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Wagenbrenner Continues Urban Infill Development in 2013

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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.

The Former Kaplin Landfill Site

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.

Click here to read more news and updates on the Kaplin site.

Harrison Park

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.”

Click here to read more news and updates on the Harrison Park Apartments.

The Former Timken Site

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.”

Click here to read more news and updates on the former Timken site.

Weinland Park

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.”

Click here to read more news and updates on the redevelopment of Weinland Park.

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.

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  • bucki12

    I have been hearing a lot of talk about a possible Walmart at Timken. If that does get built it would probably be a big boost for that part of Milo Grogan.

  • susank

    “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,”

    Is Milo-Grogan similar to what Italian Village was like in the 90’s? Sounds like it might be a good place to buy into?

    I am not sure I like the idea of a Walmart though.

    According to this it gets an A+ on a few things but an F on crime.


  • MHJ

    EDIT: I had no idea that ODOT and the City of Columbus were already repairing the stretch of Fifth Avenue between Cleveland and Grant. That will definitely make redevelopment at the Timken site much more attractive. I hope that it is not your typical mixed use development and that it actually brings some good-paying jobs to an area of the city that could desperately use them. But if it is to be a mix of residential, office, and retail, I’m sure Wagenbrenner will do it well.

  • @SusanK – I think Milo historically probably had more in common with Weinland Park or Franklinton than Italian Village. Seems to be more of a post-industrial area with modest working-class housing stock.

  • leftovers

    @susank – right now Milo Grogan is pretty blighted. I don’t think anyone who has actually been there would give it an “A+” for amenities.

  • UrbanLegend

    The former Kaplin landfill is definitely a site to keep an eye on. This is a high-visibility, high-priority redevelopment site, which makes it ever more important to ensure that something quality is built – especially due to the amount of PUBLIC money that has been invested in this project.

    In 2007, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) published “Regional Connections: A Collaborative Vision for Central Ohio’s Future.” This policy document was created to anticipate central Ohio’s growth over the next 20 to 30 years, and to formulate a strategy to address this growth in a way that aesthetically and economically enhances the region.

    The Kaplin site was one of three “Target Areas” for which conceptual development plans were created as part of the continuing effort to communicate and educate regional stakeholders about development policy choices. The conceptual design for the Kaplin site can be found at the following link:


    “The concept also includes a pattern of development that allows for a more walkable, pedestrian-scaled environment. This concentrated “center/node” with a mix of residential, retail, and office uses serves as a model for other underdeveloped intersections or interchange sites in the region. It represents an alternative to developing/redeveloping the Dublin Road corridor’s remaining frontage in a “strip-like” fashion at existing intensities.”

    “The emphasis of the demonstration is on establishing suitable building forms to accommodate a variety of potential uses rather than designing buildings for a particular use or user. The concept also provides civic space in multiple locations that are well defined/enclosed by fronting structures.”

    Now, compare that recommendation with the preliminary site plan prepared by Wagenbrenner for the Clean Ohio grant application:


    I have the utmost respect for Wagenbrenner, which is why I was so appalled to see this CRAP proposal. I can understand that development pressures are not as high as they were in 2007, and a multi-million square foot development is not as feasible now as it was then. My point is that this represents a stark departure from the basic intent and design principles laid out in the Regional Connections policy document. I encourage the City of Columbus to use the concepts advocated in Regional Connections during the development review and approval process, when the time comes.

    As I’ve said here on CU before, Columbus has tended to have a “take what we can get” stance on development. That stance has been understandable in the past, but at this point I believe that development in Columbus has hit a critical mass. As such, we need to cultivate a culture that understands and demands quality design. I hope that the forthcoming Center for Architecture and Design makes it one of their primary goals to contribute to this effort.

  • leftovers

    That MORPC plan seems more than a little unrealistic…

    “Under this development concept, proposed building areas total
    approximately 1.2 million square feet of retail, 600,000 square feet of
    office, 285,000 square feet of residential, and 100,000 square feet of
    parks and civic space. The northeast quadrant includes a pedestrian
    oriented “main street”, with mixed use buildings directly fronting the
    street and varying in size from two to four stories. It also includes two
    large format or “big box” retailers, a major park or plaza, and a potential
    light rail station.”

    One of the biggest issues in my opinion is that Dublin Rd is pretty much an urban highway. That would need to be tamed before anything like what MORPC is talking about could be built.

  • columbusmike

    leftovers, why is the MORPC plan unrealistic? Their plan is pretty standard development in most places in the Northwest — not sure why that wouldn’t work here too, especially so close to downtown and with a portion in Grandview City schools….

  • futureman

    How is it realistic in current economic climate?

    Grandview Yard is trying desperately to get retail and so far the “best” thing is come about is a 96K sf Giant Eagle built like it’s out in the suburbs.

