The Recovery of Downtown vs Cleveland and Cincinnati Part #2- Update




Part #2 looks more specifically at the Downtown area of the 3-Cs.

**Updated with 2017 data.

First, let’s look at the total Downtown populations since 1950.

This graph, I think, will surprise most people. The first surprise is that downtown populations in 1950 were not nearly as high as most would have you believe. Cincinnati did have almost 22K people there, but even a city like Cleveland had less than 10K, and that was during the absolute peak of its city population. Another surprise is that Columbus was not always the lowest populated downtown and was more populated than Cleveland’s in 1950. Finally, the last surprise is that while all the downtowns are now growing, Columbus has regained 2nd place and Cleveland has seen the most growth so far.

What about tract trends for the downtowns? Well first, here are the population trends for each downtown.



Individual census tract population figures are based on the latest Census estimates for 2017. They are most likely too low or too high in some cases. For example, the city of Columbus estimates the current Downtown population FAR HIGHER than what the Census has them, and the significant drop in one of Cincinnati’s tracts is most likely incorrect. However, because the Census numbers are considered to be the most official, that’s what I’m using. Still, I expect wide differences when the physical counts come out for 2020.

Here is the total population change by Downtown.

Finally, I wanted to look at more of the downtown area than just the central business district. “Downtown” for many includes more areas than that and may be a “Greater Downtown Area”, the measurement between the full 1950 boundaries and just the CBD.

Here are the tracts I considered to be the Greater Downtown area for each city.

Cincinnati: 2, 7, 9, 10, 11, 263, 264, 265, 268
Cleveland: 1033, 1036, 1042, 1071, 1077, 1078, 1082, 1083, 1084
Columbus: 21, 22, 29, 30, 32, 36, 38, 40, 42, 52, 53, 57

And the graph for the population of these tracts since 1950 through 2017.

Cincinnati reached it’s lowest population for the past 60 years for this area in 2000 and has grown since. Cleveland’s greater downtown had bottomed out in 1990 and had the fasted growth during the 2000s, although that seems to have slowed some since 2010. Columbus managed to maintain the highest population in its greater downtown, bottomed out in 2000 and has grown since.

All this shows is that the Downtown, and the surrounding areas, are seeing a resurgence in the 3-Cs for the most part.




The Recovery of Downtown vs Cleveland and Cincinnati Part #1- Update




**Updated and reposted from last year.

Columbus’ downtown has seen many many changes, especially over the last decade. Developments like the Arena District, Columbus Commons, the Scioto Mile and more have brought new life to the area. Dozens of new restaurants and shops have opened in recent years, with more on the way. Larger developments coming up include the redevelopment of the Scioto Peninsula, Confluence Village- complete with a new Crew Stadium- and at least 3 new mixed-use towers. All of this has led to rising population, with estimates population by the city near 9,000. So the question I was wondering is how has population been changing not only in Columbus’ downtown, but in comparison to Cleveland and Cincinnati. Both of those cities have also seen major projects in their downtown cores and are seeing an uptick in their downtown populations.

First, I examined the 1950 city limits for all three cities. This was the last census year before sprawl really took hold and changed the city dynamics and growth patterns. 1950 is also when most cities in Ohio reached their peak urban population, so I thought it would be interesting to see how those old boundaries had changed over the years. I went to the US census website and began to look up all the census tracts that existed in each city in 1950. Those would represent my base area that I would use to see the changes in the city core. All of the 3-Cs have grown beyond those 1950 boundaries, especially Columbus, but these areas were the hardest hit when the urban decline came the last 50-60 years as the suburbs grew. Looking at how these areas changed is both sobering and perhaps hopeful as well.

All 3-Cs saw population decline between 1950 and 2010. Columbus’ decline which much less severe than the other 2, but it followed the same general trends. Since 2010, both Cincinnati and Columbus have seen growth within the 1950 boundary.

