COTA to Buy Greyhound Station, ‘Substantial’ Development Planned for Site
The Central Ohio Transit Authority is in contract to buy the Greyhound station Downtown for $9.5 million. The agency plans to tear down the aging facility and wants to see a mixed-use, transit-oriented development constructed on the 2.5-acre site, although there are many details still to be worked out about who would oversee the project and exactly what it would look like.
As part of the deal, Greyhound’s operations will shift to COTA’s existing Rich Street terminal, which is located about a block away, on the ground floor of the Columbus Commons parking garage.
It’s a strategy Greyhound has been employing around the country – selling off large, often deteriorating stations in central locations and working with local transit agencies to lease space in more modest facilities nearby.
When Terry Foegler, COTA’s Chief Development Officer, started at the agency last summer, he learned that Greyhound had recently reached out about potentially using one of COTA’s terminals.
“I told Greyhound, we’ll talk with you about negotiating a sublease of Rich Street, if you give us the exclusive right to talk to you about the [station] site,” he said. “They were going to put it on the market, [but] signed a letter of intent to work with us.”
Those talks started well before the City of Columbus sued Greyhound earlier this summer, declaring the station a public nuisance and the source of hundreds of emergency calls in the last year.
The city and the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC) will be partners in the development – and other entities or private companies could be involved in bringing the project to fruition – but it’s important that COTA retain control of the site, said Foegler.
“Our intent is to work very cooperatively with them and others…to meet our needs and broader goals,” he said, explaining that the most basic of those goals is to accommodate the need for a new, expanded COTA facility Downtown.
“The LinkUs initiative is picking up lot of steam, and with the two [transit] corridors being developed, there’ll be a convergence happening in Downtown, and a greater need for facilities to handle that convergence,” Foegler said, although he stressed that the physical footprint of the transit element will only be a small part of the larger redevelopment.
Expect a “very substantial” urban development that “adds vibrancy, walkability and density” to the area, he added. “A significant amount of development could happen on that site, and to the extent it doesn’t require parking, that much more could happen…one of COTA’s goals will be to try and make sure these uses reinforce the use of transit.”
Potential uses include office, mixed-income residential, and retail, and COTA could even decide to move its offices into the new development, Foegler said, allowing it to sell off other assets, like its current office building near the corner of Broad and High.
Foegler has a history of bringing significant mixed-use developments to life in the region. As Dublin City Manager (and, later, the Director of Strategic Initiatives), he was heavily involved in both planning and implementing the city’s Bridge Park vision, creating a new urban core near the suburb’s historic center. And as President of Campus Partners he played a similar role in the creation of the Gateway development on High Street.
“I think that’s part of the reason [COTA CEO] Joanna [Pinkerton] reached out to me,” Foegler said. “She knows that for transit to do what transit needs to accomplish, there has to be associated development.”
The purchase agreement for the site has already been executed and will be voted on by the COTA Board of Trustees on June 28. COTA has also renegotiated its lease for the Rich Street terminal with garage owner Capitol South (which shares a board and staff with the CDDC), to allow a sublease to Greyhound.
Foegler believes the project is coming along at a time when the interests of COTA, the city, and the CDDC are all aligning. As for how exactly it will move forward or which entity will take the lead on shepherding the project through the development process, he said that will all be worked out after more decisions are made about its size and scope.
It will be a second chance for the site – which has an official address of 111 E. Town St. but takes up most of a city block – after the 1960s urban renewal project that resulted in the building of the bus station (and required the demolition of the historic Central Market).
“That plan missed the mark,” Foegler said, “the site was grossly underutilized.”