A Columbus area developer is proposing to build a new three-story apartment building in Athens and turn another building that is currently used as a restaurant into apartments.

According to the Steve Pierson, Athens code director, the owners of the current Athens Station Apartments and the old train depot are proposing the project on the property where Toscano's restaurant is currently located. The entire project would create 18 new apartment units with a total of 44 bedrooms.

The proposal is scheduled to come before the Athens Planning Commission during its meeting today at 2:30 p.m. in the Athens City Council chambers.

The agenda for the meeting states that the commission will have a pre-application meeting with developer representative Margaret Shaffer to talk about the project. Information filed with the Planning Commission on the project states that Business Associates LLC out of Dublin, Ohio, is in charge of the project, and William H. Trembly, Jr., is the manager.

"They want to take Toscano's and turn it into an apartment building," Pierson said. The restaurant would be converted into four two-bedroom apartment units.

In the current parking lot area between Toscano's and West Union Street, the developers want to build a second apartment building that would be three stories high. The building would have six two-bedroom flat apartments and eight three-bedroom townhouse apartments, according to Pierson.

Information filed by Trembly, who has had a substantial rental presence in Athens since the 1980s, states that the new building "will be based upon and a close duplicate of the present Sycamore Place apartment building, which is adjacent to the proposed new structure."

The information also states that the project will be tied to the Athens Station Apartments and will blend in with the rest of the buildings on the site. Green space will be created on the property and trees will be planted,  the information states.

Earlier this year, Trembly also renovated the historic train depot located on the same property and turned it into a rental office for his apartments. The depot had sat empty for decades.

Because the project is a planned unit development, it will require approval from the Athens Planning Commission and Athens City Council, Pierson said.

Business Associates LLC purchased the property in 2000, Pierson said. It was his understanding that the late Jon Sparhawk, who owned Toscano's, leased the building from Business Associates LLC.

A manager at Toscano's said Tuesday that the employees have not been told anything about the future of the restaurant. Shaffer could not be reached for comment, but she is scheduled to present plans for the project this afternoon to the Planning Commission.

Toscano's is in an area zoned for manufacturing, and residential uses in the area are prohibited, Pierson said. This means the developers will either have to get a variance or have the zoning changed in order to proceed with the project. The Station Street Apartments are also in the area zoned manufacturing, he added, and managed to obtain a variance.

The Planning Commission meeting agenda also discusses two other project, including one proposal to build a carpenter shop on West State Street in an area currently zoned B-1, which does not allow uses such as carpenter shops, Pierson said.


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