Powell council considers COhatch proposal


A final development plan for the proposed COhatch building in downtown Powell got its first reading by the Powell City Council on Tuesday.

Proposed is a three-story, 13,900-square-foot building on the 0.64-acre site at 50 E. Olentangy St., just east of Powell’s four corners. The previous building existing on the parcel was demolished last month.

The building would include shared offices, meeting rooms, and event space on the first and second floors and a rooftop bar on the third floor. The bar, which would be open to the public, would be set back from the street to create a rooftop patio with views to the south and west.

A parking lot, which would be accessible to the public at all hours, is proposed to the rear of the building with access coming from Olentangy Street. On-street parking spaces are also proposed in front of the building.

COhatch, which offers communal working space and private offices, has eight locations spread throughout central Ohio, including in Delaware, Polaris, Dublin Westerville, Worthington, and multiple buildings in Columbus. In addition to the Powell proposal, a building is also in the works in Bexley.

During Tuesday’s meeting, City Manager Andrew White said the first reading is “representative of an awful lot of work from a lot of different people, including the applicant himself, who is a city resident and owner of a brand that is national in scope and one that we were excited to embark upon a partnership with almost since I got here in 2020.”

White also noted the project’s companion legislation already approved by the council that includes various incentives from the developer such as building a parking lot for the northeast quadrant of downtown Powell and the extension of Scioto Street east to Grace Drive as part of an effort to procure future development around Bartholomew Run.

While the council was generally supportive of the proposal and the idea of COhatch coming to Powell, some council members raised concerns about the facade of the building and how it matches the rest of downtown Powell. Councilwoman Christina Drummond said that while she favors the general concept, the “boxy” nature of the building and the wood material “gives me pause.”

COhatch CEO Matt Davis challenged the notion that any existing buildings in downtown Powell blend well. He added that all the concerns about the exterior design of the building should have come up well before the first reading of the final development plan and well before he put significant time and money into reaching this stage.

Throughout the process, Davis had said the goal of the building’s design is to fit well in 2024 but also for decades to come as the downtown area evolves.

Mayor Tom Counts said that while he wishes he were on the Planning and Zoning Commission to give Davis his feedback earlier, he supports the process the city has put in place and noted the council is the “last stop” for projects.

Counts said of the building’s look, “When I look at that building, what I see is a lack of color in that outside treatment. You do not see that color anywhere else in the downtown area; it just doesn’t exist. That’s the one thing that I will say, from my standpoint, makes it look a little more modern than what I feel the downtown is.”

After the council finished its comments on the proposal, members of the public were given the floor to share their opinions on the proposal. Larry Coolidge, a commissioner on Powell’s Historic Downtown Advisory Commission (HDAC), advised the council to adhere to architecture guidelines that have steered development designs in downtown Powell for years.

Bob Donegan said the city is looking at a “gift horse” with Davis and the COhatch proposal, noting he’s used COhatch space before in Dublin and Springfield.

“Anyone who is willing to commit to things like this should be hailed. Unfortunately, we live in Powell and we are very backward,” Donegan said. “If you look at our downtown, it sucks. We don’t have any consistency, it’s hard to drive through, and the buildings look old and ratty … To think we could have a building like (COhatch) and somebody willing to commit to doing that, we need more of that.”

Garry Swackhamer, a former city councilman, Planning and Zoning commissioner, and HDAC member, echoed Coolidge’s sentiment.

“I don’t have a problem with this building but it doesn’t belong (in Powell’s downtown),” Swackhammer said. “We will be making a great mistake if we allow this. It’s opening up the floodgates for everybody who comes here thinking they can do the same thing. They know when they come in that this is a historic district. They know that and can see that. People used to come into council just to tell us they moved here to Powell because of the charm and the quaintness of the downtown and look where we are now. We want to put something ultra-contemporary right downtown where it’s out of scale with the rest of the buildings.”

Andy Musilli, who owns an insurance agency on East Olentangy Street, adjacent to the proposed COhatch location, said he finds the project to be “innovative,” “refreshing,” and in line with the times.

In response to the public comments regarding the look of the building and the HDAC guidelines, Davis said, frankly, “I appreciate the historic guidelines; they do not apply. I was told not to follow them, and I was told not to go there. So, not my fault. Feel free to take it up amongst yourselves.”

He added, “I literally went above and beyond to follow everything I was told to do. (HDAC guidelines) do not apply. Whatever you’re saying does not apply, so I did not do that. And I listened to (the city’s) consultant, which you hired.”

Davis went on to say that while he will look at the possibility of slight modifications to the building, the chances of it coming back before the council with a significantly different look are “not great.”

A second reading of the ordinance will be held during the next council meeting, which will be held in June.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on X @DillonDavis56.

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