A Columbus optometrist will continue with plans to build a 10,000-square-foot office building downtown without the tax abatement she planned to obtain.
Dr. Melissa Almarales, owner of The Eye Place on the city’s east side, said she plans to proceed in the next few months with razing two buildings on the 1.2-acre site to make way for her new office.
Almarales bought the tract of land just north of 11th and Washington streets from Columbus resident Max Lemley nearly two years ago.
The properties, 1120 and 1202 Washington St., currently house an empty building that was the former location of Lockett’s Ladies Shop and an adjacent building that contained Double Oak Farm Green Grocery, Lemleys’ Catering/240sweet and operations for Ahlemeyer Farms Bakery.
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She plans to use 68 percent of her building and lease the rest for office, retail or restaurant space.
The 6,800 square feet she plans to use is still more than double the space at her current office, a 3,000 square foot space located at 2665 Foxpointe Drive. The current space allows only two optometrists to work at the same time, and it’s stalled growth in recent years, she said.
Almarales had hoped to start growing immediately in her new office by adding clerical staff.
But after the Colum-bus Economic Development Commission decided it couldn’t support the creation of a special area that would allow for a tax abatement, that growth will be delayed, Almarales said.
Commission members said Thursday they would be worried about setting a precedent that would lead to more tax abatements for small commercial and office developments.
The two members who attend the noon meeting discussed giving a recommendation on whether the Columbus City Council should make the two parcels an economic development target area. That’s a specialized area required for retail and office developers to receive tax abatements.
The move also would have required the city to expand its downtown economic revitalization area, which currently stretches north to 11th Street, said Carl Malysz, the city’s community development director.
That’s an extra step than was needed during the process leading up to the retail tax abatement the city granted to Kroger for its $20 million investment to build a Marketplace store at 3060 National Road.
George Dutro, a commission member, said he had worries about stretching the revitalization area and classifying such a small site as a target area for development. That could set up the city for more people coming forward to piece off lots for smaller investments and seeking a tax abatement, he said.
The commission voted to send on an unfavorable recommendation, an action that Malysz said effectively kills the tax abatement request.
While not receiving the tax abatement won’t kill the project, it means Almarales will have to limit the number of clerical jobs she adds and to take more time developing funds to hire more doctors to bolster her practice, she said.
Dr. Melissa Almarales, owner of The Eye Place, plans to build a 10,000 square foot office just north of the intersection of 11th and Washington streets in Columbus. Once she’s razed the buildings currently on the site and constructed her new medical office, she’ll move her practice from its current location at 2665 Foxpointe Drive, Columbus.