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Why can't Columbus think bigger/denser when it comes to downtown development?

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Why can't Columbus think bigger/denser when it comes to downtown development?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 33 total)
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  • #1087444

    WJT
    Participant

    Other cities in the same size range(urban area) or smaller with development proposals in the last year or so.
    And this is leaving out the usual Portland, Charlotte, Austin:

    Nearby:

    Pittsburgh: 33, 13, 20 floors.
    Cleveland: 54 floors.
    Cincinnati: 30 floors.
    Indianapolis: 28 floors.

    Others:

    Allentown: 33 floors
    Oklahoma City: 27, 25, 26 floors.
    Fort Worth: 26, 23 floors.
    Omaha: 16, 14, 12, 20 floors.
    Milwaukee: 44, 52, 37 floors.
    Salt Lake City: 21, 24, 19 floors.
    Nashville: 30, 35, 22 45 floors.
    Greensboro: 28 floors.
    Richmond: 20 floors.
    Baltimore: 33, 29 floors.
    Kansas City: 25 floors.

    Yes Columbus has a nice 12 story mixed used building up, and another 17 floor mixed used building proposed, bringing density(and height) to important areas close to the spine of the city (High street). But they came about because they come with ready made structured parking-the old City Center Garages.

    With height there can be much greater density where greater density is needed. There is only so much density you can get with 5 or 6 floors, especially at key points close to High(the natural first site for any real upgrade in downtown public transit). All of these cities-many smaller than Columbus-have at least proposals up for some highrise projects-how come they can do it, but we can’t?

    A quote from a Greensboro, North Carolina(much smaller than Cbus) developer: ““I’m always working on the next project,” the developer told the Greensboro Rotary Club on Wednesday. “One of the things we need to do as a community is dream bigger.”
    http://www.greensboro.com/business/carroll-may-build-city-s-tallest-office-tower-updated/article_d8c252ca-1519-11e5-b603-cb5d2946aebc.html

    What do you think?
    Why can these cities think bigger but Columbus can’t?
    Do you even agree with the premise that taller/denser is needed at certain points?
    Is Columbus lacking something these cities have?

    If it is parking as the article in the development section stated, don’t these cities have the same issue to deal with? Yet they still have proposals.

    #1087446

    Nancy H
    Participant

    It is difficult to just compare different cities. Like people, they are all unique. I don’t think people in Columbus have a problem with taller buildings. In Columbus it all (perhaps always) boils down to parking.

    In another thread somewhere here on CU (I think it was Inner Core) said for now, all we are going to add in the way of downtown housing in Columbus is on the luxury end. Basic construction costs (a furnace, electrician’s wages, etc) are the same regardless of low income or luxury units. Land costs in downtown is high. The construction process itself is a nightmare in terms of staging and just in time deliveries of materials. The units cost more, even if they are tiny.

    Luxury unit dwellers want a car because right now there are not enough day to day services in downtown Columbus. You might be willing to ride a bike, take the bus or use C2G. The average middle and upper aged person is not.

    Food is a fairly basic need. Using The Edwards Building at Gay and High as an example – the closest grocery store is Hills Market. It is just over half a mile away. That is not that far. A bike is likely out of the question for grocery shopping. COTA is not much help either because you are limited to what you can physically carry in your arms/hands. C2G is a better option, but who knows if you will find a parking space within several blocks of your apartment/condo. Walking is fine when the weather is nice. And you can use one of those folding cart things if you are buying more than you can carry in your arms. About a 13 to 15 minute walk (one way). Weather makes walking unreliable. And I am not just talking snow. Nobody wants to spend half an hour walking in the rain to get something as simple as toilet paper or toothpaste.

    I am basically opposed to the City building a bunch of parking garages to make some of these projects work taller. It is such a band-aid approach. I was working on thoughts for a new post “what would you pay for mass transit.” I do think that is the only way we will get downtown and the surrounding older neighborhoods built up to where we have a thriving dense urban environment.

    #1087466

    Roger846
    Participant

    As many others and I said on the Gay and High topic, I think the real problem is one of a small-town, 30 years ago culture and attitude among the “titans”, city leaders and developers, many of whom may be older and grew up with that attitude that Columbus isn’t as good as anywhere else. The two exceptions I can think of are Kaufman and Pizutti, who have built nice, taller buildings. The others don’t seem to realize that in the last 20 years, a lot of people have moved here from out of town who aren’t suburban types and might not even care about Ohio State, god forbid!:-) They want to live in a big city where things are happening.

