Columbus Metro Density vs. Peer and Midwest Metros

No, this is not a repost. Awhile back, I did a post on population by mile marker from “City Hall”. You can find that post here: http://allcolumbusdata.com/?p=1079
In the post, I compared Columbus with the 14 other largest Midwest metros.

Over the years, I’ve learned that Columbus has a very suburban reputation, meaning that it is perceived to have very low density throughout, especially because it aggressively annexed suburban areas into the city limits decades ago. With those claims, I wondered what the density would be if Columbus’ area size was scaled down to others to find out if it really deserves the suburban reputation. Bare with me, because there is a lot to look at.

First, I used Columbus’ 18 peer metros (population 1.5-2.5 million) as well as the 14 large Midwest metros. Since there was some overlap in the 2 groups, it made for a total group comparison of 27. So a fairly sizeable group. Next, I used the mile marker population, which in the City Hall census analysis is made up of circles going out from the center. So it’s just a matter of finding the area of each circle and dividing the population into that. What’s left is the density by area.

Density at Mile Marker 1, with an Area of 3.14 Square Miles.

2000———————————-2010
1. Chicago: 42,492.4______________________ 1. Chicago:57,870.7
2. Minneapolis: 36,801.6__________________ 2. Minneapolis: 39,339.5
3. Providence, RI: 36,476.1_______________ 3. Providence, RI: 36,693.0
4. San Jose, CA: 31,854.8_________________ 4. San Jose, CA: 33,438.9
5. Las Vegas: 27,618.8____________________ 5. Milwaukee: 27,471.7
6. Milwaukee: 26,755.1____________________ 6. Portland, OR: 25,987.6
7. Grand Rapids, MI: 25,748.1_____________ 7. Las Vegas: 25,069.1
8. Pittsburgh: 25,570.7___________________ 8. Grand Rapids, MI: 24,080.6
9. Cincinnati: 22,728.0___________________ 9. Pittsburgh: 23,464.3
10. Portland, OR: 21,256.1________________ 10. Austin, TX: 23,149.4
11. Toledo: 20,973.6______________________ 11. Cincinnati: 20,781.5
12. Austin, TX: 20,301.9__________________ 12. San Antonio, TX: 18,596.8
13. San Antonio, TX: 20,156.7_____________ 13. Omaha: 17,905.7
14. Akron: 19,946.2_______________________ 14. Toledo: 17,751.3
15. Omaha: 17,922.6_______________________ 15. Akron: 17,106.7
16. Dayton: 16,311.5______________________ 16. Columbus: 15,817.5
17. Columbus: 16,151.6____________________ 17. Nashville: 15,529.3
18. Indianapolis: 15,865.6________________ 18. Sacramento, CA: 15,512.7
19. Nashville: 15,554.4___________________ 19. Charlotte, NC: 14,873.9
20. Sacramento, CA: 15,385.7______________ 20. Indianapolis: 14,356.4

Density at Mile Marker 2, with an Area of 12.57 Square Miles.
2000————————————–2010
1. Chicago: 22,808.1______________________ 1. Chicago: 25,339.9
2. San Jose, CA: 18,854.7_________________ 2. San Jose, CA: 19,696.3
3. Minneapolis: 17,936.8__________________ 3. Minneapolis: 18,212.2
4. Milwaukee: 16,799.9____________________ 4. Milwaukee: 16,609.1
5. Providence, RI: 16,134.9_______________ 5. Providence, RI: 16,457.6
6. Las Vegas: 16,016.4____________________ 6. Las Vegas: 15,331.4
7. Pittsburgh: 13,232.7___________________ 7. Austin, TX: 12,524.4
8. San Antonio, TX: 12,427.0______________ 8. Pittsburgh: 12,123.2
9. Cincinnati: 12,250.1___________________ 9. Portland, OR: 11,881.0
10. Austin, TX: 12,152.8__________________ 10. San Antonio, TX: 11,690.5
11. Columbus: 11,203.7____________________ 11. Sacramento, CA: 11,324.8
12. Akron: 10,999.9_______________________ 12. Cincinnati: 10,997.2
13. Grand Rapids, MI: 10,884.2____________ 13. Columbus: 10,726.0
14. Sacramento, CA: 10,606.1______________ 14. Grand Rapids, MI: 10,146.0
15. Dayton: 9,756.8_______________________ 15. Akron: 9,737.1
16. Indianapolis: 9,383.0_________________ 16. Omaha: 8,993.2
17. Omaha: 8,960.7________________________ 17. Indianapolis: 8,147.3
18. Toledo: 8,816.9_______________________ 18. Dayton: 8,100.0
19. Orlando: 8,212.5______________________ 19. Charlotte: 8,086.8
20. Charlotte: 8,095.5____________________ 20. Nashville: 7,777.6

