Real Estate News: Downtown's Franklinton draws investors

TC Brown
Housing construction is underway in Franklinton.

If you have notdriven through Franklinton lately, take a look.

That historical area of Columbus once better known as The Bottoms, west of COSI on the banks of the Scioto River Downtown, is being quickly turned around thanks to an influx of major developments.

At least three major, multimillion-dollar housing, retail and office developments are in the works, sparking renewed interest in property sales and housing rehabilitation.

Mark Epstein, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker King Thompson, says potential homeowners “willing to be pioneers” are scrutinizing the neighborhood for deals.

“It's been the forgotten backside of Downtown, but people think of it now as a gold mine,” Epstein says. “Investors are able to acquire properties at pretty low prices and then rehab the homes.”

Single-family home sales have not skyrocketed, but prices have. The average cost for a home in December was $75,000. In November 2016, the average price was $21,000, Epstein says.

Millennials and baby boomers all seem to want to live in an urban environment, says Lee Ritchie, a Realtor with Re/Max Metro Plus.

“More clients are interested in buying property in Franklinton because they know what is happening and the future is bright for the neighborhood's expansion,” Ritchie says. “Some of this is still conceptual, but a lot of properties are getting snapped up.”

Some developments are already beyond the conceptual stage, though. A developers' group that includes Casto Communities is expected to open its River & Rich project, with 230 apartments south of West Rich Street, late this summer, says Brent Sobczak, president of Casto Communities.

“You are starting to see improvements of single-family homes in the neighborhood, and you will start to see more once these projects come online,” Sobczak says.

The Gravity project being built by Kaufman Development on West Broad Street, with 240 apartments, is expected to open its office portion by the summer and apartments by fall, says Brett Kaufman, the company's CEO. “We were drawn to what we think is the ethos of the neighborhood,” Kaufman says. “We felt connected to the unique, creative class of people down there focused around the arts and felt we could do something unique in the city.”

Additionally, the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation last year selected the Indianapolis-based Buckingham Companies to develop 21 acres west of COSI for 1,700 apartments and condos, office and retail space, and a boutique hotel. A timeline has not been announced.

While many believe good news prevails, some worry about gentrification. To offset such concern, some developments will have 20 percent of residential units set aside for “workforce housing,” lowering costs for middle-class residents who meet certain federal financial criteria, says Rita Parise, Columbus housing administrator.

“We ask developers if they will take incentives if we help them with development costs because not all units are affordable,” Parise says. “We look for opportunities to provide housing for people of diverse incomes.”

So far, revitalization has not seemed to affect artists who have flocked to the area, setting up lofts in neighborhood warehouses, says Chris Tennant, an artist who lives in Franklinton.

“Rents are typically $800 to $1,000 a month for studios,” Tennant says. “I've seen no negative effect. If anything, it's all having a good effect with people coming to the neighborhood and spending money.”

Following is a summary of three major Franklinton projects underway:

River & Rich: 230 apartments, 25,000 square feet of retail and a 292-car garage at West Rich and Lucas streets. Developer:Casto Communities, Robert Weiler and Kelley Cos., the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and Smoot Construction.

The Gravity Project: 240 apartments, 50,000 square feet of office space, 30,000 square feet of retail space, including a restaurant and a parking garage at 500 W. Broad St. Developer:Kaufman Development.

Scioto Peninsula project: 1,700 apartments and condos, 800,000 square feet of office space, 150,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and a boutique hotel with 150 rooms, west of COSI. Developer:Buckingham Companies and the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation.