Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Columbus: Getting Fit For the Competition Ahead

This is the last of my entries prompted by my recent trip to Columbus. I’ve noted before that Columbus and Indianapolis are twin cities in many ways, though with some important differences.

One of those differences is that the civic discussion in Indianapolis today is heavily driven by the urgency of reversing the decline of Marion County as the city of Indianapolis increasingly loses out demographically and economically to its suburbs. In Columbus, by contrast, I didn’t sense nearly the same concern about suburban competition. While again I only have limited data points to go by, what conversations I did have if anything suggested to me that the city of Columbus thinks it’s holding most of the cards in the region. I suggest letting Indianapolis be a cautionary tale, and that Columbus should be much more focused on how to manage future suburban competition than it presently seems to be.

By the late 1960s Indianapolis had, like most cities, been steadily losing ground to suburban development. The response was a city-county merger called Unigov* that in effect annexed all important contemporary suburbs are well as most of the empty land that would be urbanized in the next two decades. This allowed Indianapolis to capture that suburban tax base and avoid many of the problems that plagued other older cities during the 1970s.

Fast forward to the present and it’s clear that the Unigov model is out of gas. Marion County is now largely full apart from some areas in the southern parts, and has a fairly flat growth curve in population. Most the growth is now in the collar counties. What’s more, there’s been a huge employment shift as well, with the city losing 41,000 jobs since 2000 and the suburbs gaining 78,000. I gave an overview of the dynamics in a previous post.

Today Indianapolis has a serious problem on its hand. How did this happen? It’s pretty simple. Unigov bought he city 40 years. But what did it do with that time? It built up its downtown to one of America’s best, a legitimately impressive and important accomplishment. But beyond that it was basically business as usual. Unfortunately, the 5.5 square miles of downtown can’t carry the rest of the city’s nearly 400. The city should have been aggressively preparing for the day when Unigov would reach exhaustion. But it did not.

Columbus utilized a similar technique to Unigov by aggressively annexing suburban development. And it had fairly similar results, doing well and avoiding the problems. But it seems to be widely accepted in Columbus that the city is nearing the end of its growth by annexation phase. While unlike in Indiana, Ohio makes it fairly easy to annex across county lines, and Columbus extends into multiple counties already, annexation has slowed to a crawl. In part I’m told that they are now reaching into territories that have other sources of water than the city of Columbus water utility, and thus the city has less leverage to annex than before. While technically not hemmed in, Columbus has less room for growth than before. This raises the question of when the dynamics of decline will set in within the newly stagnant city.

Columbus appears to be in better shape than Indy right now. I’d say this is for a few reasons. First, Franklin County, Columbus’ home base, is geographically bigger than Indy’s Marion County, giving Columbus a larger area of natural historic dominance. Columbus is also home to newer office/retail suburban development than Indianapolis. For example, Indy’s Keystone Crossing area is based on edge city and power center templates that are dated, while the corresponding Easton area in Columbus is newer and built to a lifestyle center type template that’s a bit more up to date. Columbus similarly has the relatively new Polaris area inside its borders.

What’s more, Columbus’ suburbs are comparatively underdeveloped and thus aren’t rivals as of yet. Indianapolis has five suburbs with more than 50,000 people – two of them with more than 80,000. Columbus has none. Only Dublin, which has 43,000 people, 9.5 million square feet of office space, and major downtown development ambitions, appears to be a full scale competitor at this point. Most other suburban municipalities are much smaller (e.g., New Albany has less than 10,000 people) and/or enclosed by the city of Columbus and thus limited in growth. Favored quarter suburban Delaware County has 185,000 people (some of which are in the city of Columbus) vs. nearly 300,000 for analogous Hamilton County, IN. What’s more, Hamilton County is far ahead in infrastructure vs. Delaware County. Delaware County has next to no upgraded east-west or “crosstown” arterials. Two reservoirs there make developing them difficult, with one of them separating I-71 from the developed parts of the county. Thus the county is even lacking in north-south “radial” movements.

These factors and others have essentially kept Columbus from facing any significant suburban competition. But unless the city wants to somehow double down on annexation and try to restart that engine, at some point these dynamics will change and the city of Columbus will find itself physically constrained and competitively disadvantaged vs. newer and now more powerfully developed suburban entities. Dublin is likely a preview of coming attractions.

