Downtown

Some opposition to a part of the big downtown split project: “One part of the reconstruction plan would involve tearing down two century-old buildings in the nearby Olde Towne east neighborhood.”

City looks at democratic parking

A small controversy developed when it came out that the ODP reserved a bunch of spaces for themselves:

Columbus public-service officials blocked off 35 meters this summer outside the Ohio Democratic Party’s Downtown headquarters, not as a courtesy to political allies but because a check for more than $7,000 bought the spaces through Election Day.

City officials said yesterday that Democrats didn’t get a special deal. The party paid 6 1/2 times what the meters usually bring in.

But they did acknowledge that selling off public parking for four months at a time is “unreasonably long.” Public Service Director Mark Kelsey plans to investigate, said Mary Carran Webster, the department’s assistant director.

Now Mayor Coleman wants to examine bulk reservations of public street parking.

If Columbus doesn’t have a policy governing who can reserve public parking spaces, Mayor Michael B. Coleman wants one.

And if a policy — new or existing — doesn’t allow the Ohio Democratic Party to buy time in bulk for the spaces outside its Fulton Street headquarters, Coleman said he wants orange “no parking” bags removed from up to 35 meters.

Yeah, I think public spots should remain public. But more importantly, why are all those Dems not taking public transportation? Next thing you’ll tell me is that all their kids are in private schools.

One fun aspect of this-according to the first link- is that if you park in one of those ODP-reserved spaces, no one will know that you’re not supposed to. There’s no list and no one’s enforcing. So go ahead and park there. At your own risk- don’t bring your parking ticket to me!

Oktoberfest moving is

German Village’s Oktoberfest is moving again:

Oktoberfest will take place Sept.5-7 at Genoa Park and Amphitheater, between the banks of Scioto River and COSI. It will run from 5 p.m. to midnight on Sept. 5, noon to midnight Sept. 6 and noon to 8 p.m. Sept. 7…

That’s not even in German Village. (Via RetroMetro.)

Lisa the Waitress has things to do this weekend. There’s a Waterfire on the Mile event this Saturday. Never been. Maybe I’ll go.

Is there a COTA veto on extending the proposed Columbus streetcar to OSU?

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.

Libertarian parking

Columbusite has a post on a report analyzing parking by Donald Shoup. Columbusite sums it up:

He also offers a tri-fold solution; charge fair-market prices for parking on the curb, return revenue generated by parking to the neighborhood in which it was made, and remove zoning requirements for off-street parking.

I support all of that, actually. Particularly interesting is the last item. I think many businesses would continue to provide parking regardless of zoning requirements, depending on what their customers (and employees) want. After all, no one is going to build a mall on the outskirts of town with no parking. Likewise, employers will consider free parking for employees based on what the labor market is demanding. Businesses could make those calculations on their own, based on what makes sense for them- as opposed to what regulations require. A downtown or other high-density neighborhood business might decide they don’t need any parking at all. Getting rid of off-street parking regulations is just a good libertarian solution!

I had something similar a while back.

Walker Evans is looking for input into the YP Commission “Convince” Subcommittee that he’s a member of.

City hires engineering firm for streetcars

RetroMetro has a press release from Mayor Coleman’s office:

Based on the Steering Committee’s recommendation, the City is investing $150,000 to hire national streetcar expert HDR Inc. and Capitol South, who will produce a specific financing plan on how Streetcars can be built and operated using a mix of private sector funding with federal, state, and local investment. The plan expected to be completed in approximately six month. For more information on Downtown Streetcars, visit, www.downtowncolumbus.com and click on Streetcars.

Investment is a nice progressive word for taxes of course. Here’s HDR’s website.

Underducky at columbusING has a big post on streetcars today:

There is a great deal of debate about who should pay for a huge project like a streetcar system (not to mention a huger project like light rail). Shitloads of people who pay their Columbus taxes won’t get a whole hell of a lot from a dinky little streetcar like the one proposed for Columbus – at least according to the numbers. Rob from the ‘suburbs’, another responder to my previous rant about Bill Todd’s dickish behavior and flower hating, is profoundly concerned that the Short North is getting all the good shit from the City, and that the outlying areas are getting the shaft while being expected to foot the bill. Yeah, he’s right, but if no one pays for it, we’re all fucked.