    In terms of the mass transit versus parking debate, I think we need both short, medium and longer term solutions. The short and medium term options might be more parking garages and more funding for COTA. The medium-longer term solution clearly seems to be light rail and street cars or something better, and much taller buildings to increase density. We shouldn’t ignore short term solutions like more parking just to focus on the more desired long term solution of mass transit.

    I think Columbus has maybe gotten complacent over the last 10 years or so by being in some top 10 lists. But, as we rest on our laurels, other cities have been and are continuing to pass us by. In an article I saw today by Business Facilities on the top cities for economic growth, etc., Columbus wasn’t on a single one of their multiple top 10 lists
    (http://businessfacilities.com/2015/07/texas-utah-top-flagship-business-economic-rankings/). Eventually, people will stop moving here and start moving away for more exciting cities. People like to live in growing, exciting cities where things are happening.

    I’m hoping the “titans”, city leaders and citizens start working on this before it’s too late. But, based on experience, I’m not going to count on it.

    #1087470

    waters767
    Participant

    I don’t think you need to have 20,30 plus stories. More height will come once the infill is complete and the demand outweighs the cost. I would rather see 50 – 6 story buildings than 6 – 50 story buildings.

    Cities like DC, Paris, London do just fine with density based on 6 story buildings. There are areas in franklinton, jefferson to 5th, around columbus state, east of the commons, etc that have so much opportunity. Those areas filling in will go a lot further towards the “critical mass” needed to support the retail/entertainment/transit (and the high rises you desire) that will take downtown to a 24/7 destination we all want to have.

    #1087476

    WJT
    Participant

    I don’t think you need to have 20,30 plus stories. More height will come once the infill is complete and the demand outweighs the cost. I would rather see 50 – 6 story buildings than 6 – 50 story buildings.

    Cities like DC, Paris, London do just fine with density based on 6 story buildings. There are areas in franklinton, jefferson to 5th, around columbus state, east of the commons, etc that have so much opportunity. Those areas filling in will go a lot further towards the “critical mass” needed to support the retail/entertainment/transit (and the high rises you desire) that will take downtown to a 24/7 destination we all want to have.

    It is not about height- I just listed what other cities have proposed-it is about density. And you can only get so much density in 6 story buildings, especially in important areas. 6 story buildings are fine as infill for most of downtown-but not in key areas along what is probably going to be our major pubic transit route(of any type): High street.

    How do you get the same density as a 12 story building by building a 6 story building on the same lot? Again it is not about height or a ‘skyline’. 12 floors stuck between 500 foot buildings a few blocks north and 500 foot buildings a few block south will do nothing for the skyline. There is already a 12 story building at the southeast corner of Long and High-directly across from the recent 6 story proposal on High. It has little impact on the skyline. But a 12 floor project could double the density of that proposal and with a few others could bring enough residents within a block or two of High(and it’s public transit) to allow something like a Target Express or something to take root along High.

    The ‘critical mass’ is enough residents close enough to (yes) parking and transit routes to allow more retail than bars and restaurants to become self sustaining downtown and make it more than just a highrise office park.

    12 floors and 500 units in the same space as 6 floors and 250 units in critical areas of downtown, close to existing employment nodes(walkable to the Nationwide complex and the offices around the Statehouse), walkable to the Gay Street restaurant/bar area, next to main transit routes(Cbus circulator along High and Front) will do much more to make downtown more vibrant than 6 floor residential with half the density scattered about the 1.5 square miles of our downtown.

    ‘More height will come once the infill is complete’- where will that height(meaning density) go when High and everything within a quarter mile of it is filled with less dense 5 and 6 floor buildings? Do we start knocking down the new stuff, or knock down what little we have left of our architectural history? Or do the higher density higher buildings get relegated to the fringes where they will have the least effect?

    Miranova is 27 floors and exactly how much does it contribute to the street level activity of the city, sitting in it’s own little fiefdom at the edge of downtown?

    I would rather have 12 floors in the right spot, than 6 floors in the right spot, or 27 floors in the wrong spot.

    It is about density in the right locations!

    #1087479

    dcariens
    Participant

    Columbus has the potential to be a great city, but is hampered by small minded business leaders. Other cities are building downtown streetcar/rail systems as a convenient way of getting around. Not Columbus. Other cities are building much taller buildings. Not Columbus. Columbus is the largest city in Ohio yet it built a 12 story convention hotel while Cleveland builds a 30 story hotel. Columbus builds 6-12 story structures while Cincinnati builds 20-40 story structures. Columbus’ economy is far stronger than Cleveland’s and Cincinnati’s–there is something wrong with this picture. What is wrong is the business community. I cannot believe that the Edwards company is only building six stories along High Street. Don’t tell me it is because of parking. They could include parking as part of the structure given the size of the parcels they are building on.

