Last Updated: 3/21/2019- added 2 projects
I thought it might be interesting to have a page of proposals for projects that, for whatever reason, never quite made it to getting built. Unlike other development pages, I hope to include a few more details about these projects, if possible.
1910 City Plan- In Research
1913-1920: Guarantee Title and Trust Company Tower
The Chittenden Homestead had once stood at 68 E. Broad on Capital Square. The first house in Columbus with stone steps, it remained as a house from the time of its construction in 1829 until 1913, when George Hoster, who had purchased it in 1902, sold the property to Guarantee Title and Trust Co. The company soon had plans in the works to tear down the house and replace it with a 25-story office tower. At the time, this would’ve been the tallest building in Columbus (LeVeque was still years away), so it was a significant proposal for the time- and still is. However, as planning advanced, WWI broke out and eventually made the proposal financially infeasible. The property was again sold in 1920, with plans to remodel it into business and office space. That never seemed to have happened, and the building was demolished in March, 1921. The space is now a parking lot.
1945-1946: Downtown Makeover
At the end of WWII, a collaboration of engineers and city architects petitioned then Mayor James Rhodes to greatly expand Columbus’ civic center infrastructure. The group created a map which proposed vast changes for several areas of Downtown. Here are some of the more prominent details of the proposal.
1. The current Norfolk-Southern rail line going through the Arena District and the Scioto Peninsula would’ve been rerouted and combined with the current CSX and Conrail lines further north and west. The leg of the line running northeast to southwest from the Convention Center to behind the new Vets Memorial would’ve been eliminated completely, and the rail bridge over the Scioto removed.
2. The Ohio Penitentiary would’ve been removed entirely, 50 years before it eventually was.
3. Both #1 and #2 would’ve allowed Dennison Avenue, which once ran all the way to where North Bank Park is now, to be rerouted to where the prison was. It would’ve then been extended across the Scioto River on a new bridge to the Scioto Peninsula and connected to Starling Street.
4. The first Veterans Memorial in roughly the same place it ended up, just east of where Dennison would’ve been.
5. A large park where McFerson Commons is now.
6. At least 16 new city and federal government buildings. These included a brand new Union Station located where Nationwide Arena is, a new bus terminal just to its southeast, Army and Navy armories, a “Temple of Good Will” located at the northwest corner of Main and Front and a “Garden Center” at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers.
Needless to say, just about none of this happened. A club and restaurant did end up at the confluence, but virtually nothing else was ever built. Check out more details on the proposed 1946 map below.
1972: 241 South Parkview Avenue
This site on the Bexley/Columbus border had a proposal for a $1.3 million (1972 dollars) “luxury” condo development by Tumel Investment Co. Nearby residents crowded neighborhood commission meetings to object to the project on the grounds that it was “inconsistent with existing single-family homes” in the area, and ultimately the project never moved forward. The site was sold by Tumel in 1974 and then ended up in the hands of the Schottenstein family in 1976. Irving and Frances Schottenstein built a more than 8000 square foot personal home on the site in 1982.
1975-1976: Convention Center Hotel and Transit Center
Early on in the planning stages for the new convention center complex in 1976, a 17-story hotel was proposed to be part of the complex. Additionally, most of the convention center itself would be south of the railroad tracks in a 5-level building containing exhibit halls and ballrooms. A new transportation center would’ve gone on the north side of the tracks.
Of the layout, only the hotel was built, but it ended up with a vastly different design and taller at 26 stories. The convention center itself wasn’t finished until the early 1990s, north of the original plan. The change of location was due to the ironic loss of funding for the proposed transit center, which the city lost when the it tore down the Union Station arcade. Given that the arcade had been on the National Register of Historic Places, the demolition prevented any federal funding being used on any new buildings on the site.
1982-1983: New Prison at the Ohio Pen
When the federal government gave Ohio the deadline of December 31, 1983 to close the Ohio Penitentiary in Downtown, the state had to scramble to find other places to house all the inmates, as there weren’t nearly enough prisons in the state to handle them. Instead, state legislators passed a $638 million spending bill targeted at building new prisons and expanding others. In the bill, it was spelled out explicitly that Franklin County was supposed to find a place to build a new “reception center” for as many as 1,420 prisoners. If it couldn’t, the mandated that the Ohio Pen would be torn down and a brand new prison would be built on the site. Of course, nobody wanted the prison near them, and the few locations deemed a decent fit for the project had major NIMBYism problems. One of the most prominent proposed sites was Rhodes Park, on the border between Hilltop and Franklinton. That idea quickly became out of the question due to overwhelming opposition. Eventually, state and local leaders proposed changing the law so that the prison didn’t have to be in Franklin County, as there simply wasn’t anywhere to build there. The prison facilities ended up being split between existing complexes in London and the small town of Orient.