Density at Mile Marker 3, with an Area of 28.27 Square Miles
2000————————————2010
1. Chicago: 17,528.7_____________________ 1. Chicago: 18,003.2
2. San Jose, CA: 13,883.0________________ 2. San Jose, CA: 14,549.2
3. Las Vegas: 11,646.0___________________ 3. Las Vegas: 11,576.2
4. Minneapolis: 11,494.2_________________ 4. Minneapolis: 11,503.3
5. Milwaukee: 11,448.9___________________ 5. Milwaukee: 11,288.0
6. Providence: 11,173.7__________________ 6. Providence, RI: 11,240.2
7. Pittsburgh: 10,594.4__________________ 7. Pittsburgh: 9,738.7
8. San Antonio. TX: 9,234.3______________ 8. Portland, OR: 8,973.6
9. Portland, OR: 8,257.0_________________ 9. San Antonio, TX: 8,846.8
10. Cincinnati: 8,141.9__________________ 10. Columbus: 7,834.0
11. Columbus: 8,134.9____________________ 11. Sacramento, CA: 7,668.7
12. Sacramento, CA: 7,261.5______________ 12. Austin, TX: 7,534.0
13. Austin, TX: 7,232.3__________________ 13. Cincinnati: 7,273.6
14. Akron: 6,925.4_______________________ 14. Grand Rapids, MI: 6,540.0
15. Grand Rapids, MI: 6,852.0____________ 15. Akron: 6,284.9
16. Indianapolis: 6,727.9________________ 16. Orlando: 6,055.1
17. Toledo: 6,651.5______________________ 17. Omaha: 5,968.3
18. Dayton: 6,382.8______________________ 18. Toledo: 5,982.1
19. St. Louis: 6,093.7___________________ 19. Indianapolis: 5,879.9
20. Kansas City: 6,025.1_________________ 20. St. Louis: 5,663.8

Density at Mile Marker 4, with an Area of 50.27 Square Miles
2000———————————2010
1. Chicago: 15,447.2____________________ 1. Chicago: 15,205.9
2. San Jose, CA: 12,209.3_______________ 2. San Jose, CA: 12,629.6
3. Las Vegas: 9,788.0___________________ 3. Las Vegas: 10,022.2
4. Minneapolis: 8,874.4_________________ 4. Minneapolis: 8,921.8
5. Milwaukee: 8,823.8___________________ 5. Milwaukee: 8,725.5
6. Providence, RI: 8,454.3______________ 6. Providence, RI: 8,483.8
7. Pittsburgh: 8,216.0__________________ 7. Portland, OR: 7,785.5
8. Portland, OR: 7,282.9________________ 8. Pittsburgh: 7,602.6
9. San Antonio, TX: 7,208.6_____________ 9. San Antonio, TX: 6,995.5
10. Cincinnati: 6,922.8_________________ 10. Cincinnati: 6,279.4
11. Columbus: 6,449.3___________________ 11. Columbus: 6,257.4
12. Sacramento, CA: 5,744.7_____________ 12. Sacramento, CA: 6,138.5
13. Austin, TX: 5,541.5_________________ 13. Austin, TX: 5,847.2
14. St. Louis: 5,447.5__________________ 14. Omaha: 5,047.2
15. Cleveland: 5,356.2__________________ 15. St. Louis: 5,001.6
16. Indianapolis: 5,348.8_______________ 16. Grand Rapids, MI: 4,922.9
17. Detroit: 5,163.1____________________ 17. Orlando: 4,911.7
18. Omaha: 5,019.8______________________ 18. Indianapolis: 4,793.5
19. Akron: 4,900.7______________________ 19. Akron: 4,532.0
20. Dayton: 4,889.3_____________________ 20. Cleveland: 4,521.8

