Downtown Development Boom Continues to Accelerate
The Schottenstein Real Estate Group announced plans on Tuesday to construct “Grand Central,” a new 23-acre mixed-use development on an empty tract of land in the northwest corner of Downtown Columbus. If developed as currently proposed, their plans call for a mix of apartments, condos, hotels, retail, grocery and parking garages spaces.
This large-scale plan is only the latest proposed for the Downtown area, following in the footsteps of the nearly completed 100-acre Arena District next door, the planned 30-acre Pen West development site just west of Huntington Park, and the recently announced 21-acre Scioto Peninsula development plan. The site is also only a short distance from the 125-acre Grandview Yard site.
Those sites don’t include the individual development projects scattered throughout Downtown, which include dozens of buildings under construction or in the planning stages that range from five-story apartment buildings to 30-story mixed-use towers.
This begs the question of whether or not this level of ongoing development is sustainable. And most local experts are responding in the positive.
“With apartment rents continuing to go up in Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, it points to demand being higher than the supply,” explained Marc Conte, Deputy Director of Research, Planning & Facilities at the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District. “As long as the economy remains strong and Central Ohio continues to add jobs and residents, we will need additional housing.”
Harvey Miller, OSU Professor and Director for the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, argues that while the dense new development is welcomed, its long-term success rests upon transit-related factors.
“Downtown can handle this density — and a lot more — if we have high quality, high capacity public transportation, as well as walkability and bikeability,” added Miller. “Downtown can’t handle this scale of density if we continue to rely on the automobile — even if vehicles are self-driving. Cars take up too much space.”
The new Schottenstein proposal includes a mix of residential units, hotel rooms, retail spaces, and parking garage facilities. That multi-purpose format is a common approach when master planning a larger development, but there is some concern with an oversaturation of national retail (which is struggling) and boutique hotel options.
“At Experience Columbus, we have seen a lot of limited service hotels proposed lately… I am not confident that there is demand for more limited service properties,” said Mike Brown, VP of Strategic Development at Experience Columbus. “Columbus immediately needs full-service convention hotels to grow our base of annual business. Adding limited service spaces right now does little to help us compete for bigger national groups to build the hospitality industry. We will work with any that choose to open and become members, but we remain concerned about too much supply of limited service and extended stay rooms can hurt the market.”