Ten development projects that could shape Columbus for decades to come

Jim Weiker
The Columbus Dispatch

The pandemic has not stopped development in Greater Columbus, but it continues to shape the construction landscape, positively and negatively. 

For warehouse and residential construction, the pandemic has proven a boon. For retail, offices, not so much, although work continues on those fronts as well.

In 2021, the Columbus area saw $5.9 billion in new construction (through November), up 26% from the previous year, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. 

Looking ahead, here are 10 development projects underway in 2022 that are poised to shape Columbus for decades to come: 

Work on the first six buildings in The Peninsula project is well underway, as shown in this November photo.

The Peninsula, East Franklinton  

What's going on: The first part of The Peninsula development on the west side of the Scioto River is expected to open this summer, tilting Downtown a bit to the west. This year, one office building, two apartment buildings and two parking garages are scheduled to open, followed by a hotel and a 34-story apartment-office-and-parking tower. When completed, the 26-acre development could include up to 20 buildings with 2 million square feet of offices, 1,800 residences, 200,000 square feet of retail space and 400 hotel rooms. A few blocks west, on Broad Street, the first part of the 840,000-square-foot mixed-use Gravity 2 development is also expected to open, further adding activity to the East Franklinton neighborhood.

What to watch: The big question for The Peninsula and Gravity projects is whether they succeed at the expense of the historic core of Downtown. While it's far too early to tell, at least one office tenant has committed to moving from Capital Square into The Peninsula. Will others follow?

A 31-story tower is at the heart of the new design for the North Market mixed-use development.

North Market Tower, Downtown 

What's going on: Work is expected to begin this year on the $300-million tower on the parking lot next to the historic North Market on the north end of Downtown. When completed – it's forecast for 2024 – the development will include 171 apartments, 212 hotel rooms, 57,000 square feet of offices and 353 parking spaces in a complex that includes a 31-story tower, a 20-story portion and a nine-story section. 

What to watch: The development, coupled with the 28-story Hilton expansion being built across North High Street, will go a long way to filling the remaining gap between The Arena District and The Short North. Will it also be the boost to the market itself that leaders hope?

The Trolley District, a $25-million redevelopment of the city's old trolley car facilities near Franklin Park, will see lots of activity and openings this year.

The Trolley District, Franklin Park  

What's going on: The first two bars opened in this entertainment district at the tail end of 2021, but 2022 will be the year this long-awaited destination starts to really take shape. Eight years in the making, the $25-million district is built from the shell of the city's trolley car facilities from the 1880s. The first part of the district to open, the East Market food and retail hall, will include 11 vendors and two bars when fully open this spring. In addition, the Columbus Brewing Co. plans to open its brewpub and beer garden within the next few months, followed by several other restaurants in another of the five buildings that make up the Trolley District.

What to watch: The Trolley District fills a void of bars and restaurants in the Franklin Park neighborhood, but is also the fifth of seven planned food halls in the Columbus area, raising questions about the depth of the audience for such venues.

Google's $600-million data center in New Albany illustrates the community's evolution from a bedroom community to an economic engine.

New Albany growth 

What's going on: The past few years have seen an explosion of growth in the New Albany area that is likely to take big steps forward in 2022. In addition to the ubiquitous Georgian-style homes, the city is adding major warehouses, data centers, office complexes, medical offices, apartments and retail developments to create a full work-live-play community. Expect to see some developments that got started in the past few years, including in the Hamilton Quarter area, to be fleshed out this year, along with a new plant for the biotech firm Amgen.

What to watch: On Tuesday, the city of New Albany voted to annex up to 3,190 acres into the city from Jersey Township for an expansion of the New Albany International Business Park. Look for an announcement on what the site will house.

Towers are rising for the 26-story expansion of the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University.

Ohio State University 

What's going on: A casual drive down Rt. 315 around OSU's campus reveals a sea of cranes that is transforming the campus. West of the highway, development is focused on the university's "Innovation District," poised to ultimately include 4 to 6 million square feet of laboratory and commercial office space, up to 500,000 square feet of medical space, 1,500 to 2,000 residences, 100,000 to 200,000 square feet of retail space, and a 180- to 220-bed hotel. On the other side of the highway, work continues on the $1.8-billion, 26-story addition to the Wexner Medical Center

What to watch: Ohio State's projects have the potential to change far more than the skyline. Both the hospital expansion and, especially, the Innovation District, could propel job growth for decades to come. The Innovation District alone is forecast to create 12,000 jobs over the next 25 years.