I don’t have any particular policy suggestion in mind here, nor am I saying that anything the city is doing is necessarily wrong. But given what has happened in Indianapolis, I would certainly encourage the future prospect of suburban competition to be top of mind. The city of Columbus should be aggressively scenario planning for how this will play out, and use the runway that it has left to be preparing for the era of more intense intra-regional competition to come. Better to err on the side of paranoia, because the risks of waiting until you’ve got a serious problem on your hands are too high to ignore.

* Unigov also ensured a white majority in the city

Topics: Demographic Analysis, Economic Development, Regionalism, Strategic Planning
Cities: Columbus (Ohio), Indianapolis

145 Responses to “Columbus: Getting Fit For the Competition Ahead”

  1. Chris Barnett says:

    Wait…you can tell when you cross into or out of Bexley (or Grandview, or Upper Arlington)??? So Columbus proper isn’t as nice as its enclave suburbs north and east?

    /sarcasm off

    As a Bexley native, I knew this already.

    And Josh’s description of Columbus seems a lot like Indy…of the favored quarters north (Meridian Kessler, Butler Tarkington, Broad Ripple, Meridian Hills) and east (Irvington), the former single-family, streetcar suburbs of Indy now included in Unigov. The neighborhoods definitely change when you cross lines, even old town lines that were erased between 1920 and 1970.

  2. John Morris says:

    Oops, This is the original American Dirt post from 2009 contrasting Bexley with surrounding areas of Columbus.

    I hope & assume that things have changed a bit since Columbus has turned towards higher quality infill.

  3. Josh says:

    @John: more or less its still the same… In the case of the near Bexley area the neighborhoods are solid middle class neighborhoods but very little has been done to change the streetscape or form of the primary corridors in recent years.

    The Columbus parts of the Grandview area are finally seeing some movement (large mixed use development) but the streetscape and infrastructure remain pretty bad.

    None of this is to say that all areas of Columbus look worse than the surrounding enclaves. The City has invested quite a bit in streetscape and infrastructure all around the city. It just seems to me that areas that could be capitalized on that are enclave adjacent are often overlooked by reinvestment.

  4. Eric says:

    You guys really need to exchange numbers or email so you can bicker back and forth on your own.

  5. John Morris says:


    Sad to hear, I know Columbus has made decent strides in terms of infill and many of the projects look very good.

    This seems to be at least as much an issue of zoning as investment. Quite likely the developers could pay for street improvements if multi story mixed use of the type shown in Bexley was allowed.

    Runs against the narrative that consolidation “saved” Columbus. At best it bought time- which the city hasn’t always used well.

  6. Josh says:

    “Runs against the narrative that consolidation “saved” Columbus. At best it bought time- which the city hasn’t always used well.”

    I’m not sure that I would go that far. I would say attention has been focused on other areas. Downtown especially has been the focus for the last 5 years or so.

    Something that has been a positive step for the city are the Commercial Overlays which now cover large sections of the city. Even in areas with otherwise suburban development buildings are now often up to the street or at the least without parking between the street and the building. (More here:

    What now needs to change is the physical infrastructure. I suppose its easier for a place like Bexley to make big changes because they have the time to focus on their small area.

  7. John Morris says:

    “What now needs to change is the physical infrastructure. I suppose its easier for a place like Bexley to make big changes because they have the time to focus on their small area.”

    Bexley didn’t just have time- it had a desperate need to maximize its tax base and livability. For Columbus there was no immediate need- and a lot of political inertia.

    I saw the same process in Brooklyn and Queens, where there is no sense of urgency as they mooch off the Manhattan tax base.

  8. Josh says:

    Good point…

    The city is happy to see Downtown, German Village, SN grow up so at one time they put the money their. Now the money is headed to East Franklinton because the momentum of development has to go somewhere and they want to make sure its in Columbus. Clearly this strategy has benefits but doesn’t necessarily maximize a lot of areas.

    The other target of money is often highly distressed areas such as the Near East Side/King-Lincoln, Weinland Park, and South Side/Parsons. Those big infrastructure investments often don’t pay off (at least for a long time) though because development there is subsidized by the city anyway.

  9. John Morris says:

    This doesn’t seem entirely to be about money as much as zoning and design.

