Cool Link of the Day: High Street Drone Flyover

Here’s a great video of High Street from Campus to the Short North. It’s from 2018, but it really shows how this corridor has become Columbus’ most urban.

July 2018 Missed Opportunity of the Month

July’s entry into the list of dumb ideas isn’t about something bad with the development itself, but rather the unfortunately common plague of NIMBYism that festers in so many urban neighborhoods, and how it can kill good urbanism because some people have delicate sensibilities that need stroking.

A while back, Kaufman Development proposed a 10-story, mixed-use project at 23 W. 2nd Avenue that spanned part of the block between Price and 2nd, most of which was already a vacant grass lot. The project proposed renovating the 91-year-old IBEW building and incorporating it into the overall project, which included a mix of apartments, retail and office space.

—Last rendering in July 2018.

Victorian Village, the neighborhood of which the project fell under, was of course completely apoplectic about it. After the first neighborhood commission meeting, at which commission members and neighborhood busybodies expressed deep concerns about the design and size, Kaufman went back to the drawing board. Over time, Kaufman redesigned the project more than 20 times, the height changing from 10 to 9 to 14 and then back to 10 stories, with the number of apartments, uses, scale, etc. being changed over and over again to please the fickle nearby residents. These residents (and let’s not forget commission members, which admittedly, faced a 4-4 tie in the vote because the commission was lacking its 9th member, something the City hopes to rectify in the near future) complained about traffic and that the project would “block the sun”, among other roll-of-the-eyes nonsense. It was the kind of shenanigans that even Clintonville might suggest had gone too far.

So after 7 straight months of trying to please those that cannot be pleased, the actual preferred outcome inevitably occurred:

Instead of continuing to deal with unreasonable people, spending more time and money for something they couldn’t make work, Kaufman decided to walk away from the project altogether. Though they still own the property and may eventually come back to the table with another proposal, it seems unlikely to be anywhere near the scale originally proposed. The NIMBYism aside, this speaks to the disconnect between the real estate conditions in Columbus and the pushback on building new development that would actually help resolve some of the existing problems. Columbus is currently in the midst of a housing crisis. Population estimates show that the city has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing. This growth, combined with a historically-low inventory and record sales, has put a huge strain on the housing market, including pushing prices to ever-higher levels. Simply put, residential construction hasn’t been keeping pace with the influx of population into the city, and this has been the case since at least the 2009 recession. Instead of intentionally limiting developers to go smaller in prime locations- such as in the very-high-demand Short North off of High Street- development commissions across the city should be welcoming more housing. Instead, projects are being downsized or rejected by local populations left and right. Let’s look at a few reasons why commission members and some residents opposed this particular project.

The argument that traffic would be a problem is silly and misguided for many reasons, but I’ll just review a few of them. First, the project plan provided parking in a garage for its residents and at least some for retail customers/visitors, and the extra cars driving around wouldn’t have been significant enough to make any noticeable difference in an already busy area. Second, Price Avenue was said to be too small and narrow to handle cars going in and out of the garage entrance per the project, but it’s clearly wide enough for 1-way traffic (its 1-way already) and 2 more lanes of curbside parking, so that reason seems equally bunk. And entrance/exit from the project would not have taken up many existing curb spots, and no configuration changes to the street would’ve been needed except for perhaps a very small end section of Price.

—Price Avenue looking toward High, about where the Kaufman project would’ve gone on the left.

Third, traffic and parking shouldn’t be used as a hammer to squash development, but as the catalyst to demand better transit and pedestrian options. Whether those include buses, rail, bikes, better sidewalks, etc. can be debated, but transit is an important part of the picture in urban neighborhoods, whether people like it or not. Furthermore, this area is already highly served by bus and bike, as well as car-share and Uber. The idea that people even have to drive here, or even to the Short North in general, is simply not true. Given that the Short North is highly walkable, many of the residents that would’ve lived here would’ve been less likely to use their cars for all trips, anyway, thereby further reducing the impact on local roads.

It’s Too Big for the Neighborhood!!!
To this, I say, bullshit. Multiple projects just as big or larger have already been built or are under construction on both sides of High Street, including in Victorian Village, which this site falls under. To say that the Kaufman site is not appropriate is completely arbitrary, even if the site is not on High itself, but set back slightly. To the east is the High commercial corridor and to the west is an alleyway. 4 single-family homes exist to the east of the alleyway, and would’ve been the only ones really directly near the project. The complaint that there would be significant “sun blocking” is ridiculous. It wasn’t a 50-story tower, and the orientation of project meant that any sun loss would have been minimal at worst.

