Creative connectors help visitors travel from destination to destination within the District.
The special improvement district known as the Discovery District houses major attractions including the Columbus Museum of Art and the Columbus Metropolitan Main Library.
But they're not linked very well with each other.
A placemaking plan about to be launched aims to change that.
“We have a neighborhood that has a lot of great destinations; there's no real connecting fabric. This is really an attempt to provide some connectivity in the neighborhood,” says Cleve Ricksecker, executive director of both the Discovery District and the SID for the Downtown core, Capital Crossroads.
Bordered roughly by I-670 to the north, I-71 to the east, I-70 on the south and 5th Street on the west, the community lacks a visible, unifying identity. A placemaking project is beginning to rectify that, similar to how arches over N. High Street help to define the Short North.
“I worked in the Short North when the arches were proposed and funded, and seeing the impact of those arches on the Short North, that made me appreciate how great the impact can be of a project like this in Discovery District,” Ricksecker says.
“The idea that we're working on is to create what we call the Discovery Trail,” he says. Public art and signage will link different destinations within the district, offering capital improvements to make crossing Broad Street, for example, not only more pleasant but also safer, Ricksecker says.
One possible concept depicts a Washington Avenue wall mural of bustled, parasol-toting ladies escaping Topiary Park and heading north to the museum. Or, Ricksecker says, “There might be a Thurber dog near the library to suggest if you walk five minutes northeast you'll come to the Thurber House,” a boyhood home of James Thurber, one of the foremost American humorists of the 20th century.
“They'll be breadcrumbs between different destinations, interesting breadcrumbs that make you want to get out and walk.”
Local urban planning and design firm MKSK has built a plan using input from hundreds of Discovery District residents, students, employees and visitors in public meetings and online opportunities. Elements emerged to define the essence of the district as a place for knowledge, creativity, discovery, transformation and where historic meets contemporary.
How artists and designers ultimately translate those elements could be very different from the initial concepts, which are intended as placeholders, Ricksecker says.
The SID has about $300,000 in seed money and hopes to raise $1 million to $2 million over the next couple of years to begin the trail. Sources could include grants, highway funds, contributions from companies within the district and maybe the city's capital improvements budget, Ricksecker says.
“The great thing is it's modular. It can be built one block at a time,” he notes.
The first part of the district likely to be connected by the Discovery Trail: Columbus College of Art & Design and the museum with Topiary Park and Main Library.