    If the area is solidly middle class- (Bexley looks closer to rich) Private developers might consider bankrolling improvements- if the cuffs are taken off in terms of what can be built.

    Remember that the urbanist walkable nature of Bexley makes high density development near it easier.

    The problem sounds to be more one of political inertia with surrounding car dependent areas supporting auto sewer main streets.

    A Bexley council member can ask- “would u rather we just raise your taxes?”; while Columbus feels like they have lots of land to waste.

  10. John Morris says:

    Oh, and Bexley seems to have a large Jewish population- who prefer to walk to Temple. This captive market could extend into surrounding areas of Columbus.

    This really seems to be more about zoning and politics than a lack of cash.

  11. Chris Barnett says:

    Bexley’s southern third (the “streetcar suburban” neighborhoods of 40-foot lots on straight streets with alleys south of Main) was largely German-Lutheran in the 20th Century, owing to the presence of Capital University and the Lutheran Seminary on Main Street. I sometimes walked with my grandmother to church, and to the small corner grocer. My father and uncles walked to school in their day.

    There is, in fact, tremendous inertia in such places against dense infill, other than on the main corridors. This building,-82.935921,3a,75y,34.18h,86.08t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sKbmiGCuVI0eyuXG1O6o28A!2e0?hl=en
    is on Main Street. If I recall correctly, it replaced a smaller residential structure or two that had been converted to commercial use. Across the street to the west is a much older mixed-use building, and there are others nearby. But these things would probably never get built on the side streets, which limits the amount of densification that can happen in such places.

    I am puzzled, though, that Columbus hasn’t made a priority of investing in the east side neighborhoods between this site (just a couple of blocks into Bexley) and the south edge of downtown 4 miles away. Columbus’ near east side looks very much like Indy’s between downtown and Irvington; Indy is spending lots and lots of community development money in that area.

  12. Jon says:

    @Chris and others…

    The east side of Bexley becomes Whitehall, and is not in Columbus’ domain.

    On the west side of Bexley, between Downtown and Alum Creek, is Old Towne East and King-Lincoln. There is currently lots of money going into this area, both by private investment that is piecemealing revitalization house by house, but also through the city and OSU. There’s currently a $500 million long-term plan for revitalization, and the city already got started by tearing down the problem-ridden housing complex known as Poindexter Village. Construction on nearly 500 residential units, offices, community gardens and park space has begun in its place. The plan also addresses the future of several vital thoroughfares with plans to add density through public/private development. The city also just got a $30 million federal grant just a few days ago to help in this process.

    Even before all this, there was evidence that the area was well into revitalization/gentrification, and 2020 should see some of the area’s census tracts gain population for the first time in 50-60 years.

  13. John Morris says:

    @Jon Thanks, this info helps.

    The specific question I have isn’t so much about spending money- but changing zoning restrictions that limit building heights, parking and design- so that private developers might fund street & sidewalk) improvements.

    Have all barriers to this type of development been removed across the board at least along the main streets?

    Bexley seems like a very wealthy area & the area between it and the downtown very bankable property. I doubt that developers can’t make needed infrastructure investments if they are fully allowed to build what they want. (3-10 story mixed use with little or no mandated parking)

    @ Chris Barnett

    I brought up the Jewish population specifically because many want or are religiously obligated to not use cars on the Sabbath. Just saying that this is a strong driver for urbanist development since the area has several synagogues.

  14. Jon says:


    I’m not sure if the PACT plan addresses zoning so much as it addresses target areas for investment. Keep in mind that OTE and King-Lincoln have historically been exclusively residential areas. East Main, East Broad and East Long Streets had some commercial here and there, but they were more of the corner-store variety rather than blocks of mixed-used buildings. East Broad was more like Euclid in Cleveland, with large mansions lining both sides of the street all the way to Bexley. The PACT plan does address the need for commercial and retail spaces on main corridors, as much of the original residential housing on those streets is long gone. So it’s an opportunity to rebuild.

    Bexley just approved a 4-story mixed-use building on the corner of Main and Cassady, actually. It did get some resident objections, but the project was approved fairly quickly. Bexley has been pushing for this type of development on its portion of East Main for the last few years.

  15. John Morris says:

    I’m not sure if the PACT plan addresses zoning so much as it addresses target areas for investment. (As in government investment and subsidies?)

