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New Plan Calls for Retail, Housing Development on Near East Side

Walker Evans Walker Evans New Plan Calls for Retail, Housing Development on Near East Side
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Groundwork is being laid for a new transformative effort on the Near East Side that aims to breath new life into these near-Downtown communities. PACT (short for Partners Achieving Community Transformation) is a group of area stakeholders, residents and other community members who have spent the past two years putting together a plan to help revitalize key corners and corridors with new retail clusters, walkable streets and residential housing for everyone from students to families to senior citizens.

We spoke recently with PACT Project Manager Autumn Williams to find out more about where the effort currently stands and what type of participation can be expected the upcoming public input meeting on November 27th.

Walker Evans: The original revitalization announcement in February 2010 that would eventually go on to form PACT has been nearly three years in the making. What has changed between that first investment announcement and today?

Autumn Williams: Since the original announcement, we’ve gone forward with the original vision. Pretty much everything we said we were originally going to do. We’ve formed community stakeholder groups and advisory committees and we’ve talked to around 200 people involved over the past two years. We also had the original intent of hiring a master planning consultant, which we did with Goody Clancy in March of this year. We brought them on board after we already had 18 months of community engagement going.So that’s what we’ve been working on for the past 24 months since the first announcement was made.

Q: From what I’ve seen of the plans so far, it seems like a lot of what is outlined is residential-centric and retail-centric. Is that something that emerged from the public input sessions?

AW: Yes. The community is already primarily residential, so I think that the community is saying that they want to see more residential. That reflects their desire to see more people and families coming into the neighborhood. This is a community of very engaged stakeholders, so they recognized that the location is prime to attract families, young professionals and students. So yes, residential has been a top priority. The retail side has come up because that’s part of the history and legacy of this community. Mt Vernon Avenue and Long Street historically were this huge vibrant commercial district of locally owned business and restaurants that were really flourishing in the community. So I think that part of that retail history rose to the top as one of the type of amenities for families that live here as well as the new people they want to attract to the community.

Keep in mind that this community has lost significant population in the past 50 years. Both the residents and our planning experts recognize that in order for this community to grow, we have to figure out how to attract new people here. We looked at all of the other flourishing communities in Columbus to examine why they are flourishing. We can use some of their best practices to see what’s working and what’s not. Those neighborhood leaders have all been very open and transparent and helpful with sharing their lessons learned.

WE: From what I’ve seen of renderings, proposals and ideas at this stage, it seems like the focus for development plans targets three main areas: Taylor Avenue, the Mount Vernon Avenue & Long Street Corridors and Poindexter Village. How were these three areas identified for redevelopment?

AW: The areas you mention are currently being referred to as core development areas. These areas emerged during the three-day July Workshop and are based on the feedback we received from the community as well as from the stakeholder interviews and subcommittee reports. A majority of proposed initiatives and recommendations were occurring within these areas, and it became a helpful framework as we organized the October workshops.

WE: With other urban redevelopment plans either in the works or in motion in Weinland Park, East Franklinton, Downtown Columbus, the Scioto Peninsula and elsewhere, what stands out as being different about these processes taking place for the Near East Side and the King Lincoln District?

AW: I think the difference is in the history. Not to say that those other neighborhoods aren’t looking back at what was there before, but that really is a core value in the way that we’re working on this planning process. The other thing is that this community has some significant African American history for Columbus. So that’s different from those other communities. We also have OSU as an anchor institution in our neighborhood, but so does Weinland Park with the main campus, and the south side has Nationwide Children’s Hospital. So I don’t know if I would say that this area is a whole lot different. There’s a national trend for urban redevelopment and Columbus is on the cutting edge of doing that in many ways across the city. I would consider those other neighborhoods in Columbus to be our sisters and brothers.

WE: What sort of care is being taken to preserve the historic nature of these areas, through architecture, culture, people and places?

AW: Going back to retail as an example… we could have just said that since the OSU East Hospital is on Taylor Avenue, we should just put a bunch of retail there. But historically the retail in this area has been around the Lincoln Theatre and the Mount Vernon Plaza areas, so we want to go back to that. We want to figure out how we can support the businesses that have stayed and help elevate them so that they can continue to compete and be sustainable while also attracting more amenities and businesses into those areas. So that’s one thing.

Another thing we have noticed during community engagement are the descriptions of what this community feels like. Some of that stuff is kind of hard to quantify or describe, but we really heard loud and clear that people who live here want the area to continue to feel like a community. So we’re looking at urban design principles that we can incorporate that would make it more likely for the neighborhood to interact. Making opportunities for people to be on the street, adding front porches to new homes, and keeping that character. The Near East Area Plan was just completed a few years ago, and that already goes a long way toward setting building standards and expectations. So we’re looking at things that would fit in to the traditional style of housing here and talking about how to attract people to invest in the existing buildings and properties here.