The Historic Character of the Neighborhood is Being Lost!!!
This one comes up with virtually every single development in this particular neighborhood. Victorian Village is indeed a beautiful neighborhood with some of the city’s best-preserved historic housing. But the Kaufman project would’ve had no impact on that, whatsoever. No demolition would’ve taken place, as this particular land lost all of its historic buildings before 1980. It’s just a vacant lot now. More importantly, the proposal would’ve renovated an actual historic building, the IBEW, helping to preserve it for the future. The histrionics on preserving the neighborhood rings hollow when nothing was actually under threat.

In any case, the project is probably dead. Whatever might be proposed in its place will likely do that much less to help address the housing crisis or to keep the neighborhood progressing. It’s a shame that some people can hold entire neighborhoods hostage with outdated thinking, and how a 40-year-long vacant lot- and counting- can be preferable to the fear of change.

2013 Residential Projects and the Year Ahead

2013 was a pretty significant year for Columbus, if only because it saw its busiest residential development year in and around the urban core in many years. Here are the highlights of some of the biggest.

1. The South Campus High Rise and Addition Project
# of New Units: 360
Project Cost: $171.6 Million
Project Height: 7-8 Stories in Multiple Buildings
Some might suggest that this isn’t strictly a residential project because it was student housing. However, I disagree with that. The projects added significant additions to already existing Park, Stradley, Steeb and Smith Halls by connecting the pairs together with what essentially amounted to a brand new building stuck in-between. It also involved significant renovations to other residential buildings in South Campus. This was the first part of a major renovation and expansion project for housing on OSU’s campus.

Some links to this project complete with site maps and construction photos:

2. HighPoint at Columbus Commons
# of New Units: 302
Project Cost: $50 Million
Project Height: 6 Stories in 2 Buildings
HighPoint was a rather unexpected surprise for Downtown. When Columbus Commons was being constructed, the plan called for residential buildings running along High Street on the west side of the park. Unfortunately, that plan was not supposed to happen for perhaps a decade or more, depending on development interests. Within a year of the completion of the park, however, HighPoint was being proposed. While not exactly the most inspired design or preferred height for such a prominent location Downtown, the projects potential 450+ residents will greatly help the neighborhood’s goal of increased vitality and 24-hour activity. In fact, it may not be too much to assume that this project has encouraged others, such as the 12-story 250 High Project and LC’s double 8-story tower project, both of which will begin construction soon just across the street from HighPoint and the park. Collectively, they will add, at minimum, over 650 new residents.

Links for the project:

3. Liberty Place, Phase II
Address: 250 Liberty Street
# of New Units: 207
Project Cost: $25-$30 Million
Project Height: 4 Stories
Liberty Place, in the Brewery District, was completed in 2006, the last of a slew of development projects in the Brewery District beginning in the 1990s and came in the middle of a relative quiet period that began when the Arena District stole some of the neighborhoods momentum. That momentum has returned in recent years as urban living has gained significant traction in public opinion. Phase II of Liberty Place was supposed to have been built years ago, but the recession and the uncertainty regarding the exact layout of the rebuilt I-70/I-71 split which runs past the site put the project on hold. All told, Liberty Place now has 342 units.

Links for the project:

4. Tribeca
Address: 700 West Third Avenue
# of New Units: 205
Project Cost: Unknown
Project Height: 4 Stories
Tribeca, from Edwards Communities, was built along Third Avenue in the 5thxNW neighborhood. While adding significant density to the area, the project is mostly known for its strange layout. Dubbed the “Fortress” or the “prison”, the project has a long, blank wall along Third Avenue with tower-like structures along it, resembling the fortifications of a prison. The ugly design and lack of interaction with Third because of this layout caused the project to receive a lot of criticism.

A link to the project, the criticism and photos:

5. Lennox Flats
Address: Kinnear Road, Lennox Town Center
# of New Units: 194
Project Cost: Unknown
Project Height: 3 Stories
Lennox Flats was built over two phases, the first with 92 units and the second with 102. Built in a mostly vacant lot just to the west of Lennox Town Center (across the railroad tracks), these were built in modern-styles and were targeted at students from OSU.

Link with photos:

6. 600 Goodale
Address: 600 West Goodale Street
# of New Units: 174
Project Cost: Unknown
Project Height: 5 Stories
600 Goodale is likely the most strangely located new project of 2013. It was built on a small strip of land located north of Goodale Street across from White Castle’s HQ building. The location is strange because the land is bordered by the Olentangy River on the west and a highway exit ramp to the north and east sides. In fact, the site sits on a section of land between 315, 670 and major ramps for both to the north. The land is not directly connected to any major neighborhood. Despite the strange location, the modern building was, at last count, 96% leased.

Photos of the project:

So those were the top 6 largest projects from 2013. More than 2,200 total units were completed in the urban areas of Columbus.

But what’s coming for 2014? Here are the top 5.

