Copy of Letter to Adam Ouderkirk at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation:
I am writing on behalf of the Short North SID in regard to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s (AHF's) construction project planned at High St. and Fifth Ave. Gradually, over the last four months, the architectural details of the project have generated more and more controversy and community feedback. While, from a jurisdiction perspective, this is an issue of Weinland Park and the University District, the project does fall within the Short North Special Improvement District’s service area. For this reason, and in support of our neighbors, I am writing to give additional perspective to the community’s push back and to encourage the AHF to more fully consider the community’s vision as the AHF makes its final decisions about development of the property.
Sometimes communities have but one shot to influence the future of their streets. If they do not speak up, they will never know what could have happened had they done so. This is the case with the property at Fifth and High… perhaps the single-most high-profile vacant property remaining along the High Street corridor. For this reason, the Short North SID strongly supports the UARB's detailed feedback and encourages the AHF to continue seeking community input, and to be open to incorporating that input into its architectural design.
The High Street corridor from OSU down to the Convention Center has undergone a steady improvement for the last 30 years. In 1980, it was a blight of boarded up buildings and illicit activities. Today it is the envy of most Midwest cities. As an example, on June 11, the Short North SID conducted a 40-minute interview with a freelance writer for the New York Times. She is pitching a story about the revitalization of the corridor and the factors that have led to its reclamation. She feels it is so remarkable that it would be of national interest. The key to the story is that it has been a grassroots effort. Property by property, the residents, developers and the city have collaboratively, and thoughtfully, advanced the corridor.
Having now attended 7-8 separate meetings with the AHF on the subject of this development, I fully understand your sense of urgency to build quickly and begin providing AIDS-related services. Please rest assured that the community is overwhelmingly supportive of your mission. I also understand that you may perceive the process of community input to be overly demanding and obstructionist in nature. The reality, however, is that the decisions made now for this project will likely be a part of this community for the next 25 years.
The High Street community has long been very thoughtful about evaluating construction projects. Many major projects have taken anywhere from one to four years to navigate before actual construction began. We need look no further than your neighbors, Kroger, or down the street to the Pizzuti development for prime examples. These developers chose to collaborate with the community to create a final product that not only met their goals, but also greatly supported the community's overall vision.
The Short North SID asks that the AHF take the UARB's recommendations to heart and consider modifying the project accordingly. In particular, we support the UARB's request to modify the design to be more Columbus-urban-corridor and less South-Florida-suburban. The materials and treatment should reflect an urban community. We also support the call for a building with greater overall scale/density and an architectural design consistent with the many projects along the corridor that were recently completed or are planned to begin this summer. Ideally, the development at this corner would stand as an anchor in the corridor.
The intersection of Fifth and High is a gateway to many communities (Weinland Park, the Italian Village, Victorian Village, the University District, and the Short North). It is noteworthy that classic, three-story, red-brick buildings stand on the other three corners of this intersection. There is a great opportunity to make a cohesive gateway experience.
We appreciate your work, but we are also sure that you appreciate all that the community has done to make this area so desirable and vibrant. After all, that is likely why the AHF would like to locate its business here now.
The Short North SID stands ready to help in any way it can, including hosting community conversations and engaging additional developers willing to partner on the project.
Short North Special Improvement District