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Interview: Bridge Park Developers Talk Demand, Sales, and the Importance of an Urban Grocery Store

Brent Warren Brent Warren Interview: Bridge Park Developers Talk Demand, Sales, and the Importance of an Urban Grocery Store
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With four five-story buildings currently under construction, four more scheduled to go vertical in March, and an eight-story hotel (along with an events center, offices and a parking garage) on track to break ground by May, this is poised to be the year that Crawford Hoying’s ambitious Bridge Park development makes the transition from plan to reality. The first residents, restaurants and office tenants could be moving in before the end of the year.

The first phase (marked Block C on the overall site plan) will hold 153 apartments, over 81,000 square feet of office space, almost 50,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and an 869-space parking structure. The second phase (Block B) will add even more apartments, a similar amount of commercial, and another parking structure.

And all of that doesn’t even include what’s happening west of the river — dubbed Bridge Park West – where construction started last year on 42 condos and over 30,000 square feet of office and retail at the northern edge of Dublin’s Historic District.

A pedestrian bridge linking the two sides of the river and a new city park along the east bank are both still in the design phase.

Columbus Underground recently sat down with some of the Crawford Hoying leadership team to get the latest on the project. What follows are excerpts from that conversation, including some interesting revelations about the strength of the restaurant market, the demographics of those showing an interest in living in the development, and the details behind what could be a first for the region; a new grocery store with multiple floors of apartments above.

On the Demand for Restaurant Space –

Matthew Starr, Director of Development: Interest has been really strong (in general), and we’ll start seeing some of those announcements soon. It’s restaurant interest for the most part now – people that have always wanted to come into this market, but they can’t find the right parking solution. It’s still Columbus, most people are still going to drive, especially up here in the suburbs…it will take time to get them oriented to this kind of development.

Brent Crawford, Principal: Restaurant is probably the biggest component of the development…restuarants are going relatively well, we could have probably 30 if we wanted them. Of course that wouldn’t make sense for the development, but realistically we may have 10 or 12 on the east side.

Bob Hoying, Principal: You’re going to be walkable to 15 or 20 new restuarants, a five minute walk, from the core of the development.

On Residential Sales and Early Interest from Renters –

Crawford: Condo sales are going well, we have about eight or nine units left out of the 42 (in Bridge Park West), which has happened with really limited advertising, we’ve run maybe two or three ads, total. Just word of mouth, other people told other people, and it’s for the most part empty nesters, people leaving Muirfield, Westwood, Tarten Fields.

Same story every time, they’re 55 to 70, want to be walkable, they thought about going to Northbank or somewhere else, but they don’t really want to be downtown. They love Dublin, they have friends up here. We’ve got people with groups of friends, like three or four of them in the building.

Hoying: H Block is also going to be a for-sale product, we’ve have been talking with a couple groups about that.

Starr: I think it’s very similar to what you’re seeing Wagenbrenner do, with the project in Grandview, that kind of product type, or Jeffrey-type stuff, or a Harrison West-type of product is really what we’re thinking of there, because the average price on the (Bridge Park West) condos has been around $800,000, so we know there’s a market there. And those are around 2,500 square feet…people still need three bedrooms for their kids coming back to town, grandkids, and they still have stuff. And most of them will have two-car garages, although there will be some one-car garage households.

We’re seeing, on the apartment side, just like we’ve seen in other places, empty-nesters are gonna play a huge part of it, so the calls we’re getting already, for the most part, are empty nesters. We have two people that want to sign leases, both retirees that live to the north. That’s ten months ahead of a unit being available, they’re ready to sign a lease, that’s pretty rare.

We also have met with Wendy’s, we’ve met with Cardinal Health, we know that they have a lot of reverse commuters. Those are people that could live here, and once the pedestrian bridge is complete, you could live at Bridge Park and ride your bike to Cardinal Health and be there in five minutes, you could walk and be there in 15 minutes.

We know a lot of those people are just heading down Riverside Drive every day to head to Grandview, or downtown, or wherever they’re living, we think we’ll capture a fair amount of those people. You’ve probably heard people talk about the barbell – the millennials and the empty nesters – that’s sort of the tenancy that we really expect to see.

On the Demand for Office Space –

Starr: We’re moving our offices there, we’ll take a top floor, another full-floor user that’s coming over, and we have several smaller users. Now that people can see construction coming out of the ground, there’s a lot more interest, too. C Block right now is 60% leased in terms of office and retail.

A lot of the interest has been from Dublin companies, but I would say just recently we’ve had a few inquires form people that are at Polaris – they’re tired of dealing with the traffic, and want a walkable solution. These are smaller users, but they see this as an alternative, because their people live along that northern arc (of I-270) so having them come here may even save them time, once you factor in the traffic. They’re worried about Ikea coming in, how much more traffic that’s going to add to the interchange, so I think we’ll see some of that, and we’ll see other users.

On the Development of an Urban Grocery Store –

Starr: We are working on a grocery deal for Block D (at the northern edge of the development) which would probably be not until 2018 sometime, maybe even 2019, in terms of opening. But it would be just a huge catalyst for the neighborhood. It is a challenge for these environments, getting that grocery piece that’s really walkable.

We ended up with that when I was with Nationwide (Realty Investors), but with the Giant Eagle (on West Third Ave, across from Grandview Yard), it’s still not entirely walkable. It’s there, but it sits back, and there’s a huge parking lot in front. This would be the opposite of that, this would have residential stacked on top of it, supported by a parking garage, so it would be a true urban solution.

That’s why it’s complicated, and it would take a long time…it’s the engineering components and how does the interface work and the design, and how does the parking garage work with it. But, they do it in other places, so we’ll be able to figure it out, there’s plenty of models for it that work. We’re excited, because I think when you add that component to it, it’s a game-changer for a neighborhood like that.

For more information, visit www.crawfordhoying.com.

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