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31-Story North Market Proposal to be Heard by Commissions

Brent Warren Brent Warren 31-Story North Market Proposal to be Heard by CommissionsA view of the proposed project from Spruce Street. All renderings by NBBJ.
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A proposal to build a large, mixed-use tower in the North Market’s parking lot has been refined and will be presented to two different design review commissions later this month.

Originally proposed in 2017, there have been no public updates on the project since the summer of 2019, when a new design was unveiled and later presented to the Downtown Commission.

The latest iteration of the project calls for a taller building than the 2019 version; 31 stories instead of 26. Other changes include an increase in the number of residential units (170 versus 150), a new central gathering space with an indoor/outdoor bar, a courtyard with space for independent retailers, and wellness offerings available to hotel guests, residents and locals that a press release describes as a “modern-day, inclusive social club.”

Still included in the development is a hotel, office space, and an attached parking garage. The existing North Market building will remain largely as it is – with vendors remaining open during construction – but its footprint will be expanded by about 50 percent.

“The biggest change is just the scope of the project,” said Jim Merkel, CEO of Rockbridge, the locally-based company that is taking the lead on developing the 700,000-square-foot building. “We added amenities…it’s a much bigger project and a bigger investment than originally contemplated, and we’re committed to making it happen, and to making it happen the right way – it’s a truly transformational project for Columbus and the North Market.”

Although some things did take more time due to the pandemic, Merkel said the project was never really stalled from Rockbridge’s perspective – they have been working on it behind the scenes for the last two years, alongside partners at the City of Columbus and the North Market.

Here’s a breakdown of the different elements of the new proposal:

  • 31 stories tall (up from 26 stories in 2019)
  • 11,000-square-foot North Market expansion
  • 170+ residential units (up from 150 in 2019)
  • 60,000 square feet of office space (down from 90,000 in 2019)
  • 212-room hotel
  • indoor-outdoor bar, restaurant, and retail
  • 350 space parking garage

Twenty percent of the residential units in the building (about 35 total) will be for reserved for “workforce housing,” or units that will rent for less than market rate. A city spokesperson confirmed that those units will meet the guidelines established by its tax abatement policies, meaning half of the apartments will be affordable to those making 80 percent of the area median income and the other half affordable to those making 100 percent of the AMI.

“We’re excited about creating a truly inclusive project that welcomes everyone through it, just like the market has for generations,” said Merkel.

Rockbridge also announced today that Jeff Edwards, CEO and President of the Edwards Companies, is now a partner in the project. Merkel confirmed that Schiff Capital Group and Wood Companies – the two local developers that put together the original 2017 proposal for the North Market parking lot – still maintained “some economic incentives, but are not involved in the project on a day-to-day basis.”

One other detail shared by Merkel is that the development could be in line to receive a new state tax credit (passed last year as Senate Bill 39) that is designed specifically to incentivize, “transformational mixed use development projects” in the state.

The project is scheduled to be reviewed by the Historic Resources Commission on September 16 and the Downtown Commission on September 28. A vote of approval from both boards is necessary before the project can move on – if the two certificates of appropriateness are awarded, construction is expected to start by summer of 2022.

“North Market must evolve to stay relevant and prosperous – especially at a time when so many small businesses need creative plans for recovery,” said North Market Executive Director Rick Harrison Wolfe, in a statement. “Merchants have always been the resilient heart and soul of North Market and it’s only fitting that we celebrate that incredible spirit as we expand our mission with this project.”

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