Language. But it’s an interesting topic. Should taxpayers in outlying areas of Columbus shoulder part of the cost of this YP paradise the city wants to put in place, of which streetcars are a part? Property values within 2 blocks of the streetcar are supposed to go up. Should the working class pay taxes for this item and help the rich get richer? Or will the benefits that accrue to those who already own property downtown or in German Village and the Short North trickle down to those who don’t?

Jazz and Rib Fest on now

Jazz and Rib Fest

Jazz & Rib Fest has already started. It’ll be going on all day today, tomorrow, and Friday Sunday.

Now in its 28th year, Jazz & Rib Fest brings together some of today’s most popular and innovative jazz artists with mouth watering ribs from across the country. Don’t miss this Columbus summertime tradition.

It’s behind COSI and at Bicentennial Park. Here’s the schedule and a map.

(Photo: From the site, uncredited.)

Columbus wants two new garages downtown

From NBC4i:

Mayor Michael Coleman announced Friday that Columbus and Capitol South plan will add some 1,400 spaces and two new parking garages downtown.

Capitol South is a non-profit development organization that leads city-changing projects.

Coleman, along with Council Member Maryellen O’Shaughnessy, said they will advance the plan to Columbus City Council on July 23….

The legislation would approve $600,000 for Capitol South to facilitate the design of two parking garages in the Fourth and Gay area and the RiverSouth district. The announcement came with Columbus’ plan to address the changing dynamics of downtown.

Note that that half mil is just for the design. Should the city be in the garage building business? Wouldn’t a private developer be better- for taxpayers at least? Or maybe downtown parking has to be subsidized to make it affordable.

“Several exciting projects have begun to take shape recently. This is great news for downtown, but we need to be aware that construction will reduce the availability of surface parking, especially in our dense employment corridors,” said Guy V. Worley, CEO of Capitol South and Chair of the Downtown Parking Work Group.

Guy Worley used to be Mayor Coleman’s chief of staff, and was “recently appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC) and Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation,” according to his bio (pdf).

Here’s more on the subsidy issue from Columbus developer Frank Kass, a member of the Downtown Parking Work Group, from Business First back in March:

“We need to address specific parking needs where employment and the accessibility and cost of parking are out of whack,” he said.

City involvement could cut the cost of parking for employers in half, Kass said, and he expects downtown landlords to contribute land for any areas needing parking.

“You can pay for (the garages) in part by what it does for downtown employment, because everybody working in the city pays a 2 percent income tax,” he said.

70/71 highway caps under consideration

The city has six favored locations along 70 and 71 where caps are being considered:

Spring, Long and Broad streets are favored sites for caps on the eastern leg of the project, and 3rd, High and Front streets on the southern leg.

It would cost an estimated $53 million to $65 million to build the six caps, which essentially are widened overpasses. They could include trees, even buildings. The more grand, the more expensive.

About $22 million is committed to the caps: $10 million from ODOT and $12 million from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

I think these are as important as streetcars when it comes to downtown revitalization. Think of them as stitches for a really nasty laceration.

Downtown flicks

Katie Parker at Columbus is okay covers CAPA:

I just got back in town… and right in time for one of the best things about summer - the movies at the CAPA Ohio Theatre on 55 E. State St. You can check out the list of shows right here. The first one, which I missed was Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, but The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is this Weds - Fri, July 18-20. (one of the best movies of all times, btw)

Also coming up, two of my favorite movies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this Friday, and The Sound of Music, Saturday and Sunday.

Dying malls: Westland & City Center

Interesting article on the apparently imminent deaths of City Center and Westland Malls in the Dispatch:

Westland is now the home of a check-cashing service, the Executive Offices of Shekinah Glory PRC - a church that doesn’t have a building yet - and other unconventional stores, such as the Christian Armory, which sells both portraits of Jesus and party streamers.

