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Report Shows Development Opportunities Along Proposed Transit Route

Brent Warren Brent Warren Report Shows Development Opportunities Along Proposed Transit RouteAn "illustrative concept" from the Phase 1 Summary Report showing how Lennox Town Center could be redeveloped.
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A new LinkUs report shows how a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line along Olentangy River Road could spur the redevelopment of several large, suburban-style retail centers.

Frequent, reliable, high-speed transit – designed in a way that also accommodates cyclists and pedestrians – will encourage more urban, walkable development, adding density to a corridor that is currently dominated by big box retail and large surface parking lots. In fact, that type of development will be necessary for the LinkUs initiative to meet its overall goals, which include the building out of dense, transit-supportive corridors throughout the region.

A graphic in the report shows how Lennox Town Center, for instance, could be redeveloped in a way that adds thousands of new residents and jobs to the corridor.

Another site that is highlighted is the area around Kohl’s, which is located just south of the new OhioHealth headquarters, near North Broadway. The Kohl’s property was bought by Bridge Park developer Crawford Hoying in 2015.

“The findings in this report are great for the City of Columbus,” said Brent Crawford, principal and founder of Crawford Hoying. “We’re conducting additional analysis of the new plan and its impact on our potential uses of the site.”

The report, which is available here, summarizes the results of the planning studies and public meetings that have taken place over the last year and a half.

After several possible route options were presented earlier this year, an alignment has been selected – the route will stay on Olentangy River Road from Bethel Road to Goodale Street, where it will follow Twin Rivers Drive to Spring and Long Streets, connecting to Downtown.

A plan to straighten out the route with a more direct connection between Goodale and Spring/Long is still on the table, as is one to simplify and improve the flow of traffic around the intersection of Kinnear Road and Olentangy, near Lennox Town Center.

Columbus City Council last night approved $4.5 million in funding for the next phase of planning for the corridor, which will include the more detailed engineering work needed to start applying for federal grant money.

Justin Goodwin, Transportation Planning Manager for the City of Columbus, said that the goal is to “enter the Northwest Corridor into the FTA [Federal Transit Administration] process next summer,” although he said it is still too early to nail down a timeline for completing the project or even when construction might start. “We’re still a number of years out.”

An image from the report shows one possible design, with center-running transit lanes and a separate side path for bikes and pedestrians.

The planning process for the 20-mile-long East-West corridor is also moving forward. That line will run along West Broad Street and either East Broad Street or East Main Street – a final decision on the route will be made in early July.

Since that corridor will run through several different jurisdictions – including Whitehall, Bexley and Reynoldsburg – the process has been a little different than that of the Northwest Corridor, but the project is advancing, and more detailed engineering work is set to begin soon.

Also released recently by the city and its LinkUs partners is a State of Mobility report that looks more broadly at transportation trends in the region and among several different peer cities.

“It’s a lot of moving pieces, but we’re having a comprehensive conversation,” said City Council President Shannon Harden. “It’s an interconnected system – housing, infrastructure, bikeways, greenways – and we wanted to make sure we went back to the public to let them know that this thing is moving. We’re doing something special, something unique, and we’re really excited about it.”

As for the likelihood of the two corridors receiving the federal grant money that would allow them to be built, Harden is hopeful that the current conversations happening in Washington D.C. around infrastructure and transportation funding will translate into more support for these types of projects.

“We know that infrastructure investment in this country has lagged behind the needs of growing communities,” he said. “I’m extremely encouraged by what we’re seeing…I want to make sure we have ducks in order so that, no matter what comes out of Washington, Columbus will be ready.”

For more information, see linkuscolumbus.com.

Editor’s note (7/29/21): This article was updated to include a response from Brent Crawford.

Related: Zoning Code Update Could Lead to Big Changes in Development Process

A redevelopment concept for the Kohl’s site and surrounding land.
The route from Bethel Road to Downtown. The line could eventually continue on to Dublin, although planning has not started for that portion.
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