    #1087484

    jbcmh81
    Participant

    I don’t want to be responsible for a bitching fest about the city, because that really wasn’t my intention. My posts in the Gay and High thread were born largely out of frustration. There are lots of really good urban projects going on around Columbus… many more than not.

    That said, Downtown is getting the shaft imo. For every decent project there (250 High, Julian, etc), there are wasted opportunities (HighPoint, Annex at RiverSouth, the Convention Center, etc.). Downtown gets treated the exact same, for the most part, as any other neighborhood, and that shouldn’t be happening. It should not get the same level of projects as the Short North or Clintonville or OTE. It’s the very heart of the city and deserves to be treated that way. I thought the 2010 standards would actually push for greater density, yet we’re still getting more low-rise projects than not, even on the city’s premiere thoroughfare. Low-mid rise might be fine in the further reaches of Downtown like E. Long, Gay and 4th, but they’re not on High or adjacent to High.

    Yes we need bigger thinking developers and more urban-minded leadership. That goes without saying. And yes, this might all be solved if there was decent public transit, but does anyone see that as likely anytime soon? The last halfway serious proposal was 8 years ago, as even the Airport-Downtown rail line now seems more like a long-term suggestion rather than a real push considering there’s just about zero activity on that front. I’m not sure what leadership is waiting for. Columbus is literally the only city of its size left which doesn’t have rail, isn’t constructing rail or isn’t even seriously considering proposals for it. Long-term, this is going to be a bigger and bigger problem when it comes to attracting population. What sets Columbus apart when every other city has significant amenities that it doesn’t even think about?

    #1087486

    CB_downtowner
    Participant

    I’m mixed. I do feel strongly that we need density, alternative transportation, and a strong downtown core. Definitely need more diversity of income levels, especially in encouraging more residents who want to use alt transportation. Guess I’m not as obsessed that it has to happen on High st. Bad as highpoint was, I don’t think the Kaufman or lc projects happen without it. Similarly, Edwards mentioned considering a higher hotel near High and Gay and bet they were being sincere about that.

    I guess I disagree that it’s bad to see density in short north or Miranova in brewery district. We have a unique ability to turn High st into one large connector. The last domino to fall is high and Gay. Even if 6 stories isn’t ideal, maybe it’s the kick in the pants needed. At this stage, I would love for one fully connected high st. Hopefully that puzzle piece will finally encourage much needed density focused development between nationwide and long, and along the river. Which to me, achieves the same density purpose. If highpoint is any indication, no developer will flinch until that happens.

    #1087489

    Lu
    Participant

    More height will come once the infill is complete and the demand outweighs the cost. I would rather see 50 – 6 story buildings than 6 – 50 story buildings.

    +1

    You can get a ton of density with 6 to 12 story buildings. As others have said, just look at DC and Paris, which have some of the nicest downtowns in the world, IMHO. It would be a shame for our downtown to develop like Charlotte’s, which has plenty of skyscrapers surrounded by blocks of empty parking lots.

    #1087493
    Jason Powell
    Jason Powell
    Participant

    There are plenty of opportunities for the “DC/Paris model” within the eastern half of downtown. This lot happens to be smack in the middle of high rises and might actually look out of place. Once this lot is gone, it’s gone. I can’t help but to have the go-big-or-stay-home mentality on this one. The same goes for the empty lot next to the courthouse – that should be a highrise. At least part of Highpoint – the section closest to the 5/3 building – should have been a highrise.

    You don’t see a bunch of 6 story buildings along Michigan Avenue. I know, I know, apples and oranges. But, the retail along Michigan Ave probably would not be there if it were not for the density surrounding it within that block and the next over. You wouldn’t build a 30 story building in Over-the-Rhine or the Short North. You wouldn’t build a single family home in midtown Manhatten. The same principal applies to this parcel. If you are in an area that warrants highrises, then build highrises. If you want a reason for better transit and you want to attract more retail, then you need that critical mass of residents who can walk downstairs or over a block. Once this lot and the courthouse lot are developed, that is basically the peak of your residential population for High St. You can’t build anymore so it might as well be done right the first time.

    #1087494

    dubdave00
    Participant

    I think a few too many are projecting “small-minded” symbolism on something a little more complicated. Don’t you think most of these leaders would love to have a big building or project with their name or their company name on it? Of course! But they’d also like to keep their name on it and continue building and developing after that project. These leaders didn’t get to be where they are by thinking small as some allude to. They did it by thinking smart and/or thinking big.

