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.

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 2016 data. Originally posted in 2013.

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.


For Cincinnati, Tracts #4 and #6 were combined into #265 in 2010.

So no city had a single Downtown tract that was not growing in 2010, and that trend largely continued through 2016. The drop of one of Cincinnati’s downtown tracts is probably an error of the estimates rather than a true, sharp population decline.

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

And the graph for the population of these tracts since 1950 through 2016.

Cincinnati reached it’s lowest population for the past 60 years for this area in 2010, but just barely. It grew slightly since 2010. Cleveland’s greater downtown had the bottomed out in 1990 and had the fasted growth the past decade. Columbus managed to maintain the highest population in its greater downtown, bottomed out in 2000 and has grown since. However, not nearly as fast as in Cleveland.




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




**Updated with 2016 data, originally posted 2013.

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 have opened the past year or two alone, and a new grocery store will be opening for area residents in February. More developments coming up include the Scioto River restoration project that will create acres of new Downtown park space and pathways, and the redevelopment of the Scioto Peninsula behind COSI should connect the two sides of the river. All of this had led to rising population, now approaching 8,500. Nearly 3,000 residential units are currently under construction or planned. 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 while the suburbs grew. The results are both sobering and hopeful.

1950 Boundary Population Change 1950-2016
Cincinnati: -224,119
Cleveland: -540,935
Columbus: -138,491

1950 Boundary Population Change 2010-2016
Cincinnati: +1,370
Cleveland: -7,028
Columbus: +2,637

1950 Boundary Population % Change 1950-2016
Cincinnati: -44.5%
Cleveland: -59.1.%
Columbus: -36.9%

1950 Boundary Population % Change 2010-2016
Cincinnati: +0.5%
Cleveland: -1.9%
Columbus: +1.1%

So what do these numbers show? Well, it’s clear that all 3 cities had urban core population declines the past 65+ years just like just about every other city in the nation did. This was mostly a result of the suburban movement.
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.
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 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 2010-2016 has greatly increased the number of growing tracts, again if we are to believe the Census estimates.




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.

The Columbus Crew and a Downtown Stadium

Last week, it was announced that the owner of the Columbus Crew MLS team- Anthony Precourt- was considering moving the team. His reasons, whether one believes them to be true, include the idea that the current home stadium- Mapre- is outdated and in a bad location to attract the needed attendance to make the team financially viable. The stadium, which was the first soccer-specific stadium of its kind in the United States, is just 18 years old. However, being still relatively young, it is currently one of the most bare-bones professional soccer stadiums in the country, and it’s location at the Ohio State Fairgrounds is not particularly good. The stadium itself is surrounded by vacant and parking lots as well as a mish-mash of development that leaves the area feeling rather desolate. For years, there has been talk about building a new stadium closer to or in Downtown itself. The city, according to officials, have tried to talk with Precourt about either buying the team or trying to come up with a stadium plan, but were apparently rebuffed. This may be because Precourt had long-established plans to move the team to Austin, Texas, an out clause that he intentionally added to the contract when he purchased the team. So while the Mayor and others discuss the future of the team, there’s a practical matter to solve.

I don’t want to go too much more into the debate about Precourt, his motives or how likely it is that the Crew will stay in Columbus even with the promise of a new arena. Those subjects are already being debated on other sites, including the Dispatch and Reddit and other forums. So, what I want to do is to look at where a potential new stadium could even go. Let’s look at the potential options.

Scioto Peninsula
The Scioto Peninsula has long been underutilized and empty since its old manufacturing buildings were torn down between the 1970s and the early 2000s.
Pros: More than enough room for a new stadium as well as surrounding mixed-use development. Great location Downtown on the Riverfront.
Cons: This site has an existing mixed-use development plan already in place, and an Indianapolis company has recently been chosen to develop the Peninsula, with a potential construction start in Spring 2018. It would seem unlikely that those plans would be scrapped at the last minute.

Arena District Site #1
The Arena District is a thriving neighborhood that would be a perfect fit for a new stadium.
Pros: Already an established entertainment and sports neighborhood with stadiums for the Clippers and Blue Jackets, lots of local bars and restaurants, great location, enough space for a new stadium development.
Cons: As with the Scioto Peninsula, this site already has plans. Perhaps a new stadium could be incorporated, especially when the plan left a lot of open space with parking lots and retention ponds. The site is also split in half by railroad tracks that are still active. This would take some creative development to accommodate a stadium and any required infrastructure.

