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COLUMBUS, OHIO — This summer, the city of Columbus and Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp. are knocking down the City Center shopping mall in downtown Columbus to make way for Columbus Commons. Plans for the 8.9-acre project call for a mix of office and retail uses anchored by a city park.

In December 2007, New York-based The Georgetown Company was selected by Capitol South to serve as the project’s development manager. MSI was retained as the land use planner for the multi-phased project. With the help of consultants from CB Richard Ellis and input from local community members, Capitol South decided that demolition was the best option for the site.

“Our goals were to avoid excess costs and examine all possibilities for reuse of the building before considering demolition,” explains Amy Taylor, chief operating officer of Capitol South. “After looking at the site from many different perspectives, we found that attempting to reconfigure the current structure was vastly more expensive than simply starting over.”

Demolition of the 1.2 million-square-foot mall is slated for completion in less than a year. By 2010, the site — which is located south of the Ohio Theater, the Fifth Third Center and the Hyatt on Capitol Square — will be transformed into a park with seating and common areas. The initial phase of the project is expected to cost approximately $15 million to $20 million, including the demolition of the current structure and the creation of almost 9 acres of green space.

“By investing in the basic infrastructure and green space on an existing site downtown, this project will help combat urban sprawl, while improving the quality of life and transportation efficiency,” Taylor says. “Over time, private investment will greatly surpass the initial stimulus investment and the 200 construction jobs it immediately produces.”

While the source of financing for the initial phase of the project has not been disclosed, Capitol South is applying for federal stimulus funds. For future phases, the non-profit group is expecting a private investment of more than $100 million.

Future plans for the project call for the restoration of a 900-space underground parking garage. The plan announced on February 4th anticipates multiple phases, starting with residential units above street-level retail on High Street. Over time, the area will include office buildings and entertainment venues on a pedestrian-friendly street grid. Given the economic climate, Capitol South has recognized that the additional phases of Columbus Commons will be completed when the market is ready.

“There are no great cities without great downtowns that have parks, recreation and cultural amenities,” Taylor explains. “The empty, cavernous [mall] building will be gone and a beautiful new park will be available for the community to enjoy by the fall of 2010.”

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