Density at Mile Marker 5, with an Area of 78.54 Square Miles

Note that this area size is about the current city size of Cincinnati and Cleveland.
2000————————————2010
1. Chicago: 14,213.6___________________ 1. Chicago: 13,591.0
2. San Jose, CA: 10,464.0______________ 2. San Jose, CA: 11,037.1
3. Las Vegas: 8,521.9__________________ 3. Las Vegas: 9,062.8
4. Minneapolis: 7,443.0________________ 4. Minneapolis: 7,455.9
5. Milwaukee: 7,081.2__________________ 5. Milwaukee: 7,029.1
6. Pittsburgh: 7,009.9_________________ 6. Pittsburgh: 6,492.7
7. San Antonio, TX: 6,326.6____________ 7. Portland, OR: 6,442.3
8. Providence, RI: 6,048.3_____________ 8. San Antonio, TX: 6,223.4
9. Portland, OR: 5,950.1_______________ 9. Providence, RI: 6,055.8
10. Cincinnati: 5,588.9________________ 10. Sacramento, CA: 5,664.2
11. Cleveland: 5,494.6_________________ 11. Orlando: 5,274.1
12. Columbus: 5,252.9__________________ 12. Columbus: 5,152.1
13. Sacramento, CA: 5,104.0____________ 13. Cincinnati: 5,096.2
14. Orlando: 4,993.7___________________ 14. Austin, TX: 4,993.7
15. Austin, TX: 4,786.5________________ 15. Cleveland: 4,602.4
16. Detroit: 4,748.7___________________ 16. St. Louis: 4,285.4
17. St. Louis: 4,731.5_________________ 17. Indianapolis: 4,086.1
18. Indianapolis: 4,447.7______________ 18. Omaha: 3,962.2
19. Akron: 4,025.9_____________________ 19. Grand Rapids, MI: 3,887.3
20. Grand Rapids, MI: 3,990.6__________ 20. Akron: 3,778.8

So if Columbus was the same size as Cincinnati and Cleveland, it would be the most dense city of the 3. And it’s generally in the top half of the grouping in its most urban areas.

But what about further out, past the urban core?

Density at Mile Marker 10, with an Area of 314.16 Square Miles.

This area size is much larger than the city limits of Columbus, but it gives an idea of the larger area’s density and not just within the city limits.
2000———————————–2010
1. Chicago: 9,344.3______________________ 1. Chicago: 8,795.0
2. San Jose, CA: 4,563.2_________________ 2. San Jose, CA: 4,809.8
3. Minneapolis: 4,183.2__________________ 3. Las Vegas: 4,794.2
4. Detroit: 4,117.4______________________ 4. Portland, OR: 4,230.3
5. Las Vegas: 3,877.3____________________ 5. Minneapolis: 4,178.3
6. Portland: 3,780.8_____________________ 6. San Antonio, TX: 3,454.9
7. Cleveland: 3,308.4____________________ 7. Detroit: 3,354.7
8. Pittsburgh: 3,279.8___________________ 8. Columbus: 3,163.9
9. San Antonio, TX: 3,217.8______________ 9. Pittsburgh: 3,080.4
10. Milwaukee: 3,013.7___________________ 10. Orlando: 3,055.0
11. Columbus: 2,973.3____________________ 11. Sacramento, CA: 3,016.4
12. St. Louis: 2,937.6___________________ 12. Milwaukee: 3,006.2
13. Cincinnati: 2,873.4__________________ 13. Cleveland: 2,923.7
14. Orlando: 2,783.9_____________________ 14. Indianapolis: 2,772.6
15. Sacramento, CA: 2,736.7______________ 15. St. Louis: 2,751.3
16. Indianapolis: 2,652.6________________ 16. Cincinnati: 2,746.8
17. Kansas City: 2,599.0_________________ 17. Kansas City: 2,538.3
18. Providence, RI: 2,360.0______________ 18. Austin, TX: 2,439.6
19. Austin, TX: 2,111.3__________________ 19. Providence, RI: 2,375.1
20. Dayton: 1,920.7______________________ 20. Charlotte, NC: 2,332.7

