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Plans Moving Forward to Build 35-Story Tower on North Market Parking Lot

Brent Warren Brent Warren Plans Moving Forward to Build 35-Story Tower on North Market Parking LotRendering/design via Schooley Caldwell.
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The City of Columbus has chosen a 35-story tower as the winning proposal for the North Market parking lot.

The proposal, called Market Tower, is from the Wood Companies and Schiff Capital Group. It would consist of approximately 200 residential units above office space, with restaurant and retail uses on the first two floors.

The first and second floors will also have about 10,000 additional square feet for the North Market to use, including a public atrium that will connect the new building with the existing market. The plan calls for the historic North Market building to remain intact and for the market to be open throughout the entire construction process.

“We’re very excited about it, they’ve put together a fantastic proposal,” said Development Director Steve Schoeny. “It really enhances the market, puts a new signature building on our skyline, and accomplishes all the objectives that we set out to at the outset of this.”

The new building, along with a new outdoor plaza running along Spruce Street, would sit on top of an underground garage meant to replace the surface lot being lost to the development. That garage, with roughly the same number of parking spaces as the existing lot, would continue to serve North Market customers.

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An additional 160 parking spots would be provided on the third and fourth floors of the building, and would connect via a bridge to the existing Vine Street garage. The goal for starting construction on the new development is the spring of 2018, with completion in the spring of 2020.

Since the city and market narrowed the list of proposals to develop the lot to three finalists in December, anticipation at the prospect of adding a significant addition to the Columbus skyline has grown, as have concerns about the impact of the project on the surrounding neighborhood, and on the market itself.

Schoeny and North Market Executive Director Rick Harrison Wolfe are both convinced that the Wood/Schiff proposal not only addresses those concerns, but provides a way forward for the market that will allow it to thrive for years to come.

“Just having 500 or so residents coming or going right in front of us, that’s a game-changer,” said Wolfe. “That’s a lot of potential customers for our vendors. It will help our fresh merchants, in particular, to stay alive, prosper, and hopefully grow.”

The goal is to have stores and restaurants in the new building that would complement the market. The application submitted by the development team said that “an anticipated retail pharmacy at the corner of Wall St. and Vine St. and other ground floor retail and restaurant spaces will further engage the street and increase pedestrian traffic.”

The application also outlined a number of ideas for making sure that the market benefits from all those new residents, such as a membership program in which residents would agree to spend a certain amount at the market monthly. The new building will also greatly expand the capacity of the market to make money off of events, which is currently a relatively small source of revenue.

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“Our success will be totally driven off of a vibrant market,” said Mark Wood, President of the Wood Companies. “So from a community perspective, we are super-proud to be involved, but from a business perspective, too, the project will be so closely tied to the success of the market.”

Schoeny said that track record of the Wood Companies and Schiff Capital was another reason their proposal was chosen — particularly their success in working with historic buildings and in historic neighborhoods.

“Schiff has done a great job with the Atlas building, and has been involved with a lot of other projects,” said Schoeny. “And Mark, and his dad before him, they were really pioneers in how to do this in the Short North.”

Although the exact financial terms of the deal are still being worked out, the basic outline calls for the city to transfer ownership of the market itself to the North Market Development Authority, the nonprofit organization that runs the market. The parking lot would be transferred to the development team, and the city would help fund the parking garage, plaza, and other costs, such as utility upgrades. The total investment from the development team will be about $100 million.

“For the market, the story here is, that for the first time in a 141 years, we know our future,” said Wolfe. “We’ve been a tenant, and we’ve had a great landlord and partner in the city, but now we control our destiny…we’re here to stay, and we’re grateful for that, and we all should be grateful that we will have a public market forever…not many cities can say that.”

Construction will likely take around 24 months, but Wood said that the plan is to open the underground garage first, even before the building above it is completed.

“We will need to get creative about parking during the construction,” Wolfe said, adding that he has spoken to the owners of nearby parking lots and is confident that arrangements can be made. “It’s a three minute walk from the closest surface lot, the one by BBR, but we are open to ideas like a valet service, for our fresh merchants, also.”

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The future parking needs of the project were also considered – the third and fourth floor garages were designed so that they could be converted into offices space if that much parking is not necessary in twenty years, due to the growth of driverless cars or other technological advances (cars would access the parking from the Vine Street garage across the street, so there are no ramps in the proposed building).

Schoeny cautioned that the proposal being presented now will change with input from merchants and the public.

“We have a long road ahead of us still, but we want this to be sort of the start of the next phase of where we go,” he said, ” and that will include a lot of public outreach and also a lot of back and forth negotiation to figure out what’s going to be a really complex real estate transaction.”

The first public meeting on the project is scheduled for May 9th, at a location still to be determined. The development will also need to be approved by both the Downtown Commission and the Historic Resources Commission. Because it is in the Downtown District, there are no existing height restrictions or prohibited uses.

“Something that I’ve learned,” said Wood, “even just developing in the historic neighborhoods of Victorian Village and Italian Village, is that you go through the process, you have conversations with the commissions, and usually you end up with a better project; not everyone is going to be happy with every decision that’s made, but going through that process creates a much better product.”

Michael Schiff, Principal of Schiff Capital Group, expressed confidence that the size and scope of the project is appropriate given the current level of demand for apartments and condos in vibrant urban neighborhoods. “We feel that it’s as good a location as you can get in Columbus for an urban development,” he said, “and the views will be phenomenal.”

For more information, visit www.northmarket.com.

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