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New Leaders of Downtown Group to Focus on Affordable Housing, Safety

Brent Warren Brent Warren New Leaders of Downtown Group to Focus on Affordable Housing, SafetyPhoto by Susan Post.
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The Columbus Downtown Development Commission now has a new leadership team to go along with a newly-reconfigured board and a new directive from the mayor’s office to push for an “equitable recovery” for the region’s core.

Greg Davies, who most recently worked for the Columbus Partnership and previously served as Mayor Andrew Ginther’s Chief of Staff, was named last week as the organization’s new CEO. Amy Taylor, previously the Chief Operating Officer of the CDDC, will now hold the title of President.

“We want to get people back Downtown, and I think it’s going to happen really quickly,” Davies said. “But we want to make sure that it’s safe, that there are fun things to do, and that there are places to live for everybody…from a school teacher to a business person.”

Davies said that building new affordable housing will be a big part of that effort, and to expect more projects like the 90-unit apartment building the CDDC has proposed for a site it owns near the Topiary Park. Units in the building would be accessible to tenants earning between 60 and 100 percent of the area median income.

“We want that project to be a seamless addition to the neighborhood, where you wouldn’t know it was affordable housing,” Davies said, adding that Downtown has seen very few affordable units added in recent years, in part due to rising construction costs and the price of land. “We want real affordability…and we’re hoping to demonstrate to others that do these types of project that you could do it Downtown.”

Guy Worley led the nonprofit entity for 14 years, shepherding a long list of projects to completion, such as Columbus Commons, the National Veterans Museum and Memorial, Scioto Mile, and Scioto Greenways. 

Davies characterized the organization’s next chapter as “both a continuation of all the great work, the foundation that Guy laid down, and also…with Covid, and the civil unrest last summer, I think everyone realizes that we have to focus on getting Downtown back to where it was, but more inclusive and open to everybody.”

“There were some things that just had to be done,” Taylor said, referring to the need to replace City Center Mall and to make the type of large-scale improvements to the riverfront that had been envisioned for decades. “But now, we have a new focus…and that will impact how we’re going to come back and what we’re going to prioritize.”

When asked if one of the new priorities will be more support for transit, both Davies and Taylor said that it will be, citing in particular the importance of the Northwest and East-West corridor projects currently being planned as part of the LinkUs initiative.

The CDDC pulled the Lazarus Building, which it redeveloped and still owns, out of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District about a year before a free bus pass program for Downtown workers (the C-Pass) officially launched.

Davies said that they are “open to” rejoining the district and participating in the program, and plan to discuss the idea further in the near future.

Another focus area will be safety.

“One of the big things, and something that the board has talked to us about, is security,” said Davies, mentioning recent high-profile incidents like the shooting death of 16-year-old Olivia Kurtz at Bicentennial Park. “If we want to bring people back from the suburbs and other places, we have to be very cognizant of that.”

The CDDC employs unarmed security guards to monitor its Downtown properties, and Davies said they are open to expanding the territory that that group covers in order to “have more folks to assist police…more eyes and ears.”

For more information on the CDDC, see www.columbusddc.com.

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