As central Ohio’s population increases, a study issued April 30 by Insight 2050 suggests some parts of Franklin County should become more densely developed around transit, with more dedicated rights of way that will help buses and perhaps other forms of transit flow quickly between homes and jobs.
Insight 2050 is a public-private partnership that includes the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Central Ohio Transit Authority, the Columbus Foundation, the Columbus Partnership, the Urban Land Institute Columbus and the cities of Bexley, Columbus, Dublin, Grandview Heights, Groveport, Reynoldsburg, Westerville and Whitehall.
Those partners contributed more than $700,000 to the study.
The Corridor Concepts study on focused growth took almost 1 1/2 years to complete and zeroed in on five corridors for “high-capacity transit” and denser development:
• East Main Street from downtown Columbus to state Route 256 in Reynoldsburg.
• Northeast: Polaris Parkway to downtown Columbus.
• Northwest: U.S. Route 33 at Post and Frantz roads to downtown Columbus.
• Southeast: Rickenbacker International Airport to downtown Columbus.
• West Broad Street: Norton Road to downtown Columbus.
During a preview at Easton Town Center on April 29, community leaders said taking steps now would pay future dividends.
Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin called current development trends “financially unsustainable.”
“If we do dense development, we can reduce costs,” Hardin said.
With this type of development, the total regional growth of homes and jobs would be concentrated in these corridors: 55% and 60%, respectively.
The study says households along such corridors would save $8,500 on housing, transportation and other costs. The study also predicts that greenhouse-gas emissions would be reduced by 30%, while 29% of all trips along the corridors would be made by people who walk, bike or ride mass transit.
The study says such focused development would save the region $10 billion in infrastructure costs.
Joanna Pinkerton, president and CEO of COTA, said the study would help COTA with plans to design and expand services.
Bus rapid transit is a likely option, although light rail and streetcars are possibilities, as is new technology, such as pools of autonomous cars, according to the study.
“You have to have dedicated right of way,” Columbus Development Director Steve Schoeny said.
Developer Yaromir Steiner, the Columbus chairman of the Urban Land Institute, said either market forces would define the future or local officials could take steps to do so.
Steiner acknowledged that the study does not include busy corridors, such as downtown Columbus to Easton or North High Street around the Ohio State University campus.
“The goal is to improve the quality of life in the region,” Steiner said, while solving housing-affordability issues.
Central Ohio is expected to grow by 1 million residents from 2010 to 2050, according to the Corridor Concepts report.
“We’re going to have to look at zoning rules to ensure we have vibrant, mixed-income neighborhoods. There’s the opportunity to do that,” Schoeny said.
Managing growth well can help the area compete economically against other regions, Schoeny said. Although the study is not a blueprint, it is something that leaders can use to see whether the ideas can work here, he said.
“The ability to say, ‘I live in Linden, I can get to 300,000 jobs without a car,’ that can change the trajectory of people’s lives,” Schoeny said.
Kimberly Sharp, Westerville’s deputy director of planning and development, said the study’s focus on the Cleveland Avenue corridor dovetails with Westerville’s planned urban districts, including concentrated development near transit stops on Cleveland Avenue, Schrock Road and State Street.
William Murdock, executive director of MORPC, said 2018 was the fastest year of growth in central Ohio’s history. The region has to be ready, he said.
“To do that, you have to get going now,” he said.
To see more on the report, go to getinsight2050.org.
Study dovetails with Reynoldsburg plans
The Insight 2050 study “actually gives our comprehensive plan more teeth,” said Andrew Bowsher, Reynoldsburg’s development director.
“It hones in on the approach that we’re already going for, so the city is leading the charge on a lot of this. The two documents are really talking to one another.”
Reynoldsburg’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan reimagines East Main Street and the Olde Reynoldsburg area by calling for more mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods with higher densities and the reuse of existing commercial areas.
The city plan also recommends moving new retail developments closer to the street with parking at the rear and named three specific areas of focus: the Kroger site at Briarcliff Road and East Main Street; the former Kmart site at Brice Road and East Main Street; and the Olde Reynoldsburg area along Main Street from Davidson Drive east to Waggoner/Graham roads.
The city is also spending $135,000 this year for Cincinnati-based Calfee Zoning to rewrite its zoning code - the first major overhaul since the code was first enacted in 1969.
A steering committee is working with Calfee on drafting the new code, which is expected to be presented to City Council later this year.
An open house for residents’ feedback on the code changes is planned in October.
“We are completely rewriting our zoning code and that will allow for the types of development in this report. All of the pieces are falling into place,” Bowsher said.
The Insight 2050 report estimates there are about 900 acres in Reynoldsburg still available for development or redevelopment.
In Reynoldsburg, “high density” doesn’t mean high-rise buildings and concrete jungles, Bowsher said, but instead it’s about preserving greenspace and looking at areas that are “over-parked.”
For example, he said the former Kmart site could accommodate higher-density housing and other retail and commercial uses, similar to Dublin’s Bridge Park area or the Grandview Yard project in Grandview Heights.
“It’s not about changing what we already have – it’s about taking what’s there and maximizing it. We want to be the first place, the last place and everywhere in between, so we need areas for young professionals to first move into the area and then maybe they buy a home. And we need areas for those people who are downsizing,” Bowsher said.
“You don’t have to drive very far outside of Reynoldsburg to see these developments are turning heads and we’re missing out on that market.
“We can’t island ourselves off from the city of Columbus and we don’t need to lose our history or our culture but we also need to thrive and adapt to how people are living,” Bowsher said.
ThisWeek reporter Kelley Youman contributed to this story.