Affordable and market-rate housing and retail are in the plans.
The region’s top developer of urban infill sites has emerged as Mount Carmel Health System’s partner in transforming a portion of the 37-acre Mount Carmel West medical campus in Franklinton into a community-focused, mixed-use development.
The hospital network has confirmed speculation that Wagenbrenner Development – the developer of the central city Jeffrey Park, Grant Park and Grandview Crossing projects – will lead the mixed-use redevelopment of the campus once Mount Carmel closes its inpatient hospital in April or May and simultaneously opens its new inpatient hospital in Grove City.
Mount Carmel Health has operated on the Franklinton site off West Broad Street just west of Route 315 since the hospital first opened in 1886 and has pledged to remain deeply involved in the neighborhood’s healthcare and social welfare needs since announcing plans to relocate the hospital beds to Grove City.
“We wanted a developer partner that shares the same philosophy we do,” said Mount Carmel Senior Vice President Brett Justice, who leads the healthcare provider’s strategy and systems development. “Wagenbrenner really shares the same commitment to the Franklinton community through involvement and engagement they bring to their projects.”
Projects tentatively on tap include affordable housing, a park and other neighborhood greenspace, workforce development and training facilities, and unspecified commercial projects.
Wagenbrenner Development President Mark Wagenbrenner said his team will build on the experiences of redeveloping the former Columbus Coated Fabrics site along Grant Avenue north of East Fifth Avenue and other scattered sites nearby. The developer has built single-family units as well as rental properties during the last 10 years of redevelopment efforts in what had become a deeply blighted neighborhood. It has brought in other developers to build housing for low- and moderate-income residents.
“We hope to expand on the experience we had in Weinland Park,” Wagenbrenner said. “For this (Mount Carmel redevelopment) to be effective, we have to have a focus beyond the Mount Carmel campus.”
Wagenbrenner said he hopes to have the first projects in Franklinton under construction in a year or so. About 10 of the 37 acres will be redeveloped with affordable and market-rate housing as well as neighborhood retail. Three garages with about 1,700 parking slots will be renovated and worked into the redevelopment, in addition to the green space neighbors have sought.
He said he fully expects to work closely with Pizzuti Cos., which bought the long-vacant Graham Ford dealership located between Mount Carmel and Route 315. “We intend to work together to help weave the development into a collaborative effort," he said.
In addition to Pizzuti, other major developers including Nationwide Realty Investors and Kaufman Development have assembled property in Franklinton.
Wagenbrenner Development has quietly worked with Mount Carmel on the campus redevelopment planning since the fall. Its role started to surface as Mount Carmel began scheduling meetings with community stakeholders this week.
One of those stakeholders, Franklinton Board of Trade Executive Director Trent Smith, enthusiastically welcomed the selection of Wagenbrenner Development because of the reputation it earned working with neighbors and community groups in the Weinland Park neighborhood. Smith said the developer has built deep working relationships with city of Columbus officials and those in the nonprofit sector. He also said Wagenbrenner has experience with the wide variety of financial tools and other resources necessary for successful urban redevelopment projects.
“Wagenbrenner has a great track record in knowing how to develop in neighborhoods like Franklinton,” Smith said. “They have proven it can do that sort of engagement.”
Separately, the redevelopment effort around Mount Carmel already has seen immediate results. Mount Carmel has leased about 15,000 square feet for medical offices in a four-story property at 750 Mount Carmel Mall, where for-profit social enterprise Fortuity Calling LLC plans to open the first phase a call center staffed by Franklinton residents as early as April. That building, purchased by a Fortuity affiliate in December 2017, also will house workforce training and other community services.
Mount Carmel in late 2017 pledged to invest $46 million in the transition of its Franklinton campus, including creation of a standalone emergency room within a vacated medical office building at 120 Green St. to serve Franklinton, the Hilltop and other west Columbus neighborhoods. The Mount Carmel College of Nursing also will expand its facilities, including the addition of classroom and computer lab space, expansion of faculty offices and construction of various infrastructure projects.
Justice said Mount Carmel will continue supporting nutritional classes, behavioral health and substance abuse programs, whether directly or in cooperation with other service organizations.
“There’s still a lot of work to do," he said, including getting neighborhood feedback, before a redevelopment plan emerges. “First we have to finalize the moving of the inpatient hospital.”