Frequently Asked Questions
The following is intended as a user-friendly information piece for Upper Arlington residents and stakeholders who are interested in learning more about the status of work to explore a community center in Upper Arlington. For more complete information the Task Force has a website at uacommunitycenter.com. All Task Force meetings, documents, surveys, etc. are posted on this site. We are making meetings available via Zoom when practicable. The City has also begun providing weekly email updates to the community on this issue (register here: //uaoh.us11.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=dee5c7e2084469bb793f4164a&id=64c2759655)
If you have questions for the Task Force, please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are you looking into a community center? Hasn’t this failed before?
When we surveyed the community about our parks in 2018, over 80 percent of respondents told us they wanted the City to explore the feasibility of an indoor community center. In response, City Council formed a task force of residents and asked them to study the feasibility of a community center and to recommend if, how, and where a community center should be built.
As part of their work, the Task Force conducted another survey in March of 2020 (right as the COVID shutdown was beginning). In that survey, 79 percent of respondents supported a community center if the City didn’t have to raise taxes and 54 percent supported it even if we did have to raise taxes.
Residents last voted on a community center issue in 2002, voting against a proposal for a facility on a portion of the Kingsdale Shopping Center. It has been nearly 20 years since a community task force last studied and discussed this issue in depth, and we estimate that well over half of current voters in Upper Arlington were not voters here in 2001.
How are you going about deciding on a site, budget and program for a community center?
The Task Force has divided into subcommittees that have focused on these specific issues. The Facilities Subcommittee is working on sites and conceptual designs for the building. The Finance Subcommittee is working on the budget for both construction and operations. These subcommittees will make recommendations to the full Task Force. The Task Force will then make a recommendation to Council.
How do I keep updated on this process as it moves forward?
The Task Force has a website, at uacommunitycenter.com. All Task Force meetings, documents, surveys, etc. are available on this site. We are making meetings available via Zoom when practicable. The City is also providing regular email updates to the community on this issue (register here: //uaoh.us11.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=dee5c7e2084469bb793f4164a&id=64c2759655)
If you want to make comments at a meeting you will need to let us know at least an hour before the meeting begins, by sending an email to email@example.com. We know that may not be ideal, but it is the best way for us to manage public participation in a Zoom environment.
How are you going to pay to build it?
We don’t yet have all the specifics, but we have some workable ideas. The financing would likely be a combination of several revenue streams. First, revenues currently generated by existing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) – an economic development tool – related to prior developments could be utilized. Second, we could potentially use new revenues generated by the redevelopment of the Macy’s property to pay for a very large portion, again through the use of Tax Increment Financing. Third, the City has a significant cash reserve that can be tapped. Fourth, we plan to seek private donations. Finally, we are going to look at new revenue streams, like hotel/motel tax dollars that are being generated from the two hotels on Lane Avenue.
How are you going to pay to operate it?
Membership fees will likely cover a large portion of the operating cost. In addition, daily admissions, program fees and amenity rentals typically contribute to operating revenues to modern community centers. There are also opportunities to generate revenue by working with outside partners.
Will it be affordable to everyone who lives in UA?
City Council and the Task Force are committed to making sure that every resident of UA can be part of the community center. We won’t know how to accomplish this until we fully develop the financial model for the construction and operation of a community center.
Will non-residents be able to use it?
We believe that in addition to residents, non-residents who work in UA and pay income taxes here should have access to the center. This would help make the community center a job attraction and retention tool for the City. Beyond that, we don’t know yet. By allowing non-residents/taxpayers to join at a higher cost, we may be able to help ease the financial burden on residents. However, we want to be sure that priority is placed on resident access.
When will the City make a decision on going forward?
We expect the Task Force will make its preliminary recommendations to City Council in December of 2020. If they recommend that the City should move forward, City Council would then need to decide by early February 2021 if it wants to put the question to Upper Arlington voters on the May 2021 ballot.
If approved by voters, when would the City start construction and when would it open?
If the voters were to approve a community center in May of 2021, it would likely start construction in 2022 and open in 2024. In essence, we anticipate a year for final design and two years for construction.
Would the City run the community center, or would it be run through a partnership with another entity like the YMCA or The Ohio State University?
The Task Force has been looking at the pros and cons of different operating models. That decision probably wouldn’t be made for a while.
What would happen to the Senior Center if a community center is built?
If we build a community center, the Senior Center would be incorporated into the new building. We believe an inter-generational community center would be a fantastic opportunity for expanding the services that we offer our seniors and would attract more seniors to participate in our programming. The existing Senior Center is tired. We have heard from many seniors who don’t use the current facility that the facilities are unappealing and keep them from getting involved. We think that this could be a great opportunity to build the high-quality facilities that Upper Arlington seniors expect and deserve.
I heard that the Task Force is looking at the former Macy’s site at Kingsdale and the City’s Municipal Services Center (MSC) site. How did you settle on those two locations?
The Facilities Subcommittee developed a set of scoring criteria as it undertook a review of possible sites. This included central location, preservation of greenspace and parks, accessibility by foot, bus or bike, and ownership/site control. The subcommittee looked at City-owned and privately-owned sites over 5 acres and rated all of them. Kingsdale and the MSC site emerged as the top-rated locations and didn’t have any obvious “fatal flaws” that wouldn’t show up in a rating.
Why are you proposing the community center be built on just a portion of the Kingsdale site rather than buying and using the whole thing?
Early in 2020, the City did make Kroger two offers on the property, but those efforts were unsuccessful. Continental Real Estate, Inc. is in contract with the Kroger Co. to purchase the property and has brought forward a development plan that could incorporate a community center as part of a mixed-use redevelopment.
Even if the City had bought the property, it is unlikely that we would have used the whole site for a community center for several reasons. Since 2002, the Kingsdale Triangle has been zoned as a Planned Mixed-Use District. This zoning requires that redevelopment projects within the triangle have a denser footprint, go higher and provide for a mix of uses – professional offices, retail/restaurant, housing and public space. The goal is to maximize how our limited commercial districts are reused, enhancing their vibrancy and appeal while also maximizing their revenue generating potential for the City and Schools.
It is financially better for the City if the site is redeveloped more intensely. A mixed-use redevelopment would generate income tax and TIF revenue, and the TIF revenue could actually help pay for a significant portion of a community center. An increased tax base benefits the broader community as a whole.
If the City were to purchase the site for a standalone community center, the overall costs to the City would greatly increase, with no potential for offsetting those costs using TIF dollars. Additionally, since the property would become a public use it would no longer generate property taxes for the Schools.