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Columbus: Scioto Peninsula Developments and News

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And finally we get to some current Scioto Peninsula news in today's Dispatch.  Back in June, it was expected that an official announcement regarding Vets Memorial and the new arts venue would be made in July.  According to a report in today's Dispatch, it looks like that has been delayed:

 

Local Government Insider: Vets Memorial plan several million short

By Lori Kurtzman and Holly Zachariah, The Columbus Dispatch

Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 9:46 AM

 

The expected announcement that Veterans Memorial will be demolished for a $50 million arts venue has been postponed indefinitely.  Guy Worley, president of the Columbus Downtown Development Corp., told Columbus and Franklin County officials recently that the plan is delayed because there isn’t enough money.  That’s probably the last word until after the November election.

 

The project has been delayed for more than a year because there is as much as a $10 million shortfall in what’s needed to remake the Scioto Peninsula, across the river from Downtown.  Worley’s group is trying to plug the gap.  Limited founder Leslie H. Wexner and his wife, Abigail, are putting up $25 million for the new arts facility.  The redevelopment plan also includes a new, separately funded, permanent attraction from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and retail and residential development along Broad Street.

 

MORE: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/07/18/vets-memorial-plan-several-million-short.html

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Walker Evans, co-founder of Columbus Underground and sometime poster here, is live updating from the 1PM press conference.  The early views looks encouraging.

 

LIVE UPDATES: http://www.columbusunderground.com/forums/topic/downtown-2010-plan-idea-11-scioto-peninsula-development/page/5

 

RECAP: http://www.columbusunderground.com/mixed-use-development-plan-unveiled-for-scioto-penninsula

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:clap:

 

I'm so excited for this plan! I hope they can add a pedestrian bridge to the plan sometime down the road but other than that, we are heading in the right direction!

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:clap:

 

I'm so excited for this plan! I hope they can add a pedestrian bridge to the plan sometime down the road but other than that, we are heading in the right direction!

 

From what I understand, the pedestrian bridge from North Bank will come after the Scioto River work is done in 2015. 

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Here's Big D's report on the big plan for the Scioto Peninsula that was announced yesterday: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/08/14/veterans-shrine-zoo-offshoot-planned-near-rivers-bend.html

 

Below is as close as I could get to a before-and-after view for the Scioto Peninsula.  The views are looking in different directions, but you its close enough that you can see the proposed changes.  The before view is looking northwest from the river.

9510952710_7c2bb2611d_d.jpg

 

The after view is the same aerial that ColDayMan posted - but with the developments labeled by the Dispatch.  It looks southwest.  Unfortunately, this version is rather dark, though the Scioto Peninsula area is more legible.

9510949500_4fe2996120_o_d.jpg

 

Here is the other version of that same Scioto Peninsula Master Plan aerial - unlabeled but much brighter and legible.

scioto-09.jpg

 

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After the reports earlier this summer about some of the reports to redevelop the Scioto Peninsula, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by yesterday's announcement.  But I have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised by the vision being shown and really can't argue with anything being proposed here.

 

The next questions are - How likely are these proposals to being built and what is the timeframe?  Here's my take on the various parts of the Scioto Peninsula Master Plan from that prespective:

 

1) Narrowing of the Scioto River - This is definately happening.  This was announced last year (and discussed here in the Scioto Mile thread).  The removal of the Main Street dam is funded and scheduled to be removed later this year.  Another lowhead dam to facilitate a similar river narrowing was done in Fall 2012 upstream at Fifth Street on the Olentangy River.

 

2) New Vets Memorial - This also looks like its definately happening.  A $25 million pledge from Limited Brands founder Leslie Wexner would fund this.  According to the Dispatch report, the final architectural designs of the New Veterans Memorial would begin this fall and demolition of the existing Vets would begin in Spring 2014.

 

3) Columbus Zoo Indoor Adventure - This looks very likely to happen.  However, it's still in the conceptual stage.  According to the Dispatch report, it would be a 50,000 square foot indoor site that could include an aquarium, rainforest and interactive educational components and would sit just southwest of COSI.  A possible opening date of 2017 has been mentioned.  The Columbus Zoo would likely fully fund this, possibly thru a new levy.

