Columbus Metropolitan Library officials see an opportunity to expand the Main Branch campus to the east and take advantage of some nearby park amenities.
The library's board of trustees Wednesday, Jan. 30, was expected to approve spending $2.16-million for the purchase of the old Ohio School for the Deaf property at 400 E. Town St. downtown.
Library officials say the 2.24-acre piece of land will open up growth opportunities at the otherwise landlocked downtown location, 96 S. Grant Ave.
One idea up for consideration is extending the library building to the east and creating an outdoor terrace area that overlooks Topiary Park, owned by the city of Columbus.
"I think we view this land acquisition as an opportunity to be a catalyst for development in this particular part of downtown," said Greg Dodd, director of marketing for the library system.
"And, the library essentially is a community gathering space, so if we can have that indoor-outdoor space be a connection to this park, this can be a bigger and better space for the community to gather," Dodd said.
In order for the deal to go through, Columbus City Council would have to rezone the parcel from residential to commercial use.
The purchase would include the vacant four-story structure that was originally built in 1899 as part of the Ohio School for the Deaf.
Because it is a historic property, it can't be razed, Dodd said. So, library officials hope to lease or sell the building, he said.
So far, Cristo Rey Columbus High School has expressed an interest in purchasing the building for future use.
It's just the latest expansion project under consideration in the Discovery District, which encompasses the east end of downtown.
The Columbus Museum of Art announced last week it intended to build a 50,000-square-foot addition on the east side of the building.
That $37.6 million project is now under consideration by the Downtown Development Commission.
Cleve Ricksecker, executive director of the Discovery Special Improvement District, said there are other positive developments in the works that could add the vibrancy to the district.
For example, Phase II of the Columbus Crossroads byways project will make Mound Street from Interstate 70 the biggest single feeder street into downtown.
Also, Columbus State Community College's master plan calls for turning some one-way streets into two-way streets in that portion of downtown.
"What I think we'll do over the next five to 10 years is a lot of connecting of the fabric being developed in the Discovery District," Ricksecker said.
"Right now the Discovery District has a lot of isolated destinations that don't necessarily relate well to each other or encourage people to linger and walk," he said.
"I think what we'll see is a more walkable environment, more commercial activity and more housing."