A transformed 15th and High ready to welcome first tenants

Jim Weiker
The Columbus Dispatch
Workers install pavers on the area that used to be near the Flying Tomato restaurant's outdoor patio as work progresses on the 15th Avenue redevelopment across North High Street from Ohio State University.

The first tenants are preparing to move into Ohio State University's new $140 million "front door."

Eight years after being conceived, the redevelopment of the east side of High Street around 15th Avenue is about to welcome its first building. When completed, the 9-acre development, dubbed 15+High, is expected to include at least six buildings and a 9,000-square-foot plaza.

“I’m really proud of the quality of the development,” said Amanda Hoffsis, president of Campus Partners, the OSU development arm managing the project. “It’s so satisfying to see all the work we put in in the last eight years come to fruition in such a way that reflects the stature of the university today.”  

The first building to be completed in the 15+High development across from Ohio State University will overlook a plaza.

Envisioned in 2013, the development was designed to more dramatically highlight the main entrance to the campus on High Street. Plans were unveiled two years later and demolition of the previous buildings, including Long's Bookstore, started in 2016

“Fifteenth and High is one of those iconic places on campus that every alumni has a memory of,” Hoffsis said. “It’s a really important space. We talk about it as the front door of the university.” 

The first building, five stories tall and 100,000 square feet, will welcome its first tenant in May when Ohio State’s Office of Advancement moves into floors three through five.

Work progresses on the 15th Avenue redevelopment across North High Street from Ohio State University. One of the features visible in this view is the realignment of 15th Avenue to match the campus street-grid system.

The building's second floor will be reserved for event space, while the first will house retail. Barrio Tacos has leased 4,000 square feet in the building, becoming the first retail tenant to commit to the project. The restaurant is expected to open in late summer.

“We couldn’t be more honored and excited to bring Barrio Tacos to the center of the University District at 15+High,” said Jason Beudert, a partner in Barrio Columbus, which also operates a Barrio Tacos on West 5th Avenue near Grandview Heights.

The 15+High development across High Street from Ohio State University envisions a lively, pedestrian-friendly Pearl Alley.

Tenants must be found for the remaining 16,000 square feet of first-floor retail space, which will front High Street, as well as a plaza on the south side of the building and the pedestrian-oriented Pearl Alley behind the building. 

"We have been signing leases, but we’ll leave it to tenants to announce," Hoffsis said. "You'll hear about a number of additional tenants very soon." 

When completed, the 15+High development across from Ohio State University's campus will include at least six buildings and a large public plaza, shown here.

A sister building, also five stories tall and about 100,000 square feet, is well underway next door, on the south side of 15th Avenue. Ohio State University will also occupy the office space in that building, and Hoffsis said "we're in hot negotiations now" for the building's ground-floor retail space.

A third building in the development, WOSU's new headquarters, is also well underway. General Manager Tom Rieland said staff will start moving in during May or June, with the plan to be fully operational in the building by September. 

The 15+High development occupies 9 acres on the east side of High Street from 14th to 16th avenues.

No construction has started on the three remaining buildings in 15+High: a 150,000-square-foot office and retail building on the northeast corner of North High and 14th Avenue; a hotel on the northeast corner of Pearl Alley and 15th Avenue; and a parking garage behind the hotel on 15th Avenue. 

The 15+High development will accent the "front door" of Ohio State University's High Street entrance. This rendering shows the development's plaza on the northeast corner of 15th and High.

Hoffsis said she expects construction to begin this year on the garage, which will include a small amount of commercial space on the ground floor. 

"We're negotiating now for a hotel developer on the hotel site," she said. "I assume we'll finish negotiations soon but might not start construction until 2022."

Immediately north of 15+High is the Wellington apartment building, which includes a Target and other retailers on the ground floor. That building, which opened in 2018, isn't technically part of the Campus Partners project but nonetheless extends the significant changes on the east side of High Street across from campus.