and director of The Pizzuti Collection. The building is currently home to the Ibel Agency, a creative design company led by Sebastian Ibel, which is planning to relocate Downtown within a few months.


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