Aug 8, 2022 - Business

๐Ÿ™ Inside the plan to revitalize downtown

Area covered by Columbus Downtown Strategic Plan
Data: 2022 Downtown Strategic Plan draft; Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

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.

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 โ€” such as parks and shops โ€” 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:

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ Residential population: Grow to 40,000 people by 2040.

๐Ÿข Jobs: Increase the number of downtown workers to 120,000 by 2040, a 33% increase from today.

๐ŸŒณ Sustainability: Set a downtown tree canopy goal and design more tree-lined streets.

๐Ÿšฒ 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.

See the latest Downtown Strategic Plan presentation.

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