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Wasted Space in Downtown: Convention Center

Brent Warren Brent Warren Wasted Space in Downtown: Convention CenterPhotos by Walker Evans.
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In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Coleman said that planning has begun on a $30 million renovation of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Also in the planning stages is a parking garage to replace the surface lot on Goodale Street – directly across from the convention center – that will likely include a mixed-use element. Bill Jennison, Executive Director of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, has also said that adding retail along the center’s High Street frontage is a strong possibility.

Given all of this activity – and the authority’s willingness to consider new mixed-use development on its property – we thought it would be a good time to fire up the Wasted Space series again, looking at some of the spaces around the convention center that might be put to better use.

The most prominent of those spaces is probably the southwest corner of High and Goodale, currently the site of a large convention center sign and a mix of trees, grass and concrete that does not inspire much activity or notice:

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“It doesn’t quite work,” admitted Jennison, adding that the potential is there, especially with the new parking garage and mixed-use development across the street, to turn Goodale into a great street.

“We’d like to see a vibrant, urban environment, to build on the energy of the Short North and complement what is being done there,” he said.

Another similar plaza – this one with picnic tables – sits across from the Japanese Steak House at the corner of Spruce Street:

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Any potential development in these plazas could serve to bring some pedestrian-level activity to the east side of High Street – the west side is currently booming with the new Hilton hotel, new restaurants and apartments in the former Yankee Trader building, and the North Market just a short walk away.

Moving farther south along High Street, there remains a gap in the streetscape between the convention center and the Hyatt Regency – a bridge allows cars and buses to circle around to one entrance, with views of Convention Center Drive and the railroad tracks below:

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And finally, in addition to these spots along High Street, a couple of unique, triangular-shaped plazas along Goodale Street definitely merit discussion as spaces that could be better-utilized. The two large, concrete plazas on either side of Park Street look out over I-670 with nothing but a row of benches and a handful of picnic tables to fill them:

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Nancy Burton of the Ohio Department of Transportation said that the Federal Highway Administration would have to grant permission before any development could occur on the parcels. MKSK Principal Chris Hermann, who worked on plans for the area during the I-670 construction, said that even if a developer were to be granted permission, there’s a limit to what could be built on them.

“The triangle caps were built for moving vehicles, not for any substantial static load,” he said, which would preclude a building or even a traditional park since soil and grass get quite heavy when wet.

Whether or not a creative solution can be found for those spaces, what’s certain is that the area around the convention center will continue to evolve and change – if you were in charge, what would you like to see built?

Photos by Walker Evans.

Update: Wagenbrenner Development proposes two 15-story buildings adjacent to Convention Center.

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