Hard Hat Tour: Trolley District Taking Shape Near Franklin Park
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.
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.