Arena District

Construction starts for Huntington Park

Huntington

Speaking of the Arena District, ground was broken this morning for the Clippers’ new home, Huntington Park.

Just after 11 a.m., about 10,000 people watched as officials stuck ceremonial shovels into the ground and dug out the first holes for the Columbus Clippers new Huntington Field, NBC 4’s Barb Flannigan reported.

Here’s Ballpark Digest on the financing:

Ballpark construction will be financed by Franklin County, which will sell economic development bonds. These bonds will be repaid in part from the capital contributed by the project’s major corporate sponsors. Huntington Bank purchased the naming rights for the new downtown Columbus ballpark in 2006. The $12 M contract with Huntington is the second-largest donation for a minor-league ballpark in the history of baseball. Stadium Inc. will lease the ballpark from the county and will assume debt service and operational duties. Future ballpark revenues and the sale proceeds from the team’s current home, Cooper Stadium, will also be used to offset the cost to construct Huntington Park. The major sponsorships include: $9.3 million from The City of Columbus (infrastructure investment), $6 million from the Columbus Dispatch (scoreboard naming rights) and $6M from Nationwide Insurance & Nationwide Realty (concourse naming rights).

Here’s a bit more from Business First:

Amid speeches, photo opportunities and ballpark food at a ground-breaking ceremony Thursday, Columbus Clippers supporters received an update on how construction of Huntington Park will play out over the next 20 months.

The result, said Nationwide Realty Investors President Brian Ellis, is the 10,000-seat baseball park will be ready for the Clippers’ Triple A season opener in April 2009.

Nationwide Realty is overseeing design and construction work for the $56 million project as the owners representative for the Franklin County commissioners. The county will own the ballpark as it does Cooper Stadium, the Clippers’ current home, and the International League baseball club.

Gunning for City Center mall

The big story around Columbus is the city’s lawsuit against Columbus City Center owner TL-Columbus Associates, which is based out of Indianapolis.

A battle is being waged for control of Columbus City Center, pitting city leaders against the mall’s out-of-town owners — each with a plan to redevelop the ailing property.

Yesterday, the city abruptly ended its lease with the mall’s owners and sued for thousands in unpaid rent. It threatened to evict the owner, holding company TL-Columbus Associates, within three days if it doesn’t leave voluntarily.

That would set the stage for Nationwide Realty Investors, which developed the Arena District, to take a crack at the Downtown mall.

The land under City Center is owned by the private, non-profit Capitol South, which seems to own half of downtown. Both Capitol South and Nationwide Realty are major players in the downtown renaissance of course. It’s not surprising that they’d want to toss this out-of-town group out. Guy Worley, CEO of Capitol South (and former Chief of Staff for Mayor Mike Coleman), nearly says as much in this PowerPoint show (page 25):

  • City Center’s future is important to Downtown, but right now, we don’t have control over the property.
  • 90-year lease to TL-Columbus Associates, an entity comprised of Simon Property Group and the GM Pension Fund.
  • They retain legal control over the mall.

You can almost hear the angst. Obviously, the city and Capitol South were waiting for any excuse to pounce on TL-Columbus, and they’ve found it with the non-payment of rent. In the Dispatch article, one of the TL-Columbus guys seems to indicate some kind of double cross:

But Simon Property [half of TL-Columbus] CEO David Simon took exception to that depiction last night, saying his company had a deal to sell City Center to a local group that included developer Don M. Casto III. Simon said the group had been working with Retail Ventures Inc., which includes Value City Department Stores, to operate stores inside the mall.

Simon called yesterday’s news conference by city leaders “a shock” and “bush league.”

Regardless, it’s clear that TL-Columbus gets zero points for their management of City Center.

I’m rather ambivalent about the Arena District. I hope that Nationwide, if the lawsuit goes Capitol South’s way, will develop the City Center site with a bit more character, but I guess I’m hard to please.

Columbus buzz post

From Walkable Neighborhoods, a site that “promotes livable, walkable communities that are vibrant, unique, and economically viable places to live, work, and play” (and also sells homes):

Columbus is my second favorite city in the Midwest, behind the obvious pick of Chicago. Columbus has an incredible energy, and my prediction is that within 10 years, people will be talking about Columbus all over the country. The Short North has a lot to do with the success of Columbus, and that’s where I shot this photo.

The Short North is my favorite arts district in the country. It is right on the edge of Downtown Columbus and the Arena District. Sure, it does not have the big name museums like other large cities, but the indie scene here is quite fun.

Take that, Indianapolis!

