Grandview Yard first announced Phase 1 of their 90 acre development in Grandview Heights in July of 2009, and that phase is celebrating the grand opening tonight with a community open house between 6pm and 8:30pm. We sat down this morning with Brian Ellis, President and COO of Nationwide Realty Investors to talk about the new development and take a tour of the completed site.
Walker Evans: Most readers of Columbus Underground are pretty familiar with Grandview Yard at this point, but can you give us a brief overview of phase one of the project for the uninitiated?
Brian Ellis: We are starting today at the Hyatt Place. It’s 126 Rooms. We started with a Hyatt prototype and have upgraded it in a number of ways. With the outer appearance for example, we spent more money on the facade, and we added more detailing because we wanted it to look good. We had the challenge of this being a 360-degree building. It was important that the side that faces Yard Street, which is our main street, really looks great, but we also have parking in the rear so that is really the front door. That’s where all of the guests come in so that side needs to look great too. We also expanded the meeting space in the building. We feel there is going to be a greater opportunity here to host meetings and use the space as a preferred meeting spot, so we did increase the size of that. We added an outside patio space so people can go outside, which is a little unique for a Hyatt Place. We added balconies which will overlook our park which we refer to as “The Front Yard”. So there are some unique features here. I don’t think there is any other Hyatt Place that has balconies, as far as I know. We think our guests will appreciate that. We’re really pleased to be opening the Hyatt Place today.
With the office space, we have 90,000 square feet in a three-story office building. It has a number of tenants that are signed up. Jason’s Deli will open in mid-September. They are going to be a tremendous amenity for all of our tenants. It is their second location in Central Ohio. We saw their store in Dublin and were really impressed with it. The space looks great. We’ll also have the Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill. We really think this is going to be a nice addition, so we wanted to do something really special there. This is going to be very different from the old Buckeye Hall of Fame Cafe. It is a much smaller and more intimate restaurant. It will pay homage to Ohio State sports, but we are going to make it really fun for everybody. With all of the connectivity that we are going to have between Grandview Yard, The Hyatt Place and Ohio State, we think will translate to the Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill. We want it to be a great sports bar, but we also think we can make the food a higher quality product than what you would expect at a sports-themed restaurant. So we’re really looking forward to that opening in November.
This is all a way of really trying to establish the identity of Grandview Yard and bring people here in the first phase and begin to invoke the imagination one what future phases are going to be like.
WE: Since this is such a large, multi-phase project, what was the thought behind starting phase one without the major retail or residential component and focusing on the hotel, gym and office spaces?
BE: The market is a big part of that decision making process. But similar to the Arena District, we think that you have to start with the commercial spaces and the amenities first. I think the hotel will bring people here. We also thought there was a market opportunity with the hotel. With the closing of the Holiday Inn on Lane Avenue and the growth occurring at Ohio State. The Medical Center is really growing and is a key market for this new hotel. So we saw that opportunity. We knew we wanted to do commercial office space as a part of this project early on. We have M&A Architects that will be our first office tenant, and they will move in at the end of September. We just finalized the lease with Schneidler Dentistry on the ground floor which will be another amenity for Grandview Yard. We also have a number of office tenants we are working on, so hopefully it won’t be too long before the office space is committed. Urban Active is another market opportunity and there was also really strong synergy between the hotel, gym and some of the other things we were doing. I think it really fits with the first phase.
But, as always, the project is market driven, so we are going to continue to see opportunities as they present themselves. I think residential will be great for the not-too-distant future. We will probably start with a for-rent product then do a for-sale product down the road.
WE: One of the things I think people are excited about is that Grandview Yard is a pretty significantly sized urban infill project. Was the location decision completely market driven or did the sustainable responsibility of reusing an existing site play into it at all?
BE: I think it is a combination of those factors. The market is responding very well to the kind of product that we’ve done. We gained a lot of confidence with the development of The Arena District. We’ve developed an urban project with structured parking and mixed use and really convinced ourselves that in Columbus, Ohio, as in most markets throughout the country, that really well thought-out, urban, mixed-use projects can be successful. And if done right, they can whether to some extent, economic cycles. We saw that happen in The Arena District as we continue to be really strong there. I think we will be equally strong with Grandview Yard. From a sustainability standpoint, Grandview Yard is the first project in the Midwest to be registered as an LEED certified neighborhood. The office building is LEED certified. I think other buildings, not every one, but others will be as well. We were really pleased to create an overall plan that will allow us to be an LEED certified neighborhood. The market is very receptive to that. I think that has really changed over the last ten years or so. So I think that will help us. We also think that it’s the responsible thing to do. Nationwide is committed to sustainability across the entire organization and will continue to try to do more and more of that. It works at every level. The biggest sustainable piece of this project is the fact that we’ve recycled an old industrial warehouse and made the commitment to infrastructure. This whole site was covered with nearly 100 acres of concrete or asphalt. There wasn’t a lot of grass or trees. We’ve recycled that concrete, used it as aggregate in the streets here and we’ve been able to export it to other projects throughout the city as well.
WE: One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard about Grandview Yard from day one is the worry that with the proximity to Downtown and to the Arena District that it might cannibalize some of the businesses and tenants. Do you think that’s going to be an issue?
BE: The Arena District is also our investment, so we’re confident that these two projects will add value to each other and complement each other. So we don’t see that being an issue. You will probably see a little migration here and there, but ultimately we think by doing it right and creating great places, Central Ohio is large enough to be able to support both and people will be able to make choices. Grandview Yard will not be the mirror image of The Arena District. The emphasis there is on sports and entertainment and it is more dense than Grandview Yard is going to be. We didn’t do three story buildings in The Arena District. We are going to do more single deck parking structures in Grandview Yard. We’re going to strike a balance here, between a really high-density Downtown project and a little less dense project in Grandview Yard. So what you see here today with Phase 1 is indicitive of what you are going to see going forward over the next decade or so.
WE: You mentioned earlier that upcoming phases could include residential apartment units. Is there anything else you can reveal about Phases 2 or 3 for us to look forward to?
BE: I mentioned that Grandview Yard is not going to be sports and entertainment focused… we think it is going to be more retail focused. We want to have a significant retail component in Grandview Yard. We want to have Yard Street be a great “main street” that will connect Goodale and Third with shopping. The focal point will be around Third on the north side of the site will be where the retail focus will be. So we’re trying to put that together and organize a plan that works for everybody. It is a tough market out there right now and retailers as a whole are not very confident right. But they are responding very well to this location. They really feel like this is an outstanding project. So we just have to get the market in the right place and all of the other details worked out so that we can bring some real retail to Grandview Yard.
WE: Great! Thanks again Brian for taking the time with us this morning.
BE: No problem. I read Columbus Underground and love to keep up with the discussion about our developments.
The Grandview Yard Community Open House takes place tonight from 6pm to 8:30pm. More information on the event can be found by CLICKING HERE.
For more information, visit www.GrandviewYard.com.