So what does all this tell us? That while Columbus is not the most dense city of its peer group, or within the Midwest group, it probably does not wholly deserve its low-density, suburban reputation. Most of the measurements are in the top half of the grouping for density, yes, but it is clearly the most weak in the urban core closest to Downtown, as that ranking is the lowest for it. The Mile 0 population, for example, is down near the very bottom, and that is a good reason why densities are not as high as they should/could be. Currently, Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods are seeing a residential development boom, so that will help, but the city needs to think a lot bigger if it wants that stereotype to truly go away. The recent abandonment of the Convention Center mixed-use project is not a good way to go about that goal… and it should be a goal.

Columbus Housing Market Update- May 2014

The May housing market in the Columbus area continued the 5-month long trend of sales being down. As with the previous 4 months, the main reason was high demand coupled with historically low supply.

As for when this situation may change seems hard to guess. The rate of construction for single family homes shows no real signs of improving anytime soon, while renting continues to be the dominant choice right now.

Top 10 May 2014 Sales Totals
1. Columbus: 1,008
2. Grove City: 81
3. Clintonville: 73
4. Dublin: 73
5. Westerville: 67
6. Reynoldsburg: 59
7. Hilliard: 58
8. Upper Arlington: 55
9. Gahanna: 45
10. Pickerington: 36

Top 10 May 2014 Sales Increases over May 2013
1. New Albany: +35.3%
2. Pataskala: +35.0%
3. Obetz: +33.0%
4. Downtown: +30.0%
5. Grove City: +20.9%
6. Westerville: +3.1%
7. Pickerington: -2.7%
8. Hilliard: -4.9%
9. Columbus: -11.6%
10. Reynoldsburg: -11.9%

Top 10 Year-to-Date Sales Through May 2014
1. Columbus: 3,716
2. Dublin: 261
3. Grove City: 258
4. Clintonville: 248
5. Westerville: 229
6. Upper Arlington: 220
7. Reynoldsburg: 209
8. Hilliard: 187
9. Gahanna: 150
10. Pickerington: 108

Top 10 Year-to-Date Increases Through May 2014 Over 2013
1. Obetz: +118.2%
2. New Albany: +11.3%
3. Pataskala: +8.7%
4. Grove City: +5.3%
5. Reynoldsburg: +1.0%
6. Westerville: -3.0%
7. Clintonville: -5.0%
8. Downtown: -8.0%
9. German Village: -8.8%
10. Worthington: -9.2%

Average Sales May 2014
Urban: 114
Suburban: 49.6
Urban without Columbus: 25

Average % Change May 2014 vs. May 2013
Urban: -13.1%
Suburban: +1.4%
Urban without Columbus: -13.3%

Average YTD Sales Through May 2014
Urban: 419
Suburban: 167
Urban without Columbus: 89

Average YTD % Change YTD Through May 2014
Urban: -1.7%
Suburban: -6.0%
Urban without Columbus: -1.1%

