But you probably wouldn’t realize it by walking around the “campus area”.
As this Dispatch article pointed out on Sunday, the enrollment at Columbus State has grown to over 24,000 students per year. Many of those students attend classes at the school’s largest campus located in the Discovery District area within Downtown Columbus. The article goes on to do a pretty good job at explaining how CSCC is dealing with the growth, and what sort of plans that the school’s leadership has for the future, but what I’d like to know is what the city leadership can do to help this section of Downtown realize its full potential.
Columbus State has expanded their Downtown campus over the last five years and added several new buildings along Cleveland Avenue including the Center for Technology, Center for Workforce Development, and the Discovery Exchange Building.
Despite these additions and improvements, the campus is still very much designed less as a “community” college and more as a “commuter” college. It is a place to drive into, go to class, and drive out of. A quick look at a a campus map reveals how the massive amounts of parking dwarf the the centralized cluster of classroom buildings.
Essentially, the thousands of students that set foot Downtown every day have very few options when it comes to living, working, and playing (to use a cliche).
So what can the City of Columbus do? Perhaps not a lot directly, as the city doesn’t appear to own much land in this area. But taking a cue from the the new Lifestyle Communities development in RiverSouth, perhaps a developer can be incentivized to build a more concentrated cluster of affordable housing options aimed at students and young professionals who attend college in this area. A mixed-use development could provide ground floor retail that is practically non-existent in this part of Downtown. I have to imagine that the largest community college in the state is capable of supporting at least one off-campus coffee shop or one fast casual dining option, let alone several.
The City of Columbus can also incentivize development through streetscaping improvements. Currently, Spring Street serves as a one-way five-lane expressway running between the campus and its southern parking lots. A two-way configuration could help to make this stretch more pedestrian-friendly and help incentivize development on privately-owned property near the corner of Cleveland and Spring where CSCC and CCAD meet.
Of course, all of this is much easier said than done. It’s a topic that has been talked about several times here before, and the solutions are much more complex than the simplistic measure we sometimes discuss. But until some sort of plan is laid out and actions are taken, we’re going to have to continue to sit on one what is arguably the largest untapped resource in the Downtown area and watch as these students mimic their downtown workforce counterparts and continue to commute into the area with a single purpose and spend as little time as possible in the area while here.