WE: Speaking of attracting new residents to invest… what type of balance do you think will need to be found between public and private partners for these redevelopment efforts?

AW: The balance between public and private partners will vary depending on each initiative, but it is clear that both will be necessary for successful implementation. For example, OSU has committed $10 million ($9 million for housing initiatives and $1 million for health & wellness initiatives). To create a larger impact on neighborhood revitalization, they plan to partner with and leverage substantial additional funding from the private sector. Likewise, CMHA will likely move forward with the submittal of a Choice Neighborhood implementation grant, which has the potential to receive up to $30 million of public, HUD funding. To be successful however, CMHA will have to demonstrate how they have been able to secure additional funding through other key partners.

WE: So, what type of participation can attendees expect to be involved with at the upcoming public meeting on the 27th?

AW: The meeting on the 27th is being designed as an open house. There will be a brief (20-25 minute) presentation that highlights the planning process, key events, and revised project timeline. We have completed a draft of a series of implementation initiatives, and these will be highlighted on a series of boards. The appropriate members of the consultant team will be present to discuss these initiatives, and the public will have the opportunity to provide input on the priority of these initiatives and add comments directly to the boards.

WE: What is the planned timeline for adopting a development plan and potential for implementation efforts?

AW: The current timeline for the plan, which is similar to the original proposed schedule, is:

January 2013: Draft Plan due.
Early February: Public presentation of draft plan. Initiation of public comment.
Late February : Public comment period closes.
Early March: Final plan to be completed.

WE: Thanks for taking the time today, Autumn.

AW: My pleasure.

More information can be found online at www.eastpact.org.

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  • Stephen43215

    As a resident of this area ( Borad & Ohio) the look and feel of this new development should use thr proper material to blend in with the neighbohood. I know the photos are early renderings but it looks like it has more of a modern feel. The neighborhood is pretty historic with large victorian homes just blocks away. Anything is better than nothing and this is going in the right direction.

  • You’re correct that these are preliminary renderings, so they’re not final designs of anything actually proposed. As the article mentions, there’s also an opportunity for public input on Tuesday:


    Hope to see you there!

  • jpizzow

    Usually, renderings provided this early are drawn up quickly and are meant to give an idea of the scale and general idea rather than the overall architectural style. I suspect that’s what happened here. Nice to see some new momentum over there. It seemed to be trickling in the past few years compared to announcements in nearby neighborhoods.

  • @jpizzow – If this area seems to be taking longer to gain momentum, I think it has more to do with scope and scale.

    The new Scioto Peninsula plan covers 56 acres, which is a pretty big area.

    The East Franklinton plan covers 200 acres, which is even bigger.

    Weinland Park is generally defined as roughly 215 acres, about the same as East Franklinton.

    The boundaries of the effort PACT is undertaking (Broad, Woodland, 670, 71) calculates to around 800 acres of land. So we’re talking about something almost the size of East Franklinton and Weinland Park combined and then DOUBLED.

    The incredibly large size of this defined area has long been one of my personal bits of skepticism of this plan from the start. Anne & I were drawn to the King Lincoln District as it’s a much smaller subsection of this area, and we know that targeted redevelopment efforts gain traction more quickly than broad plans that are much more massive in scale. There’s no way the entire area defined by PACT is going to be renovated rapidly. It’s just way too big. You have to break it up into smaller bites.

    Just to put it in perspective… I live on the far west side of this area, adjacent to Downtown and very close to the Lincoln Theatre. The OSU Hospital is over a mile from my house. Any redevelopment over there is going to have a very minimal effect on the day-to-day happenings on our street from that far away. It may as well be a different neighborhood all together. We’re roughly the same distance from The Convention Center! So I can say that we’re much more excited about the Hills Market opening a 10 minute walk from our house than anything happening on Taylor Avenue, a 5 minute drive away.

    Inversely, I imagine that folks who live in Woodland Park feel the same about the Lincoln Theatre. It’s a great asset, but it’s so far away from where they live that they don’t gain much in the way of a “neighborhood resource” from it.

    So, I will say that I am pleased that the approach PACT has taken, where it has morphed into targeting specific areas for redevelopment efforts that can have sort of a ripple effect throughout the larger community. Hitting a couple of specific areas with plans rather than overlaying the entire area with a plan is the way to go IMHO.