    So city, state or federal taxpayers are going to fork over $$ in highly bankable area for improvements that private developers would probably pay for if the zoning were changed. It will also accept far less future tax revenue back from this reduced development.

    With the lower density and car oriented zoning – quite likely retailers will demand subsidies or masses of parking (city constructed parking garages)

    Lack of reasonable TOD also makes any transit less viable and in need of more subsidies.

    This is a political issue- not based in the economic reality of location and probable demand.

    The end result is also exactly the type of zero sum gentrification that will force out low income residents.

    If Columbus were a smaller city, some voice of common sense might be heard. Bexley leaders clearly see the need for denser development and have been willing to push back against childish opposition. Columbus feels like it doesn’t matter.

  16. Jon says:


    The PACT plan is a public/private plan, something that Columbus does very well at. Nowhere did I say it was fully public.

    Also, what makes you say that zoning is preventing private investment in the area? Can you point to any zoning laws that would do so?

    You sure did run away with that and make some pretty broad assumptions.

  17. John Morris says:

    How can one prove a negative?

    We know there is enough demand for at least a 4 story mixed use building nearby in Bexley. (Probably much more) We also know this is a very upper middle class area and very close to downtown. We also know there is at least one bus route along East Main St.

    No, I don’t suppose developers issue press releases about all the projects they might have considered if they were allowed.

  18. John Morris says:

    I think we also know that the “public’s part in a “public/ private” partnership usually involves some form of grant, tax abatement, below cost land gift, publicly financed garage or other subsidy.

    In this case, the public (taxpayers) are likely going to have to put more money in because lower density development doesn’t cover the cost of improvements.

  19. John Morris says:

    Actually seems that Columbus was the first American cities to mandate parking for all Apartment buildings in 1923.

    “Since all units, irrespective of size, are generally required to have a parking spot, apartments have become larger and more expensive. The financial and logistical burden created by parking requirements restricts the rooming supply. “Zoning requires a home for every car, but ignores homeless people,” writes Shoup. “By increasing the cost of housing, parking requirements make the real homelessness problem even worse.”

    The cost of “free” parking is almost always hidden. Be it at Wal-Mart, McDonalds or a hospital, the free parking that lurks in the backyard of almost all private enterprise is buried in product prices.

    “Seemingly, everyone but the motorist pays for parking,” lament Jakle and Sculle. The cost of “free” parking is astronomical. In 2002, for instance, the total subsidy for off-street parking in the USA was between $127 billion and $374 billion. Shoup argues that, “The cost of all parking spaces in the U.S. exceeds the value of all cars and may even exceed the value of all roads.”

    Policies like this cause a problem which then we are supposed to thank the government for fixing.

  20. Jon says:

    @John, I’m not asking you to give a list of projects that never happened. I’m asking you to cite zoning that would prevent private development from taking place in the areas between Downtown and Bexley.

    Yes, public investment usually involves grants, TIFs, etc. In every city, everywhere. Why shouldn’t a city be investing in its neighborhoods? Do you honestly believe that private development alone is going to rush in and save every neighborhood with a problem?

    Why are you citing 91 year old policy? Most zoning has changed quite a bit since 1923, and much of the recent neighborhood plans have either reduced parking requirements or got rid of them altogether.

  21. Chris Barnett says:

    Jon, I specifically mentioned the east side between Bexley and downtown because we’re talking generally about inner-ring neighborhoods.

    I know where East Main goes the other way too. It looks a lot like East Washington in Indianapolis east of Irvington: miracle mile after miracle mile out to the beltway, with downscale suburban shopping centers anchored by Burlington and Value City…which, if Google Maps is correct, are in Columbus municipal boundaries.

    Then there is a distinct change at the Reynoldsburg city line:,-82.8327,3a,75y,346.02h,69.14t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s12-e6MaiVyeMattvn98QMg!2e0?hl=en

    The point about Columbus leveraging its suburbs’ investment on major corridors is well taken. It applies to Indianapolis too, as there is a similar change at the east county line along US40.

    Jon, there is a strain of thought that releasing zoning restrictions would unleash a torrent of concentrated investment in cities. Clearly the argument has merit in legacy transit cities (NYC, Boston, Philly, Chicago, SFO), and in “new system” cities like DC and LA with high demand.

