Mixed-Use Development Plan Unveiled for Scioto Peninsula
City and civic leaders gathered today at COSI to unveil official plans for development on the Scioto Peninsula area adjacent to Downtown Columbus. This area has been under evaluation for redevelopment since the launch of the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan, which called for the infill of vacant portions of the 56 acres of land with public and private investment.
“We’ve gotten a lot of input from the community,” said Guy Worley, President of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation. “We’ve collected over 450 ideas and this plan includes the best of them.”
The new plan calls for a mixed-use redevelopment effort that includes a new Vets Memorial and Museum, acres of new greenspace lining the Scioto River, the new Columbus Zoo Indoor Adventure facility, and additional cultural amenities, residential and retail development.
“This is a gamechanger, and it will change the city for generations to come,” said Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman. “This wasn’t just the product of one or two people, but the product of the community. I’ve always said that Downtown’s destiny was to be the greatest Downtown in all of America and now we see it happening before our eyes.”
The project will kick off this fall with the removal of the Main Street lowhead dam located just south of the peninsula. That project has a 24 month construction timetable and will yield 33 new acres of greenspace featuring a riverfront arboretum with up to 1000 new trees lining the river.
“This will be our new central park,” added Worley.
The new Scioto riverfront greenways project also includes bike path connections to the existing trail network.
The second phase of the plan calls for the creation of a new Veterans Memorial facility, which would require the demolition of the existing Veterans Memorial Auditorium constructed in 1955.
“This concept grew from building a new Veterans Memorial for Franklin County to a new Veterans Memorial for the state of Ohio,” said Worley. “There are over 900,000 veterans in the state of Ohio.”
“When Veterans Memorial was built nearly 60 years ago, we didn’t have the things we have now to inspire young people,” said Senator John Glenn. “The idea of making this a spot where people can be inspired to service of any kind — and making them feel like they’re a bigger part of something, whether its military or something else — that’s what we’d like to see come out of this for our kids.”
Les and Abigail Wexner have contributed a $25 million donation, which will go directly to the Vets Memorial portion of the project.
Another portion of the plan calls for the construction of the Columbus Zoo Indoor Adventure, a 50,000 square foot facility which would include an aquarium, a rainforest, an educational facility and more. The experience would allow visitors to see, touch, hear and explore wildlife in an indoor tropical paradise setting.
“When we first started talking about this project, we were very excited to be next to COSI,” said Tom Stalf, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “To be a part of Downtown is an honor.”
It was stated at today’s press conference that an underground parking garage facility adjacent to COSI would be constructed to have greenspace on top and would serve all three cultural institutions.
“To take a 57 acre tract of land that frankly doesn’t generate all that much right now, and turn it into this project will be a transformative thing for this community,” said Franklin County Commissioner and Board President Commissioner John O’Grady. “How great will be it to come Downtown in five or six years and take in COSI, the Columbus Zoo and Vets Memorial all in one day?”
Future phases of the project call for mixed-use private development closer to the railroad tracks that would include the retail and residential components. No private developers were announced today as a part of those future phases, but an expected 1,000 to 1,200 new residential units are anticipated for this urban infill.
“This is going to be a transformative project along an underutilized asset — our riverfront — and support the continued rebirth of our oldest neighborhood, East Franklinton,” said City Council President Andrew Ginther. “This will drive even more exciting developments in Franklinton. And we’ll do it the Columbus way with public-private partnerships.”
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Renderings provided by CDDC.