Top 10 Average Sales Price May 2014
1. New Albany: $549,217
2. Dublin: $400,121
3. Bexley: $355,732
4. Upper Arlington: $345,156
5. German Village: $290,299
6. Downtown: $272,927
7. Worthington: $258,483
8. Grandview Heights: $238,333
9. Hilliard: $231,340
10. Westerville: $214,817

Top 10 Average Sales Price % Change May 2014 vs. May 2013
1. Obetz: +42.2%
2. Upper Arlington: +22.1%
3. Dublin: +18.6%
4. Westerville: +15.3%
5. Minerva Park: +14.5%
6. Grandview Heights: +12.5%
7. Reynoldsburg: +11.3%
8. Clintonville: +10.7%
9. Columbus: +9.4%
10. Pickerington: +9.3%

Top 10 Average Sales Prices YTD Through May 2014
1. New Albany: $491,395
2. Dublin: $356,009
3. Upper Arlington: $334,705
4. Bexley: $322,383
5. Downtown: $303,479
6. German Village: $297,917
7. Worthington: $256,332
8. Grandview Heights: $245,403
9. Hilliard: $222,793
10. Westerville: $207,854

Top 10 Average YTD Sales Price % Change Through May 2014 vs. 2013
1. Obetz: +50.8%
2. Grandview Heights: +20.5%
3. Pataskala: +15.9%
4. Grove City: +11.7%
5. Dublin: +11.6%
6. Pickerington: +11.3%
7. Westerville: +10.7%
8. Columbus: +9.7%
9. Worthington: +9.6%
10. Reynoldsburg: +9.2%

Average Sales Price May 2014
Urban: $221,969
Suburban: $240,310
Urban without Columbus: $229,903

Average Sales Price Change May 2014 vs. May 2013
Urban: +3.9%
Suburban: +4.5%
Urban without Columbus: +3.3%

Average Sales Price YTD Through May 2014
Urban: $217,709
Suburban: $227,022
Urban without Columbus: $226,296

Average Sales Price % Change YTD Through May 2014
Urban: +9.4%
Suburban: +8.0%
Urban without Columbus: +9.3%

Top 10 Fastest Selling Markets May 2014 (Based on Average # of Days for Listings to Sell)
1. Minerva Park: 7
2. Grandview Heights: 12
3. Upper Arlington: 19
4. Worthington: 27
5. Bexley: 31
6. Clintonville: 41
7. Westerville: 41
8. Dublin: 42
9. Obetz: 50
10. Hilliard: 52

Top 10 Fastest Selling Markets YTD Through May 2014
1. Minerva Park: 42
2. Obetz: 44
3. Worthington: 44
4. Upper Arlington: 47
5. Grandview Heights: 49
6. Hilliard: 50
7. Westerville: 55
8. Clintonville: 56
9. Pickerington: 58
10. Dublin: 62

Average # of Days Before Sale, May 2014
Urban: 41.7
Suburban: 63.1
Urban without Columbus: 39.9

Average # of Days Before Sale YTD Through May 2014
Urban: 61.4
Suburban: 72.0
Urban without Columbus: 60.0

Top 10 Lowest Market Housing Supplies May 2014 (Based on # of Months to Sell all Listings)
1. Worthington: 1.3
2. German Village: 1.7
3. Grandview Heights: 1.7
4. Westerville: 1.9
5. Clintonville: 2.0
6. Minerva Park: 2.2
7. Gahanna: 2.3
8. Hilliard: 2.3
9. Obetz: 2.4
10. Upper Arlington: 2.5

A healthy housing supply is considered to be around 5-6 months. Anything less than 3 months is considered very low.

