German Village Gazette

Scioto Peninsula

New Vets Memorial will be designed to inspire

Plans call for contemporary focal point; zoo may contribute 'adventure center' to mix

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A computer rendering shows plans for a new 40,000-square-foot Veterans Memorial, replacing the current venue north of Broad Street on the Scioto River.

A state-of-the-art Franklin County Veterans Memorial and satellite location of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are part of the latest in a lengthy list of redevelopment plans for the Scioto Peninsula.

Columbus and Franklin County officials laid out a long-term, multimillion dollar effort Aug. 13 that would transform the 56-acre site opposite downtown on the Scioto River into a cultural, residential and retail destination.

Guy Worley, president and CEO of the Columbus Downtown Development Corp., said the land has been the subject of eight studies over the course of more than 100 years.

"The plan we're talking about today is one I think we can really do," said Worley, who announced the plans in front of a full house at COSI, one of the focal points on the peninsula.

The reconstituted Veterans Memorial will be the envy of the United States, Worley said. The plan is to bulldoze the existing facility, built in 1955, and replace it with a contemporary 40,000-square-foot glass-paneled building with an expansive promenade, outdoor amphitheater, meeting space for veterans, classrooms for children and interactive exhibits.

"We want this to be used by our community but also everyone in the state," said Worley, also president and CEO of Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., another downtown advocacy group.

Limited Brands founder Leslie Wexner and his wife, Abigail, have committed $25 million to the memorial.

Retired U.S. Sen. John Glenn, a World War II and Korean War veteran, led a committee that helped generate ideas for the memorial building.

Glenn said he welcomed the opportunity to not just educate "but inspire the kids to do something in their lives" for the country.

Worley said one important aspect in completing the reimagined peninsula is removing the lowhead dam at Main Street and narrowing the river, creating 33 acres of green space that will be used for parks and other enhancements. Work on the river will begin this fall and take two years to complete, he said.

The Columbus Zoo, meanwhile, hasn't committed to a so-called indoor adventure center, a 50,000-square-foot multilevel facility.

Patty Peters, spokeswoman for the zoo, said officials are supportive in concept, but there are many unanswered questions so far.

"If the funding works out, we're happy to be a part of it," she said when reached after the meeting. "Obviously, there are a lot of unknowns about the whole project, on how the funding is going to work."

The zoo is supported by a 10-year, 0.75-mill property tax levy, which expires next year. Peters wouldn't speculate whether zoo officials would ask Franklin County voters for an increase in the tax rate to pay for the Franklinton facility.

"It's too early to know right now," she said.

Tom Stalf, president and CEO of the zoo, said the proposal calls for an aquarium, rain forest and live animal exhibits.

"It's a place to play and look at the wild wonders of the world," he said when addressing the crowd at COSI.

Worley said civic leaders hope the publicly funded ventures will encourage private investments. They envision low- and high-rise buildings with 1,000 to 1,200 residential units and ground-floor retail.

"We want this economic impact and we want this to be a neighborhood that's 24-7," he said.