Powell City Council held a special meeting Tuesday to present the first reading of the final development plan for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center facility proposed for construction on the northeast corner of Sawmill Parkway and Home Road, across from Olentangy Liberty High School. The plan, along with the annexation of the land into Powell, is expected to be approved during next week’s regularly scheduled council meeting.
The first phase of the development would include an ambulatory care center and medical office building totaling approximately 200,000 square feet. The ambulatory care center would feature outpatient services, including surgeries, lab testing, physician visits and more.
Phase one is projected to employ at least 500 physicians and staff, with an estimated payroll exceeding $50 million annually once the facility is fully complete. The average annual salary is expected to be $100,000. Aaron Underhill, the attorney representing OSU, said of that average salary, “Any community would be hard-pressed to find any sort of an office user that would bring that average or that amount of payroll,” and he called the opportunity to bring in the OSU facility a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The facility would include a large setback from Sawmill Parkway, with 2.74 acres of green space and walking paths between the building and road. To the east, or rear of the ambulatory care facility, would be a cafe courtyard and respite garden, as well as the entry court.
City staff expects OSU to initiate the first phase within two years of its approval and completion of the project within five years.
A second phase might consist of a 90-bed hospital, which would add an additional 200,000 square feet to the footprint of the entire facility, but there is no timetable for when construction of that facility would begin. Underhill said they are “well away from knowing what that looks like, or if that will become a reality, but we do anticipate that might be the next direction that the university goes.”
As part of the necessary traffic improvements, traffic lights would be added at Tullamore Drive and Home Road, as well as at Castleblaney Lane and Sawmill Parkway. Left turn lanes would also be added at those intersections.
“This represents the largest single economic development project in the city’s history,” City Manager Steve Lutz said during the meeting.
The process of getting the final development plan in front of city council for approval has been lengthy. OSU submitted a sketch plan review to the Powell Planning and Zoning Commission on July 11 to initiate the process, and they have since met several more times as details and delays have developed.
Underhill took ownership of the many delays, saying the goal all along for OSU was to have the annexation and zoning of the parcels approved at the same time for “various contractual and other reasons.”
Last week, OSU was granted approval for the final development plan by planning and zoning officials despite some design details that are still ongoing. Commission members said there is reasonable comfort in moving forward with a final development plan that is still missing details because of the OSU name that will be constructing the building. Underhill estimated the final design was around 80 percent finished, and there is an understanding that OSU will come before city staff with all remaining details.
Final, completed designs for the medical center aren’t expected to be available for 6-8 months. Asked why the annexation wasn’t better timed to match the timeframe of the design plans, Underhill pointed to various factors and such a project being a fairly new endeavor for the university.
“Certainly, we would have liked to have been a little further along, but we feel like what we are showing you this evening is consistent with what the end product is going to be,” Underhill said. “We’re working out the finer details at this point. I think it’s just a matter of throwing a lot of different things into a mixing bowl, and we haven’t quite baked it yet. But we’re getting close.”
Councilman Daniel Swartwout expressed great appreciation for how the partnership between the city and OSU has developed, and the optimism it gives him about the relationship moving forward.
“I don’t think the City of Powell could have found a better partner than Ohio State,” he said. “I hope you feel just as good about the city as we do about Ohio State, because the partnership and the collaboration up to this point have been so outstanding that it leaves me feeling nothing but that the partnership and collaboration will continue to be outstanding.”
The next council meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Meetings are held in the city council chambers, located at 47 Hall St.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.