By LOU WILIN
It appears Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s plans to expand its downtown complex would meet city regulations and standards, according to City Planning Commission members.
The planning commission took no formal vote Thursday on Marathon’s overall plan to add $80 million worth of downtown buildings — two office buildings, two parking garages, and possibly a hotel.
The commission did formally approve a plan for a Marathon parking garage on East Sandusky Street, and recommended City Council vacate an alley and portions of two streets as part of Marathon Petroleum’s expansion.
Marathon Petroleum will be returning to the commission for formal approval of the remaining parts of its plan.
Marathon leaders presented the overall plan to the commission Thursday to probe for any concerns before proceeding further. In general, commission members praised the plan for its sensitivity to neighbors and traffic flows, as well as downtown beautification.
But they did not behave like a rubber stamp.
In one exchange between commission member Dan Clinger and Marathon Petroleum’s Donald Malarky, engineering manager for major projects, Clinger expressed concern that a ground-level parking lot bounded by Lincoln, East and Hardin streets could put excessive traffic onto Lincoln Street.
With community dialogue underway about changing downtown traffic patterns, Lincoln Street, as part of Ohio 37, could be needed to take on more traffic, Clinger said. Clinger wants the ground-level parking lot to not have driveways onto Lincoln Street, so those seeking parking spots are not using Lincoln Street to turn around while going from one parking aisle to another.
To Clinger, it seemed like a reasonable request, since Marathon will be getting a net gain of 1,000 spaces with the additions of two parking garages.
Clinger: “I’d like to see the surface parking have an internal loop in there so you don’t have to go back onto Lincoln Street to go to another parking lane. I think if you gain that many parking spaces, you could give up some there, I would hope.”
Malarky: “Well, you would think, but that’s not actually the case. When we look at where our growth pattern is going to be, while we may have a few extra spots today, our forecast … for growth in the coming years is such that we will need … every spot that we have available … So to go to an interior movement on this, we would actually be losing spots at each end (toward Hardin as well as Lincoln) … We would have to look and see how many spots we could actually lose as a result of that.”
Clinger: “Right. I wouldn’t be quite so concerned on Hardin Street since that is going to be more on your campus site. But on Lincoln Street, I think that becomes important … you might lose” — Clinger commenced to counting — “two, four, six, eight, 10, maybe 12 spaces, potentially.”
Malarky: “Yeah, we would have to look at it.”
But generally, the commission gave the plan an informal seal of approval.
“It’s been a well-thought-out plan,” said city Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer. “Certainly appreciate Marathon’s potential investment.”
“Overall, architecturally, this is going to be absolutely beautiful. I think it will enhance the area,” Mayor Lydia Mihalik said. “I think it’s sensitive to the business owners and neighborhood homeowners in the area.”
Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin