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Only 10 Surface Parking Lots Remain on High Street in The Short North

Walker Evans Walker Evans Only 10 Surface Parking Lots Remain on High Street in The Short NorthPhotos by Walker Evans.
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Surface parking lots are often referred to as the scourge of urban neighborhoods. And they’re officially an endangered species in The Short as far as High Street is concerned.

“We’re living in a period of metamorphosis that is is fascinating and exciting for planner types to watch,” says Kyle Ezell, OSU Associate Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning at the Knowlton School of Architecture, and Senior Principal of consulting firm Designing Local. “Urban planning-wise, the entire City of Columbus is in an exciting but awkward teenager stage between a reluctant small town and a teeming big city, and the Short North is leading the way.”

Over the past decade, new urban development has rapidly replaced flat parking lots — sometimes referred to as “missing teeth” — with mixed-use buildings, consolidating (and often expanding) parking spaces into multi-story parking garages, or hiding the parking lots behind buildings rather than on display out front.

“Signature urban corridors in the great cities don’t tolerate missing teeth,” states Ezell. “Think about Michigan Avenue, Broadway, or the The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Tourists and locals from around the world wouldn’t flock to these places to stroll, shop, and live if they were pockmarked with surface parking lots. The ‘Main Street’ at Easton doesn’t have missing teeth, and neither should High Street.”


Most recently, The Joseph hotel and office buildings replaced two public surface lots on the on the south end of the district last year, and The Fireproof project replaced a large surface lot at High and Second. Additional development proposals are currently in various planning phases that will also see the replacement of many other High Street parking lots, including those located at White Castle, in front of the two buildings that formerly housed Flora and Co+Op, next to Donatos, and next door to Haiku.

Another parking lot is likely to bite the dust in the near future with yesterday’s news that the public spots located just south of Buttles will be replaced with a new 11-story office building. That leaves just 10 remaining surface lots in the Short North that front High Street, which may continue to be replaced in the coming years.

With over 500,000 people that will be moving to the region, a lot of them will want to live in the middle of Columbus,” explains Ezell. “Expect every surface parking lot in the core area to implement ‘highest and best use’ development because of increased scarcity and higher land values. Buildings will need to get bigger and taller if affordable housing is important to us. Also, expect that over the decades of transitioning, many newer buildings will need to be torn down and rightsized to meet the demand for city living. So the days of tolerating a surface parking lot on High Street has to be over for Columbus to move on to the city we are supposed to be.”


Some residents and visitors in The Short North have expressed concern about current parking difficulties in the area during peak hours, while others have pointed out that the neighborhood is still easy to find parking in during most days of the week. Ezell says that those concerns should certainly be addressed in the short term while aiming for a bigger transit solution in the long term.

“I’m looking forward to the time when urbanizing Columbus will be dense enough when we can finally implement some form of world-class transit because we could efficiently handle even more people and businesses,” he says. “At the same time, merchants in the Short North can’t wait until our new transit system finally arrives — they need parking today. That’s why these new developments are smart to make sure to provide parking within their development plan.”

To join in the ongoing development discussion, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.

All photos by Walker Evans.








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  • MichaelC

    The UDF and the lot immediately next to it stand out to me as being the most ripe for redevelopment.

    • Nancy H

      Sad thing is, UDF owns the three parcels that make up that vacant lot to the south of their building.

  • 10 too many

    • Well, some of them are big and ugly (UDF)… others are small and landscaped (Piece of Cake). If the biggest ones are redeveloped, the smaller ones probably won’t stick out quite as much.

  • OSUGrad

    I can’t wait for the first lot pictured to be filled in. It’s a hot spot for aggressive (and illegal) soliciting and I do not enjoy the unwanted touching and constant verbal harassment while walking in my neighborhood. It’s all the more frustrating to know that the police will clear out whoever is there just to have another congregation of folks in ten minutes.

    • Nancy H

      That City owned lot is the poster child for where the dregs of humanity hang out on a regular basis. I live on First Avenue, near the UDF lots, and if I had to choose between someone building on the City owned lot just south of the Garden (Short North Stage) and the UDF lots – I would pick the north City lot.

      A development there would really be a boost to all of the businesses in that section of High Street. The retailers really struggle because shoppers are intimidated by the lowlife types who hang out in the area.

  • Stephen43215

    Not the best artwork but you get the idea of just how many surface lots have been developed in the Short North along High Street from the Fireproof to the North to the Joseph on the south. Red has been developed within the past 10 or so years, yellow is in the works to be developed.

    • Stephen43215

      I actually forgot the White castle site so here is the updated version.

      • smegs

        Well since you cut off at 2nd Ave, you leave out 4 or 5 of the article mentioned lots.

        Anything at the family dollar and garden theatre lots would help integrate the Jackson. The north end suffers most.

      • King Gambrinus

        That’s pretty impressive when you think about it. It’s really interesting to me how the pace of development has increased too.

  • Discouraged Democrat

    “Dregs of humanity”? “Lowlife types”? Infill development will not make our less fortunate neighbors disappear, although some seem to wish it would.

  • PMurch


    First off I want to mention that I really enjoy CU, great website with thoughtful content and generally respectful posters.

    One of my favorite pieces is the monthly development updates. I have an idea for you. Would you consider revamping that portion of the site? Instead of doing something monthly how about something ongoing and map based. Stephen’s map above is the basic premise. Label all the proposed, approved, under construction, and completed projects on a map. Make each development location clickable so we can see the articles, photos, and visit the message board. Check out Las Vegas today and Tomorrow for some ideas. It would be a great central location to keep up on all the development in the city.

    • Thanks for the feedback! We’ve considered a map-based update that a third party is working on, but haven’t had the time or capacity to implement something yet. It’s on the to-do list! ;)

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