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Interview: Easton Developer Yaromir Steiner

Brent Warren Brent Warren Interview: Easton Developer Yaromir SteinerPodcast
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Yaromir Steiner, the founder and CEO of Steiner + Associates, is best known in Columbus as the co-developer of Easton Town Center. His interests, though, are wide-ranging, and a conversation with him can lead to surprising places.

A question about the future of brick-and-mortar retail leads to a discussion of rising income inequality in the U.S. over the last 40 years. He offers a similar, big-picture take on issues like transportation, the unemployment rate, and the best way to talk about growth and density in Columbus.

Steiner recently sat down with Columbus Underground for an in-depth talk about all of those topics and more. The conversation was recorded and is now available for download as a Confluence Cast episode.

The impetus for the meeting was Steiner’s involvement in Insight 2050. His work on the initiative – mostly through the Columbus chapter of the Urban Land Institute, which his company was instrumental in starting ten years ago – has intensified over the past few years, but it’s clear that he has been thinking about these topics for a long time.

“The point of Insight 2050 was to build a planning consensus in Columbus,” he said, around the best strategy to accommodate the predicted 500,000 to a million new people who will call the region home by 2050.

The latest part of the plan is a deeper dive into five specific corridors in the region. Originally called the Regional Corridor Analysis, it is now being referred to as Corridor Concepts (City Council President Shannon Hardin is another champion of the project, and spoke to CU about it earlier this year).

“We want to see, if we coordinate zoning requirements, public incentives, and some kind of increased mobility, can we increase the density on those corridors?” Steiner said. “And if we can increase them, what kind of consequences does it have…and can we (also) do it in a way that deals with affordable housing?”

Citing numbers from the study that suggest that as much as 60 percent of the predicted population growth in the region could be accommodated simply by densifying those five corridors, Steiner said that the goal is “the kind of environment you want to leave to your kids; (one where) they have to pay less taxes, the air is cleaner, and they commute less and get to spend more time with their families.”

As for how Easton itself fits into this discussion of density and smart growth, Steiner has said that the original vision for the lifestyle center called for integrating apartments and other residential uses into the center of the development. Needless to say, that didn’t end up happening – Easton was built as a shopping destination first and foremost, not as a true mixed-use development. Steiner confirmed that the next chapter in the area’s development, though, will be different.

“There’s lots of land sitting empty, and our partners, we all buy into the importance of using our land wisely,” he said. “And that means any expansion of Easton going forward will be deck parked; we will not have surface parking anymore…this is a major commitment to density.”

Although he did not get into specifics, Steiner did say that in the next 20 years we can expect to see “thousands of residential units at Easton – whether that is condos, rentals, high-rises or low-rises – that’s the long-term goal, and we’ll start seeing things come out of the ground soon.”

For much more from our interview with Steiner, including his thoughts on rail transit in Columbus, the best use for shuttered shopping malls, and the prospects for Downtown retail, listen to the whole conversation here.

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