This year will see significant work on the residential and office project called Astor Park, next to Lower.com Field, as shown in this rendering.

Astor Park, Arena District 

What's going on: Last year's new home of the Columbus Crew, Lower.com Field, is only the first of many projects planned on the western edge of the Arena District. Work has begun on a 15-acre development called Astor Park, next to the stadium, which will include a five-story office building, a 750-space parking garage and two apartment buildings with about 440 apartments. In addition, the Arena District's developer, Nationwide Realty Investors, is looking to develop two large sites near the stadium. 

What to watch: Astor Park benefits from a beautiful, dynamic and updated riverfront setting, but will its tricky access dampen tenant interest? 

Upper Arlington City Manager Steve Schoeny stands in front of Kingsdale Shopping Center, which is being redeveloped to include the city's first community center.

Upper Arlington

What's going on: Work is well underway on two developments that will impact Upper Arlington for decades. On Lane Avenue, the 11-story Arlington Gateway development will bring offices and apartments to the former site of Darron's Contemporary Furniture and Half Price Books. On the opposite side of Lane, the first tenants are expected to open this year in the second phase of the Westmont at The Lane development. Several blocks north, work is also well underway on the redevelopment of the Kingsdale Shopping Center, with new buildings containing 458 apartments, 104 senior housing units, restaurant and parking space and a community center.

What to watch: The city of Upper Arlington is expected to announce details next month for its long-awaited $55-million community center, the city's first. 

The owners of the Fifth Third Center have started a $24-million makeover of the building.

Capital Square, Downtown  

What's going on: The past two years have dealt a heavy blow to Downtown. The pandemic emptied offices and protests boarded up buildings. Still, investors are placing bets on the rebound of Capital Square offices, including the Fifth Third Center, which is getting a $24-million facelift. But the two most intriguing developments Downtown are moves away from offices: Work is underway converting much of the PNC Bank tower on East Broad Street from offices to residences, and the Continental Centre high-rise on East Gay Street is expected to follow suit.

What to watch: Will other investors follow PNC's and Continental's leads and convert largely empty Downtown office buildings into housing?  

Amazon is adding three more delivery stations in Columbus to help speed deliveries to customers, including this one at 510 Sunbury Road, photographed in May.

Industrial boom 

What's going on: A banner year in warehouse construction, fueled by pandemic shopping from home, shows no sign of stopping in 2022. A record 9 million square feet of new warehouses were built in the Columbus area last year, and another 15 million are under construction, according to the commercial real-estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. Meanwhile, vacancies in existing spaces fell to an almost non-existent 2.6%. From West Jefferson to New Albany to Etna, enormous distribution centers have risen, or are underway, while the area around Rickenbacker International Airport remained the industry's Greater Columbus hub.

What to watch: Will this year finally see the redevelopment of the Columbus Castings site on the South Side? Stonemont Financial Group of Atlanta bought the 74-acre property in August, but so far has remained mum about plans.

Nationwide Children's Hospital is planning a new patient tower. It will be in the small parking lot west of the existing tower that now serves as an emergency room parking lot. The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, 575 Children's Crossroad, is located north of the main Nationwide Children's Hospital building.

Nationwide Children's Hospital 

What's going on: The seemingly never-ending development around Nationwide Children's Hospital won't end in 2022. In addition to the Interstate-70 redesign, work continues on the hospital campus itself along East Livingston and Parsons avenues, with a new parking garage and expansion of the Ronald McDonald House.  Although most of the work isn't expected to start this year, the hospital unveiled a $3.3-billion expansion plan that will include a 12-story inpatient tower, an orthopedic and surgery center, and two new research centers.

What to watch: Few institutions have had a greater impact on their neighborhoods than Nationwide Children's Hospital. With the hospital's continuing expansion, look for private development to continue along Parsons and Livingston avenues, and north of Interstate-70 toward East Main Street.