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City Council Passes Downtown Public Restroom Proposal

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman City Council Passes Downtown Public Restroom ProposalHigh Street in Downtown Columbus — Photo by Walker Evans.
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Columbus City Council passed legislation last night entering into agreement with Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District to install at least three new public restroom facilities Downtown.

Funding for the project will come from the CARES Act’s Community Development Block Grant, received by the City of Columbus last year. Grant dollars must be used for activities that benefit low- and moderate-income individuals by providing housing, permanent jobs, a public service, or access to new or significantly improved infrastructure, or eliminate blighted conditions.

Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown, who sponsored the ordinance, said during Council’s Monday meeting the facilities will help address the current limited access to clean and safe restrooms.

“I’m excited to bring this funding forward, which recognizes that clean and secure public restroom facilities provide a level of dignity and comfort to individuals who often lack reliable access to these amenities, such as those experiencing homelessness,” said Brown.

Outside of use by vulnerable populations, Brown said the addition of public restroom facilities would benefit visitors and Downtown employees as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

“As we continue moving toward the end of pandemic restrictions…the return of conventions, sporting events, tourists, and workers to Downtown is on the horizon,” she said. “An expected increase in activites and people make this infrustructure to enhance the vibrancy and accessiblity of Downtown particularly important.”

An environmental review and community planning process will take place before determining exact locations for the facilities, Brown said.

Lisa Defendiefer, deputy director of operations for the Capital Crossroads and Discovery Special Improvement Districts, said the locations of the facilities will also be dependent on ADA and right-of-way requirements as well as utility access.

Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District board member and Columbus Association for the Performing Arts Vice President of Operations Jason Gay said the lack of public restrooms Downtown has been a problem for decades, with the pandemic exacerbating the issue.

“Right now [vulnerable individuals] are often forced to go in locations that put their own health at risk and put the health of others at risk, including around CAPA buildings, unfortunately,” he said.

He added that the High Street corridor is in high need for public restrooms. Funding will allow SID to purchase and install three to five permanent, “attractive and easily accessible restrooms,” which will be available year-round.

Defendiefer said the community outreach process would begin right away, with SIDs staff reaching out to Downtown business owners, residents, and stakeholders near high-need locations. Staff will also begin an architecture and engineering selection process sometime this month.

Restroom style, maintenance, safety considerations and other details on the project would be determined during SID meetings and finalized this fall with the Downtown Commission and City Council.

Constructions will begin in spring of 2022 and wrap up by next fall.

Brown said Council would consider how similar projects could take place in other parts of the city in the future.

For more information, visit downtownservices.org.

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