    I am not sure anyone has demonstrated particularly well the case that zoning restricts growth in mid-sized midwestern cities. Prime land in both Columbus and Indianapolis in or near downtown is not underutilized because of zoning restrictions on height, parking, or density. It’s about demand.

    In Indianapolis, the CBD zoning classification has no lot coverage limits and requires no parking. Yet it has taken more than 15 years since closure to have a developer’s viable plan for the Market Square Arena site…and they feel the need for a parking pedestal under the tower.

    And the best Columbus could do with its former downtown mall site is to make a big green field out of it, instead of building a high-end mixed-use tower?

  22. Chris Barnett says:

    PACT addresses an area north of Broad Street…that’s not the area I was thinking of. I was suggesting that the area in need of investment is directly east of the historic downtown core, south of Broad to I-70 and east to Alum Creek/Bexley along Main and Bryden…Olde Town East and Franklin Park. The streets fronting Franklin Park seem to be in good shape but it drops off pretty quickly away from there toward the interstate and toward downtown. The interstate side in particular has looked bombed out for the past 30 years…again, much like the near east side of Indy.

  23. John Morris says:

    @Jon; @Chris Barnett

    At least one national developer has stated that Columbus’s minimum parking requirements are blocking projects it wants to build.

    “Edwards Pushes for Urban Density with New Apartment Developments.”

    “Meanwhile, on Lane Avenue, Edwards is planning a new five-story development that would be home to 40 apartments containing 112 beds and podium-style parking below the units. The project has faced opposition by the University Area Commission for not providing enough parking spaces for the building’s residents. The original plans call for a ratio of 0.6 parking spaces per bed, providing parking spots for 60% of the tenants.

    “We firmly believe that with the proximity to campus that the parking plan would be more than sufficient,” said Szymanski. “We’re targeting students who don’t want to own a car.”

    The development plans presented by The Edwards Community meets city code, and variances for reduced parking plans can be applied, but Szymanski says that the university overlay is more stringent.

    “We did a parking study on the Lane Avenue area and found that most apartment buildings are below the 0.6 level,” he explains. “So we went to the Columbus Board of Zoning Adjustment, but they asked us to find more parking.”

    Nearby, Edwards has proposed a similar student-oriented development at 236-262 West Norwich Avenue. This collection of four three-story buildings provides housing for 156 residents with two stories of parking, but faces similar opposition because of required parking variances.”

    These projects seem to be north of downtown near Ohio State, but it strains belief that few people want to build multi story mixed use in the area close to Bexley.

    The article says that a lot of developments get variances- meaning that the basic law is not what the market wants.

    I’m not saying all projects are impeded by these restrictions- but this is a big problem. Why not get rid of them and see what happens?

  24. John Morris says:

    Here is fighting over a proposed project in Olde Towne East, not too far from Bexley.

    Higgins and Heffernan represent two camps that have mobilized in the past few months over a three-building apartment complex planned for 122 Parsons Ave. in Olde Towne East, a block east of I-71 and a block north of Bryden Road on the Near East Side. The two groups came together in a nearly standing-room-only meeting last night of the Columbus Board of Zoning Adjustment.

    After several hours of hearing concerns from both camps, board members approved the project by a 3-0 vote, with Jim Maniace abstaining because he’s worked with the developer.

    Of the dozens of people who attended, many rose to speak, reciting the years they’ve lived in the Olde Towne East neighborhood and why they were concerned about the proposal. A least one shed tears. Proponents of the plan emphasized that it would reclaim the 1-acre vacant lot that used to be home to a carpet factory and is laced with arsenic and other chemicals. They also said it would create a way for new residents to enter a neighborhood known for its 100-plus-year-old houses.”

    Many opponents wanted less density & the inclusion of retail- in an area without enough density to support it.

    So far it looks like the project will go through- but who knows?

  25. Jon says:

    @Chris, the area south of Broad Street directly to the east of Downtown is Old Towne East. Specifically, that tract (#38) will be the first one to see growth in the entire area between Downtown and Bexley. In the 2010 census, demographics switched for the first time, from majority Black to majority White. A similar change is happening in the tracts directly south and directly east, around Franklin Park. This gentrification process has been occurring for years now and is just now reaching that growth tipping point. PACT does largely deal with the areas north of Broad, in King-Lincoln, which is decidedly worse shape than areas south. Even with the plan, it is unlikely that it will see large-scale redevelopment. Both areas, but particularly OTE, are historic districts filled with century old homes. It will mostly involve smaller infill projects on vacant lots, probably in the form of single-family homes. Homeport is doing a lot of that kind of infill, while also renovating existing homes into market-rate properties. So far, it’s been a slow process.

