March 27, 2014
Nothing excites the imagination of an urban developer quite like an empty piece of land in a desirable location.
This was the case whenever Michael Amicon of Columbus-based Wagenbrenner Development went by the intersection of N. High Street and Goodale Boulevard.
“I could just see the potential,” he said of the land just north of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. “It’s such a prominent corner of the city.”
And now, it appears a large-scale project that could include one or more hotels, restaurants, shops and apartments will be built at the busy corner.
Wagenbrenner and partner Rockbridge represent one of the four development teams that responded to a request from the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority to submit plans for such a project on land owned by the authority.
“The authority was approached by Wagenbrenner last fall with an initial concept or idea,” said Maria Mercurio, finance director of the authority, which already has committed to building a five-level parking garage on the north side of Goodale with room for almost 800 vehicles.
The authority issued a request for proposals for the new project in December.
“Conventions are always searching for more hotel rooms, and this could add to the inventory and support the ongoing commitment to bring more conventions here,” Mercurio said. “The board may see this as the next step to accomplish this.”
The convention facilities authority is still exploring options for that site. No decisions have been made, and there’s no timetable, she said.
“Ultimately, the authority may recommend doing nothing or may suggest to do something completely different.”
Recent mixed-use projects — those combining residences, retail space and offices — in the Short North, Arena District and Downtown have made development around the convention center economically desirable, developers say.
“It’s something we feel the city is ready for,” said Brett Kaufman of Columbus-based Kaufman Development. “We’re focused on continuing to make the convention center a growing part of the city.”
Kaufman is working on his proposal for the site with local developers Daimler Group and Continental Real Estate Cos.
“It’s exciting that people are looking conceptually and have big ideas for the future,” said Brian Ross, CEO of Experience Columbus, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. “What drives our strategic plan is to be one of the top three cities (among our competitors), and this will play into it.”
The four teams and their proposals are:
• The Wagenbrenner and Rockbridge proposal is for a hotel project and 38,000 square feet of retail space connected to the north side of the convention center.
There could be two hotels — a traditional full-service hotel with 325 rooms, and a boutique hotel with 100 to 125 rooms, said Mark Wagenbrenner.
“That’s a trend in the industry, a way to appeal to different experiences,” he said.
Across the street, and connected to the authority’s parking garage, are plans for a 140-unit apartment complex.
“We think this adds to the energy of the area and supports the core project (across the street),” Wagenbrenner said of the apartments, adding that the entire project could be in the $130 million to $150 million range.
• The Kaufman, Daimler and Continental vision is for a 250- to 300-room, full-service hotel on the northern edge of the convention center.
“And then there would be a connector across the street to the parking garage and a project similar to our 250 N. High Street project,” Kaufman said of the mixed-use project Downtown being built with Daimler.
“There would be first-floor retail, then a few floors of office and then residential floors above,” he said of the convention center proposal.
He envisions two buildings that would be 12 stories tall, or maybe even higher.
“It’s a function of land availability and a function of what people want,” he said of the high-rise concept. “You could look out over Goodale Park and across the city. People want this type of product.”
It’s too soon to put a price tag on the team’s project, he said.
• The Pizzuti Cos. proposal is for a mixed-use project that includes an upscale hotel in the 300-room range, Mercurio said.
Pizzuti officials were not available for comment.
The company is in the midst of building a $59 million project in the Short North that includes an 11-story, 135-room boutique hotel; six-story, 55,000-square-foot office building; and 313-car parking garage, as well as the already open Pizzuti Collection gallery.
• Indiana-based White Lodging, a hotel-management company, plans a hotel with up to 300 rooms, Mercurio said. Officials from the company were not available for comment yesterday.
The next step in the process, Wagenbrenner said, is for the authority’s board to begin to finalize its plans.
“My guess is they’ll reduce it down to a finalists list,” he said.
Kaufman is optimistic that construction could start sooner rather than years down the road.
“It could get started quickly, provided everyone is able to come together in defining what it is and how it gets executed,” he said.