Aug 31, 2022 - Business

Downtown Columbus recovery outpacing all other large cities

Illustration of a city with confetti coming down over it.  
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Downtown Columbus rebounded from shutdown shock to now surpass pre-pandemic levels of activity.

  • In fact, our recovery is outpacing all other large cities in the U.S. and Canada, per a recent study from university data scientists.

Why it matters: Many cities' downtowns are recovering slower than their city as a whole, per the study. A thriving downtown is a good indicator of a city's overall economic health.

What they found: Researchers analyzed downtown activity patterns from 2019 and this year by using cellphone GPS data from 62 cities.

  • Columbus' recovery (112%) ranked No. 1 among large cities and No. 3 overall, only trailing Salt Lake City (155%) and Bakersfield, California (117%).

Yes, but: The 43215 zip code that the study uses encompasses areas technically not considered downtown, including some of the Short North and the Brewery District, Marc Conte, executive director of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, told Columbus Underground.

  • Those entertainment-heavy hubs may overshadow downtown proper's ongoing struggles, including an exodus of workers now employed remotely in other neighborhoods.
  • Recovery also hasn't been linear and dipped during COVID surges, per the data.

What they're saying: "To survive in the new era of remote work, downtowns will need to diversify their economic activity and land uses" and "be proactive about recreating downtowns for people," the study authors conclude.

What's next: Columbus has an ambitious strategic plan to develop a greener, more livable and vibrant downtown over the coming decades, we previously reported.

  • That includes growing its residents from the current 11,000 to 40,000 by 2040.
  • Residents' top suggestions for improving our downtown were better transportation options, more parks and restaurants and safer access for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The bottom line: It'll take more than just offices to keep downtown bustling, and it sounds like residents have the right ideas.

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