  26. John Morris says:

    “will be the first one to see growth in the entire area between Downtown and Bexley.”

    This is not logical. Bexley is an upper middle class area with lots of shopping and walkability. There is also a Kroger, an Aldi’s and a Walmart within what seems to be walking distance.

    It’s not reasonable to think there is no demand for apartment development there.

  27. Jon says:

    @John, I’ve found the University Area Commission to be extremely anti-density. The project in reference was not ended because of parking requirements, though. The Norwich project also referenced is under construction and will be done later this summer.

    Also, a new University District Plan is going to come out this year which reduces parking requirements to 1 space per every 3 beds, which translates to about 0.333 spaces per bed. That’s almost a 50% reduction from the number you gave, and it’s well below the 1 space per bed standards that were in place at one time, which was astronomically high for literally the most dense area in Columbus. So the bottom line is that zoning IS changing in the University District.

    The project at 122 Parsons was approved and is expected to move forward. You are going to find resident objections like this with any proposal anywhere, and would exist even if there were no zoning codes at all. Some people are just afraid of change. But this is one of the first examples of a private developer stepping into the area in a long time. The Short North is getting built out and increasingly expensive. Development interests have to find new places, and they are now including Franklinton and OTE.

  28. Jon says:

    @John… I think you misunderstood what I said. I was saying that tract 38 (which is south of Broad and part of Old Towne East) would be the first one of the Near East Side tracts to see population growth by 2020, based on current demographic trends. I was not talking about growth in terms of development or demand.

  29. John Morris says:


    You said that tract would be the “first one to see growth in the entire area between Downtown and Bexley.”

    The area I am talking about is also between the downtown and Bexley and has huge potential. Chis Barnett linked to at least 1 new building in the area along that general mold.,-82.935921,3a,75y,34.18h,86.08t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sKbmiGCuVI0eyuXG1O6o28A!2e0?hl=en

    Chris says there are several older apartment buildings in the area- dating from before anti urban zoning took hold.

    One can’t prove a negative but this clearly is an attractive area for multifamily development.

  30. Chris Barnett says:

    Jon, I was using Google street view to supplement my prior drives through that area. Clearly OTE and Franklin Park are sitting pretty and should have filled in or gentrified long ago, and are finally starting to tip.

    Indianapolis’ Old North Side and Herron Morton went through that process over the last 30 years. That OTE/Franklin Park just sat there rotting for most of those decades again points out that Columbus does not leverage/connect to its upscale enclave suburbs nearly enough.

    A lot of this has to do with the SLOW destruction of the near east side of Columbus from 1960-1990, first for I-70/71 construction, then for I-670. In that same time frame, Indy stopped with I-65/70 and canceled its northeast freeway.

    I realize Columbus “had” to build 670 to CMH if it was going to keep its airport there. But why didn’t they consider moving the airport down to Lockbourne/Rickenbacker? All those urban freeways in Columbus, twice as many miles inside the beltway as Indy, didn’t do the central city and first ring out from downtown any favors over the past 40-50 years. (I still remember going to the old Columbus Central Market with my parents on Saturdays.)

  31. John Morris says:

    Given how attractive Bexley is and the wide range of shopping, Franklin Park might have better immediate prospects than OTE.

    It’s economically much easier to build on existing viable neighborhoods than to start from scratch. (not always politically easier)

    OTE seems to have the remaining great housing stock, but seems pretty damaged and torn up.

    The first step the city should take is to remove all car oriented zoning laws along the main streets.

    The shift towards car sewer design in Columbus vs Bexley is pretty dramatic.

  32. John Morris says:

    OK, Olde Towne East looks pretty awesome on some levels- like Shadyside crossed with Manchester or other North Side neighborhoods.

    The whole area is ripe for infill. Just saying that the land closest to Bexley may have the best immediate prospects.

