Requests to reduce parking for Franklinton apartments worry residents

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Three more apartment projects are planned for Franklinton, and two of the developers are asking for permission to build fewer a quarter of the parking spots that the city of Columbus normally requires. 

That worries some long-time residents, who fear that future developers will ask for similar concessions that might lead to a parking crunch for the increasingly popular neighborhood just west of Downtown.

“People are going to have cars anyway,” said Rebecca Hunley, one of those concerned residents. “Just because you don’t provide parking doesn’t mean you’re not going to bring them.

“Don’t we learn anything from the problems in the Short North and German Village?”

The Franklinton Area Commission on Tuesday gave its approval to zoning changes for a 43-unit development at 731 W. Rich St., across from the Mount Carmel Franklinton campus, and for a 70-unit senior complex at 1137 W. Broad St. that National Church Residences is developing. The commission makes recommendations to the city, which has final approval. Both developers are still trying to secure financing for their projects.

The developer of the Rich Street project wants the city to approve a zoning variance to reduce the number of onsite parking spaces from 73 to seven.

A third development is a 30-unit apartment building at 96 N. Hartford Ave. being developed by the NRP Group, a Cleveland company with a Columbus office. The area commission has not taken up this project yet. NRP wants to reduce the number of onsite parking spots there from 45 to 11.

The nonprofit Finance Fund, a co-developer of the West Rich Street project, has been talking to officials of Mount Carmel and Wagenbrenner Development about allowing its apartment residents to park on the hospital campus, said Jeff Mohrman, Finance Fund vice president of real estate development.

Mark Wagenbrenner, president of Wagenbrenner Development, said there are 2,200 structured parking spaces on the campus, which is being redeveloped after the inpatient hospital closed and patients were moved to the new Grove City hospital. 

Mohrman said he is a Franklinton resident and that parking concerns are valid.

“We’re looking for creative and alternative solutions,” he said.

“There’s no question that Franklinton is an incredibly popular location for development right now,” Mohrman said. “We believe that if we don’t do this now, there won’t be enough affordable housing in our community.”

But Hunley, a former Franklinton area commissioner and long-time community advocate, said there’s no guarantee that residents of the West Rich Street apartments would be able to park for the long term at the Mount Carmel campus.

“People around that building will suffer,” Hunley said. “You force people to walk. We’re planning for the future at the expense of people living there now.”

Steve Pullen is a Franklinton area commissioner who abstained from voting on the West Rich Street project. He said he didn’t think he had enough information to make an informed vote.

“I think we as a neighborhood have a lot of parking now,” Pullen said. “As we infill, I am a little concerned, especially with (parking) variances that are big.”

Others living nearby agree that on-street parking might be at more of a premium in the future as developments sprout around Franklinton.

“We don’t have parking as it is,” said Larry Christian, 60, who resides on West Rich Street across from the Mount Carmel campus. “We have no garage. We are forced to park on the street.”

There are no parking spaces on his street after 4 p.m., he said. And with his back and leg injuries, walking back from the car after grocery store trips is a struggle.

Larry Wheeler, a 74-year-old disabled veteran, and his wife, Jane, who suffers from chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, also said parking farther away from home takes a toll on their health.

Pointing to both his knees that have undergone replacement surgeries and to the rod in his back, he said that walking back after parking some distance away is hard.

But Wheeler said he would like to see new apartments nearby. For the Wheelers, new developments mean higher property values and better maintenance of the neighborhood.

Some other residents are not as concerned about the upcoming projects or parking. Terry Von Dach, 67, who has been living on Scott Street near Hartford Avenue for about a year, does not foresee any parking crisis from the proposed NPR project.

“I’m not worried,” she said.

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@markferenchik

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