1950 Boundary Population Change 1950-2017
Cincinnati: -223,097
Cleveland: -539,907
Columbus: -134,562

1950 Boundary Population Change 2010-2017
Cincinnati: +2,392
Cleveland: -6,000
Columbus: +6,566

1950 Boundary Population % Change 1950-2017
Cincinnati: -44.3%
Cleveland: -59.0%
Columbus: -35.8%

1950 Boundary Population % Change 2010-2017
Cincinnati: +0.9%
Cleveland: -1.6%
Columbus: +2.8%

In Cleveland, the rate of loss had gradually been slowing down since the 1970s, but suddenly skyrocketed again in the 2000s. I’m not sure what exactly caused this. The double recessions made it more difficult for people to move, so if anything, the losses should’ve not accelerated. Cleveland lost over 90,000 people in its urban core from 2000-2010, the highest lost by % and total of any Ohio city, and one of the highest in the country.
In Cincinnati, population loss had peaked in the 1970s and the rate of loss fell substantially the following decade. However, the past 2 decades have actually seen a gradual acceleration of losses. The 2000-2010 period saw the second biggest total loss for the urban core, but there has been a significant turnaround (if estimates are correct) and the city is seeing growth now.
For Columbus, it’s been the opposite picture. Like the other 2-Cs, losses peaked in the 1970s. Since then, the urban core losses have been in gradual decline. The 2000-2010 period had the smallest rate and total loss of any decade the past 65+ years, and since 2010, there has been net growth.

So interesting results, but these numbers don’t show any trends of what’s going on inside the 1950 boundaries, especially not the relatively small part that would be the downtowns. So let’s break the numbers down a little more to the tract level.

# of Tracts in 1950*
Cincinnat: 107
Cleveland: 201
Columbus: 48

*The number of tracts changed from 1950 on as some were split or consolidated. This made it more complicated, but luckily the Census gives lists on how tracts changed over time, so one can figure out what tract became what and reasonably keep up with the same boundaries that existed in 1950.


So with this breakdown, we can see more of the trends within the 1950 boundaries. In Cincinnati, a long decline was followed by a recovery in 1990, only to have the next 20 years show an increasing decline. The 2010 census showed the fewest number of tracts growing on record. This is the worst performance of the 3-Cs. Cleveland also had a steep decline followed by a recovery, but it too declined more at the last census, but not nearly to the low point it reached in the 1970s and 1980s.

Meanwhile, Columbus also faced an initial steep decline and barely had any tracts growing during the 1970s. Since then, the trend has been up. The 16 growing tracts in 2010 were the highest since the 1940s. This is the best performance of the 3-Cs, and Columbus had the highest % of growing tracts in its core. Still, those 16 represent less than 1/3rd of the total tracts within the 1950 boundaries. However, in the case of all 3 cities, the 2010-2017 has greatly increased the number of growing tracts. This suggest that the urban core of every city has been improving this decade. The more than 68% of all 1950 area tracts growing in 2017 is by far the highest of the 3 cities.
In Part 2, we will look only at the specific downtown areas.




Week in Review #4




Okay, so these aren’t really every week. Let’s call them the occasional Week in Review. In any case, a lot has happened the past week, so let’s do a rundown.

First up, the proposed new Hilton Hotel at the Convention Center continues to get taller, and now stands currently proposed for 28 stories. Construction is not set to begin until possibly next fall, so we have a while to see if any further changes occur.

The latest rendering of the new Hilton.

Crew fans got huge news a few months back that a new ownership group was looking to buy the team and keep them in Columbus. This week, it was announced as to what would happen to both Mapfre Stadium, as well as the first renderings and location of a brand new Downtown stadium in the Arena District. The new stadium would be built along with a new mixed-use neighborhood called Confluence Village. It would include offices, restaurant/retail space, 885 apartments and a riverfront park.

The Brewery District will get its first big development in a few years with a $70 million mixed-use proposal on Front Street.

Franklinton continues to move up in the world with the new renderings of the CoverMyMeds campus. The $240 million project would be one of the largest investment in the neighborhood in perhaps… ever.

The latest CoverMyMeds HQ rendering.

Other news…
Google may build a $600 million data center in New Albany.

And “Planet Oasis”, the proposed $2 billion entertainment complex in Delaware county, still looks unlikely to happen as the feud between its former development partners continues.

