Restaurant could be built at Springfield’s Memorial Hall site

Fast-food company would need variance for drive-through window.

An agent for a proposed Wendy’s restaurant applied for a variance to build a drive-through at the former Memorial Hall site, 301 W. Columbia St., which is currently not permitted under the city’s unified plan, said Springfield Planning Zoning and Code Administrator Stephen Thompson.

The application will be heard at the next Board of Zoning Appeals meeting at 7 p.m. on April 18 at the City Hall forum, 76 E. High St.

If approved, the building will be constructed to unified plan standards, including a wall around the property similar to the Ohio Valley Surgical Hospital.

The restaurant would be located near two downtown hospitals as well as the National Trail Parks and Recreation District Chiller ice arena, making it a strong site for the development, wrote Wendy’s agent George Schweitzer of Geo-Graphics Inc. in the application. Schweitzer did not return calls seeking comment.

There are currently four Wendy’s locations in Springfield. If the deal is approved, the West North Street location would likely move to West Columbia Street, said North Street manager Heather Perkins. The restaurant is a Wendy’s/Tim Horton’s combination restaurant and the building is owned by Tim Horton’s, Perkins said. Tim Horton’s is owned by the same parent company as one of Wendy’s competitors, Burger King.

“It’s good to see a vacant site downtown being redeveloped, especially near the hospital,” Thompson said. “There aren’t too many fast-food options like that downtown. … It’s another option for parents who may be in a hurry between practices (at the Chiller).”

The 80,000-square-foot property is listed at $1.05 million on Midland Properties website. The site is under contract with a broker from Akron, said Tom Loftis of Midland Properties, but said the sale is not yet final because the buyer is still performing due diligence on the property.

The money from the sale will be used to pay the remainder of the $2.85 million loan the city gave NTPRD to complete the $8.5 million ice arena, said NTPRD Director Leann Castillo. A portion of the money will also be used for future improvements to the ice area, as well as an endowment to help less fortunate children use the ice arena.

“We knew there was a possible buyer, but we didn’t exactly know who,” Castillo said. “We’re excited for the downtown to have something like that, but we’re also excited because it’s another place for the Chiller. When they have out-of-town teams, they’re always looking for places to go.”

The building was listed on the Springfield Register of Historic Properties as part of the original list in 1985, but was demolished in 2010 for the construction of the downtown ice arena. After demolition, NTPRD purchased the Memorial Hall site for about $825,000 in 2010 to allow for the construction of the ice rink.

In 2012, however, NTPRD opted to move one block south to the former Haucke complex on West Main Street near Lowry Avenue to save money. The $8.5 million ice arena opened in late 2013 and the Memorial Hall site has been on the market ever since.

Springfield Landmarks Commission chair Becky Krieger is happy to see the space being re-used, rather than sitting vacant, she said, especially using the unified plan standards.

“It’s going to help our economy, and that’s a great thing,” Krieger said. “I think that having the space utilized definitely near the downtown area is great. I’m sad to see that nothing of a more historical significance can be put there.”

Several pieces of the former building are being reused as part of different projects in the city, including the NTPRD Chiller, the Veteran’s Bridge rehabilitation, the new United Senior Services building and the Buck Creek Nature Park, among others.

“The key is making sure everyone else knows it,” Krieger said. “There are some of us who are familiar with what Memorial Hall was to Springfield, but there are so many that aren’t, so making sure people understand that part of our history is in these other buildings and structures in town.”

While Springfield resident Mike Holland remembers Memorial Hall, he can’t remember if he ever stepped foot in the building in the 59 years he’d lived in Springfield. While he doesn’t eat out very often, Wendy’s will provide more options, he said.

“I don’t have any objection to (the Wendy’s),” he said.