 

4) Underground Parking Garage - The existing surface parking lots west of COSI have been proposed to be replaced by an underground parking garage topped by a park.  The new underground garage would serve all three Scioto Peninsula attractions, COSI, New Vets and the Zoo.  It seems likely that would need to be built on a similar timeline with the new Zoo facility.  However, no funding or timeline is currently available.

 

5) New Residential Neighborhood - The most conceptual, but possibly most exciting part of the announcement, is a plan to add 1,200 residential units above ground-floor retail spaces.  The area west of Belle Street to the elevated railroad tracks is reserved for this new development.  According to the Dispatch report, this would be built by private developers.  It will very likely be based upon the Columbus Commons development model - which was managed by the Columbus Downtown Development Corp. (CDDC).  CDDC would also be managing this development plan.

 

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The Dispatch also had a follow-up story this week about the Scioto Peninsula development news.  The article was more focused on how this news might affect the on-going development plans in East Franklinton, which is just on the other side of the elevated railroad tracks that define the Scioto Peninsula.  But the article also had a much clearer diagram that shows the different development zones planned for the Scioto Peninsula.  The only part of the plan not shown on the diagram is the narrowing of the Scioto River, which would create additional parkland of each side of the river.  Below is the development diagram for Scioto Peninsula and a link to the article:

 

Riverfront rebirth: Groups hope East Franklinton benefits from Scioto River plans

 

9558070798_336cf4e3d6_b_d.jpg

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Scioto parkland downtown to take $35 million, 2 years to complete

 

scioto-peninsula-vision*600.jpg

 

A stretch of the Scioto River through downtown Columbus would become attractive to kayakers, be lined with leafy parkland and offer an improved mooring spot for the city’s Santa Maria replica under a riverfront redevelopment plan outlined Tuesday for the city’s Downtown Commission.

 

Keith Myers, a landscape and design expert and Columbus Downtown Development Corp.’s riverfront project manager, gave the commission details on the project unveiled two weeks ago as part of a larger redevelopment along the Scioto riverfront.

 

More below:

http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/blog/2013/08/scioto-parkland-downtown-to-take-35.html

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Since today is Veterans Day, this seems like a good time to post this report from Columbus Underground about an alternative development plan for Vets Memorial being promoted by a local veterans group.  This plan would retain and renovate the existing Vets Memorial complex and add some future undetermined development on the current parking lot west of the Vets building.  It likely has no chance of going forward and replacing the previously posted Scioto Peninsula development master plan, which was backed by the City of Columbus, Franklin County and CDDC.  But, FWIW, here is the CU report on the "keep Vets" alternative. (more at CU with 2 renderings):

 


Veterans Pushing for Alternative Vets Memorial Redevelopment Plan

By: Brent Warren, Columbus Underground

Published on November 9, 2013 - 9:30 am

 

A veterans group is pushing a plan developed by the Franklin County Veterans Memorial Board to renovate the building and potentially build a hotel and parking garage on the site.  The plan was developed in response to the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation’s (CDDC) proposal to tear down the building and replace it with a new memorial on about 5 acres, opening up the rest of the 17-acre site for private development.

 

MORE: http://www.columbusunderground.com/veterans-pushing-for-alternative-vets-memorial-redevelopment-plan-bw1

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^ The demolition of the existing Vets Memorial complex is going to happen.  The Franklin County Commissioners gave their approval for this to proceed (plus their official adoption of the previously posted CDDC redevelopment plan for the Scioto Peninsula)  More from the local media at the links below:

 

Columbus Underground: Demolition of Vets Memorial Approved to make way for New Memorial & Museum

 

Columbus Dispatch: Commissioners to commit to razing, replacing Veterans Memorial

 

Business First: Vets Memorial demolition gets commissioners’ approval

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^ Speaking for those of us who took the bar exam in that building, this is the best news ever.  Fourteen years later and my stomach still gets sick when see that place.

