New apartments planned on Livingston Avenue across from Nationwide Children's Hospital

Mark Ferenchik
The Columbus Dispatch
A former dinner theater and catering business and an Enterprise rental car location along East Livingston Avenue would be developed into an apartment, retail and restaurant complex under a proposal submitted to the city of Columbus.

More apartments are planned near Nationwide Children's Hospital — this time right across the street — and they're another sign of the growing hospital's influence on the changing character of the Schumacher Place neighborhood.

The apartments would be built on the site of the former Shanes Dinner Theater at 447 E. Livingston Ave. and the Enterprise Rent-A-Car location at 475 E. Livingston. The development would be across East Livingston Avenue from the hospital's Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion and its Butterfly Garden Gateway entrance.

Northstar Realty LLC and Schiff Capital Group are proposing 163 apartments at the site as well as 10,363 square feet of retail space, 8,870 square feet of restaurant space, and 375 square feet of restaurant patio space, according to the developer's paperwork filed with the city of Columbus and dated Monday.

"There's a growing demand for housing, a growing demand for development, other amenities, places to shop and eat," said Curtis Davis, zoning chairman of the Columbus South Side Area Commission.

The growth of Nationwide Children's sprawling campus plays a role in driving the need for housing, Davis said.

Northstar is asking for several zoning variances related to the project, including a request to increase the permitted height on the building from 35 feet to 72 feet.

Brenda Gischel, who leads the Schumacher Place Civic Association, said the proposed height of the development concerns her.

"I’m very disappointed," she said.

Gischel said she and neighbors want to see the Livingston Avenue property developed, but it needs to better fit the historic fabric of the homes behind the sites.

"It has to be within reason. Forty-eight feet would still tower over those homes," she said.

The Dispatch left calls with Tom Brigdon, managing member at Northstar Realty, for comment. 

Back in 2018, Northstar proposed another apartment complex for the same site, said Kathryn Green, a Columbus South Side area commissioner who lives in Schumacher Place.

That was a five-story apartment building with first-floor parking. North Star Realty applied for a zoning variance. "It didn't go past the conceptual review," Green said.

Neighborhoods push back against too tall, too dense developments

These new plans come as residents of Schumacher Place, German Village and Merion Village await the decision of a judge on an appeal of Columbus City Council's decision to approve a zoning variance for the former Giant Eagle property at 280 E. Whittier St. 

Pizzuti Companies wants to build 262 apartments on the site. The former Giant Eagle store has already been demolished. 

Opponents have said the building is too large for the surrounding neighborhood, one filled with one- and two-story houses. The building rises as high as 60 feet, although it would be 35-feet-tall along Whittier Street. Some have said that the project is just another example of a growing city and denser neighborhoods with taller buildings.

Meanwhile, developers who wanted to build a hotel at a site at 31-35 E. Livingston Ave. in German Village are retooling plans, said Michael Casey of Wickford Holdings LLC.

"We’re taking a beat to reimagine the site," Casey said.

In March 2020, the German Village Commission denied an application for the project, which was to be a 124-room hotel called The McGown, to be built with brick, glass and stainless steel.

Some in German Village opposed the project because of its five-story height and its appearance. 

The city currently has no application for a development at the property, Jennifer Fening, a city Department of Development spokeswoman, said in an email.

Rosalie Goodsell, a German Village-area real estate agent and a member of Neighborhoods for Responsible Development, said in an email that German Village developers are getting the message from her group — with the exception of Pizzuti.

"Various Columbus communities are becoming better educated and are pushing back against Council's decisions to ignore them," Goodsell said.

"Allowing developers to shoe horn large-scale, highly dense developments with inadequate parking is a huge threat to the quality of life in our urban neighborhoods," she said.

The city is retooling its zoning code. A consultant's study this year found the code outdated, and reported that the city relies too much on rezonings and variances, often for controversial projects.