Student housing could replace Baptist church and Little Bar under new plan
A Texas developer is pushing ahead with a plan to replace a University District bar and church with student housing, despite resistance to the project's size.
Under a proposal from the Austin-based developer American Campus Communities, the University Baptist Church, at 50 W. Lane Ave., and the Little Bar, an OSU-area fixture at 2195 N. High St., would be replaced by student housing.
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The plan, which came before the University Area Commission this week, calls for two connected buildings — a six-story building on the Little Bar site and an eight-story building on the Baptist church site — that would contain a total of 560 bedrooms. The Baptist church would move into the ground floor of the new building on the former Little Bar site, marking perhaps the first time a church has replaced a bar in the University District.
American Campus has agreements to purchase both the Little Bar and the University Baptist Church property on West lane, which includes the 51-year-old church building on 1.4 acres.
American Campus' current plan is a revision of a 720-bedroom plan proposed last year that received a cool reception from the University Area Commission's Zoning Committee.
"They started presenting the plan to the zoning committee in September, then they came to four other zoning committee meetings," said Michael Kehlmeier, who chaired the committee. "We would tell them what we wanted and they would change it. They were responsive but some of the aspects they didn’t change enough for us. By the time they came this month, they had reduced the number of bedrooms quite a bit, but it was still large."
On Wednesday, in an 11 to 4 vote, the University Area Commission recommended against the plan.
"The main issue was, it’s still too large," Kehlmeier said. "Also considering all the large student apartment buildings that are going into the university district now, they are all fairly expensive market-rate apartments. We have about 1,200 to 1,400 beds that have been approved and not built yet. We have a lot of that. What we don’t have is median-income or low-income apartments."
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Kehlmeier said commissioners were also concerned about traffic congestion on West Norwich Avenue, which would be the main vehicle access to the complex.
In an emailed statement, Sam Newman, vice president of development with American Campus, said, "We will continue to evaluate the feedback as we work on another version of the proposal and we look forward to further collaboration."
The project could receive a final vote this week with the University Impact District Review Board, but the developer may withdraw it to submit a revised plan.
American Campus, owned by the investment firm Blackstone, calls itself "the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States." The company manages four student-housing complexes at the University of Toledo and one at Kent State University.
This would be the company's first Ohio State University project, and the second major OSU student housing project undertaken by an Austin company, following LV Collective's start of a 900-bed complex on the former site of Harrison House apartments on West Lane Avenue.
If the plan moves forward, it would spell the end of The Little Bar, which opened in 2006 in the A-frame building that originally housed an IHOP. The bar, which broadcast Buckeye games on a huge patio TV, has been a popular game-day destination.