Average # of Months to Sell All Listings, May 2014
Urban: 2.5
Suburban: 3.2
Urban without Columbus: 2.5

Average % Change of Single-Family Home Sales May 2014 vs. May 2013
Urban: -18.4%
Suburban: +4.6%
Urban without Columbus: -18.8%

Average % Change of Single-Family Home Sales YTD Through May 2014 vs. YTD 2013
Urban: -8.0%
Suburban: -6.1%
Urban without Columbus: -7.8%


Average % Change of Condo Sales May 2014 vs. May 2013

Urban: +26.3%
Suburban: -20.0%
Urban without Columbus: +29.0%

Average % Change of Condo Sales YTD Through May 2014 vs. YTD 2013
Urban: +22.0%
Suburban: -12.0%
Urban without Columbus: +24.0%

April 2014 Jobs Data

I haven’t given jobs data for awhile, and thought it was time to updated. The most recent full numbers are from April. Overall, there was more good than bad with the report. Unemployment was well below the national average and falling rapidly. Employment was up and unemployment was down. The only real negative was that the labor force remained stagnant to down a bit.

May’s preliminary numbers look very good, and when those are fully released, I will do another report. Until then, here is April.

Columbus City
Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
Unemployment Rate Change since April 2013: -1.6%
Unemployment Rate Change since January 2014: -1.5%
Civilian Labor Force: 432,300
Civilian Labor Force Change since April 2013: -1,400
Civilian Labor Force Change since January 2014: -1,400
Employment: 414,000
Employment Change since April 2013: +5,800
Employment Change since January 2014: +5,600
Unemployment: 18,400
Unemployment Change since April 2013: -7,100
Unemployment Change since January 2014: -7,000

Franklin County
Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
Unemployment Rate Change since April 2013: -1.6%
Unemployment Rate Change since January 2014: -1.6%
Civilian Labor Force: 631,700
Civilian Labor Force Change since April 2013: -1,700
Civilian Labor Force Change since January 2014: -1,900
Employment: 604,700
Employment Change since April 2013: +8,400
Employment Change since January 2014: +8,200
Unemployment: 27,000
Unemployment Change since April 2013: -10,100
Unemployment Change since January 2014: -10,100

Columbus Metro Area
Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
Unemployment Rate Change since April 2013: -1.6%
Unemployment Rate Change since January 2014: -1.7%
Civilian Labor Force: 976,173
Civilian Labor Force Change since April 2013: -2,530
Civilian Labor Force Change since January 2014: -4,023
Employment: 934,261
Employment Change since April 2013: +13,053
Employment Change since January 2014: +12,617
Unemployment: 41,912
Unemployment Change since April 2013: -15,583
Unemployment Change since January 2014: -16,640

Ohio Overall
Unemployment Rate: 5.7
Unemployment Rate Change since April 2013: -1.6%
Unemployment Rate Change since January 2014 : -1.2%
Civilian Labor Force: 5,741,473
Civilian Labor Force Change since April 2013: -27,006
Civilian Labor Force Change since January 2014: -21,655
Employment: 5,413,615
Employment Change since April 2013: +67,409
Employment Change since January 2014: +45,860
Unemployment: 327,858
Unemployment Change since April 2013: -94,415
Unemployment Change since January 2014: -67,515

Metro Non-Farm Jobs
Total: 982,500
Change from April 2013: +8,600
Change from January 2014: +16,700

By Industry
Mining/Logging/Construction Total: 32,200
Change from April 2013: +2,100
Change from January 2014: +2,900

Manufacturing Total: 67,700
Change from April 2013: +0
Change from January 2014: +1,700

Trade/Transportation/Utilities Total: 185,400
Change from April 2013: +2,900
Change from January 2014: -1,000

Information Total: 18,100
Change from April 2013: +0
Change from January 2014: +0

Financial Activities Total: 73,800
Change from April 2013: -1,100
Change from January 2014: +0

Professional and Business Services Total: 160,400
Change from April 2013: -1,800
Change from January 2014: +2,000

Education and Health Services Total: 140,600
Change from April 2013: +900
Change from January 2014: +3,400

Leisure and Hospitality Total: 99,400
Change from April 2013: +1,800
Change from January 2014: +5,500

