The riverbank and area near COSI will soon undergo a transformation

By Melanie Terez, ‘14

In August 2013, the Columbus Downtown Development Corp. unveiled a $50 million plan to redevelop the land around COSI and the Franklin County Veterans Memorial. It appears Columbus, OH may soon be in for a shake-up.

Mayor Michael Coleman explained what the project includes and why he has high hopes for it.

“It will complete the transformation of our riverfront, which began with Scioto Mile and continues with the Scioto Greenways project, which removes the Main Street Dam, returning the river to its natural flow and creating 33 acres of new green space,” a representative of Coleman said in an email to Arlingtonian. “This project yield benefits for Franklinton, for downtown and the entire region.”

The proposal also includes plans for a veterans museum to replace the Veterans Memorial and a new branch of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The plan’s zoo portion outlines a 50,000-ft. branch of the zoo just south of COSI, with an aquarium, rainforest and space for interaction with wildlife. The land west of COSI and the Memorial and east of the railroad tracks that cross the peninsula would become apartments, condominiums and shops. Elevated pedestrian walkways will connect COSI with the zoo and the veterans museum.

Vice President of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Community Relations, Patty Peters, explains that the new branch of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will benefit Columbus.

“The Columbus Zoo is located 17 miles from downtown and it is often difficult for tourists staying in the downtown area to come to the Zoo,” Peters said. “The satellite campus will provide them with a fascinating and fun zoo experience.”

The satellite campus will not only impact tourism in Columbus, but jobs in the city as well.

“The Columbus Zoo currently provides $238 million in economic impact to the community each year,” Peters said. “The addition of a satellite campus will not only attract more tourists, it will provide jobs through construction, employment at the facility and businesses surrounding it.”

Senior Daniel Kington believes the project will yield benefits for the environment as well.

“Dams are incredibly destructive for the environment, and while that damage can’t really be undone, this is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Funding for the project is already underway as well. L Brands Inc. CEO Les Wexner and his wife Abigail have already donated $25 million toward the new arts facility and, according to Coleman, “there is a May levy for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium that would invest in the riverfront zoo location.” Franklin County will contribute around $3 million to construction costs, and $2.6 million to demolish the Veterans Memorial by March 2015.

“Like all our ambitious endeavors, it will require a public-private partnership at different levels of government and investment from the private sector as well,” Coleman said.

There are still some uncertainties about the project. Questions remain as to who would run the building replacing Veterans Memorial, where the Veterans Service Commission and other veteran groups would meet, and who would pay for the maintenance of the new museum.

Overall, expectations are high for the new development. When the project is done Columbus will have a new arts center, a new branch of the Columbus Zoo, a new area of green space around the Scioto River, and new jobs.

“It completes the transformation of the Scioto Riverfront, [and] it complements the transformation of East Franklinton,” Coleman said. “It improves our Downtown and provides new activities for our residents and new attractions for our visitors.”