Plan commission to consider Rubicon apartment project

Photo provided An artist’s rendition of the proposed Rubicon Investment Group, which is planning to develop a five-story, 120-unit apartment building with a parking garage and commercial area, requiring the demolition of the former Joe Willy’s restaurant, a drive-thru bank and a house with historical ties to the city.

Photo provided An artist’s rendition of the proposed Rubicon Investment Group, which is planning to develop a five-story, 120-unit apartment building with a parking garage and commercial area, requiring the demolition of the former Joe Willy’s restaurant, a drive-thru bank and a house with historical ties to the city.

The Columbus Plan Commission tonight will consider site development plan approval for a mixed-use development at 921 Jackson St. and 1008 and 1020 Washington St. in downtown Columbus that has been the subject of some skepticism from the public.

The commission meets at 4 p.m. today at Columbus City Hall council chambers, 123 Washington St., in downtown Columbus.

The applicant, Rubicon Investment Group, is planning to develop a five-story, 120-unit apartment building with a parking garage and commercial area which would require the demolition of the former Joe Willy’s restaurant, a drive-thru bank and a house with historical ties to the city.

The commission during their meeting on May 8 unanimously voted to continue the request to allow Rubicon more time to address outstanding concerns about the amount of parking that would be available and the overall massing, scale and height of the building, along with more than 20 comments from planning staff that relate to various compliance-related documentation that Rubicon didn’t submit or was lacking detail.

Commissioners have been enthusiastic to develop the area some called “blighted,” but have quibbled with some of the development’s specifics.

Level one of the development would consist of a 49,600 square-foot parking garage and the commercial area, along with nearly 3,000 square feet of spaces including a lobby, mail room, office and lounge.

Levels two through five will be home to the apartment units, including eight three-bedroom units, 40 two-bedroom units, 48 one-bedroom units and 24 studio units.

Rubicon’s Matt Nolley said the likely starting price for one of the 600-square-foot apartments in the development would be “plus or minus $1,300 a month.”

During past public meets on the matter, community members have said they don’t feel as though the development reflects Columbus’ architectural heritage in a satisfactory manner.

There has also been concern from the public about how the development would affect the already busy intersection at 11th and Washington streets and regarding the addition of yet another mixed-use development before the city has finished its first housing study in over a decade.

The public and commissioners have had questions as well about a still-in-effect environmentally restrictive covenant that was placed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) on the site at 921 Jackson St. and 1008 and 1016 Washington streets on June 13, 2019, meaning the groundwater is contaminated, which is why a proposed parking garage is not underground.

The property at 1020 Washington St. was home to the Benzol Cleaning Co. until a structure on the property was demolished in 1973.

A 2018 analysis of the groundwater on the well network near 1016 Washington St. found that “low levels of the dry cleaning chemical PCE (Tetrachloroethylene) continue to exist in the groundwater,” according to a copy of the analysis done by Environmental Management Consultants. However, the analysis noted that four of the six wells in the network “show a significant downward trend” of PCE levels at that time.

Planning department staff are requesting a preliminary recommendation of approval, with the condition that Rubicon address technical comments by staff.

Although the development would be located in the Commercial: Downtown (CD) zoning district, which doesn’t technically require on-site parking, much of the commission’s discussion has centered on how much parking should be made available.

Most commissioners signaled that 1.2 parking spaces per unit would be the bare minimum amount they would consider appropriate. The number of spaces at the proposed development based on information provided during the May 8 meeting was calculated as 1.15 parking spaces per unit and has since been upped to a total of 163 spaces or 1.35 spaces per unit, according to city documents.

The commission will meet at 4 p.m. in the council chambers at Columbus City Hall.