Other Services Total: 38,400
Change from April 2013: +600
Change from January 2014: +100

Government Total: 166,500
Change from April 2013: +2,200
Change from January 2014: +2,100

Columbus Convention Center’s Disastrous Decision

I’m not a complainer… or at the very least, I don’t prefer to be. If there is anything I’ve learned in my life, it’s that negativity only breeds upon itself and doesn’t actually serve to accomplish anything. That said, there are simply times where negativity makes perfectly logical sense, and where it can serve a real purpose for true positive change. Or so I tell myself. I’ve not posted too much on my personal views regarding development, but recent events have prompted me to give some of them.

Back in March, it was revealed that the Greater Columbus Convention Center leadership had asked the local development community to come up with ideas for a potential expansion project for the convention center itself. The building was designed by famed 1980s and early 1990s architect Peter Eisenman (who also did the Wexner Center for the Arts), and began construction in 1989 and completed in 1990. Originally, the building included 1.4 million square feet of space, with a large parking lot occupying the southeast corner of the Goodale/N. High Street intersection.

In 1999, an expansion pushed the structure north nearly to Goodale, but left enough space for a small plaza there.

So even after the initial construction of the original building, there were obvious problems with the design, not least of which was the pastel color scheme better suited for Miami Beach. The building simply didn’t have any street-level presence. Beyond a few entrances, the convention center’s design essentially created a block-long wall along High Street. There was no ground floor retail, no restaurants and no pedestrian interaction whatsoever. Back in 1989, this was just fine and dandy, because no one really cared about that and hadn’t since the days before WWII. Cities had become showplaces and for big buildings and massive surface parking lots that didn’t actually bring anyone to live there. There was no reason to walk on the streets of the city, and architects certainly didn’t think it was necessary to build for that purpose. The suburbs were the real future, blah blah blah. Everyone knows that story.

Since 1999, the neighborhood around the convention center has been rocketing upward in popularity. The nearby Arena District continued to grow and add development, and the Short North continued to rapidly revitalize and is now the city’s hottest neighborhood. For the past few years, there has been a push to attract more business to Columbus via the center and to highlight all the nearby amenities. To that goal, the 12-story, 500+ room Hilton was completed in 2012 across the street. The $140 million structure was built with public dollars, as a private developer did not step forward when the idea was put forth. The project was somewhat speculative, as the demand for hotel space in the city was not particularly high enough to warrant the construction (a good reason why private development hadn’t shown up), but because the city understood that hotel space was part of the key to attract bigger and better convention events, the hotel went up and Hilton came in to run the space.

The gamble seemed to be paying off, and in January, the Columbus Dispatch came out with an article about the hotel’s success: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/01/31/downtown-hiltons-success-rubbing-off.html In the article, there was even the mention of adding even more hotel space, possibly up to 1,000 additional rooms, at some point in the near future.

So when the convention center authority announced it was searching for ideas for a new expansion project, that reality seemed to be taking place. In late March, there was this bit of news: http://www.columbusunderground.com/two-15-story-towers-proposed-at-convention-center Four separate proposals had been submitted by private developers on ideas to develop the north end of the convention center, along with the surface parking lot north of Goodale behind the 670 retail cap. The most prominent idea came from Wagenbrenner, with a pair of 15-story, mixed-use towers that would’ve included more than 100 residential units, hotel and event space, and ground-floor retail along High Street, an element the original building severely lacked.

Wagenbrenner Development’s proposal.

Wagenbrenner Development’s proposal, looking southeast from High and Goodale.

Another proposal from Kaufman was far more modern, but still retained mixed-use elements.

Kaufman proposal.

In Wagenbrenner’s case, a hotel chain had already stepped forward interested in running the hotel aspect of the project, and there seemed little doubt that one of the proposals would move forward, based on quotes from the convention center authority and their stated goal for a “big idea” sort of project moving forward. The selection of the design would be announced in a few month’s time.

