Designing the 15th and High Urban Framework Plan and Development in Columbus, Ohio
In 2013, the non-profit redevelopment corporation Campus Partners, MKSK, and University senior leadership came together to envision a future for the private and University-owned land on the east side of High Street across from The Ohio State University’s main campus surrounding the intersection of 15th Avenue and High Street.
The 15th & High Street Urban Framework Plan was developed as the new vision for this “Gateway” to the University and the surrounding neighborhood and established the commitments Campus Partners would make to the improvement of the 15th and High District and well-being of the community as a result of the future rezoning of the area.
The Framework Plan established design guidelines for the six-block area that satisfies both key urban design and economic feasibility considerations with the following goals:
1) Promote a vibrant, mixed use environment
2) Create a new community gathering space
3) Prioritize pedestrians
4) Reconnect neighborhood streets, and
5) Address parking issues all within a dynamic, vertically integrated mixed-use campus development and University landmark.
Through this planning effort, MKSK helped to create the block and street layout, analyze the parking needs and vehicular/pedestrian circulation, and produced the details for the public square, streetscape, and building frontage design for the new development area.
The Plan proposed a more rational District street grid to improve traffic movement and provide clearer sightlines from east of High Street to the University’s Oval and beyond to the west; a signature building anchoring the easterly terminus of a 15th Avenue axis bisecting the Oval with the William Oxley Thompson Library as its westerly terminus; mixed-use buildings with active ground floor uses; and a high quality, walkable, pedestrian-oriented environment with new parking designed to enrich the pedestrian environment.
Through several months of properties acquisitions and land swaps between Campus Partners and area developers and property owners and an extension of the TIF district area for the University District, this secured an agreement with the City of Columbus to infrastructure funding to realize the first phase of construction in late 2016, with enabling demolition of existing buildings and infrastructure.
The full development is anticipated for completion by the end of 2022. According to the latest news from the University’s website, the 15+HIGH project is 60% complete with Building A, which will house the University Office of Advancement, scheduled to open in May.
As part of a comprehensive team of engineering and design partners under RAMSA as Design Advisor to Campus Partners, MKSK is part of the infrastructure team assisting with the urban design and landscape architecture for the public spaces within the development area. The design approach to realign 15th Avenue at High Street accommodates a new plaza and gateway between the neighborhood and the University, fronting on the OSU Arts District.
MKSK is leading the design and implementation of University Square which will serve as the physical and visual link between the University District east of High Street and the entry to the University campus west of High Street. Other components of the 15+HIGH development include the reimagination of Pearl Alley which will be transformed into a vibrant pedestrian alleyway utilizing reclaimed bricks and salvaged historic materials, as well as new buildings that will house a parking garage, the WOSU production studios, and University academic offices with first floor commercial offerings (restaurants, bars and retail).
Once complete, 16 acres of rezoned development area will form a new vibrant and historic gateway for the University as a connector to the neighborhoods, providing a mix of amenities in a dynamic and walkable new urban district.
MKSK is the landscape architectural designer for the outdoor spaces that were featured on the 2021 Urban Living Tour, including the third-floor courtyard and pool deck with dog park at The Nicholas and exterior spaces for the Apartments at the Yard featuring Brooks Building & Yard Club amenities. These features were included in the Urban Living Tour booklets and are being featured on Columbus Underground. For more information, visit mkskstudios.com.