When Columbus Commons opens Thursday, May 26, there will be life, energy and activity where City Center once stood. Over the course of the entire Grand Opening weekend, May 26-29, people will gather to hear music, play in the park, enjoy recreation activities and see live theater. It will be a preview of what this park has to offer and a showcase of the new amenities that now define downtown.
Over the last decade, public and private leaders have partnered to breathe new life into downtown Columbus. Many examples of this aggressive revitalization effort have sprouted up in recent months, including Huntington Park, the renovated Lazarus building, numerous condo projects, the $42 million Scioto Mile Riverfront Park and the new Franklin County Courthouse.
Columbus Commons is a similar project. The nine-acre park at 160 S. High St. occupies the once-dead urban space that previously housed City Center mall. Capitol South, along with the Franklin County Commissioners and Metro Parks, funded the creation of Columbus Commons with a goal to redevelop this core property.
This vibrant community asset features world-class gardens, a carousel, a performance area and is supported by 4,500 parking spaces and around-the-clock security. A crucial function of this inviting urban space will be to attract children and their families through a variety of free programs and attractions throughout the summer. Capitol South is partnering with wonderful community organizations like CAPA, the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the Franklin Park Conservatory, the 2nd and 7 Foundation and others to provide family-friendly programming.
Carousel rides, theater productions, interactive children's activities, an Outdoor Reading Room with weekly Friday storytimes and monthly Family Fundays will be part of the summer calendar of events at Columbus Commons.
Other programs include weekly live music, a farmers market, Cocktails at the Commons, a summer movie series and outdoor plays.
Families looking for free and fun entertainment options should include the grand opening of Columbus Commons in their plans. On May 26, activities, which begin at 4 p.m., include a free "Live + Local" music showcase anchored by New Albany-based band New Hollow. Friday, May 27, will feature grown-up games and music. Saturday, May 28, is Family Funday, beginning at noon, with free family-friendly activities, including zoo animals, a puppet show, the Ohio State pep band, Arnett Howard and Phoenix Theatre for Children, all culminating with a screening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and fireworks. Sunday, May 29, is all about the gardens; garden tours and Shadowbox's "Back to the Garden" performance are scheduled.
A full schedule of grand opening and future events can be found at www.columbuscommons.org.
America is littered with cities that haven't demonstrated the proper planning for or nurtured the necessary civic partnerships to sustain and grow their urban cores. Fortunately for Columbus, this is not the case. Thanks to the broad vision and bold leadership of this community, dreams like Columbus Commons become reality, a reality dentral Ohioans and their families will be able to enjoy for years to come.
Guy Worley is president/CEO of Capitol South, a private, nonprofit development company that created Columbus Commons and will operate, maintain and program the park.