So what was the result of all that? On June 12th, 2014, an article in the Dispatch came out detailing a renovation and expansion project for the convention center: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/06/12/Convention_Center_addition_and_renovation_would_cost_125_million.html

The problem was that the article did not mention any mixed-use project whatsoever. Instead, it called for a general total-building renovation and a small 30,000 sf expansion and entranceway into the plaza space at the southeast corner of High and Goodale. Additionally, an 800-space parking garage would be built in the surface lot behind the 670 cap.

Wait, what?? When the article initially came out, there was confusion by many in the development following community on just what was going on. Part of the confusion stemmed from the fact that the convention center authority had already announced a renovation project just 2 weeks prior to the release of the information on the mixed-use expansion project: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/03/12/convention-center-soon-to-undergo-renovations.html That announcement had mentioned only a $30 million renovation, not the much larger one announced on June 12th. There had also been mention previously of the garage project, back in late 2013. http://m.bizjournals.com/columbus/blog/2013/12/short-north-parking-garage-may-get.html In that discussion, the garage was being looked at to get ground-floor retail, especially closer to High, to take advantage of the neighborhood’s high walkability and retail success.

So at first, it was assumed that the garage and renovation project was a separate issue from the larger proposed expansion, but the article on June 12th specifically mentioned the very same land that the proposed mixed-use towers would’ve used. The following day, on June 13th, the Dispatch came out with a second article about the $125 million renovation/expansion project, and in it near the bottom, was this damning paragraph:


Jennison said the expansion of the convention center rules out earlier ideas of adding shops and residences to the north end of the facility, including the possibility of more hotel space. The authority’s board sought proposals for such a project earlier this year before ultimately ruling them out.

Suddenly, the 2-tower project had been swept under the rug and abandoned. Worse, it had been abandoned in favor of new carpets/fresh paint, a glorified 2-story entrance on Goodale, and a 1970s parking garage with no retail at all.

Proposed parking garage on Goodale Avenue behind the 670 retail cap, part of the convention authority’s new plan.

To say that there was some disbelief that such a decision had been made is putting it mildly. Across development forums, and even on the Dispatch articles themselves, the negative reaction was swift and universal. How and why had such a promising proposal for the convention center turned into the height of mediocrity? And why had potential fully private or a private/public funded project turned into a 100% publicly funded fiasco? The answer, it seems, is likely staring us in the face: The Hilton Hotel. Though it hasn’t been confirmed either way, there is an element of suspicion against the Hilton for obvious reasons. The Hilton is publicly financed and was publicly built. To have a private company build a competing hotel may have taken away business, and the convention authority was not interested in allowing competition for a public enterprise. There are precious few other logical reasons why the convention authority would actively seek private investment only to toss those proposals out a few months later in favor of a project that had no competing elements to it.

Worse still, the convention authority knows it’s a terrible plan in comparison. On June 15th, yet another article on the project appeared in the Columbus Dispatch: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/06/15/convention-center-aims-to-improve-to-keep-up.html

In it, the idea is pushed forth that the renovation plan will be transformative, and will keep Columbus competitive for convention business. The problem is that it’s neither transformative nor competitive. Granted, the convention center is in need of renovations, as much of the interior is dated. But to spend $125 million on that renovation, combined with a laughably bad expansion/garage rather than actually going with, at the very least, a partially privately funded project that would’ve actually improved Columbus’ competitiveness along with adding much needed pedestrian access and excitement to the intersection in question… well, it’s insanity. And the 3rd article only suggests that the convention authority is well aware of the overwhelmingly negative reaction to their plan and are attempting to justify it as much as possible. Only there can be no real justification. Bad decisions remain bad decisions. Whether this one was made to prevent competition or is simply an example of being out of touch with a stated goal, the convention center authority has made one of the worst decisions in Columbus development history… and that was after the city allowed Union Station to be demolished. Shame on them.