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Hard Hat Tour: Trolley District Taking Shape Near Franklin Park

Brent Warren Brent Warren Hard Hat Tour: Trolley District Taking Shape Near Franklin ParkInside the building that will become East Market. Photos by Brent Warren.
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Workers are busy transforming the collection of historic buildings at the northeast corner of Oak Street and Kelton Avenue into a food and entertainment destination.

New floors and structural supports are in the process of being installed, ceilings are being repaired on buildings that have been open to the weather for decades, and bricks from buildings that once stood on the site have been unearthed, cleaned and used to fill large holes in the buildings that are still standing,

Work on the site – known for years as the Trolley Barn Complex – started in March, but the latest plans for the project were put in motion when the parcel was bought by developer Brad DeHays in 2014.

DeHays, whose Connect Realty has taken on several large historic renovation projects elsewhere in Columbus, recently gave Columbus Underground a tour of the development.

He said that if all goes according to plan, the complex will welcome its first visitors next June or July.

Now officially called the Trolley District, the centerpiece of the first phase of the project is East Market, a public market that will feature 20 stalls and a restaurant on its main floor. Downstairs will be coolers and storage space for vendors as well as a small bar, while the upstairs will hold an event space that will double as a seating area for market customers.

“It’s going to be the most unique event space in Central Ohio…11,000 square feet, with gridded glass skylights,” DeHays said, pointing out openings that will provide a visual connection between the main and upper floors, and allow lots of natural light into the building.

A view of the future East Market building from across Oak Street, where a 102-unit apartment building is planned.

Tony Tanner, operator of the Butcher and Grocer in Grandview, has signed on to fill several of the stalls, and more tenant announcements are expected early next year.

The market will occupy the largest building on the site, known as the west car barn, which was used as a paint shop for trolley cars. A parking lot is being built to the north of the building, where a second car barn once stood.

DeHays said he is also excited about the Columbus Brewing Company’s plans for the former mechanic’s shop building. The longtime brewer’s new taproom will feature a fireplace and a large bar, with space for several brewing tanks, and will spill out onto an outdoor beer garden.

Between the beer garden and Oak Street, a flex space is planned that will provide extra parking as needed and a route for deliveries to come through during the day, but can be transformed into an outdoor events area at other times.

DeHays said that the second phase of the project, which consists of several buildings on the east side of the site, will be completed some time next fall. That means the entire project will be complete by the end of November, a timeline that he expects to stick to, given the requirements of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits program (the project was awarded the credits in 2018).

“We started slow; with the pandemic, and then all the rains in April, we immediately got behind 90 days…we started digging and with all that water coming in, we had to change plans,” he said, referring to their approach to the market building’s foundation and basement. “With these tax credit deals, you have to figure out a way to plow forward, because you have a delivery timeline, and if you don’t deliver, there are huge repercussions.”

A five-story, 102-unit apartment complex is planned for the empty lot directly across Oak Street from the project. DeHays said that work on the apartments, which got zoning and neighborhood approvals at the same time as the other buildings, will start late next year.

Scroll down for more pictures from the tour and additional information on the project.

The Kelton Avenue side of the market building.
Inside the building, where a new basement and concrete floor has been added.
The eastern end of the market building will hold a restaurant, to be operated by the same management group behind Grandview Cafe, Balboa and Rehab Tavern (DeHays is an owner). The restaurant will be called Rail House Tavern.
The wood ceilings will remain and be reinforced. Upstairs will be an event space and tables for market customers.
This door will serve as the main entrance to the market.
A parking lot will occupy the northwest corner of the site. Straight ahead are the buildings that will hold the Columbus Brewing Company’s new endeavor.
A beer garden will sit on the other side of these walls, which are being reinforced and preserved.
Another view of the beer garden area, with a steel beam being placed to stabilize the chimney on the right.
The beam is put in place. The smokestack once served the complex’s power generation building.
This space, below the main level of the market building, will hold a small bar. DeHays said the space will be used for private events, but also be open to the public on weekends. It will have “kind of a speakeasy vibe – not a members-only speakeasy – just a very intimate place to have a cocktail.”
Old pipes connect the larger market building with a small two-story building.
Inside the smaller building, which will be rebuilt to hold a stairway to connect the market to the lower level.
The east end of the market building. A raised patio will be built where the stone meets the brick and will wrap around the corner of building.
Barrels and other equipment for Columbus Brewing Company’s operations will fill this room.
New wooden beams will be added to match the existing ones and complete the ceiling of the CBC space.
A view of the former brass foundry, or brass shop, which will hold a small restaurant concept.
DeHays said they have an operator who has signed on to take over this building and another space in the project.
Inside the brass foundry building. Expect an announcement early next year on the restaurant concept planned for the place.
Skylights are planned for most of the original roof openings on buildings throughout the complex.
Looking across to the market building. The area in between will be a flex space which can be used for parking or cleared of cars completely for events.
Glazed paver bricks like these that have been found on the site will be reused in the patio/flex space, as will old railroad ties.
The buildings on the east end of the site will be renovated as part of the project’s second phase, which is scheduled to be completed by next fall.
A view of the beer garden and flex space from across Oak Street, where a five-story apartment building is planned.
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