  • buckette13

    Timken, Kaplin, Grandview Yard…seems a lot of places are hoping for ‘big box retailers’.

  • When you think about how little chain big/medium box retail is near Downtown, its not surprising. We have the Lennox Town Center and not much else.

  • billbix

    Sounds like they are having trouble getting the retailers to commit. Probably isn’t a surprise with the economy combined with internet sales. I assume it is just cheaper for the big boxes to build on Rome-Hilliard (etc) – (Grandview taxes and land prices for Wallyworld?) and the customers still seem to come to them. It is like 10 minutes on the highway.

    I can’t really see not having a Walmart in your backyard as a major detriment and it isn’t something most people walk to anyway.

  • cbus11

    If I had to drive to a Walmart, it would be to the one closest to me. That said, you have a point. I assume Timken makes the most economic sense out of the other possible urban locations.

  • bucki12

    I can see a demand for even more modern apartments in Grandview, especially considering the schools. It would be nice to see some mixed use buildings going up like the one Matt the Miller’s is in on Grandview Ave.

    What Timken has going for it is a big blank slate with great access to very population dense areas and a neighborhood of people who will not balk at the kind of jobs the big boxes offer.

  • InnerCore

    “As I’ve said here on CU before, Columbus has tended to have a “take what we can get” stance on development. That stance has been understandable in the past, but at this point I believe that development in Columbus has hit a critical mass. As such, we need to cultivate a culture that understands and demands quality design. I hope that the forthcoming Center for Architecture and Design makes it one of their primary goals to contribute to this effort.”

    This is pretty much what I argued ad nauseaum in the Jeffrey park thread. I could see if this was years ago when everyone was racing to extend the urban boundary. But now we’ve got multiple developers wanting to do urban infill.

    In other cities what they’ve done is to take the ideals for target areas from the regional connections plan and implemented an overlay district into the zoning code so what is build there has to pretty much meet the same function while giving the developer a little latitudinal over the architectural style.

    Once you build out a lot it takes decades for property values to increase to the point where tearing it down and rebuilding becomes feasible. If we spend the next decade basically building out urban lots with suburban projects that is going to stifle Columbus’ growth for decades to come.

    In other cities even Walmart is building better than this crap:

    The building is up to the street, parking above, other retail tenants incorporated into the design. These new Walmart’s are essentially designed as good as Easton.

    And here we have Wagenbrenner proposing to build a strip mall behind a sea of asphalt parking 2 miles from downtown. This should be a town center format with residential, retail and office all on this lot. This site is probably bigger than 50 acres. Putting 220,000 sf of office and 219,000 sf of retail on a site that is over 2,000,000 is just plain absurd, especially when you’re a stones throw from downtown.

  • futureman

    What you are proposing, as MORPC’s plan above, sounds an awful like the Grandview Yard – “Nationwide Realty Investors is proud to be able to revitalize this valuable area. When complete, Grandview Yard will include 1.5 – 2 million square feet of commercial space with supporting parking garages, public streets, and pedestrian amenities. It will also include more than 600 residential units, conveniently located close to amenities such as coffee shops, restaurants, retail stores and useable green space. ” from: http://www.grandviewyard.com/futureplansleasing/history.aspx

    Do you honestly think the area could sustain two 500 million + mixed use projects within a mile of each other with each one having ~2 million sf of commercial space?

    FYI – the Kaplan site is 35 acres, ~70% is located in Columbus the other 30% is in Grandview. Grandview Yard is almost 2.5X the size at over 90 acres. Here is a picture of the layout – http://assets.bizjournals.com/columbus/print-edition/ROP-kaplin-map.png?v=1

  • cbus11

    Wagenbrenner is really good at getting state and federal money for site cleanups. It is part of their bottom line. I imagine that money was what lured them to the Kaplan site. I kind of wonder if we really need to rush development?

    It kind of seems more of a ‘what do we do after we clean it up’, after thought kind of project. Personally, I would rather the land sat until there was a real need for it. The last thing we need is to be diluting development from other urban projects.

  • InnerCore

    Yes I think both projects could be sustained because that’s what is being done everywhere else. Are people from Grandview Yard going to walk to this site or vice versa? Of course not. Both of these neighborhoods should be urban and walkable. Not a suburban office park.

    They are proposing 440,000 square feet on a lot that is 1,524,000 square feet. That’s an FLR of .28 when you should at least have an FLR closer to at least 1. This site should have at a minimum of double the square footage.

    Now obviously you build this project in phases just as Grandview yard is getting built in phases. But you don’t take a 35 acre piece of land close to downtown and build a suburban office park and strip mall over the entire land, leaving you unable to add to it 5 years in the future when there is more demand. It’s just horrible foresight.

