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 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.
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.
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.
Photo taken looking north along South Central Avenue in Franklinton during the flood of January 21-24, 1959.
Present day South Central Avenue in Franklinton.
The 1959 flood was the 2nd worst in the history of Franklinton, after the 1913 disaster. The Frank Road crest on the Scioto River came on January 22, 1959 and was 27.22 ft, 3.22 ft above flood stage and a few feet below the 1913 crest. This crest would not cause serious flooding in Franklinton today, as the Franklinton Floodwall, completed in 2004, will protect the area to crests of up to 30.9 ft. Few people know that, prior to the wall’s completion, federal guidelines prohibited almost all types of construction in Franklinton, a huge reason for the gradual decline it faced after the 1950s.
Avondale Elementary at 157 Avondale Avenue in 1908.
Avondale Elementary, present day. The school was built in 1892.
Avondale Elementary has been a school for its entire 121 year existance. Besides losing it’s rootop finials, the school is largely unchanged and is a beautiful example of late 19th century architecture.
Bellows Avenue school in 1922.
The 1905 school in the present day.
Bellows Elementary was opened in 1905 and was used for that purpose through the 1970s. The building was last renovated in 1972, but was closed as a school between that year and 1984, when Columbus Public Schools sold the property. It has changed hands a few times over the years, the last being in 2002, but nothing has come of it and the building deteriorates a bit more each year. Unfortunately, the location of the school probably proved to be its death, as the interchange of 315 and 70/71 was constructed just to the south, and 315 itself cut off Bellows Avenue. The school narrowly escaped the wrecking ball at that time, but without some type of redevelopment, the property may eventually be lost anyway.
The Columbus Heating and Ventilation Company at 433 W. Town Street on March 25, 1913, during the infamous flood.
The same building 3 years later in 1916, looking a bit spruced up as well as the newer roads that were no doubt damaged in 1913.
And 433 W. Town Street as it looked in 2010. The building was torn down the following year.
The Columbus Heating and Ventilating Company began in 1903 and still exists in the city, although obviously not at its original location. The old building went into severe disrepair and most of the roof had collapsed by the time it was demolished in 2011 as one of the first steps in the area’s rebirth. The area is going through revitalization, and the nearby 400 W. Rich artist live and work space continues to expand. Plans are also in the works for new loft apartments nearby.
The history of the Scioto Peninsula in not really all that positive. Bounded by 315 to the west and on all other sides by the Scioto River directly across from Downtown, this area currently contains Veteran’s Memorial, COSI and not much else. Even as far back as the 1950s, a large chunk of the peninsula, especially around Central High School (which still exists as COSI), was just vacant land. Otherwise, what existed were warehouse buildings and other commercial buildings. What people lived there were mostly confined to a few public housing projects. Being so close to the Scioto River, the area repeatedly flooded over its history, especially in the Great Flood of 1913 and to a lesser extent in 1959. This prevented much development here and in Franklinton in general. Federal standards were actually in place that banned most new construction or even renovations to most types of buildings. This allowed all of Franklinton, including the Peninsula, to stagnate and go through steady decline.
Help was coming, however, in the form of a giant floodwall. Conceived as far back as the 1980s, the Franklinton Floodwall would not be completed until 2004. It took another 4-5 years before people began to seriously look at the area for redevelopment and then for that development to actually start taking place. Eastern Franklinton, so far, has been the focal point of that redevelopment, and a big project to help tie in Downtown with the neighborhood is the planned redevelopment of the Peninsula.
Almost all the buildings that existed in the ’50s are now gone, even the housing projects. COSI uses much of the land for parking, as does Veteran’s Memorial. The rest is grassy lots primed for redevelopment. Some projects have already taken place. The two new Downtown bridges at Main and Rich Streets provide a nice access onto the Peninsula, along with the Broad Street bridge. A 4th, a planned pedestrian bridge, will be located on the north end crossing from Vet’s Memorial to North Bank Park in the Arena District. This bridge is probably still a few years off, as there is another, large project planned. The low-head dams along the Scioto River in the Downtown area are going to be removed, starting sometime next year. This will lower the river level and create a more natural flowing waterway. It will also create acres of new riverfront parkland that new paths and landscaping will be added to. This will create an inviting, park setting to both sides of the river.
The Peninsula has been planned for redevelopment several times in the last 30 years, but there was a lack of momentum for urban projects for decades and no serious plans ever seemed to emerge. That was until the last 10 years, starting in 2002 with the first Downtown development plan by Mayor Coleman and the city. A new version was released in 2010 and contained a dozen projects planned to help Downtown become a destination again. While the Scioto Peninsula was not specifically mentioned, fixing the riverfront was. That’s where Scioto Mile park came from and is now a very popular spot for residents. With all this momentum, the Peninsula needed a serious plan. Right now, meetings are taking place and a development plan is now in the early stages. Some early ideas include a lot of residential, retail and entertainment space, along with a more interactive riverfront and even a transit station for light rail. The first draft of the plan is likely to be released in 2013 and construction could begin as early as 2014.
This is the area for redevelopment, bounded by the railroad tracks to the west and the river to the east. The large skinny building is COSI, and the large building to the north is Veteran’s Memorial.