1985: High Street Road Diet
Even as far back as the early 1970s, city planners had been discussing what to do about High Street traffic Downtown. The city paid $94,000 to a Montreal-based firm to study this in 1972, the very first of a parade of subsequent studies. In the mid-1970s, there was even talk about making High “car-less”, or as much as possible, a nearly unheard of suggestion at the time. In 1984, a nearly $300,000 study first proposed the idea of the transit mall on High. The proposal would’ve made High accessible only to buses during business hours, widened sidewalks and reduced the number of traffic lanes from 6 to 4.
1985 Original Carriage Place Mall
Carriage Place, at the northeast corner of Bethel and Sawmill, is today a pretty standard strip center with a large parking lot and fast food outlets and cinema. It was originally proposed to be more of a large, $100 million mall that was to include an 800-foot lake surrounded by “upscale” restaurants and shops. The nearby residents, in classic NIMBYism, petitioned to have the location be “dry”, in that no business could serve alcohol. The tactic was taken to try to prevent the development from happening at all, as well as arguing about traffic concerns. Richard Solove, the developer, was quoted saying:
“People become so emotional that they don’t realize the consequences of what they are doing. This is a prime example.”
Ultimately, the residents succeeded in stopping the mall, but not the project overall. As the developer warned, without being able to sell alcohol, the project would be limited to fast food outlets and would otherwise change the development plan. That’s exactly what happened. The first part of the strip center opened in 1989.
1985 Deaf School Housing Development
The old Ohio School for the Deaf sites goes back to the early 1830s, when the city purchased 10 acres to build the school. The first building went up in 1834, and went through additions and changes until a new 7-building campus was built in 1868. The school was moved in 1953, leaving the old campus abandoned. It wasn’t until around 1970s that preservation groups stepped in to try to save the rapidly deteriorating buildings. The city proposed in 1980 to renovate the main building into senior housing. However, nearly the entire complex of buildings burnt to the ground in a highly-suspicious fire in 1981, leaving only the 1899 building left on the far west part of the site. The newly vacant land sat empty for a few years before the city again pushed for redeveloping the site with up to 125 units of affordable housing in 1985. The push for housing in and around Downtown was an effort to make Downtown active “18-hours a day”. Other sites proposed for housing were the early 1900’s Municipal Light Plant on W. Nationwide Blvd. and a lot at 3rd and Mound. However, there was large pushback to instead keep the site as a park, and the plans were scrapped in 1986. 7 acres were designated the Deaf School Park soon after, and eventually because of the unique landscaping that would go in, the park is now more commonly known as Topiary Park. The last remaining building of the Deaf School was renovated into Cristo Rey High School a few years ago.
1986 Gay and Front City Office Tower
Columbus considered building a $55 million, 200,000 square foot 16-story, city government office building atop a 10-level parking garage between 1984 and early 1986. The garage did get built and remains today, but the financials at the time didn’t make sense and the city dropped the proposal by April, 1986. Read more about this project here: Gay and Front
1986 Capitol South Parking Garage Residential Towers
Early on in the planning stages for City Center Mall and the attached garage, developers were in talks to build a pair of 12-story residential towers atop the garage. Each tower would’ve had 75 apartments each and would’ve anchored the east and west sides of the garage itself. Separate from this proposal, another developer, Robert Weiler, wanted to build a tower with 100 apartments on the High Street side of the garage. However, the problem was not with the tower proposals, but issues with the cost of the garage. A code ruling that the garage had to have a sprinkler system installed on each floor ended up making the addition of the towers financially unworkable.
In the end, neither proposal was built. Whether the garage was ultimately built to handle possible future upward development is unclear.
1986 New World Center
The city had been toying with the idea of a “domed activity center” for several years. A more concrete proposal for the New World Center, a $242 million, 65,000-seat stadium and 300,000 square foot exhibition space was to be built on 16 acres north of the Ohio Center. That May, voters shot down the proposal. By November, the proposal had been moved to the 22-acre Scioto Peninsula, where the old Central High façade would be incorporated. A glut of submissions to redevelop the property, the school board’s reluctance to let the property go, and the recent defeat of the previous proposal ultimately led to its demise. It wouldn’t be until the mid-1990s that the stadium plan would return in full force and eventually led to the construction of Nationwide Arena, but at the old Ohio Penitentiary site instead.
Some of the other redevelopment proposals the Scioto Peninsula/Central High received between 1985-1986?
-A 2,500 seat performing arts center.
