May 8, 2023 - Development

Columbus' downtown busier than before the pandemic

Data: University of Toronto; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Amy Taylor jokes she is the only person who likes to see downtown traffic.

Driving the news: Columbus' downtown activity continues to exceed pre-pandemic levels, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng write.

  • That's according to anonymized mobile device connectivity data analyzed by researchers at the University of Toronto's School of Cities.

Why it matters: Downtowns, including ours, became ghost towns during the height of the pandemic as people sought to "flatten the curve" by staying at home.

  • Some major cities like San Francisco, St. Louis and Portland, Oregon, are still struggling to convince people to return.

State of play: Our downtown, meanwhile, has rebounded as a growing number of people are headed back to the office, making dinner reservations, attending major events and even moving in.

The big picture: This is what residents and city leaders had in mind when they put the Downtown Strategic Plan into motion last fall.

What they're saying: Tracking cell phone activity can be a crude way to measure a city's health, but the data supports what Taylor sees at work in the Lazarus office building and while visiting public spaces like the Columbus Commons.

  • "The way I look at downtown, it's reflective of the entire community," she tells Axios. "Everyone should feel welcome down here."
What we're watching for downtown this summer

Amid all the downtown bustle, here are some storylines we're keeping an eye on:

πŸ€Έβ€β™‚οΈ Fun on the Green: Families may be disappointed to learn the popular Scioto Mile Fountain is closed this summer for renovations.

  • Yes, but: The city hopes to fill that gap at nearby Dorrian Green Park with outdoor activities from 11am-2pm Tuesdays and concerts from 5-8pm Wednesdays.

🧡 An unusual sculpture: Keep your eyes peeled on the intersection of Gay and High streets next month.

  • A 229-foot-long fiber sculpture will soon hang above the streets like a "blue and red cloudlike abstraction," as the Columbus Museum of Art describes it.

πŸ— More housing: A number of downtown housing projects are in the works, including renovation of the historic Continental Center property and a new tower planned at the former United Way of Central Ohio HQ site that will together add hundreds of new apartment units.

  • The city's goal is to quadruple the downtown population, to 40,000 residents, by 2040.

πŸš„ Bringing back Amtrak: We may also hear news this summer about the proposed expansion of passenger rail service in Ohio, which could involve building an Amtrak station near the convention center.

  • Gov. Mike DeWine's administration took a "first step" in February toward studying the project, per

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