  33. Josh says:

    Almost all main commercial corridors in the city already have been designated with UCO/CCO overlays which lower parking minimums along with regulating building form to be more urban. You can read more about them here:

    OTE/Franklin Park have been on a slow and steady march up for the last 25 years or so but are just recently seeing the first signs of new build redevelopment taking place. Despite being near Bexley, the Franklin Park area is very disconnected and most revitalization is happening directly around the park or off some main roads.

    The area around Parsons to Oak and 18th is where the newer action is happening and where the momentum will likely continue from. This is mostly due, IMO, to the proximity to downtown and the business cluster at Oak and 18th. The Near East Side is such a large area and suffered so much disinvestment and entrenched poverty its hard to break free. The real Bexley adjacent opportunities, in my opinion, lie to the east not west of the boundaries but as you can see from Streetview or the ground significant streetscapeing has to be done on the Columbus side.

    The real development (when I say development I mean new build) in the city is focused between Grandview, OSU, & Downtown and will continue to be the main focus because of the synergies, safety, walkability, and amenities. The Grandview area (5xNW) is still without streetscaping or infrastructure improvements but the demand from OSU and company is so high that it doesn’t matter. Here is an example of that:

    East Franklinton is on its way to but is more or less subsidized.

  34. Josh says:


    Not a big fan of freeway building but aside from the destruction of “Flytown” (Where Westminster-Thurber now stand in Victorian Village) there wasn’t much destruction from it. And even in the Short North its effects have been abated with the Cap.

    Mostly runs over railroad or vacant industrial land. I-70 was the terrible one with 71 coming in a distant 2nd.

  35. John Morris says:

    Lower parking requirements don’t always mean- low parking requirements.

    The current East Main street is a substandard car sewer through most of this area- until one reaches Bexley.

    I agree that if demand and all the other factors are working- fancy streetscape improvements are not always needed.

  36. John Morris says:

    Contrast the car sewer Kroger Shopping center design to a project a similar distance from Atlanta’s Midtown.

    The Ponce City Market mixed use complex adopts a huge existing Sears catalog warehouse. The shopping center across the street from it integrates apartments with a supermarket.

    The Shadyside Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh also includes apartments.

    There is no good reason projects near Bexley are as badly designed as they are.

    The other major improvement needed is several pedestrian bridges across Alum Creek.

  37. Jon says:

    @John, the google image of that building is from inside Bexley’s city limits. It’s not in Columbus, which begins parallel to the railroad tracks that run along the west side of Bexley. So yes, a few larger developments have happened in Bexley, which is a far smaller area, dominated with middle and upper-class residents, and which suffered no long-term decline as urban areas did to the west. It’s a self-contained suburb with its own government and tax base, which is not what OTE and King-Lincoln are or have. Bexley just has had more ability to get these projects done because it had the economic factors and demand behind it. That hasn’t been the case further to the west until the last few years when urban living has become hot again. BTW, the building in reference was not completed until 2005, and was one of the first newer developments on Main in Bexley in some time. The development to the west, at Parkview and Main, is even newer, but those are just about the only 2 that have come in the last 10 years. So it’s not as if Bexley has been experiencing some kind of development boom in relation to OTE, even given much better demographics and stability. It too had to wait for urban living to make a comeback. Now private development is going to come because there is demand.

    So when you talk about “anti-urban zoning”, in this case, I just don’t think that was the issue. Certainly not in OTE, which was your typical inner city neighborhood that experienced very typical decline as many other inner city neighborhoods did nationally. When the suburbs were hot, people didn’t want to invest there. This has long been about demand, not zoning. Now that there is demand, there is and will be a continuing increase in development, especially that Columbus’ Downtown and SN residential vacancy is less than 1%. That demand is going to spread out, and by all accounts, has been.

  38. Jon says:

    @Chris… 670 was not really the problem. At least through Downtown, there was a large rail yard that existed there prior to its construction. It went from Downtown east north of King-Lincoln and 670 was basically built in its place. So its construction was FAR less destructive than I-71/I-70, which plowed directly through hundreds of historic buildings and cut off the Near East Side from Downtown. But then again, there really are few cities that don’t have similar examples. It sucks, but there’s not much that can be done about it. When ODOT originally proposed rebuilding the 70/71 split, which is currently happening, Columbus wanted the bridges connecting the Near East Side to Downtown to all be capped similar to the only on High Street that crosses 670. ODOT has no interest in doing that kind of thing, but it did at least agree to make the new bridges wider and more landscaped. It also made the bridges cap-capable, which means that if a private developer comes along and wants to build over top of 71 along those bridges, they can handle the weight. And we found out this year that new bridges on S. High and Front, which connect Downtown to German Village, WILL be capped with new development. So some reconnections are being made.