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Some more news about the Columbus Zoo component of the Scioto Peninsula Master Plan.  A zoo levy is going on the ballot in May that would fund it.  Below is an excerpt of the ThisWeekNews article about this that talks about the downtown zoo project:

 

Proposed permanent tax would allow downtown expansion

1.25-mill levy on May 6 ballot also would bring upgrades to current facilities

By THOMAS GALLICK, ThisWeek Community News

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 12:40 PM

 

The levy also would be a significant source of funding for the construction and operation of a planned zoo expansion in downtown Columbus, south of the COSI building on West Broad Street.  The project is one part of the Scioto Peninsula development plan, which includes the construction of a new veterans memorial, housing and a riverfront arboretum. 

 

"We were very honored to be approached to be part of the Scioto Peninsula project, and we want to provide the same experience that we provide here," Zoo President and CEO Tom Stalf said.  He said the state-of-the-art facility will be a major draw for central Ohio residents and tourists.  It will feature exotic animals, along with possible educational and classroom space, as well as overnight facilities for guests.  Stalf said zoo officials hope the downtown expansion will be open for business in 2017.

 

He said the results of the ballot question would play a role in the design and construction of the project.  "There's no question the scope is going to be dependent on this levy," Stalf said.

 

MORE: http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/olentangy/news/2014/01/14/proposed-permanent-tax-would-allow-columbus-zoo-to-expand-downtown.html

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Levy not about downtown Columbus zoo, official says

 

timthumb.php?src=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.columbusunderground.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2014%2F04%2Fdowntown-zoo-01.jpg&q=90&w=650&h=300&zc=1&

 

Tom Stalf is adamant: Issue 6 is not about a downtown zoo.

 

The proposed 1.25-mill levy that will appear before voters on the May 6 primary election ballot is about maintaining the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium as one of the premier attractions in central Ohio, said Stalf, president and CEO of the zoo.

 

“That piece downtown is not the driving force of this levy ask,” Stalf said. “It’s keeping the zoo great.”

 

More below:

http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/germanvillage/news/2014/04/15/franklin-county-ballot-issue-6-levy-not-about-downtown-columbus-zoo-official-says.html

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I'm still on the fence on Issue 6.....I love the idea of a zoo attraction downtown BUT do they really need Franklin Co. taxpayers to get it done??? I don't think so

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^I am fine with Franklin County taxpayers supporting the downtown zoo. Its the main zoo in Delaware County that is my concern; Delaware County residents should be chipping in as well.

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I've felt the same way about the "Franklin County pays/Delaware County doesn't pay" issue regarding the zoo levy.  However, there is another side to that issue I hadn't considered until I watched the latest 'Columbus On The Record' program this weekend - the full youtube recording of it is posted below.

 

They start discussing the zoo levy at the 13:50 mark.  And it's a very good (and civil) look at multiple sides of it.  One side brought up at the 17:34 mark by an Ohio Public Radio reporter who lives in Delaware County touches upon the Delaware County angle.  The OPR reporter noted that Delaware County never asked to have the zoo placed in Delaware County (and it's just barely over the Franklin County border in Delaware County too).  And she also noted a not-so-nice history that Delaware County has with the zoo.  Mainly that Columbus has used the zoo on annexation and water issues that benefit Columbus and Franklin County.

 

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They say "politics makes strange bedfellows".  If that's the case, then those considering voting against the Zoo Levy in May might want to consider the bedfellows opposing it.

 

- Business First reports today in http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/print-edition/2014/04/25/zoo-not-so-popular-with-some.html about a local group called Citizens for Responsible Taxation, a political action committee opposing the zoo’s May 6 ballot referendum asking for a property tax increase for Franklin County residents.  Business First talks with Mike Gonidakis, the spokesman for Citizens for Responsible Taxation.  They also report that Mr. Gonidakis is also a government affairs lawyer and president of anti-abortion/pro-life group Ohio Right to Life.

 

- The Columbus Dispatch also reports today in http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/04/25/national-group-asks-for-defeat-of-zoo-levy.html that the Koch brothers funded conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, is sending out mailings this week urging Franklin County residents to vote “no” on the Zoo Levy. 

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I heard the story about Citizens for Responsible Taxation on WOSU radio a couple of days ago. Their idea of responsible taxation is no taxes for anything ever.

