- Michael Cooper Staff Writer
More retail and restaurants could be coming to one of the last remaining undeveloped lots in Springfield’s busiest shopping corridor.
Powell, Ohio-based developer North Bechtle Square I Investments — which recently developed the area north of Walmart that includes a new Hobby Lobby, Dollar Tree and IHOP — has asked city commissioners to remove the hotel designation from a planned development at a vacant 4.9-acre property at the corner of St. Paris Connector and North Bechtle Avenue.
Bechtle Avenue has seen about $6.7 million in new developments over the past few years, including a $2.7 million Dick’s Sporting Goods store, which opened last fall.
The vacant property has seen interest recently but not from developers who want to build a hotel, said Springfield attorney Jim Peifer, the developer’s agent. The site plan calls for a larger building and two smaller buildings on outlots.
Development of the original 2006 plan included a hotel but was slowed by the Great Recession and never happened, Peifer said.
“The retail market went completely under and we’re only now seeing some significant retail interest in the site there,” he said. “We’ve had no interest from anyone with the idea of putting a hotel there, except for back in 2006.”
A hearing on the proposed change was held at last week’s City Commission meeting. Commissioners will vote on the proposal at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the City Hall Forum, 76 E. High St.
Springfield city commissioners agreed to modify the plans in 2015. Nothing is definite at this point, but Peifer someone is interested in developing the property.
“The developer has been in active conversation with a prospective user for that site,” Peifer said. “It’s not a hotel. We’re at a point where we can’t really proceed without getting a change in the designation.”
A portion of the property can only be used for a hotel based on the current development plan, Springfield Planning, Zoning and Code Administrator Stephen Thompson said. The change would allow for any retail use as part of the shopping center zoning designation, he said.
“These uses are similar to what you find along Bechtle Avenue currently,” Thompson said.
The City Planning Board unanimously approved the amendment at its Jan. 9 meeting. City staff also recommended approval, according to public documents.
The buildings must stay within the square footage of the development plan already approved to the city’s Community Development department, Director Shannon Meadows said.
“It can’t be a big box,” Meadows said. “It’s confined to the space that’s been approved. The amendment removes the label of the use of the space.”
City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill expressed concerns about setback from nearby residences on St. Paris Pike. The building can be placed five feet from the property line, Thompson said.
“If any large structure, whether it be a Family Dollar as an example or something like that, is placed there, they’re going to have docks,” O’Neill said.
Hobby Lobby recently spent about $2.1 million to construct a new 55,000-square-foot location on North Bechtle Avenue in 2015, while Kay Jewelers recently opened a new $163,000 location inside the Bechtle Crossing shopping center at 1654 N. Bechtle Ave.
Dollar Tree also built a $658,000 location in one of the outlots in front of the Hobby Lobby development. Aldi recently spent about $850,000 on upgrades to its Bechtle Avenue location, while IHOP spent about $400,000 to build a new restaurant next to the Dollar Tree.
Springfield resident Charles Mitchell does a lot of shopping on Bechtle Avenue because it has pretty much everything he needs.
“I’m over here almost every day,” he said.
He would like to see a Pier One Imports or Disney Store, he said.
“We need something we don’t have here,” Mitchell said.
The increase in development near the St. Paris Connector has led to more traffic and trash, said Ginny Rolfes, who lives nearby on West Home Road.
“I don’t care what it is, I don’t want it,” Rolfes said.
Ginny’s husband, Jim Rolfes, said he knew the triangle lot would eventually be developed. The Rolfes opposed the development plan when it was last updated in 2015.
“I don’t understand why we can’t develop other areas,” Rolfes said. “We try to jam everything into one place.”
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