1. Jeffrey Park Phase 1
Address: E. 1st Avenue and N. 4th Street, Italian Village
# of New Units: 334
Project Cost: $180 Million+ For all phases.
Project Height: 4 Stories
The Jeffrey Manufacturing site has long been planned for redevelopment. It is, by far, the largest undeveloped site in Italian Village or anywhere in the Short North. Previous plans from the early-mid 2000s fell through, but were revived by a new developer in recent years. The first phase calls for the completion of a mix of townhomes and apartments in a mix of styles. A community center is also planned with a gym and pool. Although this project was supposed to start in the fall of 2013, calls are now for it to begin before winter is over. This may delay the finish for this project into 2015, but for now, it’s still the biggest project for 2014. The entire Jeffrey site will eventually have more than 1,300 new units.

Photos and project information:

2. Taylor House
Address: 5005 Olentangy River Road
# of New Units: 329
Project Cost: Unknown
Project Height: 4 Stories
This project along Bethel Road will go into the site of a former K-Mart. Construction began over the fall and should wrap up toward the end of the year.

Renderings and more information:

3. View on 5th
Address: 965 West 5th Avenue
# of New Units: 285
Project Cost: $50 Million
Project Height: 6 Stories
The View on 5th, in 5thxNW, is a 2-building complex along 5th and Holly Avenues. The 6-story building along 5th will contain 153 apartments with ground-floor retail, while the Holly Avenue building would be 3-stories and contain 132 units. The project is scheduled for completion this coming summer.

Link with info and renderings:

4. Berkeley House
Address: Bethel Road and Riverside Drive
# of New Units: 256
Project Cost: Unknown
Project Height: 4-5 Stories
Berkeley House is being built by the same company as Taylor House, only on opposite ends of Bethel Road. This will be a mixed-use complex featuring apartments and offices. There was some controversy surrounding this project as it sought to demolish a small stone house from around 1808. Unfortunately, no one seemed to realize the historical significance or age of the structure until the project was set to begin construction. The lack of time made it impossible to raise the money to move the house, so it was demolished. The Upper Arlington Historical Society saved the stone from the house and plans to build some type of marker with it.

Unfortunately, I have not seen any renderings for this project yet, but it has begun construction.

5. Neighborhood Launch
Address: East Long Street, Downtown
# of New Units: 130
Project Cost: Unknown
Project Height: 5 Stories
Neighborhood Launch is an ongoing project Downtown. About 200 units have already been completed along and near the Gay Street Corridor. The project is continuing with the first of 2 buildings, each containing 130 units, along Long Street. The first of these 2 should be complete later this year, with the 2nd beginning construction over the summer.

Renderings can be found here:

So there you have it. 2013′s and 2014′s largest projects. These, of course, represent just a small sample of what’s being built.

May Project Updates

Just a few project updates. These represent only a small fraction of what’s going on.

1. Neighborhood Launch’s expansion with a pair of new 5-story buildings containing 260 apartments continues. Located on E. Long Street, the buildings’ foundation work has been mostly completed and elevator shafts and the first steel frames are now going up, which means construction should really get going now. The timetable for these to be complete is late fall or winter.
2. Over at Columbus Commons, the Highpoint 300-unit residential project continues and at least one of the buildings is now reaching towards its 6th and final floor.
3. The Liberty Place 200+ unit residential expansion in the Brewery District is getting closer to being done with the external work, as brick and finishes are going on.
4. The mess that is the reconstruction of 670/71 also continues, but we’re still a year or so away from that being done… before the next phase begins closer to the 70/71 section.
5. Work continues on the restoration of the LeVeque Tower, but more details have emerged. Up to 70 residential units will be created in the tower section, along with lower floors having a new boutique hotel and office space. The lobby will be restored to its original 2-story look, and the entrance outside will get new marble, planters and lighting. The terra cotta exterior of the building will take up to 5 more years to complete, as 80 years of grime and damage have to be fixed. The other improvements should be done late this year or early next year.
6. Columbia Gas’ new HQ building in the Arena District has reached it’s maximum 6-story height with steel, but no exterior work is done yet.
7. The Flats II 120-unit residential building next door to that project is seeing exterior work being done and should be done later this summer or early fall. Reports have been coming out showing this and other residential projects nearby have extremely high rental interest already.
8. 600 Goodale, the 5-story 174-unit residential building is seeing exterior work now and should be done by the end of summer or fall.

Short North
1. Aston Place, a new residential project on Hubbard Avenue, is moving along and the elevator shaft is just about done, so steel should be going up soon.
2. The Hubbard project continues to the east. The 5-story, 68-unit residential building is all framed out and exterior work is beginning. The adjoining parking garage is complete and the 4 concealing townhomes should begin construction soon.
3. The Out of the Closet development at 5th and High is well underway, now completely framed out.