With last year’s Bridge Street Corridor Plan, Dublin laid out an ambitious blueprint for a dense, walkable district that would add approximately 8,000 new residential units to the area. City of Dublin Planner Rachel Ray was kind enough to share some thoughts on the recent progress the city has made toward realizing their goals, what we can expect in terms of future development, how transit will fit into their plans, and the importance of a proposed pedestrian bridge across the river.
Brent: Is it safe to say the Bridge Street redevelopment efforts are proceeding ahead of schedule?
Rachel: The Bridge Street redevelopment efforts are steadily advancing. The City is wrapping up a number of planning and implementation studies that have been ongoing during the past two years to really understand the implications of our bold vision for the Bridge Street District. We’ve studied the transportation, water, sewer, and stormwater service needs, and performed a fiscal analysis to understand infrastructure costs and the ability for private investment to help pay for some of the public investments that will be necessary to make this compact, urban form of development possible. The City also zoned the land within the Bridge Street District to new zoning districts that allow for dense, mixed-use development to happen along an accelerated project review timeline.
As the City has engaged in these implementation efforts, local and national development interest in the Bridge Street District has been increasing. The development community has been patiently and cooperatively working alongside the City as we’ve undertaken these studies, with the understanding that we all want to make sure we know how the pieces fit together, and what needs to happen to make the projects emerging from the process successful contributions to the community’s vision for this area.
This kind of planning is really on the cutting edge for cities across the country. The fact that the City is stepping back and planning so strategically in advance, looking for opportunities to partner with private developers, and creating such a bold vision for the entire Bridge Street District is truly unique and will help ensure Dublin’s sustainability and competitiveness for many years to come.
Brent: Any prediction as to what will be the next “domino to fall” in terms of major development that helps to fill in the plans outlined for Bridge Street?
Rachel: Most recently, the City has teamed with local urban design firm MKSK to take a closer look at the portion of the Bridge Street District along the Scioto River. Although the Historic District is situated along the west side of the river, connection to the river itself has been a challenge, and as a result, it’s become an underutilized amenity. The riverfront has incredible potential to add value to the city’s civic center and the public realm on both sides of the river.
Unprecedented opportunities are starting to emerge along the Scioto River, with the City having recently purchased 12 acres of land on the driving range site east of Riverside Drive for the purpose of relocating the road to open up land along the Scioto River for a signature riverfront park and pedestrian bridge. The City is also in discussions with a developer interested in a series of mixed-use buildings on the east side of the relocated Riverside Drive overlooking the new park.
Right now, we’re trying to understand how these public and private projects in the riverfront area could be phased, understanding costs, and conducting pre-development due diligence to have a better sense of how the projects will move forward. City staff and the MKSK consultant team recently met with City Council to discuss these ideas for the Scioto River area, and Council has expressed widespread support for the concepts and a sense of urgency for moving forward. The staff will be presenting strategies, costs and potential timelines for moving forward to the City Council in the near future.
Lastly, although the City is focusing current Bridge Street District planning efforts on the Scioto River and the Historic District (because of the area’s high visibility, catalytic potential, and strong amenity base) we remain engaged with developers and owners of land throughout the Bridge Street District, evaluating additional opportunities for public and private partnerships.
Brent: How important to the project is the pedestrian connection across the river?
Rachel: A new pedestrian bridge, linking a signature riverfront park and new mixed use development on the east side of the Scioto River with the Historic District on the west, would provide critical connectivity and would serve as an iconic symbol of the emerging new city core. The pedestrian connectivity will stitch the two sides of the river together, expanding the city’s civic center beyond its historic crossroads to include a greatly expanded riverfront area.
Both the visibility and functionality of this pedestrian bridge amenity would also add significant value and potential to adjacent future developments. In fact, the City is exploring these opportunities for public investment in a new park, pedestrian bridge, and relocated roadway in part to help catalyze the desired types of dense, mixed-use private development in and around this area, and to really spearhead the Bridge Street District redevelopment efforts.
Brent: Will it be a challenge to provide enough parking for the uses described in the plan? And, related to that, do you think transit options will need to be improved? (specifically, improving the transit options for people getting to and from the district from places like downtown or other parts of Columbus)
Rachel: There’s no question that a variety of transportation options are critical to the success of any mixed use, urban environment. We’re looking at new street connections throughout the Bridge Street District to distribute vehicular traffic and significantly enhance pedestrian connectivity. New streets will include bicycle facilities such as cycletracks, and also accommodate bicycles within the street rights-of-way as a matter of course.
As the Bridge Street District begins to build out, and the transit serviceability of this area improves, we look forward to increasingly engaging COTA and exploring opportunities to expand the limited transit service that’s currently available in this area. In particular, service along the Bridge Street/State Route 161 corridor would provide a critical link across the entire District, and to the region beyond.
While providing the facilities necessary to make walking, bicycling, and transit more attractive modes of transportation, the need for cars and the ability to conveniently park them is not going away. New streets will include on-street parking facilities in most areas, and as part of the discussions with various developers, we’re evaluating partnership opportunities for parking structures in a few locations and the use of podium parking to help address this need and make the development economics work.
More information can be found online at www.dublinohiousa.gov.
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Renderings provided by The City of Dublin.