Amid vast economic disparities from one block to the next, both nationally and locally, Columbus has the opportunity to redevelop one of its critical neighborhoods in a thoughtful and creative way.
The rare opportunity comes with expert consulting, with Columbus being selected by the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use to participate in the Daniel Rose Fellowship, a program of the National League of Cities in partnership with the Urban Land Institute.
The Rose Fellowship is providing Columbus with technical assistance on how to preserve and encourage mixed-income neighborhoods, focusing its recommendations on portions of the Near East, Near South and South Sides, with the expectation that lessons learned will translate to other neighborhoods. After spending a week exploring the area, the visiting panel of experts shared their recommendations at an event attended by community leaders and stakeholders.
“You can’t have a great city unless you have great neighborhoods,” Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther told attendees.
“Your mayor is thinking ahead,” said Panel Co-Chair Lev Gershman, Managing Partner of Tideline Partners in San Diego. “There is an opportunity to secure an equitable future in this neighborhood, and it’s an opportunity not to be missed.”
The panel first shared observations of Columbus as a whole, noting that the city is experiencing sustained growth in population and jobs, with investment booming in the downtown and core neighborhoods. But other parts of the city are still struggling with disinvestment and vacancy.
Target area observations
Of the target area, the panel found housing costs are relatively affordable, allowing more cost-effective interventions to preserve affordability. Its proximity to downtown and other key employment centers makes investment in the area likely in the near future. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is an economic engine and source of investment.
Target area challenges
There are few accessible neighborhood-serving amenities and services. Additionally, some landlords in the target area are not investing in property upkeep, and there are visible signs of neglect and vacancy.
Through the lens of forming a great mixed-income neighborhood, the visiting panel presented findings specific to the target area. Their recommendations spanned inclusive planning and engagement; housing and transportation; economic mobility and resiliency; and tools and incentives:
- Update zoning regulations to allow by-right development that matches land use goals and reduce dependency on the city’s variance process. The city should consider expedited approval process as an incentive.
- Protect existing residents with eviction prevention and a tax freeze for low-income homeowners. Attract new residents by developing new housing opportunities using tax abatements and looking for opportunities for small-scale land assembly.
- Better connect neighborhood residents to job opportunities. Deploy incentives tools for businesses that invest and create livable wage jobs in the commercial corridors. Modernize the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Investment Fund targeted to support growth of locally owned small business in the study area.
- Explore how Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in collaboration with the community college system, can better meet the employment needs of residents and create a culture of shared prosperity. Utilize local businesses for hospital related contracts and procurement
- Improve connectivity by establishing business-friendly parking strategies. Evaluate bus routes and create better connections between residents and employment centers.
- Commit to inclusive housing with density bonus and tax abatements.
- Accelerate equitable economic development investments with neighborhood rehab tax credits, abandoned building tax credits and more.
- Reform the existing eviction policy and the home repair program to be more effective.
- Promote ownership among existing residents and business to promote wealth. Work with local residents to become shared owners in new investment vehicles.
- Improve Land Bank operations and strategic partners for acquisition and assembly.
- Align tools and incentives with equitable development to ensure transparency. Create an equitable development scorecard.
Finally, the group shared conclusions and homework assignments for local policymakers:
The “Columbus Way” needs to evolve from collaboration around transactions to creating a culture of engagement that yields collective action to address shared challenges. The city should align zoning regulations to land use goals to allow byright development and minimize dependency on the variance process. Equitable planning and development must have a transparent, inclusive engagement process to create trust.
Assign a staff person to identify best practices and initial partners to cultivate community partnerships and actively engage community. Identify low-income unrestricted units in study area and how many will be needed over the long-term. Assign staff to conduct outreach to existing business and draft new goals for the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Investment Fund based on feedback. Create an inclusive equitable development project scorecard to inform investment priorities and decision making.
The next Rose Fellowship check-in will be May 1 at the Rose Fellowship Retreat in Detroit.
The city has posted the panel’s presentation on its website.
About the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use
The mission of the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use is to encourage and support excellence in land use decision-making by providing public officials with access to information, best practices, peer networks and other resources to foster creative, efficient, practical and sustainable land use policies. Founded at the Urban Land Institute in 2008 by New York-based developer Daniel Rose, In 2014 the Rose family and ULI formed a strategic partnership with NLC to bring its robust expertise in local government and leadership to bear on the Rose Center’s programs. Today, NLC operates the Rose Center as part of its City Solutions and Applied Research Center, with the ongoing programmatic, financial, and strategic support of both ULI and the Rose family. Columbus’ Rose Fellows are Dawn Tyler Lee, Mayor Ginther’s Deputy Chief of Staff for External Affairs; Steve Schoeny, Director of Development; and Brent Sobczak, President of CASTO Communities.