Leaders Celebrate Scioto Peninsula Groundbreaking at Uncertain Time for Downtown
Work will officially get underway today on a major new mixed-use development on the Scioto Peninsula.
Now known as The Peninsula, the first phase of the new development will bring a 200-room hotel, 250,000 square feet of office space, 329 residential units and 1,400 parking spaces to about seven acres of land directly west of Dorrian Green, the park that serves as COSI’s front lawn.
Today’s ground-breaking ceremony marks the culmination of years of planning and decades of speculation about how this well-located but under-utilized piece of land should be developed.
Representatives of the entity responsible for the project – the nonprofit Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC) – have been emphasizing the historic nature of the development, as well as the significance of starting construction on it at a time when the future is so uncertain.
“The leadership of Columbus has really come together in these unprecedented times,” said Guy Worley, the CDDC’s President/CEO. “Not a lot of cities that would start a project of this significance during a global pandemic…it’s a testament to the city’s can-do attitude.”
In conjunction with the groundbreaking, the CDDC unveiled a new website and video (see below) featuring a full 3D animation of the project. The video, along with new renderings, provides a glimpse of what the entire 26-acre site might look like upon build-out.
Worley said that the plan is for the first phase to be completed in two years, with future phases following based on market demand. The timeline for full build-out is probably around a decade, he added, which would be similar to some of the CDDC’s previous projects, like redeveloping the City Center Mall site and building out the RiverSouth area of Downtown.
“Demand will determine how we proceed for the next [phases],” Worley said.
“This is the most dense first phase of any development in the history of the city,” he added, rattling off the heights of the buildings that will soon be rising on the site; an eight-story hotel, an eight-story office building and two residential buildings, one 11 and the other six stories. “That is all happening simultaneously, and we think that it’s just the beginning; the sites to north and south with become even more dense…there’ll be less land as the project gets built out and succeeds, so the only way to maximize the land use will be to build even taller buildings.”
As the recipient of residential property tax abatements, the project will follow the city’s guidelines for affordability, offering 20 percent of all units at prices affordable to those making between 80 and 100 percent of the average median income. Tax incentives for office users are typically awarded by the city on a case-by-case basis.
The stated vision for the overall project is for it to contain a grand total of two million square feet of office space, 1,800 residential units, and 400 hotel rooms.
That’s not drastically different than what was called for in 2017 when the first iteration of the plan that is now being built was revealed. The main difference is on the office space side – the plan now calls for more than twice as much as that earlier one did.
“We really want this to be an employment center for the community,” Worley said.
Worley at the time hinted that a major office tenant that Buckingham had been pursuing for the site dropped out (and the Dispatch later reported that the tenant was CoverMyMeds, which is currently building a new corporate campus at another site in Franklinton).
The CDDC took over the master developer role and lined up different developers for each distinct portion of the project – The Daimler Group will build the office element, Rockbridge will build the hotel and Indianapolis-based Flaherty & Collins will build the residential portion.
The plan for the first phase has not changed significantly since it was first presented to the Downtown Commission last year, despite the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and all of the disruptions to the economy – and to Downtown Columbus, in particular – that it has brought.
For Robert White, Jr., President of The Daimler Group, that’s a testament to both the quality of the original vision, and to a belief that Downtown will be solidly on the road to recovery by the time this project is completed in 2022.
“We had all collectively made great strides at creating momentum Downtown,” he said, referring to the growing residential population and other improvements made to the area over the last two decades. “Our belief is we need to build upon that momentum and not turn away from it.”
White is also confident that the overall demand for office space will return, despite reports of some companies shifting permanently to work-from-home arrangements.
“Before, every company was talking about culture and the importance of having a unique office space and walkable, urban amenities around it,” he said. “Those ideas are all important, and I don’t believe they’ve all evaporated or disappeared.”
White added that the only changes his company has made to the plan for the new office building are related to the HVAC system; enhancements to the purification and ionization components of the building’s mechanical units. It was already designed with large, open floor plates and ample outdoor space on multiple floors, features that he said will allow companies to “customize and create their new normal.”
White said that there are tenants “significantly interested in the project,” and ready to take up as much as 60,000 square feet of space on the building’s upper floors.
“I think [Downtown] will be recovering very shortly, as soon as there’s a vaccine,” added Worley. “This development complements and enhances what is already happening Downtown.”
The new video marketing the project touts it as a “one-of-a-kind urban experience,” and Worley and others at the CDDC emphasized the elements that they believe will set it apart from other large-scale mixed-use projects that have been built in the region, like the Arena District, Bridge Park, or Grandview Yard.
“There is no site like the peninsula,” Worley said. “It faces the skyline, it’s steps from the bike path and all the greenspace along the river, and it will bring together and complement the best of what is happening Downtown and in Franklinton.”