Signs are airbrushed like cheap T-shirts or hand-painted and nailed to storefronts. The air is hot and stale; there’s no air conditioning, except in Sears, the mall’s only anchor store after Macy’s closed this past spring.

The target date for revitalizingtime frame to revitalize the mall was “yesterday,” said Steve Campbell, chief financial officer of Plaza Properties, which has co-owned the property since 2005.

I was last there about six months ago. I hate indoor malls, but Westland is a particularly depressing place. It’s pretty much Southland now.

Plans for Downtown’s City Center also remain vague.

“We’re still very much in evaluation mode,” said Les Morris, spokesman spokesperson for Simon Property Group, the mall developer that purchased City Center earlier this year. “It’s been only a couple months since we acquired it and we’re still evaluating the property and its potential.”

But it’s hard to argue that the increasingly empty City Center has much going for it. During a recent weekday lunch hour, mall employees generally outnumbered shoppers. The most populated store was A Dollar, with 11 people shopping.

It’s been years since I’ve been to City Center. There’s just no reason to go there.

The death of the indoor mall is part of a national trend. “Only three have opened nationwide since 2005.” Easton-style developments are all the rage now, but that won’t be so easy for City Center.

Columbus retail analyst Chris Boring said says there’s no single answer. “If I had a solution, I’d be really rich now….”

City Center “will not be a mall again,” Boring said. And, built “as a fortress,” it couldn’t easily add the street-level dining and entertainment options so popular at Easton.

That hulking block is almost as bad as all those downtown parking lots.

Via Columbus RetroMetro. Here’s the previous mall post.

WSJ streetcar overview

The Wall Street Journal had a pretty good article last month that I just found on the revival of streetcars in US downtowns. Many of the points made on this blog and others over the last couple of months are included in the overview.

Like stadiums, convention centers and aquariums, streetcars have emerged as a popular tool in the effort to revitalize downtowns in the U.S. About a dozen cities, from Madison, Wis., to Miami, are planning lines. But while research shows that big-ticket projects such as ballparks largely fail to spawn economic development, evidence is mounting that streetcars are indeed a magnet.

Streetcar systems are slower, less expensive and smaller than light rail, with cars that carry a maximum of 125 people and the average line 2-3 miles long. The cars are powered by electricity and run on tracks, which developers tend to favor because they suggest a sense of permanence, unlike bus routes, which can be changed overnight.

Of course Portland is mentioned, as it is here and here.

And in Portland, Ore., the poster child for such development, officials say the streetcar system has helped bring $2.7 billion in investment within two blocks of its 3.6 mile line, much of it in the 24-hour hub known as the Pearl District. “It’s one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city,” says Richard Brandman, deputy planning director for Metro, the Portland area’s regional government.

Still, streetcars face considerable odds because they vie for the same money as transportation projects designed to serve the suburbs. This has been particularly true at the federal level, where funding has long depended on how quickly projects can move people from one point to another. Streetcars, which average under ten miles per hour, are at a distinct disadvantage. By contrast, light rail moves at 20 to 60 miles per hour.

And the dread Young Professionals raise their ugly heads- local interview here. But the empty nesters are there too, as has been noted is a somewhat unacknowledged demographic currently pioneering downtown Columbus.

In the meantime, cities have relied on a patchwork of public and private money to help fund their streetcar systems, hoping to tap into a demographic shift in which young professional and empty nesters are moving downtown. Streetcars are especially popular among urban planners because they encourage the sort of density that allows for offices to be developed alongside homes, shops and restaurants.

“Streetcars are not designed to save time,” says Mr. Blumenauer. “They’re designed to change the way neighborhoods are built.”

While streetcars lack speed and mobility, proponents say the role they play in urban development makes them a worthy transportation choice. They argue that by helping to draw development to urban areas such as downtowns, and by providing a transportation link in those areas, streetcars reduce the need for extra lanes of highways to the suburbs and limit the need for cars in and around downtowns.

Read the whole thing.

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