The City of Columbus held the first of four public meetings on the future of the University District last night. The meetings are part of a year-long process that will result in a new plan meant to guide development in the area for the next ten years.
Planning Administrator Vince Papsidero said that the plan will address issues such as land use, urban design, redevelopment and future infrastructure investments. He also stressed that while the University District presents some unique challenges (like scarce parking and other issues that stem from having dense student housing in single-family neighborhoods), it also has some unique strengths.
“The University District is a huge economic development engine for the city, region, and state,” said Papsidero. “It is also a very unique district that offers so many of the characteristics that people seek today – a walkable area with neighborhood-based retail, historic housing, and the University.”
The plan is being produced in partnership with the University Area Commission as well as other neighborhood stakeholders, the largest of course being the Ohio State University. Keith Myers, Associate Vice President of Physical Planning and Real Estate at OSU, said that he is “looking forward to being a partner on this project and supporting the neighborhood and the City.”
Myers’ office is responsible for implementing the vision laid out by the university’s recent Framework Plan – this includes new development on campus but also on certain key parcels adjacent to campus, such as the corner of 15th Avenue and High Street, the intersection of Lane Avenue and High, and the South Campus Gateway.
Myers cited the renovation of Sullivant Hall, the possible expansion of Weigel Hall, and landscape improvements that will extend from Lane to the Wexner Center along the west side of High as university projects that could have a great impact on the High Street corridor.
“Ohio State recognizes the importance of a vibrant High Street and believes there is opportunity for it to serve as cultural corridor for the nearby neighborhoods and the City of Columbus,” said Myers. “The three critical pulses of activity along the corridor are South Campus Gateway, 15th and High, and Lane and High. These three areas should be the activity centers of life in the University District. The east/west connections between the University and the community should also be strengthened, especially when it comes to greenspace and accessibility.”
The plan will also address the neighborhood’s other major commercial corridor; Lane Avenue, which is about undergo a drastic transformation as work begins on OSU’s North Residential District project.
“The development of the north side Lane Avenue will be an important question for the community to address as part of the City’s planning process,” said Myers. “The existing pattern of development and the width of the roadway present interesting challenges for the community. But, along with the challenges there are certainly opportunities by connecting that area to the newly restored Olentangy River corridor.”
More information can be found at development.columbus.gov/universitydistrict.