    BTW, you reference Central Market as if it was demolished for highway construction, but the site was nowhere near 670 or 71. It was in the center of Downtown, and the site is where the current Greyhound bus depot is. It was a terrible loss, but that was the early 1960s for you, when urban destruction and lack of thought into the consequences was the norm.

  39. Jon says:

    @Josh… I would not say what’s happening in Franklinton is mostly subsidized. There seems to be a TON of private investment. Besides the city tearing down the half-collapsed B&T building a few years back, I haven’t seen a lot of public dollars going into the neighborhood. Even the Scioto Peninsula plan is mostly geared toward private investment. At the very least, it will be a public/private mix, such as with the proposed new Veterans Memorial, of which half the cost is from private interests.

  40. John Morris says:

    “Certainly not in OTE, which was your typical inner city neighborhood that experienced very typical decline as many other inner city neighborhoods did nationally.”

    Yes, like any typical inner city neighborhood in the path of a huge possible highway.

    When did divestment start and what role did the highway speculation and Urban Renewal projects like Poindexter Village play in that?

    No way to really know. All I am saying is in the here and now- anti urban zoning and community opposition to reasonable levels of density looks like a big problem.

    Bexley’s progress is slowed more from this than any demand issues.

  41. Jon says:

    @John… You’re right in that lower parking requirements won’t automatically mean lower parking standards would actually be met… unless there is demand for density. 5, 10, or 20 years ago, had there been zero or low parking zoning, it probably would not have made much difference because how people viewed the city was in the frame of auto-dependency and auto-convenience. It was not walkability, not pedestrian access, etc. So even if the standards had been in place, you can bet that projects would’ve been granted variance after variance to build with much a much higher parking ratio.

    That way of thinking is not necessarily the case anymore. The city and neighborhoods have been working on new zoning codes for the last few years. Columbus just implemented the Complete Streets guide to its entire street grid, for example. While there are going to be projects that get approved with parking in mind, that’s going to happen FAR less now than in previous years, even if the zoning had been different a long time ago.

  42. Jon says:

    @John, as I said, the Near East Side generally reached peak population between 1950-1960. I-71 split off the area in about 1962. Demographics and population changed dramatically in the following decade or two. Poindexter Village did not have that much of an impact. It was one of Columbus’ first public housing complexes and came around 1940, so there is very little correlation between it and the decline of the neighborhood. It did help exacerbate the problem later on, though, when it became known for criminal activity, but this was, again, post 1960.

  43. John Morris says:

    “5, 10, or 20 years ago, had there been zero or low parking zoning, it probably would not have made much difference because how people viewed the city was in the frame of auto-dependency and auto-convenience. It was not walkability, not pedestrian access, etc.”

    Not sure if I agree with that. Part of Bexley’s big appeal seems to be highly walkable streets.

    There is also an Orthodox Jewish population who are religiously banned from using cars on the Sabbath and the remains of a pre zoning apartment stock.

    The huge problem was that Bexley alone couldn’t preserve that character as long as the surrounding districts were auto driven.

  44. Jon says:

    @John… But keep in mind that even Bexley declined relative to outer suburbs. It lost population in 3 of the last 4 decades, including the 2000s. That walkability did not truly become an asset until the last 5 years. It may have helped prevent all-out freefall (along with a host of other factors like good schools), but it didn’t prevent decline altogether. Since 2010, population estimates show that it is, indeed, growing again. The same with Whitehall, on the east side of Bexley, which also faced long-term population losses until recently. This is true across the city, especially areas inside 270.

  45. John Morris says:

    Bexley’s relative strength over many years speaks for itself. It could only go so far as long as the surrounding area was sliding down the car sewer. Columbus would be wise to learn and play to Bexley’s strength.

    This should be a win-win relationship. A stronger, denser more walkable area around Bexley allows both communities to cut down on dead land use & increase taxable development. It also better anchors transit.

    Eliminate all parking minimums and raise height limits along the main streets and see what happens.

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