Dublin Villager

Study looks at occupancy, viability of city office districts

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With the vacancy rate higher than the Columbus average at two Dublin office areas, the city is looking for ways to stay competitive.

A viability and competitiveness study conducted on the Metro Office and Blazer Research districts, showed vacancy rates of 22 and 15 percent, respectively, above the Columbus average of 11 percent.

When Dublin City Council members were presented with the study last week, they recommended scheduling a work session to come up with solutions soon.

"The news is not bleak," said Dana McDaniel, Dublin's director of development.

The study, funded in the 2013 budget, was to determine the competiveness of two of Dublin's office areas that hold more than half of the office space in the city.

"However, it recognizes that the city must determine how it can best set the conditions and assist in keeping these office districts competitive in the future," the staff report to council stated.

"These legacy office districts have served as the city's economic center and have set a high standard by which other office parks in the region had to compete over the years."

According to the study, the Metro Office District has about 1.2 million square feet and the Blazer Research District makes up 4.1 million square feet of Dublin's office space.

"Together, Metro Office and Blazer Research districts represent over half of Dublin's office space," the study said.

Community stakeholders expressed concerns about the office areas in the study.

"Some buildings are 'old and tired,' relatively expensive to operate and difficult to adapt," the study said of the districts.

Parking might not satisfy demands of prospective clients and amenities such as dining and recreation are lacking, the study said.

The study also finds some fault with appearances in the districts: "Mature landscaping is highly valued unless it impedes views of buildings/ signs, making wayfinding difficult.

"There is frustration with code enforcement of decades-old landscaping plans."

The buildings also carry "relatively high office lease cost(s) due to higher expenses in older buildings," the study said.

McDaniel said staff has no formal recommendations right now, but the study does look at solutions used in other communities such as retrofitting older buildings, adding pedestrian connections, encouraging shared parking and allowing increases in density and mixed uses.

The buildings in the area have served the business community well, said council member Marilee Chinnici-Zuercher, but they're 30 years old.

"Although there are no recommendations we quickly need to get on planning," she said.

"This demonstrates that we're forward thinking, but we need to be forward thinking a few years ago."

Council member Amy Salay questioned whether the study could influence plans for the immediate future or 10 to 15 years down the road.

Council members requested staff schedule a work session on the study soon.

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