The oldest buildings on Capital Square finally received some funding for the proposal to renovate them into office space. The buildings date to 1869 and 1901.

The former Graham Ford dealership in Franklinton was purchased by Pizzuti Companies. The 7-acre site is to the west of 315, away from where recent development has been concentrated, so the site may remain undeveloped for a while yet. But it indicates where the future of Franklinton overall is headed.

August’s Missed (and Gained) Opportunities of the Month




Instead of focusing on a single project this month, I wanted to do a rundown of a few projects- this time both good and bad.

First, the bad.

High and Cherry Street Project
In what’s becoming a tradition for Downtown, yet another project there has been inexplicably downsized. Originally approved back in 2016, the project required the demolition of a historic building.

This was generally considered okay because the proposed 11-story project was a significant improvement in density that would’ve added more vibrancy to this part of Downtown.

The original proposal.


2 years later and, beyond the demolition, there had been no movement on the site, which was itself a little concerning because that typically means that something’s gone wrong or there are about to be big changes for the project. So it was no surprise when, toward the end of July, we received the bad news. Not only was the project going to be reduced in size by a full 4 stories, but all aspects of the project were getting worse. Parking spaces doubled, bike parking spaces were reduced by 70% to just 18, the ground floor retail was completely eliminated and overall residential units fell by 50 to just 70 total. Worse still, even the design of the building became just another bland box.

So what happened? Crawford-Hoying, the developer, made some reference to rising material costs that made its plan to include affordable, micro-unit apartments too expensive, hence the reduction in project size. However, this excuse seems suspicious at best. If higher material costs were a detriment to building the affordable component, why not simply lower the number of micro units or change to a market-rate project altogether? Furthermore, what would that have to do with eliminating the retail space or increasing parking? It wouldn’t. In fact, building parking is actually very expensive, and it’s why many cities nationally are reducing or eliminating parking requirements for new projects, as it is often prohibitively expensive to build and can derail quality urban proposals. If finances were tight, the last thing a developer would do with a new project is add MORE parking rather than trying to maximize potential income with residential units or retail space. Meanwhile, in the month since the project reduction was announced, we have seen other new projects announced or previously-announced projects move forward that have seen no reduction. The company also didn’t make any changes to its 10-story Moxy Hotel project at 800 N. High street, which is currently under construction. Overall, this just feels like a bait and switch. The 11-story proposal was approved, which allowed for the demolition, and now it’s coming in smaller and of a lower quality.
Regardless of the real reasons why this project was suburbanized and reduced, it continues the long-standing pattern of Downtown projects being underwhelming. Downtown should be receiving the the statement makers, so to speak. Instead, we continue to see other neighborhoods get them.

Speaking of, let’s look at the good with a couple of proposals that have matched, if not exceeded, their potential.

Upper Arlington’s Arlington Gateway
Proposed back in 2016 as a 7-story mixed-use building, the project has gone through many revisions. Over the course of the last 2 years, the project has only grown in size to its final iteration, an 11-story with more than 200 apartments, office space and retail. The $100 million project is the largest ever proposed for Upper Arlington, which has long been a more traditional suburban-style inner suburb. It has resisted the urban densification movement until recently. Being landlocked, the only way that it can increase population and maintain tax levels is to build up. Its city leadership seems to understand this, and though there was neighborhood opposition to the project, the city approved it almost unanimously.

The project will replace suburban development, including a strip center and Pizza Hut, as seen below.

Quality urbanism, increased walkability… this is a solid addition to Upper Arlington.

Franklinton’s Gravity 2.0
Franklinton is seeing a revival these days, particularly east of 315. Multiple projects have been proposed, and the upcoming Scioto Peninsula redevelopment is on the horizon. Kaufman Development, highlighted in last month’s Missed Opportunity for having to abandon a project in Victorian Village due to NIMBYism, has been on somewhat of a roll lately. It spearheaded a significant renovation of the famed LeVeque Tower, it built both of Downtown’s largest recent projects- 250 High and 80 on the Commons (the latter of which was, of course, downsized)- and it’s heavily investing in the future of Franklinton with a stunning, out-of-the-box development named Gravity.
Gravity 1.0 was proposed back in 2016 as a 6-story, mixed-use development at 500 W. Broad Street in Franklinton. Innovative in design, the project included amenities like a climbing wall, outdoor movie theater, yoga plaza, lots of public art, a dog park, biergarten and more.

