Campus Partners announced a plan that would revamp several acres of the off-campus district. It would eliminate some of our favorite campus places, specifically around 15th Avenue and High Street, in an effort to make a “commercial planned district.”
It’s been several weeks since the plan was announced, and after walking around the area to see where things would change and reading the plans, it’s clear that some parts of the plan are appealing, but the majority of the proposal is unwelcome, poorly thought out and doesn’t take students’ wishes into account.
The appealing parts of the plan include changes that will widen sidewalks and fix traffic patterns. Wider sidewalks would ideally make the area easier to walk around, and 14th Avenue and 16th Avenue would be connected to High Street again, while a longer stretch of 15th would be a two-way street.
Those plans need to happen. Traffic in that area is always jumbled and hard to navigate, and it would take some of the stress off of High and Pearl streets.
But that’s pretty much where the good parts of the plan stop.
All of those feats could easily be accomplished without changing the face of the off-campus district.
Campus Partners, along with local property owners, aims to tear down the building that currently houses Brenen’s Cafe, Jimmy John’s and The O Patio & Pub, replacing them with a public square.
The only comparable area to a public square is located near Starbucks and SBX on 14th Avenue. That area is often filled with trash and isn’t an appealing place to hang out, especially after dark.
Why would a public square one block north be any different?
Campus Partners President Amanda Hoffsis said she envisions a “really beautiful public square that you would find anywhere in Europe.”
But this isn’t Europe. And by taking one look at the state of High Street and the trash that accumulates on a normal weekend night, how would it stay beautiful for very long?
The plan also aims to construct a parking garage and a “signature building,” which is currently planned to be a hotel.
In reality, this seems like a way to get people to spend a lot of money on gamedays. Fans and alumni would love to flock to a nice hotel located right off campus and would probably shell out a significant amount of money to park beside campus, too.
But does Columbus itself really need another hotel? What about the Blackwell, which is right on campus? Would an off-campus hotel be adequately profitable throughout the rest of the year?
The biggest problem with the plan, however, lies with the company that’s organizing it. Campus Partners is in charge of the South Campus Gateway, a place just south of campus that’s generally nice and popular on the weekends. But its popularity has clearly dipped as what seems to be a little less than half of the Gateway sits empty.
Just a few weeks after Campus Partners announced its new off-campus plans, Pizza Rustica closed. It’s one of a string of business that have closed in the past two years. Kildare’s Irish Pub, Charlie Bear: Land of Dance, Gooeyz and Finish Line have left all left the Gateway.
Some spaces, like Kildare’s, have been replaced. But the gaping holes left from Charlie Bear and Gooeyz, some of the largest spots in the Gateway, have been glaringly empty for more than a year.
When you walk around the Gateway, it’s impossible to not notice the empty spaces.
While questions remain about the entire plan, the biggest questions comes from looking at the Gateway.
If Campus Partners can’t keep businesses in the Gateway, how will it be any different with the spaces they plan to renovate to the north?
Fix the Gateway, then focus on the rest of campus.