Interview: Whitehall Leaders on Planning for a Changing Suburbia
The recently-released Corridor Concepts study takes a deep dive into the impact that building dense development and better transit along five major corridors could have on the region.
One of those corridors, East Main Street, runs directly through Whitehall, a suburb of about 19,000 people located six miles east of Downtown Columbus. Incorporated in 1947 — and largely built in the 1950s and 1960s — the suburb has been working in recent years to plan for and build the type of denser, mixed-use development that the corridor study recommends.
Columbus Underground recently sat down with Kim Maggard, the Mayor of Whitehall, and Zach Woodruff, the city’s Economic Development Director, to talk about those efforts and more.
“We started looking at plans like the Insight 2050 study, and understanding that if there really is going to be a million more people that move to Central Ohio, Whitehall is uniquely positioned to take advantage of a lot of that growth,” said Woodruff. “And the only way that we were going to be able to take advantage of it was by becoming more dense.”
The opportunities for redevelopment in Whitehall are not limited to East Main Street. Single-story retail centers with large parking lots are plentiful in the city, especially on East Broad Street. The intersection of East Broad and Hamilton Road, in particular, has been a focus of Mayor Maggard’s administration.
Currently under construction at the southwest corner of that intersection is Norton Crossing, a mixed-use development that will hold 360 residential units, restaurants, a community center, multiple office buildings, and a large central green space.
Meanwhile, at the northeast corner of Hamilton Road and East Broad Street, planning is underway for a second redevelopment project that could be even larger in scale.
Formerly home to a 317-unit complex of 1950s-era duplexes, the 35-acre site is now controlled by the city. Initial plans call for as many as 700 residential units and 250,000 square feet of office space on the site, although a development team has yet to be selected to lead the project.
“We’re looking for this to be transformative on the east side of Columbus,” said Maggard, who explained that a mobility hub, featuring a range of transportation options, could be part of the plan as well.
Maggard is hoping that both developments tap into what she sees as two potentially strong markets — lifelong Whitehall residents looking to downsize from their single family home, and young professionals working at one of the estimated 33,000 jobs located in the city (currently only 3 percent of people who work in Whitehall also live there).
Other topics covered include the extensive efforts to build new affordable housing in Whitehall, the challenges of dealing with aging housing stock, and plans for the future of Town and Country, one of the country’s first shopping centers.
The article is sponsored by The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) featuring stories about local and regional partners that envision and embrace innovative directions in economic prosperity, transportation, sustainability and an inclusive Central Ohio. MORPC’s transformative programming, innovative services and public policy initiatives are designed to promote and support the vitality and growth in the region. For more information, please visit www.morpc.org.