Arena District Site #2
Pros: Good location, enough space for a stadium, near bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues.
Cons: This site is owned by Nationwide. While no specific plans have been announced as of yet, they have stated for a few years now that they want to eventually do some kind of mixed-use development. Whether they would be willing to incorporate a stadium into those plans is unknown. The site is also somewhat separated from the rest of the AD by the railroad tracks on the east side. Another problem may be infrastructure. There is really only a single road- Nationwide Boulevard- in and out of this site. During games, this could be an issue unless it’s resolved or some kind of shuttle system is provided.

Cooper Stadium
Cooper Stadium, the original home of the Columbus Clippers before they moved to the Arena District, has sat empty and rotting since 2010. The surrounding area, while not exactly great, is a perfect candidate for revitalization.
Pros: Enough room for a stadium, and with the potential purchase of nearby properties, enough to create a mixed-use development around it. Still close to Downtown.
Cons: This site is owned by Arshot, a development company that has long planned a race track development here called SPARC. However, there has been no movement on this development whatsoever, and most now believe that the project is dead. Would Arshot be willing to develop a soccer stadium there instead? Also, given that the site is surrounded by a cemetery on 2 sides affect the possible development?

Abbott Labs
On the north end of the Central Business District, this site has very large empty lots that are mostly used to store semi trailers, when they’re used at all.
Pros: Plenty of space, as Downtown as Downtown gets, plenty of nearby restaurant and bar options to create a neighborhood experience.
Cons: Abbott Labs owns the land. While much of it is only lightly used at best, they may not be willing to sell it.

Jeffrey Manufacturing
The old site of the Jeffrey Manufacturing Plant, these vacant lots are in one of the most prime locations in the entire city.
Pros: Great location in the Short North/Italian Village, high levels of bars and restaurants nearby.
Cons: Most of the site north of Neruda Avenue has already been developed with housing. I’m not sure if there is enough space to the south for a new stadium and some kind of parking garage (parking is already very tight in the area). Again, this could be potentially solved with a shuttle or transit system from existing lots/garages Downtown, though. I’m also not sure if the current developers would be willing to sell it, and NIMBYism would likely be fierce from local residents.

Columbus State Parking Lots
On the northeast side of the Central Business District, Columbus State Community College’s land includes one of the largest areas of surface parking lots anywhere in the city.
Pros: Great location, plenty of space to develop.
Cons: Columbus State owns the land and has long-term plans to develop these. It’s doubtful that they’d be willing to incorporate a stadium here and lose valuable expansion space.

Unconventional Possibilities
Westland Mall
Westland Mall hasn’t been functional for many years, and its last and original tenant- Sears- recently abandoned the site as well. There have been no plans announced for the mall and it otherwise rots and prevents the improvement of the Far West Side.
Pros: The defunct mall site is enormous. A new stadium and new mixed-use neighborhood could basically be built from scratch. It also has excellent access to the Outerbelt.
Cons: Not Downtown or even close to it, so it wouldn’t solve the complaint about being too far from the core of the city. This area is also not particularly nice, and may suffer the same perception problems that the current stadium site has.

Mt. Carmel West
Mt. Carmel West, a long-time hospital in Franklinton, will be moving most of its operations to Grove City.
Pros: Close to Downtown, potential to create new entertainment district.
Cons: The site has many existing buildings that would have to be torn down or repurposed to fit a stadium and mixed-use development. Mt. Carmel has plans to create a mixed-use development eventually, anyway, but this would be one of the most difficult to remake.

Harrison West
Part of the Short North, Harrison West is a largely residential neighborhood. Off of 5th Avenue is a large parking lot and empty land that Battelle is selling off for redevelopment.
Pros: Great location, should be enough space.
Cons: There is little extra room for mixed-use development, and neighbors would pull the same kind of strong NIMBYism that the Jeffrey Manufacturing site would face. There are also already tentative development plans, and it’s unknown if a stadium would work.

Ohio State Campus
Pros: While not exactly Downtown, Ohio State is already a destination in many ways- certainly for sports. There is land available, and the surrounding neighborhoods are much nicer than the current stadium location.
Cons: Ohio State has long-term plans for practically every square inch of land it owns. Would they be willing to part with enough for a stadium? And could an attached mixed-use development come into play?

So there you have it, my list of potential Crew Stadium locations. What do you think? Am I missing any good ones?