    And Grandview Yard isn’t a great example of a mixed use urban area. They’re faking it. Building an apartment complex across the street from from a hotel isn’t true mixed use. The retail, residential and office should be incorporated in the same buildings. But it’s a step in the right direction.

  • InnerCore

    “Wagenbrenner is really good at getting state and federal money for site cleanups. It is part of their bottom line. I imagine that money was what lured them to the Kaplan site. I kind of wonder if we really need to rush development?”

    Which is why more people should be pissed off. They use government money to subsidize the cleanup and then turn around and instead of building what is recommended, they build the cheapest project with acres of asphalt parking so they can sell as quickly as possible and make a profit. If they had to pay for it themselves they’d have to build more to compensate. We’re basically subsidizing less development.

  • futureman

    What cities are building two mixed use projects topping 4,000,000 of commercial sf combined within a mile each other? To keep it far, stay within a similar MSA of roughly ~2 million people.

    I do agree with you with the Grandview Yard. It’s been diluted a great deal from when it was first announced. If you think having apartments and a hotel next to each and not in same building isn’t ideal, check out the massive completed surface lot that is built for the new Giant Eagle. It’s a huge waste and fear that is what the rest of Grandview Yard will become. If NRI can’t pull it off, I don’t see how Wagenbrenner can.

  • jbcmh81

    Is big box retail really the best thing for these areas? Retail in general is weak right now, and if developments like GY have so much trouble attracting retail in a decent area, not sure anyone’s going to rush to an area like Milo-Grogan. And a Wal-Mart or other big box retailer at Timken is not going to have the slightest interest in building an urban-style layout. There’s plenty of demand for residential, restaurants, entertainment, park space, etc, so wouldn’t those ideas make far better sense? Columbus has retail coming out its ears, especially suburban style big boxes. It would be a complete waste and a total disappointment to see it in any of these locations, imo.

  • cbus11

    ” Timken is not going to have the slightest interest in building an urban-style layout. There’s plenty of demand for residential, restaurants, entertainment, park space, etc, so wouldn’t those ideas make far better sense? ”

    Milo-Grogan is a tough cookie. Whatever gets built at Timken, I think it ideally would be a destination and provide jobs. I don’t think restaurants and apartments would be enough to anchor a successful development let alone be a catalyst for redevelopement of the neighborhood. I don’t particularly like the layout of Lennox, but it has been a successful amenity and I can imagine something similar being a success to the east, especially considering the population and the connectivity with other developing areas.

    The problem is going to be getting them to build some halfway urban development when they are presented with what currently amounts to a huge parking lot.

  • jbcmh81

    The point is that those other things are in demand, while retail is struggling at best. So if the goal for Timkin is retail, it’s likely not going to look anything like Lennox anyway, which was built a a much different time and a much different location. It’s going to be more like a suburban Wal-Mart with a lot of surface parking. This won’t turn around the neighborhood either.

    You can gain jobs through other types of development, and flooding the neighborhood with low-wage jobs just doesn’t seem like it would really accomplish much.

  • leftovers

    It would take a lot more than a new apartment complex to get me to move to Milo-Grogan. Kaplan and The Yard are worlds away from MG.

  • InnerCore

    I’m not sure where you are getting 4,000,000 square feet of commercial. Grandview Yard is 1.5 and I’m arguing Kaplin should be at least 1. That’s 2.5 maybe 3 million total. And were talking about over 105 acres combined.

    But as an example let’s take Charlotte which should be fine with you because it’s a slightly smaller metro (for now). You have Southpark Village which was failed mall on 94 acres. Instead of letting fail like all of the mall in Columbus they went back in and built 6 story housing, a pedestrian promenade around the mall, a park with pond, lifestyle center, etc. Then they turned around and built Phillips Place across the street.

    Here is brochure from LandDesign. They do work in Charlotte and showcase many of the ones they worked on:


    They’ve got 3 projects that are all superior from and urban walkable standpoint to Granview Yard in Charlotte alone.

    Take a project like the Lofts at Charleston Row. Look at it on Google maps. It’s new so all the buildings wont show up in street view. It’s 3 story product built up to the street creating a walkable streetscape. And its WAY OUT in the suburbs. Most cities are building 3 – 5 story walkable neighborhoods out in the suburbs and 5+ story walkable neighborhoods in urban environments.

    Meanwhile were proposing 3 story and single family home neighborhoods just outside of downtown that aren’t mixed use at all like Jeffrey Park and office complex and strip malls like at Kaplin.

    Basically take the most urban projects that Columbus has to offer like Columbus Commons or the Hubbard and this is what other cities are building in their suburbs. 10 years from now the suburbs of Charlotte will be more walkable then downtown Columbus.