  • jpizzow

    Agreed, but when comparing apples to apples, announcement to announcement, regardless of the size of the neighborhood, there just has not seemed to be too many large scale developments anywhere in the near east side, besides perhaps the $10 million OSU donation. In comparison, the neighborhood hasn’t experienced a similar amount of investment or interest, which is unfortunate given the vast potential of it. I would go even as far as to say that because the neighborhood is so large, it surprises me even more that more developments have not been announced. I will agree that the area that they are concentrating on is too big of a concentration (800 acres). Create nodes of activity and reinvestment and then let that ripple out. I feel like the butter is being spread too thin.

  • Sure, there’s not been too many large scale developments on the Near East Side. But what sort of large scale developments (“similar amount of investment or interest”) are you comparing to that have happened in the Scioto Peninsula, East Franklinton or Weinland Park?

    Because I can count a few announcements in Franklinton, but no groundbreakings yet… and collectively there’s Wagenbrenner’s investments in Weinland Park which has built some new single family homes, but I’m not sure if you’re referring to that as large scale development that the Near East Side is not seeing yet.

  • buckette13

    I think East Franklinton and Weinland Park are better situated as far as location. East Franklinton is right next to the heart of the western downtown central business district and a quick drive to Grandview and German Village. Weinland Park is right next to OSU and the SN. Those are all really happening job and or entertainment areas. I love the character of the East Side and would love to eventually buy a house there, but it does feel more isolated than those two other neighborhoods.

  • The western edge of this Near East Side area is directly adjacent to the eastern edge of Downtown Columbus. It may *feel* isolated as you have to travel through a sea of parking lots on Long and Spring to get there, but it’s technically closer to Downtown than either Weinland Park or East Franklinton.

    I do think that once the highway construction is complete and more infill continues to happen in the Discovery District, that gap will feel a bit lessened.

  • mrpoppinzs

    As the area continues to gentrify I am sure we will see more and more small commercial businesses. I am not sure ‘being close to downtown’ is as necessary as it sounds. I can see it developing into a more Clintonvillesque (with some really nice architecture) existence. I wouldn’t mind living in one of the smaller homes in the northern area, the 2000+ sq foot mansions seem a bit much for a single family.

  • 2000 square feet is not a “mansion”. ;)


  • mrpoppinzs

    Well at least not as defined by US real estate brokers…

    From my experience millennials are appreciating less is more in the housing arena. Conspicuous space consumption seems to be on a downward trend.

  • I agree that Millennials are trending toward smaller spaces. I’d love to see more 500 sqft apartments Downtown. But I wouldn’t say that 2000sqft for a family of four (500 sqft per person) is “conspicuous space consumption”.

  • Despite being heavily engaged in OTE on a daily basis, the plan being undertaken by PACT seems worlds away from me. So much so that I haven’t been to a single planning meeting. Admittedly, I’ve been unfairly skeptical from the start. The scope just seems way too big without enough money to go around. Newer housing units along Taylor Ave are already becoming dilapidated. Initiatives like this always seem to have big ambitious plans to build without big ambitious plans to maintain in the long term.

  • hdtvohio

    I don’t nearly as much now, but I used to go to Zanzibar weekly, and I used to love what I saw in the potential in the area. I still go to Los Potosinos every now and again. I occasionally drive down long after it gets dark too. For me I see the big need is to get people into the area. That section of of King Lincoln tends to be a bit of a ghost town. I think it gives it a great opportunity to start from scratch. The thing I worry about is connecting it to downtown, which I think is very important to get people in the area all times of day…the only thing downtown nearby North of Broad East of 4th that is substantial is CCAD/Columbus State, so I think it would be a shame not to draw those students in by building affordable, yet nice and modern apartments with the student in mind in terms of amenities and what not. The Abigail looks like it does well, so maybe something like that, and increased transportation in the forms of bike lanes or more/later hours busses.

    I think another thing that would be a major oversight is jazz. I’m not just saying 1 jazz club, but I think this neighborhood needs to play off the Lincoln Theatre and Canabar and what else and include an outdoor venue for jazz in the park and a medium size event space/bar similar to A&R or the Basement. Obviously I’m not the first person who’s thought about bringing jazz music in, but I think there needs to be more than one incorporation of the music to the new developments.

  • “Jazz in the Park” has been going on for the past 14 years in Mayme Moore Park (next to the King Arts Complex) and is incredibly well attended:


  • hdtvohio

    I didn’t know it was that crowded. Wow, but still…I think that stage or lack of stage could be improved upon with this plan to make it an even better experience for people going. And with multiple bars/restaurants it could grow to include indoor and outdoor locations.

  • I agree that more businesses would be an asset to the area. More infill development is needed badly along Long Street. It’s mostly empty grass lots right now.

  • bucki12

    I would also love to see more businesses. While the population is not what it was, I would think it could support many more local shops then it has.

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