21-acre site to be split into parcels, beginning with a hotel project

The Columbus Downtown Development Corporation has issued a new request for proposals for development of the highly sought, much-anticipated 21-acre site just west of COSI on the Scioto Peninsula.

This do-over follows a somewhat embarrassing first attempt to find a developer for the same site last fall, which resulted in the selection of Indianapolis-based Buckingham Companies in December for a transformative $500 million multiuse project that called for a 150-room boutique hotel, 1,700 residential rental units, 150,000 square feet of new retail space and 800,000 square feet of new office space.

But that deal apparently started to sour before the ink even dried. Last month, Business First reported that communications between CDDC, the city and Buckingham—acquired via public records requests—showed that disagreements over the direction of the development began to arise as soon as January.            

Additionally, just weeks after awarding the development contract to Buckingham, Columbus 2020—the region’s economic development arm—submitted a bid on behalf of the city to woo Amazon to locate its new headquarters in Columbus. That bid for Amazon HQ2—with the potential to bring upwards of 50,000 jobs and a $5 billion investment in the city—offered the same 21-acre Scioto Peninsula site. In January, Amazon announced that Columbus was one of 20 finalists from the 238 cities that had submitted bids. As excitement over the prospect of landing Amazon took center stage, behind the scenes the relationship between the city, its major stakeholders, including members of the CDDC board, and Buckingham apparently withered on the vine.

In June, CDDC announced that the Buckingham project had fallen through.

The new RFP, issued last week, calls for plans for the development of what’s being dubbed “First Phase Development” of the Scioto Peninsula, confirming what Guy Worley, CEO of CDDC, said weeks ago—the city now intends to award development contracts for the peninsula in piecemeal parcels earmarked for specific uses, rather than turning the entire 21-acre site over to one developer, as occurred with Buckingham.

Neither Worley nor Amy Taylor, CDDC’s chief operating officer, returned calls for comment.

In this First Phase Development, CDDC, through subsidiary Scioto Peninsula Holdings Ltd. (SPH), calls for separate plans from multiple developers for separate parcels within a 6-acre block situated between Belle Street to the east, Chapel Street to the south, Starling Street to the west and Capital Street to the north. The parcels are earmarked for “at least 300-450 residential rental units, 150 keys of hotel space, 200,000-300,000 square feet of office, 150 condominium units and an appropriate amount of experiential retail as an amenity to those uses.”

“It is SPH’s intention that each aspect of the first phase will be developed simultaneously to create a ‘sense of place’ and ‘center of gravity’ that will enhance the success of each use,” according to the RFP, and that “each first phase building will be at least six stories tall, with some reaching 10-12 stories.”

The hotel site, located across South Belle Street from the new Dorrian Green just west of COSI, is described as “the primary retail and street activation core.” It will feature surrounding ground-level retail, conference space and “the marquee restaurant for the development,” while aiming to be “accessible to family visitors to the Scioto Peninsula cultural institutions,” which include COSI and the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, which is set to open this fall.

In addition, CDDC states that it will continue to pursue an idea, announced earlier this year, to open up the center of the COSI building with a glass-enclosed corridor of “experiential retail together with other exciting spaces and attractions that will create a core of energy reaching out to the private development”—primarily extending toward the proposed hotel. “Together, the redeveloped COSI, the hotel and the retail will provide an ‘engine’ for the entire development.”

An application for a COSI Connection Corridor project was approved for $5 million in the state capital budget in February. According to the application, the east-to-west glass atrium passageway through COSI will “carve out 30,000 square feet of space for restaurants, retail shops, attractions and other public spaces.”

The Scioto Peninsula RFP also calls for 300 to 450 units of residential rental; the city will require that 20 percent be workforce housing, with 10 percent affordable to tenants earning 80 percent of the local area median income (AMI) and 10 percent affordable to tenants earning 100 percent of the AMI. The plan says the city “is not currently offering any workforce housing incentive,” but is rather making it a requirement of any considered proposal.

Deadline for submitting an “expression of interest” is Aug. 15, with final plans and renderings due by Sept. 27.


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