The Short North’s Summer of Construction
Everyone knows that the Short North is home to some of the city’s best restaurants, boutiques and art galleries. This summer, the neighborhood will also be home to scaffolding, orange barrels, and construction workers as multiple new mixed-use developments get under way.
“We are excited about all the new development,” says Diesha Condon, senior director at the Short North Business Association. “This much new development all within a few blocks— where else do we see such growth in such a dense area?”
Three large mixed-use developments are expected to begin construction sometime this summer:
- The Fireproof Building (1024 N. High St.) – This historic building will get a large five-story addition that displaces a large surface parking lot with 58 new apartment units and 15,000 square feet of retail space. This is being developed as a joint project between Elford Development and Wagenbrenner Development.
- The Hubbard (830 N. High St.) – This five-story development will be constructed on the proposed site of the failed Ibiza project, and includes 68 apartment units, 18,000 square feet of new retail space and a new public/private parking garage. This is also being developed jointly by Elford and Wagenbrenner.
- The Joseph (621 N. High St.) – This new development includes an 11-story hotel, six-story office building and five-story parking garage. The Joseph will add 135 hotel rooms to the neighborhood in addition to 10,000 square feet of new street-level retail space.
A fourth project worthy of mention is the Wood Companies building (937-951 N. High St.), which began construction in 2011 and is scheduled to wrap construction this summer, just as the other three big developments are getting started.
While the new density is largely welcomed to the neighborhood, it does mean some inconveniences for residents, businesses and visitors to the neighborhood in the short term.
“We understand that there will be some challenges throughout the construction,” Condon says. “The shifting of some parking spaces, construction noise, temporary loss of sidewalk use, and a whole lot of dust. But we also know that the end result will bring two parking garages, a world-class art gallery, new shops, new restaurants, a new boutique hotel, new office spaces, new residents and new visitors.”
While the tall buildings are eye-catching from a distance, it’s the addition to the ground floor of these buildings that could have the largest impact on the neighborhood. Between the Joseph, Hubbard and Fireproof developments, roughly 43,000 square feet of new retail space is being added to the Short North, which equates to around a 10 percent increase to the supply side of retail space, according to research work conducted by Chris Boring at Boulevard Strategies.
“The question now is whether the demand side of the equation be able to keep up with this increased supply,” he explains.
Boring says that Short North merchants currently serve three broad markets: local residents of Victorian and Italian Villages, cross-town traffic coming from other nearby urban neighborhoods, and out-of-town visitors from suburban communities and beyond.
“Our research indicates that the population in the first group has increased by 8 percent since 2003,” he says. “Income levels are presumably rising too, as property values continue to increase. We do not have handy stats on other market segments but anecdotally, visitor traffic seems to grow every year. The typical Short North Arts District merchant earned 37 percent of its revenue from local neighbors and 63 percent from outside the neighborhood in a 2003 survey that we conducted.”
The Hubbard, Wood Company Building and Fireproof will add about 200 new residents to the neighborhood as well, boosting the buying power of the localized area. The 135 rooms at the Joseph will also draw visitors and convention goers deeper into The Short North to spend money at area businesses.
“I am very confident that there is enough pent-up demand for more retail space in the Short North,” says Boring. “That is why we are seeing these mixed-use developers finding creative ways to include first floor retail space in these new projects.”
The type of retail that will be added to the neighborhood is yet to be determined. Boring anticipates that it is likely to be a mix of restaurants, retail shops and what he calls “mall-ternative” boutiques in the fashion and home goods categories.
As Condon previously mentioned, another addition to The Short North that will emerge on the other side of this construction season will be two new parking garages that will each contain some spaces designated for public use.
“One measuring stick as to the positive or negative impact of these new projects on the Short North will be their long-term impact on parking for the overall district,” Boring says. “The Hubbard site in particular has long been identified as the ideal location for a public parking garage to handle overflow on crowded weekend. It is my hope that these projects will add more to the supply of parking spaces than they do for the demand for more parking.”
In the short term, The Short North Alliance is focusing its efforts on creating a remote employee parking lot concept to ease some of the demand for parking during this summer’s construction period. This will help free up spaces normally used by employees of neighborhood businesses so more visitors, customers and shoppers can easily park.
“To launch the program, we are first negotiating the use of these lots during our peak times, which we predict will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.,” Condon says. “Then we are discussing with our businesses that have a significant sized staff about requiring their employees to park at this remote parking lot to free up street meters and valet lots. We hope to have this first phase of the remote parking concept launched this summer.”
Additionally, Condon has been working with developers to better understand their plans for keeping sidewalks accessible to pedestrians, citing the Wood Companies development as an example where retail businesses, including Paradise Garage and Northstar Cafe, can still be accessed under the sidewalk scaffolding.
“Our goal with these initiatives is to make it easy for our visitors and fans to continue to support our businesses through the constructions and welcome the developers into our neighborhood, but also ask that they be sensitive to both the business and resident community,” she says.
When all is said and done, Boring does not express a lot of worry that the multiple construction projects will be too much of a deterrent for day-to-day life in this busy urban neighborhood.
“You know, I moved to the Short North in 2001 and seems like we have been playing orange barrel polka on High Street ever since I lived here,” he says. “Most Short North merchants understand that there is a price to pay for progress and will persevere.”