Gravity 1.0



Replacing a few single-story, non-historic buildings and some parking lots (as seen above), the project was designed to drastically change the existing streetscape. It began construction in late 2016 and is nearing completion now. Few anticipated a second phase of the project, however, dubbed Gravity 2.0
Announced last week, Gravity 2.0 would be much more massive in scale than 1.0. Proposed for the entire block directly across the street between W. Broad and W. State, the project would include the following:
– A 12-story mixed-use building at the northeast corner of the site, directly to the west of the railroad tracks.
– A 6-story residential building on the Stat Street.
– A 5-story parking garage.
– A 6-story mixed-use addition to the existing Murphy building, which will be renovated.
– A 5-story townhouse building along McDowell Street.
– A renovation to the existing Solazzo Building at the southwest corner.
Like Gravity 1.0, the project will include different types of amenities than would be typically found. These include a green roof on the parking garage with a “city view overlook”, as well as an art walk through the lower floor of the garage. Along Broad Street, a retail plaza will be constructed out of shipping containers. Co-living will be included in the southern residential building. A food hall, brewery and restaurants are also potentially in the works. Overall, the architecture will match the funky modernism of Gravity 1.0.
There is no word yet on exactly how many residential units the entire site will include, or how much retail and office space. Those details should be released in the coming months.



This project is poised to become a serious game-changer for Franklinton. While there was already ongoing redevelopment in this area, a mid-rise development like this pushes the envelope and raises the prospects of future development coming in bigger, and the pace of the redevelopment will likely accelerate. This also increases the likelihood that the Scioto Peninsula to the east will see larger scale development, as well. Originally, the city wanted a couple 30+ story buildings there, with a mix of other mid-rise buildings. That plan was abandoned when an Indianapolis developer was chosen for the site and proposed mostly low-rise. That developer was let go from the project a few months ago, and the Peninsula will now be developed piece by piece. With large development occurring in Franklinton itself, the high-rises may be about to make a return, making the entire eastern section of Franklinton an extension of Downtown.

So there are a few great projects that are definitely NOT missed opportunities. Take note, Downtown developers- a lot of you are getting embarrassed.

City of Columbus Annual Report: 1858-1859




159 years ago, Columbus released its first (as far as I can find) annual report detailing all sorts of information on the state of the city. These reports were issued well into the 1980s, and while the first included mostly financial information such as tax receipts and expenditures, as the years passed, they would grow to incude everything from annexation numbers to weather statistics and crime data. I will occasionally write about some of the more interesting highlights of these historic documents on the city’s past.

Let’s look at some highlights from the report. First up, Columbus’ finances.

Columbus’ treasury numbers between March 1858 and April 1859.

Certainly much has changed in the city’s expenditures, with a budget that now exceeds $1 billion a year.

Next up is a plea from then City Clerk Joseph Dowdall about the need to protect the city’s records.

Dowdall would be the City Clerk through 1861. He would show up in the Columbus records through the early 1880s, when in 1880 he gained a permit to build a 2-story brick addition to a home.

City leaders were paid a *little* less per year than they are now. Interesting that the mayor earned the lowest amount of all. Even with inflation over the years, the $400 salary would only have been about $11,300 in 2017. Clearly public service back then was not a lucrative proposition.

Only 7 years after the land was donated to the city, Goodale Park was still being surveyed.

The now infamous North Graveyard received a few repairs that year. North Graveyard was once on the northern fringes of Downtown, where North Market would eventually rise. Sometime after the graveyard was “moved” in 1872, its original location was all but forgotten. In the early 2000s, utility work at North Market made a grisly discovery a la the Poltergeist movie- bodies. It seems that in the hasty movement of the cemetery, through outright intent, neglect or lost records, many bodies had simply never been moved at all. There has long been the belief that many more remains are still in the ground under the area. The upcoming Market Tower project has a good chance of finding at least some of them.