    I think the commission is right that the Gay St project has a lot to do with parking (For business reasons, not because “yay cars”!). I also think Walker was right in a thread where he said that this all has a lot more to do with business risk on the part of the developers and on the part of the investors behind them. I’ll admit that Columbus, yes, does have a risk-averse mentality and while that may frustrate us in the boom times, we’re usually thankful for it during the busts. Just ask people from Cleveland…

    #1087500

    WJT
    Participant

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>waters767 wrote:</div>
    More height will come once the infill is complete and the demand outweighs the cost. I would rather see 50 – 6 story buildings than 6 – 50 story buildings.

    +1

    You can get a ton of density with 6 to 12 story buildings. As others have said, just look at DC and Paris, which have some of the nicest downtowns in the world, IMHO. It would be a shame for our downtown to develop like Charlotte’s, which has plenty of skyscrapers surrounded by blocks of empty parking lots.

    Nobody wants a downtown Charlotte-they really did just bulldoze almost their entire downtown-even worse than what we did. And 6 story buildings are appropriate IMO throughout most of downtown-just put the 12 story ones closer to the core and the best public transportation options, where the increased density will have the most effect.

    And again, about Paris, Paris is the way Paris is because the 6 floor buildings in Paris were built before the automobile, Paris has all forms of excellent public transit, and because of that the 6 floor buildings in Paris are much denser because they do not have to stick a 400 space parking garage in the middle of each one.

    Also just about 3 miles from the ‘center’ of Paris is a place called La Defense, bristling with highrise buildings(many taller than any in Cbus) with tens of millions of square feet of office space, employing hundreds of thousands of workers, and excellent public transportation options of all kinds. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Manhattan sur Seines”.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_D%C3%A9fense

    They built a massive highrise downtown office park in Paris, they just didn’t bulldoze their historic center, and instead bulldozed some older not-so-nice neighborhoods just outside the city limits, and built it there.

    The equivalent would have been Columbus leaving downtown circa 1945 untouched, and leveling South Linden and building our office buildings there.

    #1087506

    substance
    Participant

    I wish the Gay and High development was taller, but if a developer does not want to build a high rise you can’t make them. A six story building is better than the parking lot there now.
    The Columbus downtown are is very large, there is plenty of room for high rises on 3rd and 4th.
    Who are these ‘Titans’ or business leaders in Columbus? Do they live in Columbus or New Albany or where? It seems to me that Columbus is ‘lead’ by a lot of people who live in the suburbs

    Colemans talk on a need for a train to the airport was PR garbage. There needs to be a light rail On High st from German Village to Morse Rd now. It is quite simple.

    #1087531

    TomB
    Participant

    One could argue that the center of gravity downtown has shifted from High Street to the riverfront. Tall residential at Gay and High would not offer nice views of the city. Perhaps tall residential would be better suited where it can take advantage of skyline and riverfront views… the parking lot across from Milestone 229, for example. I am happy that mid-rise residential might replace that awfull parking wasteland at Gay and High. And it will compliment the good things happening on Gay. A high-rise somewhere between Broad and Long – I’m not sure exactly where – would help fill the awkward gap in the skyline in that vicinity but it might be a better fit for a hotel than residential.

    #1087534

    Roger846
    Participant

    My comments are:

    1. To me, the Gay and High things is partly about height, in addition to the density that comes with height. Young people (and older ones) move to a city that seems to be growing, exciting and future-minded. If nothing seems to be happening, they stop moving to a city and start moving away. Taller, nicely designed buildings, light rail, etc. just seem more big city-like, and a lot of people want that.

    2. In regard to the comment that let’s put a 6 story box at Gay and High, and build taller buildings on the other streets or by the river, while that’d be great, I don’t see any indication that that is happening either.

    3. I think another problem with Highpoint, in addition to its boring and closed off look, is that it hides views of the park. With hindsight, it might have been better to only build buildings across the street (e.g., 250 S. High, LC, etc.) so not only the building residents but pedestrians can see the park. This would be more like Central Park in NYC.

    4. Someone mentioned that the LC project on High wouldn’t have happened without Highpoint. While that may be true, it doesn’t seem like the LC project is happening even with Highpoint. Unless construction restarts sometime, I fear that this may be one of those permanent fenced off areas with a partially finished building inside.

    5. In regard to argument that it costs developers money to provide parking in taller buildings, it seems like this same argument would apply in other cities that are or are at least proposing building taller buildings. IMHO, this goes back to a very risk averse, Columbus is too small to support more tall buildings attitude among our city and business leaders. Kaufman and Pizutti are the notable exceptions.

    6. While Charlotte may not have the ideal mix downtown, they’re still growing.

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