The turn we were all forced to take three years ago continues to shape our future.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three years ago this week, the world was turned upside down by COVID 19. The turn we were all forced to take continues to shape our future. Most visually in downtown Columbus.
“Go downtown and you’ll see tons of faucets,” he says Amy Taylorpresident of St Columbus Downtown Development Corporation. “I think there is nothing more important than to say that we are making progress. We are a city of progress. And the cranes symbolize that.”
Taylor wants people to know that downtown Columbus is no longer the “ghost town” it once was when Ohio’s stay-at-home order forced nearly all of the 89,000 downtown workers to work from home.
“I think it hit us so hard that it allowed us to come back even stronger,” Taylor adds.
She listed the many ways that downtown Columbus is thriving today after the pandemic: food trucks on Thursdays, concerts on the Scioto Mile and the lunch box program, to name a few.
But Taylor says one of the major shifts is how vacant high-rises downtown are opening up to themselves.
“We’re seeing it all over the country, from Chicago and New York to Austin and Charlotte — how can we transform the skyscrapers, those big offices that were built in the ’70s and ’80s, but may not have the jobs that What are today’s employers and employees looking for?, Taylor asks.
“It’s about how we can turn them into something that really contributes to a healthy downtown.”
This mission takes place in several Columbus skyscrapers such as the Fifth Third Center, the PNC Building and the Continental Center.
“The idea is that if you’re a worker and you come into the office, you don’t have to just walk into the office and sit in a cubicle by yourself,” says Mark Conte, chief executive Capital Crossroads and Discovery Special Improvement Districts.
“You can do it at home, too,” he adds. Conte says the national trend to transform office spaces into more welcoming places to work began before the COVID 19 pandemic.
Historic Fifth Third Center is reinvesting money into a 23-story building at the corner of State Street and High Street with hotel-like amenities as you walk up to the penthouse with views as far as the eye can see. The building will also have a gym and golf driving range for office workers.
“If you’re going to come into the office, they want places where you can interact with other colleagues, collaborate and be creative,” Conte adds.
Other major developers like Bernstein Companies (TBCO) say buildings darkened by COVID 19 are an opportunity to bring new life to downtown.
“It’s going to be a really unique building that, when you drive by, you can see it from a distance and say, ‘That’s my bedroom,'” says Phil Aftuk, chief investment officer for TBCO, which bought the historic Continental Center building. in 2021.
Aftuk says Continental’s plans call for 330 apartments in the entire 25-story building. But he also acknowledges that not all buildings have the “bones” to turn them into new housing for downtown residents.
“There are a lot of office buildings that are really struggling,” Aftuk explains. “I don’t think we’re in the 4th inning or the 8th inning. I think we’re probably very early in the game, and so unfortunately I think there will be more.”
Recent issue downtown columbus strategic plan shows city leaders hope to reach 40,000 residents by 2040. Downtown Columbus currently has a population of 11,650.