About a month ago, we sat down with Mark Wagenbrenner, president of Wagenbrenner Development to talk about the multitude of urban development projects the company is working on. The most significant announcements at the time being the groundbreaking of The Hubbard mixed-use building in The Short North and the unveiling of Jeffrey Park, a massive 41-acre 1,350-unit development planned for Italian Village.
But that’s not all that Wagenbrenner is working on. There are four other big projects in various stages that will bring additional residential and commercial development to the inner core of urban Columbus.
“There’s a pretty deep market for Millennials who want to live near where they play,” said Mark Wagenbrenner. “We also look to the suburbs and ask ourselves what percentage of the people living out there would move back closer to Downtown if given the opportunity.”
Wagenbrenner plans to increase those opportunities in multiple ways in the coming years. Below are details on some of their specific plans.
Near the northeast intersection of Grandview Avenue and Dublin Road, a former quarry and former unregulated landfill sits in wait. Wagenbrenner Development took on the project in 2011, following previous plans by a Cincinnati-based developer to build a Walmart Supercenter that never came to fruition.
Wagenbrenner is continuing to do work on the site in 2013, but not quite in the way you might think.
“Our problem there has always been dirt,” Wagenbrenner said. “We’ve got to fill the site and cap the site, and then extract methane out, much like we did at Gowdy Field.”
A large portion of the Kaplin site has never been filled, and Wagenbrenner anticipates the need for around 350,000 cubic yards of dirt. They’ve been taking in dirt from their other construction projects in 2012 and moving it there to keep the costs down for filling the site.
“We’re sitting right now on about 200,000 cubic yards at our other projects, so that’ll allow us this spring to really get somewhat far along on our big fill operation there,” Wagenbrenner said. “Within the next two years we’ll be able to really focus on being ready for development.”
As far as actually developing the site goes, there’s no formalized plans, but Wagenbrenner has previously said that the 35-acre property could end up as a mix of retail, multifamily housing and office buildings.
“I think we really want to see Grandview Yard get out there ahead of us and get going because I think that’s probably going to be a big box retail site,” Wagenbenner explained.
The newest addition to Wagenbrenner’s Harrison Park development in the Harrison West neighborhood is taking the form of a 108-unit apartment building that is nearing completion this spring. The first residents will be moving in on April 15th where one- and two-bedroom units will range from 680 square feet to 1,150 square feet, and while prices have not been set, they are expected to range between $1,200 and $1,650 per month.
“We’ve really been blessed that the rental market is so strong that it can support the ability to build these units as condo quality with granite countertops and wood floors and all of the stuff you don’t typically see in apartments,” Wagenbrenner said.
Once the new apartment building is finished, the only portion of Harrison Park left to build is another 36 units made up of for-sale condo flats targeted at Baby Boomers and empty nesters.
“We really feel the buyers are out there, and there’s not a lot of product like this to buy right now, particularly in the urban environment,” Wagenbrenner said. “We sold around 12 condos last year in those first phases of Harrison Park where we were originally renting them.”
Rumors have swirled about the possibilities for redeveloping the 31-acre site in the Milo-Grogan neighborhood northeast of Downtown where Timken formerly housed its manufacturing operations until closing in 2001. Wagenbrenner Development began applying for cleanup grants for the site last year, but little has been announced for the site since then. When pressed for details, Mark Wagenbrenner said he wasn’t quite ready to reveal anything.
“Not yet, but something’s brewing over there,” he chuckled. “When we look at what the neighborhood wants, its jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Wagenbrenner has previously said the site could potentially be developed as a distribution center or a retail center. A previous site owner had plans for building a Walmart, and Wagenbrenner agrees that the site is ripe for potential big box development.
“That world is changing fast and I think we’re starting to see big retailers take note that people are moving back towards the core and it isn’t just a fad,” he explained. “It didn’t cost anything for those retailers to step out into the outskirts of the suburbs and get ahead of the growth and keep their land costs down in the right locations. But now we’re starting to see retailers looking at these few remaining larger urban sites because if they get developed now and they wait to try to get into the urban market five to 10 years from now, the land costs will go up so fast that it will no longer work out as well for them.”
Regardless of the specifics of the Timken plans, Wagenbrenner sees the site as an opportunity to anchor additional redevelopment for the rest of the neighborhood, similar to what the company has done in Weinland Park.
“Milo-Grogan is so close to Downtown that even though the housing is distressed, with the right plan and resources we see that whole area turning around,” he said. “We’re also working on an expanded ODOT grant to address and further enhance the Cleveland Avenue and Fifth Avenue intersection. That’s going to go hand in hand with this development, because you couldn’t do anything there if those streets aren’t improved.”
Wagenbrenner Development is the private development company involved in the Weinland Park Collaborative, a partnership designed to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. Wagenbrenner has already constructed and rehabilitated 14 neighborhood stabilization program (NSP) homes that have sold, and are planning the completion of six more homes at the intersection of Fourth Street and Eighth Avenue in February.
“We’re anxious to get into the next phase of what we’re doing,” Wagenbrenner said. “It’s much more market-rate oriented.”
Additionally, Wagenbrenner hopes to advance plans for the former Columbus Coated Fabrics this year, and is planning to begin a historic renovation to buildings on Eleventh Avenue on the northern end of the neighborhood starting in April.
“There’s still a lot of stuff along the edges, but we couldn’t be happier with how we’re seeing the market respond in Weinland Park,” Wagenbrenner said. “The community components are coming along too, including the Urban Food Center at the former 3M site. There’s still a fair amount of interest in that, but who knows where it will end up.”
Whether its Weinland Park, Milo-Grogan, Harrison West, the Short North, Italian Village, or elsewhere, Wagenbrenner Development remains firmly committed to redeveloping the inner core of Columbus in a very significant way.
“We try to keep as tight a pulse as we can on these types urban infill projects and they don’t seem to be losing any allure,” Wagenbrenner said. “The double population bump of the Millennials and the Baby Boomers means there’s a lot more people coming. The freshmen class entering OSU was at a highpoint, so if we can keep them here in Columbus, then there’s a nice demographic rise coming.”
More information can be found online at www.wagdev.com.