-A 98-story hexagonal tower.
-The Rickenbacker Air and Space Museum.
1987- Center Place- in research.
1987 Club Pen
After the Ohio Penitentiary closed in 1984, the city began requesting redevelopment proposals. One of the more outside-the-box ones was Club Pen, which proposed to turn the prison into a hotel, but not just any hotel. From the Dispatch article at the time:
Leisureland Corp. of Auckland, New Zealand, envisions converting one block of about 200 cells into a “fun hotel” called the Club Pen, complete with cafeteria, restaurant and exercise room. Aimed primarily at the 18-35 age group, the hotel would offer package deals and a variety of games and sports activities to keep guests busy.
In addition, the development would’ve included a prison museum, farmer’s market, craft shops, public park, playground and daycare center.
A competing proposal from a group calling themselves Pen Partners, wanted to do a more practical redevelopment, proposing 400,000 square feet of low and mid-rise office space that included a 14-story and 4-story that would’ve used the cell block facades, along with a 5-story parking garage. The plan also called for a large pedestrian plaza with a pond, pool, gazebo and gardens, with later additions possibly including a cinema, hotels and restaurants.
1988 Capital Place Tower
This 40-story office tower had been proposed for 50 S. 3rd Street in the Dispatch Building parking lot. Plans never really got out of the planning phase. The tower would’ve been finished in 1990 had it been built.
1993- Christopher Columbus Statue
Back in 1991, Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli created a 300-foot statue of Christopher Columbus to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his landing in America in 1492. Tsereteli created 3 different models for the statue originally, and in 1990 President George H.W. Bush picked the model he liked. After being created, the enormous statue was to end up in South Florida, but was ultimately rejected due to the associations with the controversial and nasty colonization of the already-populated Americas. For the next few years, the statue travelled to different states in hoping of locating a final home. In 1993, the artist visited Columbus in the hopes of putting it on the Scioto riverfront. Of course, the proposal was rejected. Besides a construction cost in the millions of dollars, the statue would’ve towered over everything around it. As late as 2011, the statue hadn’t found a home, and with the increasingly negative view of his character and exploits, it seems unlikely that it ever will.
1995- Broad Street Bridge Serpent Sculpture
This proposal has a good writeup here: Serpent Mound Sculpture
2007- Ibiza on High- in research.
2007- Time Tower
First proposed in early 2007, but in the works since 2006, land developer Mark W. Jones wanted to build a 15-story, largely residential project at 220-226 E. Main Street in Downtown. Having owned the property at the time for at least a decade, Jones hadn’t been able to “make the numbers work” on renovating an existing pair of 19th Century buildings. Instead, he proposed a 15-story tower that would’ve had 8, 10, 12 and 15-story sections above a 2-story garage. The project was expected to begin construction at the end of 2007, with a completion sometime in 2008. Unfortunately, the economy at the time was just beginning its descent into the Great Recession, which hit residential projects hard. Time Tower was ultimately a casualty and never broke ground. The historic buildings remain.
2008- Buggyworks Phase II
The Buggyworks project was originally supposed to be built in -2-3 phases. The historic buggy factory building in the Arena District would be renovated into residential units in 2 phases. Although the proposal was called Buggyworks Phase II, this cancelled proposal would’ve been more or less Phase III. It was to consist of an 8-story parking garage with a 15-story residential tower built on top for a complete, 23-story tower. The tower would’ve been built behind the historic sections, located at 390 W. Nationwide Boulevard. As to what happened, well the date of the proposal says it all. As with the Time Tower above, the Great Recession killed it. Interestingly enough, the architect on the project still has the renderings up., last updated in 2016. This may mean that the project will make a reappearance at some point, but there has been no news to that effect.
2011- Scioto River Sculpture
When the city was creating the Scioto Mile, a first rework of the Scioto riverfront before the Scioto Greenways, the city asked for proposals for public art that could be included along the park. One of them, from prominent local developer Pizzuti Companies, was a 6-story glass and metal tower. Because of its shape, it was immediately dubbed the “cooling tower” by the public for its resemblance to a nuclear plant cooling tower. Initial criticism of artist Brian Tolle’s “Columbiad” led to at least one redesign, but the shape largely remained intact. After the initial few weeks of being in the news, the proposal just sort of faded away. The project’s name popped up here and there over the next few years, and in 2014, the city’s project coordinator for development stated that no one had submitted any proposal for review to move the sculpture forward. There has been no mention of the project since.
2013 The Convention Center Towers
The sordid history of what happened to this 15-story proposal can be found here: Convention Center
2014- Columbus Zoo expansion- in research
2015- SPARC- in research
684 S. High- in research