COLUMBUS – A local developer has an interest in adding a new apartment complex to the city of Columbus on lots off Commerce Drive.
A representative from Valido Homes, 124 Redbud Trail, Columbus attended the Columbus City Council committee of a whole meeting on Tuesday to request the city rezone the property from light commercial to multifamily.
Jim Hartung told the city council the concept plan was a 77-unit apartment complex that would be two stories and house one to two bedroom apartments.
Council member Trina Reid said she was excited about additional housing opportunities in the city, but questioned the size of the lot, which is about three acres.
“We are trying to maximize the site with this development design,” Hartung said.
Columbus Mayor Mary Arnold questioned what would be on the site for children who could possibly live in the apartments.
Hartung said there would be green space and sidewalk up to the property.
Columbus City Council President Ian Gray said that he would be more in favor of the plan if they would rezone more than a small pocket of the area into multifamily residential
Valido Homes does own the property already, which had been in a TIF district, and is not generating revenue, Hartung said. The increase in available housing could lead to an addition to the workforce.
Hartung said he would add an additional portion of the property that is in the area for more apartments. The request for the zoning change for the additional property must go through entire process.
“We’ve only had 44 multifamily units built in the last decade,” Matthew Schreiber, director of planning and development for Columbus said after the meeting. “There is definitely a demand.”
Schreiber said he has sent out the application for the second property’s zoning change and hopes for it to be discussed at a public hearing and plan commission on Aug. 12. It would then go to the Aug. 17 committee of a whole before going before final approval by the city council on Sept. 7.
There would be other requirements for the building plans before the facility would be approved by the city.
There are additional work downtown to update the multifamily options about the businesses downtown, Schreiber said. There are about 84 units above the businesses downtown, but about 35 of those are vacant.
A property owner is currently going through the process of renovating six units near the intersection of Ludington and James streets.
“The concept is to get the upper units in use to create a live, work, play area in the downtown,” Schreiber said.
Officials in Columbus recently approved a tax increment financing district that would include the downtown area of the city.
Under such a plan, taxes collected above the current value of the district would be used to finance improvements and further increase values.
Schreiber said that the TIF would be multifaceted with it both being a well-known desire for the residents of Columbus for improvements downtown and a great time to show off more of the city to the visitors who may come into town on the train.
There are several new businesses that opened downtown recently. Tea Time Wine & Bakery, 158 E. James St., is renovating the building that held the former Fireman’s Tavern. The building includes three addresses, Schreiber said. It is another example of a building that will function as a business downstairs but have living units above it.
“There is a lot of interest in Columbus,” Schreiber said. “How much of it gets built, we don’t know yet. Every inquiry doesn’t always pan out.”
There is hopes for the future with the second Amtrak passenger train that will be run between St. Paul and Chicago and making a stop in Columbus. It is expected to begin daily service in 2024.
Schreiber said that during non-pandemic times, between 10,000 and 15,000 people ride the train that stops in Columbus. That number will double with the additional line.
There is a goal to connect the few blocks between the train and downtown Columbus so visitors would easily find additional places to shop and visit while they were waiting off of the train, Schreiber said.
“We have heard loud and clear from the Columbus residents that they want to see the downtown revitalized,” Schreiber said. “The time was right to create a TIF for the town to move forward to help with revitalization.”