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What to expect at 15th and High

Campus Partners plans for 15th and High project Credit: Courtesy of Campus Partners

The intersection of East 15th Avenue and High Street is changing right before our very eyes. Call it the new Gateway. Call it the center of campus. Or call it what Ohio State officials are dubbing “University Square.”

Call it whatever you want. But one thing you can’t call it is close to being completed.

The seemingly constant construction going on along High Street will not be coming to an end anytime soon, said Erin Prosser, director of community development for Campus Partners, the nonprofit extension of Ohio State tasked with the numerous building projects in the campus area.

Prosser and her Campus Partners team estimate a completion date for the entire project sometime in the early 2020s, meaning freshmen who entered Ohio State in 2016 might not see the project finish before they graduate.

Before any new buildings can be put in the space, Prosser said significant upgrades are needed on stormwater drains and city utility lines, making driving on High Street less appealing this year, and for years to come.

She said Campus Partners is spending $30 million in infrastructure upgrades alone, before any construction of new buildings takes place.

However, new details are emerging on just what 15th and High will look like in the upcoming years.

At the heart of the square: an 11-story hotel, complete with a rooftop view of Thompson Library from across The Oval.

The hotel is planned to be an upscale, boutique hotel with approximately 150 rooms that will serve as the “signature building” in the square.

Prosser said they have already received requests for design from prospective hotels and will decide on one in the coming weeks.

The buildings along East 15th Avenues “University Square” will feature mixed-use retail spaces such as patios at street level and the upstairs space will house Ohio State administrative buildings.

 

While there are no set businesses to be placed in the retail spaces that will compose “University Square,” Campus Partners said it is using this year for community and student outreach.

Prosser said she plans to reach out to students on campus instead of having students come to them, so they will visit places like the Union, RPAC, dorm buildings and libraries to hear what students would like to see in the open retail spots.

In order to make room for the new open courtyard and walkways, a campus bar staple will be closing.

Prosser and her Campus Partners team estimate a completion date for the entire project sometime in the early 2020s, meaning freshmen who entered Ohio State in 2016 might not see the project finish before they graduate.

Prosser said The O Patio and Pub will be leaving the space at the end of their lease in the summer of 2018 without an option for renewal.

“The O has a lease until next summer,” Prosser said. “Once their lease is done, and they could choose to leave early, that’s their prerogative, but for right now we do have a lease with them until the middle of next year.”

Campus Partners is viewing this project as a long-term upgrade and enhancement to the overall physical space, Prosser said.

In addition to the new businesses, East 15th Avenue will be straightened to make it better align with The Oval and simplify the intersection to make it safer for pedestrians.

“It’s the second-most dangerous intersection for pedestrians and bicycles in the metro region [of Columbus].” Prosser said. “There’s so many of you guys crossing at one time and it’s basically set up for cars. Cars have the priority, and cars are turning in front of you guys … We want to make a place where pedestrians are the focus and it’s safe and pedestrians are the priorities — not the vehicles.”

Prosser added the one-way and dead-end streets create a confusing and intimidating space for visitors wanting to come and visit campus.

Campus Partners plans to overhaul Pearl Alley from East 14th to 17th avenues to create a retail corridor featuring a brick street lined with sidewalks. Power lines will be buried and dumpsters will be removed and replaced with commercial spaces.

To improve flow from Pearl Alley to High Street as part of the master plan, 14th Avenue will open up to High Street where it is currently inaccessible.

Similarly, Campus Partners is aiming to reopen East 16th Avenue to connect with High Street by summer 2018.

Renovation projects of this magnitude don’t happen overnight. In the meantime, students can expect more of the same: orange barrels, closed sidewalks and continuing construction for the foreseeable future.

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