Some thoughts on downtown and mass transit

Two posts today on two separate blogs on how mass transit fits into a renewed downtown Columbus. First up is John Kazalia from About.com, comparing Columbus to Portland:

Portland has lots of transit. LOTS OF IT. Light rail from east suburbs through downtown to west suburbs. A north-south streetcar line. Busways and busses everywhere. And most of it goes 24/7. And their ridership numbers show it–Portland transit gets as many riders in two months as COTA gets in a year….

What is there in downtown Columbus to ride a streetcar past at this point? Pretty much a dead mall and state office towers.

Of course, would the streetcars be the catalyst to bring things back to downtown Columbus? I don’t have a definite answer, but having seen downtown Portland I can say that Columbus has miles to go before our downtown is like theirs. Much, much, much more than just building streetcar lines.

Jamie Fellrath of Bike Commuting in Columbus (and into the blogroll with ye) left an interesting comment:

If Columbus could emulate them we would be in so much better shape. But it’s going to take more than just a trolley or some bike lanes - it’s going to take MUCH stricter zoning laws and greater cooperation between Columbus and the suburbs than we have now.

As long as Dublin, Gahanna, Hilliard, Delaware, etc. are pulling businesses outside of city limits, all the trolleys in the world won’t make a lick of difference.

It seems as if Jamie is asking for those satellite cities to cooperate in the destruction of their own business base, which of course is never going to happen. I believe Jamie’s view is based on the old paradigm of the downtown area having all the businesses, be it jobs or destinations like stores and restaurants, and the surrounding areas having all the homes- bedroom communities, as it were. This supports the classic urban mass transit model- all tracks lead downtown. It works best in New York due to that city’s unique geography. But even there, it works best if you work in Manhattan. It’s a real bitch to travel from Brooklyn to Queens, for example. So you can see how mass transit would be easier if businesses were coerced into operating downtown. But it’s a non-starter.

The other post is from Columbusite, whose point #5 on improving downtown is:

COTA, if it is to be useful at all, needs to stop serving sprawling suburbs which were built with total disregard for mass-transit. They aren’t wanted there and they cannot serve these areas well anyway. COTA needs to focus on proving good serve in urban areas, where they improve service like shortening waiting intervals. Streetcars would still be preferred since they don’t have the stigma that buses do, it’s hard to get lost on them, and they attract economic development which buses don’t since those routes could just disappear, negating any investment related to there being mass-transit.

This is the minimalist plan: the streetcars go downtown and to surrounding urban neighborhoods, but don’t really serve the larger metro area- not directly anyway. This is actually Columbus’s current streetcar plan, whose three lines would connect downtown to the Short North, Arena District, and German Village.

Like John, I’m agnostic on whether this would help. It really is a chicken and egg problem for downtown. Can new downtown destinations survive without an extant transit system to deliver customers? Will building a light rail or streetcar system spur downtown development? Columbusite says:

A very general observation but for a city our size to start becoming a 24/7 city we need around 10% of the total urban population downtown, which would be 30,000 people. Streetcars have proven themselves in spurring such development.

If such a plan works, and downtown becomes a much bigger destination, there then might be a call for a metro-area transit plan involving heavier rail. But even so, it’s going against the urban decentralization trend of the last 50 years.

Police officers face possible dismissal over coerced flashing

This incident occurred in the Arena District on March 11. From the Dispatch, and reprinted in Bad Cop News:

She said that, at one point, the officers asked her what would be “a fair compromise” to avoid jail.

She asked if they wanted money. They said no.

She said Smith then showed her a picture of an almost-topless Pamela Anderson, the actress, on his cell phone.

“Are you saying that, like the fair thing would be if I flash you?” she asked.

“Well, yeah,” she said Smith replied. “I think that’s a totally fair deal.”

She bared her breasts and walked away. The officers then called her boyfriend over and told him that she “had just saved him from being arrested,” the report said.

Shepard and Smith didn’t dispute the flashing but said in interviews that there was no such deal and they were shocked when she did it as they were about to drive off.

Internal Affairs has already found against them. Next, there will be a hearing before a police chief. They could be fired, and should be if the story is true.

NHL draft today and tomorrow at Nationwide

On top of everything else going on this weekend, the Blue Jackets are hosting this year’s NHL draft:

Nationwide Arena will become the center of the hockey universe June 22 (first round, 7 p.m.) and June 23 (rounds two through seven, starting at 10 a.m.), as National Hockey League club executives, scouts and coaches will gather on the Nationwide Arena floor for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Tickets are free, though I don’t know if any are left.

See Columbus hockey blog The Neutral Zone Trap for local coverage.

Clipper’s new stadium

huntington-stadium.jpg

Corey at Cowtown has a slideshow of renderings of the Columbus Clipper’s new stadium, to be called Huntington Stadium. Construction will start this year, and is supposed to be finished in time for the 2009 season. Pics are also at the official Clippers site.

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