Fast Forward: The Parsons Avenue Corridor
The Parsons Avenue corridor on the South Side of Columbus has long been predicted as the future site of growth and redevelopment. Recent years have seen the beginning of that trend taking shape with plenty of potential yet to come due to the area’s current abundance of underutilized parcels of land and properties.
When looking at the street’s current layout between Interstate 70 to the north and the rail yard to the south, the current redevelopment patterns seem to be clustered around three main nodes. The northern and most rapidly changing area is at the intersection of Parsons Avenue and Livingston Avenue where the main campus of Nationwide Children’s Hospital sits. The far south node is clustered around Reeb Avenue and contains multiple developments tied to affordable housing and related services. Lastly, the central node is clustered around the stretch of Parsons between Whittier and Thurman that is primarily a collection of small business efforts.
Combined, the projects that make up the current redevelopment efforts on Parsons Avenue equate to a sizable amount of changes to the area.
More Than 425 New Residents Will Soon Call The Area Home
To date, the largest market-rate residential project is an expansion behind Village Pointe near the intersection of Livingston Avenue and Parsons Avenue, which is currently under construction. Once completed, this development will bring 163 new apartment units to the area, which could serve employees of the nearby Nationwide Children’s Hospital campus and beyond.
On the south end of Parsons, two vacant lots are being transformed into 122 units of affordable housing. One project is a three story building from the Community Housing Network that will serve the chronically homeless and those with mental illnesses. The second building is being constructed by the NRP Group and Community Development for All People, which would be four-stories of senior housing with ground floor common area space.
A small but noteworthy residential project is a two-unit residential shipping container project located just a block off Parsons on Whittier. The couple working on that project hope to replicate the idea on other open parcels of land in the surrounding neighborhood if possible.
Over 60,000 Square Feet of New Commercial Space
The three-story Village Pointe building was completed in 2014, adding 36,000 square feet of commercial space to Parsons Avenue. Businesses that have taken up home in the building include Fitness Lofts, Alchemy, Strut Salon, The Crest and Local Matters.
Another sizable private development project is East Public, a multi-purpose facility just south of Beck Street that will be home to a co-working space, a restaurant, a brewery, and additional office space. Just south of Whittier Street, two historic buildings were renovated in 2016 to relaunch as The Eisen, which contain five new ground-floor retail spaces, most of which are already occupied. Several blocks south at Deshler Avenue is a building slated for renovation into Community Grounds, a coffee shop project that would bring much-needed community space to the area, although the project has been delayed multiple times.
One of the most interesting commercial transformations is that of a beer and wine drive-thru into a fresh food drive-thru. The Fresh Market launched this summer at 945 Parsons Ave., and is operated by the Church for All People. Just a bit further south is Two Dollar Radio, a new bookstore-slash-cafe-slash-bar located at 1124 Parsons Ave.
Additionally, the aforementioned four-story senior housing building located just north of Reeb will contain 4,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.
Nearly 425,000 Square Feet of New Office, Medical and Community Space
Nationwide Children’s Hospital is the single largest contributor to new office space in the area, with multiple new buildings completed within the past several years. Currently, work is under way on a new nine-story building on Livingston Avenue just a block from Parsons, which will house 386,000 square feet of medical office, research and treatment space once completed in 2020. The building is just one of several being added to the area in an ongoing $730 million campus expansion.
The Columbus Metropolitan Library recently rebuilt their Parsons Avenue branch, just a little further south between Stewart and Deshler Avenues.
Bookending the south end of Parsons Avenue, the $8.6 million Maloney Health Center celebrated its grand opening in 2013, bringing public health services to those in need, including focuses on women’s health, children’s health, family medicine, nutrition services and other areas. Nearby, the Reeb Avenue Center built upon those efforts with the launch of 18,000 square feet of renovated space that offers social service space to multiple local nonprofits including the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and The Boys & Girls Club.
New Highways and Fruit Orchards Are Coming Soon
The ongoing multiphase reconstruction of Interstates 71 and 70 through Downtown Columbus is likely to have an impact on Parsons Avenue starting in 2018. What’s known as “Project 2D — East Interchange” was delayed due to lack of funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation, and will see the complete rebuilding of the highway’s infrastructure just north of Children’s Hospital. The $166 million project will affect Parsons Avenue directly, as the street will be rebuilt to travel under the highway, rather than over it as is currently configured.
On the south end of Parsons Avenue, a collaborative project with the Wexner Center for the Arts called “Fallen Fruit” will see the installation of a small community fruit orchard.
Future Potential New Development
Perhaps larger than any individual project on Parsons Avenue to date is the nearly unlimited potential that this neighborhood-defining street has to offer for future growth. Many unique historic buildings dot the landscape of Parsons Avenue, offering an entry point for entrepreneurs and small businesses who want to grow here in the future, while an abundance of outdated strip mall buildings and parking lots allow for larger scale infill to accommodate more new residents, offices and retailers.
If the momentum continues to grow, the trajectory of the area can likely be tracked in a similar fashion to the Short North, where surface parking lots have gradually given way to taller buildings, and a continued influx of new residents have allowed more and more retail and restaurant businesses to become more successful.
All photos by Walker Evans.
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