Redevelopment in Central Ohio

by Don Hunter, Managing Principal, Cassidy Turley, Columbus

Published on April 29, 2012

Older shopping centers find new life. Eyesores created by vacant manufacturing and industrial sites find a variety of uses, as well as eliminate environmental hazards. Older, obsolete office buildings become comfortable lofts. Urban blight can become the hottest entertainment neighborhood, the most vibrant place to live, work and play.  In short, redevelopment plays a big role today and tomorrow in ensuring the region’s vitality.


What’s Old Is New Again

There are countless examples of the power of redevelopment in the Columbus region. This is occurring across several sectors – retail, industrial/manufacturing and office – with multifamily a major beneficiary of the movement.

The area’s largest project is Hollywood Casino, a 300,000 square-foot casino and parking garage under construction on the former Delphi Automotive Systems site on Columbus’ west side. Penn National Gaming’s $400 million project should generate 2,000 jobs when it opens and employ some 3,500 construction workers as it comes out of the ground.

Equally important, the casino will ignite interest for other developments on the city’s west side, such as hotels, retail and residential, once it opens and begins to attract visitors. Such large redevelopment projects are building blocks for the future, requiring patience and perseverance to reach their potential.

Nationwide Realty Investors Ltd. (NRI) spent considerable time, effort and financial resources to develop the Arena District. This 75-acre, mixed-use downtown development surrounds Nationwide Arena and now features more than 1.5 million square feet of commercial real estate, including Class A office space, restaurants and entertainment venues. Several hundred multifamily residential units and public parks are integrated in the $750 million development.

NRI also started planning Grandview Yard five years ago. Located on 90 acres that included the former Big Bear Stores distribution center, the anticipated $500 million mixed-use development is being built in phases over the next decade. The redevelopment’s first phase includes retail, office and a hotel, and construction has begun on the next phase – a 154-unit apartment complex. Much like the Arena District, Grandview Yard demonstrates the vision required to redevelop not just a property but an entire neighborhood.

 Brownfield redevelopment in particular plays a significant role in the region’s future and vitality. These projects present both challenges and opportunities that depend on a developer’s vision and the public sector’s support. Wagenbrenner Development has been a leader in redeveloping brownfield sites. Over the last eight years, Wagenbrenner has utilized the Clean Ohio program to complete environmental  remediation of several sites. Led by Mark Wagenbrenner, who spoke at the recent 2012 Commercial Developers Power Breakfast, the company also has invested $164 million in a number of projects to turn vacant eyesores into a variety of developments, including mixed-use and multifamily. Currently, Wagenbrenner plans to spend another $100 million on several brownfield sites, including the Kaplin landfill, Timken manufacturing site, Lancaster Glass facility and Jeffrey Mining site.

Even economic downturns present opportunities, which is evident in the pace of the redevelopment in the retail sector. Several centers are getting a facelift while generating further development. Such is the case with the Kingsdale Shopping Center. The center’s renovation spurred the development of a 124,000 square-foot Giant Eagle Market District store. In turn, Giant Eagle’s position led to a decision by Whole Foods to demolish and rebuild a bigger store at the nearby Shops on Lane Avenue.



Moving Forward

As Columbus celebrates its bicentennial, its redevelopment efforts demonstrate its ability to connect its past with the present. These projects play a significant role in shaping the city’s future by finding modern uses for outdated buildings and valuable land cleared for redevelopment. Every major city in America needs to refresh its commercial real estate to remain relevant and vibrant. Columbus moves forward in a dynamic fashion.

The momentum of downtown’s transformation through redevelopment still provides opportunities for further retail, office and multifamily projects. As noted, Grandview Yard will unfold over the next several years. The Rickenbacker Global Logistics Park continues to fulfill its promise with another nearly 30 million square feet of industrial and logistics space to be added. And there are countless other opportunities in brownfield sites throughout our region.

Paramount to these future efforts is the financial resources to drive the process. The lending landscape has changed significantly. New projects receive substantial preleasing commitments and equity from developers.  The impact of these redevelopment projects also extends far beyond bricks and mortar. Besides restoring buildings to a viable use, such projects add to the region’s vitality by attracting and retaining younger people looking for urban living. The Generation Y crowd desires vibrant areas that allow them to live, work and play.

 The Arena District, Short North, Harrison West, Flats on Vine and Victorian Village are stellar examples of redevelopment that connect our past with our future. The future lies in the human capital needed to compete in a global economy. Redevelopment plays a critical role in not only reshaping the commercial real estate landscape

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