Veterans Memorial would be demolished and replaced with a new arts venue under a $50 million plan local officials are considering for the Scioto Peninsula, across the river from Downtown. Key to the plan is a $25 million donation from Limited founder Leslie H. Wexner and his wife, Abigail, for the new arts facility. That would include a new memorial for veterans, a museum and an amphitheater or auditorium smaller than the 3,916-seat auditorium currently at Vets.
Veterans Memorial would be demolished and replaced with a new arts venue under a $50 million plan local officials are considering for the Scioto Peninsula, across the river from Downtown.
Key to the plan is a $25 million donation from Limited founder Leslie H. Wexner and his wife, Abigail, for the new arts facility.
That would include a new memorial for veterans, a museum and an amphitheater or auditorium smaller than the 3,916-seat auditorium currently at Vets.
The redevelopment plan also includes a new, permanent attraction from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a roughly $50 million project that would be financed separately. Zoo officials said in March that they want the space just south of COSI Columbus. Yesterday, zoo officials confirmed that they are considering a November 2014 levy to help pay for that attraction.
Three sources who have seen the plan for Veterans Memorial say it was presented to all three Franklin County commissioners and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman and their staff members in the past few weeks by Guy Worley, president of the Columbus Downtown Development Corp. and the Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.
Worley declined to comment on the plan. Government officials, who did not want to be named because Worley asked them to keep the plan under wraps, said some details could change before it is unveiled. The sources said they expect an official announcement in July.
Coleman’s spokesman confirmed that the mayor met with Worley about the plan. Franklin County Administrator Don Brown confirmed that he met with Worley.
After the Wexners’ donation, the remaining funding for redeveloping the Scioto Peninsula, including a new memorial for veterans, would come from Worley’s development corporation, the county and the state. The development corporation would put in $5 million, and Worley is seeking $5 million from the county and $15 million from the state, the sources said.
Under the plan, land west of COSI and Veterans Memorial and east of the railroad tracks that cross the peninsula would be developed as apartments, condominiums and shops.
The funding for the zoo attraction is also in flux, as well as what kind of attraction would be built. Zoo board members said the new location would not be a recast of the complex in Powell.
“We won’t be replicating the gorilla exhibit Downtown,” said Phil Pikelny, chairman of the zoo’s board of directors and an executive of The Dispatch Printing Co. “The Powell location, many would consider it to be an all-day attraction, and Downtown we are looking at something that might take two to three hours of time for visitors.”
An elevated pedestrian path and walkways would connect COSI with the zoo and the new museum and arts center. The private, nonprofit Columbus Downtown Development Corp. managed the construction of the Scioto Mile on the east bank of the river Downtown and is involved in a plan to remove a dam and return the river to a more natural state. Capitol South, Downtown Development’s sister group, oversees Columbus Commons, a park that was built on the site of the former City Center mall.
John Raphael, president of the Veterans Memorial Board, said he is aware of Worley’s plan for the Scioto Peninsula but has not seen it. He said his group will honor the wishes of the county commissioners.
“We were told by Worley more than a year ago that at the appropriate time he will present us with his plan,” Raphael said.
The commissioners likely would not commit to providing $5 million to the project at least until after a third-party study of county finances is completed this summer. It’s believed that study will lead to a recommendation that the commissioners raise the county’s sales tax.
Questions also remain about who would run the building replacing Veterans Memorial and where the Veterans Service Commission and other veterans groups would meet. Also unknown is who would pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the new complex. In addition, there are events booked at Veterans Memorial through 2017.
Veterans opened in 1955. In 2012, the county announced it would receive $3 million in upgrades.