    And the problem is that you have local developers that don’t know anything about building in the urban environment. Take this Kaplin site plan. Why not just simply move all the buildings proposed up to the grandview ave and dublin rd intersection and leave most of the parking to the rear. Basically make a town square sort of layout around that intersection with walkable streets and street retail between the buildings. Then as time goes on you go back and replace the asphalt parking lots with additional building and structured parking.

    So essentially this:

    It’s almost the exact same buildings just laid out differently. I’d also have metered parking along the streets for the retail on the ground floor of the office. Then in a few years if demand permits you go back and turn the office parking lot into a structure parking lot with retail on the circumference of the ground floor and residential above. The same thing goes for the big box parking lot, you could easily fit a couple apartment complexes above parking with retail scattered throughout. So you could live above the office parking lot across the street from work and have a lot of cool retail amenities all within walking distance. And again I’m talking about building the exact same thing they want right now, just laying it out so I have room to build more options in the future.

  • futureman

    I was going off the Grandview Yard website that calls for 1.5-2m sf of commercial, and the MORPC which called for up to 1.8m sf. Looking back the MORPC plan that includes other property beyond the Kaplan site, so I stand corrected.

    IMO the whole area around Dublin Rd and Grandview Ave needs to be demolished. It’s nothing more than odd cluster of run down commercial property scattered in a nonsensical manner with heavy fast traffic in the mix. Needs a clean slate treatment.

    I also much prefer your sketch of the layout over Wagenbrenner’s classic take on a suburban style big box layout. It’s a long way off before anything happens at this site, so I hope a better plan is implemented.

  • InnerCore

    I agree a lot in the area needs demolished. I think if you instituted a plan more like my sketch a lot of that would just because those sites would become so much more valuable if redeveloped to fit in with that plan. The town center format would basically flow to the granview/dublin intersection and then slowly spread out in all directions eating up all the crappy buildings and then the large parking lots behind them.

    I’m hoping most of these plans don’t get built as well. Building one wrong isn’t that bad but when you build Kiplin, Jeffrey Park, Weinland and Timken all wrong it starts to add up. I guess that leaves room for real urban neighborhoods in other areas like say Franklinton but that’s a ways off. The only think I like from Wagenbrenner is the Hubbard. And like I pointed out most other cities are building that in the suburbs. I like that they added a bit more density in Harrison but I have friends who live there now and you basically cant walk to anything. Maybe giant eagle but a 15 min walk to the grocery store and a 15 min walk back carrying groceries is further than what most will do. Had they just put in maybe a few thousand square feet of retail for someone to open up maybe a bar, a dry cleaners or a really cool neighborhood restaurant. Because of zoning you cant go into the single family home areas and do anything like that so on their multifamily lots it would have be great.

    Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

    It’s a really cool restaurant called Flour + Water. Had they just put a couple retail/restaurant spaces on a couple corners of their project it would have made all the difference for that neighborhood.

  • futureman


    If you like The Hubbard I suggest you checkout The Windsor on Grandview ave (http://www.columbusunderground.com/forums/topic/update-grandview-ave-former-kingswood-building-rendering). IMO the project turned out great, high ceilings for the first floor retail with three stories of apartments above. They partnered with the church next door and a public lot across the street for parking to keep the costs down. Looks very much like The Hubbard. Wagenbrenner can make a quality urban building given the location. FYI they own most of Grandview Ave as well.

  • InnerCore


    The Windsor is a step in the right direction but from an urban design the parking is the reason I don’t like the project. Think if you expanded that model. Let’s be cheap and not build structure parking so we have nice buildings up and down Grandview ave and then have parking lots running up and down the two parallel streets.

    That sucks for the houses on Hollywood Pl that are staring at a parking lot. Think if you went into upper arlington and wanted to tear down a house on a street of Lane to build a parking lot. Very poor urban design. Hopefully they can break that agreement in the near future and eventually build on that parking lot. They should have built structured parking and then built additional units to pay for it. More like the condos at Gradview and 3rd.

    To me it seams that since people in Columbus think of development primarily in terms of getting to and from the development only by car they think linear and not circular. High st has the same problem. Lets put everything cool running up and down High st with nothing going east and west. So then you have a great street but it really isn’t walkable. Most people only walk a quarter mile or about 5 min so you really have to build in all directions. No one is going to walk from the cap all the way up to Kroger. And this is what hurts the retail because you don’t get enough walk by traffic. Imagine if they built a mall in one long line.

    The Hubbard does a better job at doing this. It has structured parking and the retail runs not only along High st. but also along Hubbard extending the streetscape not only north and south but east and west.

    I agree that Wagenbrenner (and most developers) can build a quality product given the location (or rather the external pressures). Like most developers they usually build the cheapest product required to get the biggest profit. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it means you need to have good zoning, review boards, public input, etc.

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