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Rapid 5 Waterways Project Moving Forward Quickly in 2021

Walker Evans Walker Evans Rapid 5 Waterways Project Moving Forward Quickly in 2021
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It’s been over a year since we’ve heard much about the Rapid 5 project, and that has been entirely intentional. This waterways plan could redefine and interconnect Central Ohio’s five main rivers and was first unveiled in late 2019, but once the coronavirus pandemic began just a few months later, the leadership team behind the project decided to place it on the back burner for awhile.

“Everything went out the window and it was clear in March 2020 that it would be hard to raise money for funding this project,” explained Keith Myers, Vice President of Planning, Architecture and Real Estate at The Ohio State University, and District Council Chairman at the Columbus chapter of the Urban Land Institute. “So we got the opportunity to rethink it all, and we reached out to five leading design firms to each tackle a corridor.”

Myers said that some of that preliminary work quietly began back in December, and the partners at ULI Columbus and the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) resumed fundraising efforts with various public and private partners throughout the region.

“In six weeks we had surpassed our funding goal and every community in Franklin County has signed on as a sponsor,” Myers stated. “For the past year park usage has skyrocketed. I think what COVID did was reacquaint many people with the natural resources that we have in Franklin County.”

The next steps in the process is a public visioning session where the teams behind Rapid 5 can gather as much community input as possible. There is an online form that can be filled out at therapidproject.org, but a concentrated effort to “bridge the digital divide” and solicit feedback in underserved communities is also under way.

“This project is way too big to be a top-down driven project,” said Myers. “It has to be a grassroots community project if it’s ever to ever be realized. What we’re trying to accomplish between now and the end of summer is to create a vision, not a design. The design will come later.”

Projects as large as Rapid 5 sometimes will elicit a skeptical reaction from the general public along the lines of “yet another study that winds up sitting on a shelf”. It’s worth noting that Myers was an early champion for the removal of the Main Street Dam, an idea that came about during the Columbus 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan. Five years later that project was complete, creating 33 acres of new greenspace and navigable waterway along the Scioto River downtown.

“I was told once that we’d never get the riverfront redone Downtown, but we did that,” chuckled Myers. “I think anything is possible in Central Ohio.”

For more information, visit www.therapidproject.org.

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