Date Photo Taken: 1989 Photo Location: Looking west on Broad Street from LeVeque Tower.
This photo is interesting for a few reasons. First, it shows the beginning of construction to replace the Broad Street Bridge over the Scioto River. After the Great Flood of 1913 destroyed an earlier Broad Street Bridge, the one in the photo was finished in 1921. By the early 1980s, the bridge was rapidly deteriorating and the decision was made to replace it. It’s reconstruction start, however, was delayed until 1988 due to a contract to keep the Columbus 500 auto race going, which used the bridge. The nearly identical new bridge was completed in 1992 at a cost of $13.2 million.
Across the bridge is the Scioto Peninsula. On the right is Vets Memorial, built in the 1950s and recently demolished to make way for a new memorial and museum as part of the redevelopment of the peninsula. On the left is the old Central High School, years before it was converted into COSI’s new location. Also of note are warehouse and other buildings that still existed on the peninsula, remnants of when this area was largely manufacturing. These were mostly demolished in the 1990s and early 2000s and were left as vacant lots for well over a decade, some of them becoming parking lots for COSI. These lots will soon become part of a large mixed-use development and park.
On the hot, summer day of August 21, 1947, a thunderstorm hit the Columbus area that would produce a memorable and tragic event. A bolt of lightning struck the southwestern corner of the Broad Street Bridge in Downtown. Perhaps because of the extreme heat or structural deficiencies, the lightning caused part of the bridge to seemingly explode, and large chunks of the bridge collapsed into the Scioto River. While no cars fell off the bridge as a result, 4 pedestrians did. One of those pedestrians died the following day from sustained injuries. The bridge itself had been built as the replacement for the one destroyed during the great flood of 1913. After the incident in 1947, the bridge was repaired and continued to serve as the main Scioto River crossing at Downtown for another 43 years. In 1990, it was demolished and replaced by the current (and very similar looking) Discovery Bridge, completed in 1992 in time for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of America by the city’s namesake, Christopher Columbus.
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.