Only 10 Surface Parking Lots Remain on High Street in The Short North
Surface parking lots are often referred to as the scourge of urban neighborhoods. And they’re officially an endangered species in The Short as far as High Street is concerned.
“We’re living in a period of metamorphosis that is is fascinating and exciting for planner types to watch,” says Kyle Ezell, OSU Associate Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning at the Knowlton School of Architecture, and Senior Principal of consulting firm Designing Local. “Urban planning-wise, the entire City of Columbus is in an exciting but awkward teenager stage between a reluctant small town and a teeming big city, and the Short North is leading the way.”
Over the past decade, new urban development has rapidly replaced flat parking lots — sometimes referred to as “missing teeth” — with mixed-use buildings, consolidating (and often expanding) parking spaces into multi-story parking garages, or hiding the parking lots behind buildings rather than on display out front.
“Signature urban corridors in the great cities don’t tolerate missing teeth,” states Ezell. “Think about Michigan Avenue, Broadway, or the The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Tourists and locals from around the world wouldn’t flock to these places to stroll, shop, and live if they were pockmarked with surface parking lots. The ‘Main Street’ at Easton doesn’t have missing teeth, and neither should High Street.”
Most recently, The Joseph hotel and office buildings replaced two public surface lots on the on the south end of the district last year, and The Fireproof project replaced a large surface lot at High and Second. Additional development proposals are currently in various planning phases that will also see the replacement of many other High Street parking lots, including those located at White Castle, in front of the two buildings that formerly housed Flora and Co+Op, next to Donatos, and next door to Haiku.
Another parking lot is likely to bite the dust in the near future with yesterday’s news that the public spots located just south of Buttles will be replaced with a new 11-story office building. That leaves just 10 remaining surface lots in the Short North that front High Street, which may continue to be replaced in the coming years.
“With over 500,000 people that will be moving to the region, a lot of them will want to live in the middle of Columbus,” explains Ezell. “Expect every surface parking lot in the core area to implement ‘highest and best use’ development because of increased scarcity and higher land values. Buildings will need to get bigger and taller if affordable housing is important to us. Also, expect that over the decades of transitioning, many newer buildings will need to be torn down and rightsized to meet the demand for city living. So the days of tolerating a surface parking lot on High Street has to be over for Columbus to move on to the city we are supposed to be.”
Some residents and visitors in The Short North have expressed concern about current parking difficulties in the area during peak hours, while others have pointed out that the neighborhood is still easy to find parking in during most days of the week. Ezell says that those concerns should certainly be addressed in the short term while aiming for a bigger transit solution in the long term.
“I’m looking forward to the time when urbanizing Columbus will be dense enough when we can finally implement some form of world-class transit because we could efficiently handle even more people and businesses,” he says. “At the same time, merchants in the Short North can’t wait until our new transit system finally arrives — they need parking today. That’s why these new developments are smart to make sure to provide parking within their development plan.”
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All photos by Walker Evans.