The College Hill Neighborhood Association has protested a new commercial building at Central and Vassar for a variety of reasons for about a year, and it hasn’t stopped even though the almost 6,500-square-foot building is within two or three months of being completed.
“The neighbors have been in opposition to everything we’ve done in this entire process,” says developer Paul Gray, a partner in the project. “We’ve done everything we can to accommodate them.”
For instance, he says one neighbor didn’t want a particular tree razed, so Gray says he moved a driveway to preserve it.
Association president Trish Hileman says complaints all stem from the fact that Gray has overbuilt on the lot.
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“He’s insisted that we know nothing because we’re just neighbors and not professional developers like him,” she says.
The main issues now are what Hileman calls a lack of parking and a planned drive-through for a new Hog Wild Pit Bar-B-Q restaurant.
“I think we’re fine about Hog Wild,” she says. “There are quite a few people who are looking forward to eating barbecue.”
She says there aren’t enough parking spaces for the almost 80 seats the restaurant will have, even with some overflow parking Gray plans to lease from Intrust Bank after hours.
“They’re going to park in front of our neighbors’ houses,” Hileman says. “When you really look at the details, this sucks for our neighbors.”
Gray is seeking an adjustment to city code that dictates he have 38 spaces. He has 26 planned.
“We’re not asking for anything even remotely unusual.”
He calls the parking code “a pretty generic formula, which sometimes is right and sometimes requires too much.”
“Every restaurant is different,” Gray says. “We think we have enough parking.”
Gray says he’s talking to other potential tenants that won’t attract a lot of traffic at their businesses.
The Board of Zoning Appeals has deferred the issue for two weeks.
Hileman says the potential drive-through is of particular concern.
She says Hog Wild won’t necessarily always be there and that some kind of fast food restaurant could open instead.
Hileman says she told Gray that he’s “thinking about the right now … and we’re having to think of the long term.”
“We want to contribute to the core stability,” she says of the city’s center.
“We also try to think from a neighborhood perspective in the long view.”
Hileman says College Hill residents “try to market ourselves as sort of a throwback, Norman Rockwell” neighborhood. “And (a) fast food, drive-through restaurant doesn’t fit well with that narrative.”
Gray says the development in general and restaurant in particular will help the neighborhood and nearby Wesley Medical Center.
“The most important thing is we’re adding value to the neighborhood,” he says.
Hileman says residents are all for successful businesses.
“Strong businesses mean a strong neighborhood,” she says. “As a neighborhood association, that’s one of our goals.”
Hileman says the city has to ensure that businesses open in the right way, though.
“Our city is very developer friendly,” she says. “The payback for that is we are decreasing the livability of our city.”
Gray thinks all the arguing will be for nothing.
“When it’s done, I think all these people who are scared and concerned are going to be satisfied that we did a good project.”