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I heard the story about Citizens for Responsible Taxation on WOSU radio a couple of days ago. Their idea of responsible taxation is no taxes for anything ever.

 

They sound like the Central Ohio version of this group that our Cincinnati friends know all too well.

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Regardless of the Koch brothers funded national group or the local no-taxes-for-nobody group, this zoo levy already faced an unusually uphill campaign for a number of reasons:

 

1) Normally, Franklin County voters heavily support zoo levies at the polls.  Columbus Zoo levies have passed easily four times in 1985, 1990, 1994 and 2004.  However, those were all temporary property tax levies.  This one is a permanent property tax levy - and it contains additional components then just the main zoo (Downtown Zoo and The Wilds are in this one).

 

2) Delaware County has experienced much growth and development since the last levy in 2004.  In 2014, the issue of this being a Franklin County only property tax levy is being debated for the first time.

 

3) The zoo levy is backed by the Mayor and local business leaders.  However, it is coming on the heels of a Columbus Schools levy - also backed by the Mayor and local business leaders - that was soundly defeated at the polls last November.  That was a Columbus only vote and not Franklin County wide.  However, a coalition came together to defeat the November school levy.  Near East Side minorities, who felt that the Mayor was "not on their side", combined with Clintonville progressives, who were against the charter school component of the school levy, to vote it down.  A similar coalition could come together on the May zoo levy.

 

However, the zoo is also as universally beloved an as institution can get in Central Ohio.  So, all of those points might not matter.  Although the polling just reported on at http://www.nbc4i.com/story/25377536/survey-columbus-zoo-levy-poised-for-defeat and at http://wosu.org/2012/news/2014/04/30/poll-voters-skeptical-of-proposed-zoo-levy/ shows a 36 percent "Yes" vs. a 56 percent "No" split going into the May 6 voting date.  But as with most off-peak voting dates like this, the turnout of the supporters vs. the opponents will be key.

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The zoo levy will be interesting to watch. If you asked me what I expected to happen two weeks ago, I would have said it would easily pass. Public debate has shifted quickly, however, so I am much less confident.

 

I think that statewide there will be growing debate about central urban counties paying for all amenities. Hamilton County is already having this discussion about Music Hall and Union Terminal. Beyond a state law change, you would need to actually pass a levy in ring counties, so it certainly is not something that would be easy to implement.

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^ It failed big time too - 70% NO, 30% YES

 

I heard the zoo president say their next board meeting was next Wednesday.  So at least a week before they announce "Plan B".

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There's also a good discussion about the zoo levy defeat at http://www.columbusunderground.com/forums/topic/columbus-zoo-tax-levy-2014/page/25

 

I thought this question in that thread was pertinent:

 

"I’d be curious to know how much of this was due to (1) opposition to a Downtown zoo; (2) opposition to a tax increase; (3) opposition to a permanent tax increase; or (4) opposition to a tax on Franklin County alone."

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There's also a good discussion about the zoo levy defeat at http://www.columbusunderground.com/forums/topic/columbus-zoo-tax-levy-2014/page/25

 

I thought this question in that thread was pertinent:

 

"I’d be curious to know how much of this was due to (1) opposition to a Downtown zoo; (2) opposition to a tax increase; (3) opposition to a permanent tax increase; or (4) opposition to a tax on Franklin County alone."

 

For me it was options 2, 3, and 4.

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ThisWeekNews had a little bit more about the Zoo's possible next steps after the May 6th levy defeat at http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/stories/northland/news/2014/05/12/zoo-officials-to-regroup-reach-out-after-levy-loss.html

 

According to that article, the Zoo has not committed to putting a levy on the November ballot (although they have until August to decide).  Because the current zoo levy funding doesn't expire until the end of 2015, the Zoo could wait until February or May of 2015 to go to the polls again.  Although that would present a risk if it failed again.

 

The article didn't say much about what kind of levy might be returning to the polls.  They could try to return it unchanged.  But that seems unlikely given the 70-30 defeat.  Others news sources like NBC4, 10TV and the Dispatch are speculating that any zoo levy returning to the polls could be modified as follows:

 

- The downtown zoo component could be removed from a future zoo levy.  If so, the downtown zoo component could be dropped as part of the Scioto Peninsula redevelopment plans, or it could be funded separately. 

