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German Village Foundry To Be Demolished For Condos

In Columbus’ German Village neighborhood, a pair of developers plans to tear down an old foundry to make way for condos and single family housing.  The German Village Commission has opposed the plan, but the developers believe their plan will bolster the neighborhood’s character.

Drivers along Thurman Avenue cannot even see the old foundry which is mostly hidden from view by houses along the street and by heavy vegetation. The complex of five small buildings is barely hanging on.

“You have broken windows, you have sagging rooflines, you have tilting chimneys, you have overgrown buildings that are in bad condition,” says developer Scott Patton.

Inside is just as bad says Patton.

“These walls are sagging, the roof is falling in on itself now we still have concerns that it would all fall back on itself ultimately,” Patton says.

Patton and his partner John Space say they had wanted to rehab the buildings; possibly turning them in to a restaurant and beer garden. But consultants found industrial contamination along with substantial structural decay.

“We had lead contamination that exceeded acceptable levels.  And then we identified a lot of different structural issues and when you combine those two obviously there’s a very high cost involved with that,” Patton says.

So the developers went to the German Village Commission with a proposal to demolish the five buildings.  But demolition was denied in June.  The pair appealed to the Ohio Board of Building Appeals which sided with the developers and condemned the buildings.

Initially, the planning division of Columbus’ Development Department also opposed demolition, but planning administrator Kevin Wheeler says that once the buildings’ structural weaknesses were discovered, tearing down and building new structures was the obvious course to take.

“It’s always ideal when we can keep as much of the existing fabric as possible.  I think however in light of the structural assessments that they were in unsafe condition and also in light of what the applicant is proposing as a replacement this is a reasonable project and certainly supportable,” Wheeler says.

Plans call for the construction of a single family home at the front of the property and three condominiums toward the rear.  The developers say the housing will better reflect the aesthetics of German Village than the foundry which was built in the 1920s.

Even though the German Village Commission could not halt demolition, Sarah Marsom of the German Village Society says it does have the power to ensure that the new homes are, as she describes it, “the right fit for the neighborhood.”

“As long as the developers are willing to listen to the neighbors and also the commission and the historic preservation office and the German Village Society, there are a lot of potential great ideas.  I think if you’re creative in the neighborhood you can create great condos and new structures that will work with the neighborhood, I think it will just take a lot of time for the developers to understand the best fit for contemporary German Village,” Marsom says.

Patton says demolition will occur once the necessary permits are obtained.