🏙 Inside the plan to revitalize downtown
Columbus has ambitious plans to develop a greener, more livable and vibrant downtown over the coming decades.
Why it matters: Success would help solve the worsening housing crisis, elevate Columbus as a prime destination for tourists and improve the quality of life in an area facing occupancy shortages.
What's happening: City leaders and the private Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC) have spent the last year seeking public input on a new strategic plan.
- Initial presentations outlined specific goals and broader visions of how downtown should look by 2040 and beyond.
What they're saying: Asked how they would best improve downtown, residents' top answer was reducing the dependency on cars through alternative transportation options.
- Residents also want to see safer pedestrian and bike travel, more restaurants and new park spaces.
State of play: Downtown population peaked at 30,000 residents in the mid-20th century, around the time city planners shifted their focus from our urban core toward outward expansion and accommodating car travel.
- Columbus built an array of surface parking lots and constructed urban highways overtop city neighborhoods. Along with decades of discriminatory housing practices, this led many residents to move elsewhere.
- The downtown population plummeted to around 3,500 by 1980 and has since grown to a little over 11,000 people.
Meanwhile, exponentially more people work downtown than live there.
- The area makes up a relatively small portion of Franklin County, but holds 10% of all the county's jobs.
Yes, but: The pandemic sent most of these workers home. Columbus is grappling with how to convince them to come back.
- Nearly 20% of all downtown office space is currently vacant, according to CDDC.
- Planners believe an improved transit system and built-in amenities near work spaces — such as parks and shops — will entice people to ditch their home offices and come back downtown for work.
What's next: Planners will share a draft presentation to City Council members this fall.
Some specific goals planners have in mind:
👨👨👧👦 Residential population: Grow to 40,000 people by 2040.
🏢 Jobs: Increase the number of downtown workers to 120,000 by 2040, a 33% increase from today.
🚲 Mobility: Redesign major thoroughfares, like Broad and Fourth streets, to be more friendly to bicycles and buses.
- Replace surface parking lots with higher-density garages.
- Build pedestrian bridges connecting the Arena District with other sides of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers.
- Support the Amtrak passenger rail station proposal.
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