 

- A future zoo levy could drop the "permanent" property tax and return to asking for a 10-year temporary levy (like the existing levy)

 

- They could also return with a regional levy request that would include more than just Franklin County.  The down-side is that would require a change in State Law to allow it.  Although, previously, only temporary levies were permitted by State Law for the Zoo.  However, the Zoo lobbied to change this law to allow them to ask for a permanent levy, and the State Legislature changed it.

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Well.  So much for the zoo project on the Scioto Peninsula?

 

Zoo turns back on Downtown attraction and permanent levy

By Kathy Lynn Gray, The Columbus Dispatch

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 4:05 PM

 

The president of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said this afternoon that the zoo will not build a Downtown attraction and will not ask voters for a permanent tax levy. 

 

“We heard the voters loud and clear,” Tom Stalf wrote in an unsolicited email to The Dispatch. “They didn’t want a Downtown zoo campus so there won’t be one.”  He went on to say that the zoo won’t need a permanent levy if it doesn’t build a Downtown zoo and that the next levy request would be less than 1.25 mills.

 

Only 30 percent of Franklin County voters supported the zoo’s permanent 1.25-mill property tax on the May 6 ballot.  Opponents said the proposed Downtown zoo was unnecessary.  Many said they preferred time-limited levies, such as the current 10-year 0.75-mill tax that Franklin County property owners pay.

 

MORE: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/06/04/no-downtown-zoo.html

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Well.  So much for the zoo project on the Scioto Peninsula?

 

Looks like we can take the question mark off my previous statement.  According to the President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo, Tom Stalf, in a report at http://www.columbusunderground.com/downtown-zoo-project-has-been-cancelled:

 

Some discussion about the project on the Columbus Underground Messageboard has revolved around the idea of raising private donations to fund the project.  Stalf says that route is unlikely to be taken.

 

“It’s not just about capital dollars, but also ongoing operational dollars,” he explained.  “We wanted to build something affordable to the public, and to make it affordable, it needed to be subsidized through the levy.”

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While the new renderings for the new Ohio Veterans Memorial and Museum that would replace the existing Vets Memorial complex is featured on the front page of the Dispatch.  Below is the new rendering of the museum building as seen from the Scioto River, an excerpt of the article and a link to the full article:

 

ovvm-2.jpg

 

Military service inspires new Veterans Memorial design

By Josh Jarman, The Columbus Dispatch

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - 4:13 AM

 

A high-tech, glass-walled museum, a rooftop sanctuary with city views and a secluded memorial grove are among the new features planned for a new, statewide veterans memorial. ... The features are being revealed for the first time today in new plans for the Ohio Veterans Memorial and Museum, which is set to replace Franklin County Veterans Memorial.  The Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, or CDDC, which is leading the project, will unveil the drawings to its board members this morning.

 

These drawings differ from the early artists’ renderings of more than a year ago, when plans to replace Veterans Memorial with a statewide memorial and museum were announced.  They’ll be the basis for the building’s construction blueprints and show how the designers think the facility will look when it’s finished. ... Many of the elements of the early drawings remain, including a promenade that will wrap around the building and rise to a rooftop sanctuary.  The updated plan now includes an outdoor memorial grove to the north of the museum building.  Designs for the building itself have also changed.  It will now feature a series of sweeping concrete arches that support the building’s massive glass-curtain wall.

 

Construction should finish by the end of 2016.  Initial estimates are that the entire project will cost $55 million.  The CDDC has raised more than $50 million of that from about a dozen private and public partners.  The Dispatch has previously reported that the new Veterans Memorial would be built using $25 million donated by L Brands founder Leslie H. Wexner and his wife, Abigail.  The state also has agreed to contribute about $15 million, and the Franklin County commissioners have said they would pay about $3 million toward construction costs and an estimated $2.6 million to demolish the current Veterans Memorial and clear the site by March.

 

MORE: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/10/21/place-to-learn-honor-reflect.html

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