OSU Unveils Ambitious Nine-Acre Plan for 15th and High
OSU unveiled a vision for redeveloping a nine-acre swath of land around the intersection of 15th Avenue and North High Street. The plan was announced yesterday by Campus Partners, the OSU-affiliated non profit that developed the South Campus Gateway, and it goes far beyond simply redeveloping the long-vacant Long’s Bookstore site.
15th Avenue would be realigned so that it hits High Street straight-on instead of at an angle, which would free up space on the north side of 15th for a public square. Across Pearl Alley from that square would be a “signature building” that would form the eastern terminus of an unobstructed view across the oval to the William Oxley Thompson Library on campus. Behind that building would be a large parking garage, screened by mixed-use buildings on all sides.
The plan also calls for a “more rational” street grid – 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th avenues would all be restored to two-way operation, and would connect with High Street. All of the proposed buildings are designated as mixed-use, with “active, ground-floor uses.”
Various other recommendations are geared toward improving the pedestrian experience for the estimated 26,000 people who live within a ten-minute walk of the intersection of 15th and High.
Campus Partners filed yesterday morning for the zoning changes needed to make the plan a reality. President Amanda Hoffsis said that after going through the zoning process, which will include getting approval from the University Area Commission and the University Area Review Board, Campus Partners would divide the area up into sections and begin to approach developers interested in implementing parts of the plan. (They took a similar approach to the redevelopment of seven acres south of Ninth Avenue).
Changes to the street grid would have to be approved by the city through a separate process, which Hoffsis said they would be working on at the same time as the rezoning.
As for what exactly will happen to the many existing buildings – and scores of businesses – that now stand in what the plan refers to as the 15th and High District, Hoffsis said that they haven’t taken a position on what should be demolished and what should be saved. (The one exception to that would be the former Long’s Bookstore, which if the city approves the proposed realignment of 15th, would need to be demolished.)
“We felt at this point it’s not appropriate to specify, and our plan doesn’t speak to that one way or the other,” she said, although she added that,” many of the buildings are in pretty bad condition.” The plan also does not speak to the financing of the garage, or provide any sort of details on how much implementation might cost.
Hoffsis added that the goal is to maintain an eclectic mix of businesses along High Street, and even to create a second retail focal point by allowing for store-fronts on either side of a reconstructed Pearl Alley.
“I will say that a number of local businesses we have spoken to are interested in being a part of the future here,” she said, explaining that Campus Partners has worked out agreements with the property owners within the designated area, who have all signed onto the zoning request.
Hoffsis said they will be actively engaging with community and neighborhood groups, and hope to explain the long-term thinking behind the plan.
“The timing will depend on lots of things – the market, which developers are interested, what’s financeable; that all will play into which parts move first, and how it will all unfold,” she said, adding, “it’s really important that we get this right.”
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