Forty years ago, I-270 was still under construction, Dublin, Ohio was a village of 700 people and the Arena District was home to the Ohio Penitentiary where over 5,000 inmates lived Downtown. A lot can change in 40 years, so it’s not far fetched to expect more big changes in the future.
The Columbus chapter of the Urban Land Institute just released “Columbus 2050: Blueprints for Change”, a 28-page report that provides a glimpse into the future of Central Ohio. The document is intended to provide a strategic vision that can serve as a planning tool for both local governments and for private developers.
“Columbus 2050 is a two-year effort by ULI Columbus, in partnership with the City of Columbus, Franklin County, MORPC and the OSU Knowlton School of Architecture Department of City & Regional Planning,” said Joe Reidy, ULI Columbus Mission Advancement Chair. “It explores how we will live, work and play in Central Ohio in the year 2050.”
‘The City in 2050′ blueprint that guided this report was created nationally by the Urban Land Institute, which means that the reflection upon the local community is not an exercise completely unique to Columbus. Columbus does have unique challenges and unique assets that help to determine the course of action that needs to be taken over the next few decades.
“Central Ohio is blessed with abundant water and good utility infrastructure, including broadband, but is lacking in a comprehensive regional transportation system,” said Reidy. ”While the demographics show that we are younger and better educated than our peer cities, we must still do a better job of keeping our graduating students here by providing the denser, more walkable living experiences that they desire.”
Over 600,000 people are expected to be added to Central Ohio’s population over the next 40 years, taking the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area from 1.8 million to 2.4 million. Reidy anticipates that this additional growth will contribute significantly to existing neighborhoods and communities.
“Our research indicates that there is sufficient capacity within the circle of I-270 to accommodate the projected additional population,” he explained. “This means that not only will the Short North, Weinland Park, Franklinton and Grandview Heights become much denser but also other areas like Northland, Whitehall, Westland and the Bridge Street Corridor in Dublin.”
The 2050 Blueprint recommends a comprehensive development strategy, and provides a starting point for conversation around the planning process.
“There is a clear need for region-wide, as well as city-wide master planning to address, at a minimum, transportation and other infrastructure needs in whatever form it takes,” said Reidy.
Additionally, one of the key recommendations of Columbus 2050 is to create a robust interconnected series of public spaces and parks. Some of that work is already being advanced through the Bicentennial Bikeways Plan, the every expanding Metro Parks system and new Downtown greenspaces including the Scioto Mile and Columbus Commons.
“We are off to a good start,” says Reidy, “but we need to develop a sustainable funding mechanism where all 12 counties in the region contribute to the acquisition and maintenance of the interconnected network.”
Rail-based transit has been an ongoing topic in Columbus for decades, and the past 15 years have seen a series of projects proposed, studied, cancelled and shelved. Columbus 2050 advocates for a comprehensive multi-modal system, but Reidy advocates for gradual implementation.
“Other cities such as Charlotte seem to be having success with a staged or phased approach,” he said. “Given our history in this area, it may be a better way for Columbus to start.”
If there’s one reoccurring theme throughout the entirety of the Columbus 2050 document, it’s sustainability. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, and the definition can vary wildly, but the local leadership at the Urban Land Institue sees it primarily as a call to personal and community responsibility.
“At its most basic, sustainability means living within your means and can be applied to individuals, businesses and governments,” says Reidy. “For individuals, it can be living closer to the workplace or community centers, eating locally raised foods, consciously minimizing energy use – at work, home and in modes of transportation.”
While the Columbus 2050 document may lack the visions of flying cars and Jetsons-like fashion, it does provide a solid foundation for smart growth, and the building blocks that can potentially shape Central Ohio to be globally competitive for decades to come.
More information, along with the full 2050 report, can be found online at ulicolumbus.wordpress.com.