Downtown could get a Highline-inspired elevated park

Columbus Business First

Developer Edwards Communities wants to turn the elevated catwalk behind the PNC building into an elevated park.
(Photo by Tristan Navera | Columbus Business First)

COLUMBUS (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — One of downtown’s last elevated catwalks could be converted to an elevated park.

Edwards Communities, which is planning renovations to the PNC Plaza building at 155 E. Broad St., is proposing a rehabilitation of the elevated catwalk that runs behind the building and connects to the Capital Plaza Parking Garage at 50 S. Young St.

The plan would remove the covering of the catwalk and build out an open garden with a walkway, extending the property one more block to Capitol Square. The 760-foot catwalk would then be open to the public as a half-acre urban park.

Edwards Communities presented the first concepts for the plan to the Downtown Commission Tuesday. The developer must return for a certificate of appropriateness for construction to proceed.

The catwalks would tie into the new 195 E. Main St., where Edwards Communities also got approval for a new 13-story tower, and PNC Plaza, where the developer is planning a mostly residential conversion with a prominent “sunken” garden.

The project is inspired by the Highline, a raised urban park built on an old rail bed through Manhattan. An urban park helps provide pedestrian amenities which are otherwise hard to do at the street level, said Karen McCoy of architect MKSK.

“What we’re really trying to do is bring a lot more trees, a lot more plants and vegetation to this area that has no vegetation right now,” McCoy said. “We are trying to maximize the amount of plants and green space we can put in.”

The walkways will feature shrubs, trees and a cafe-like area at the PNC Plaza, where a juice bar concept could be placed. Most of the walkway except the part over 4th Street would be uncovered.

Any development on the parking lots to the south would likely be podium buildings that could link in as well, McCoy said.

Developer Jeff Edwards said the walkway will also move foot traffic out of the PNC building, which people often use to get to the parking garage, creating security problems. The part of the street underneath the park could host outdoor dining while keeping the sidewalks.

“It’a good urban solution and a much more pleasant way to connect what will be much more pleasant urban developments,” Edwards said.

The plan would closse Capital Street from 3rd Street to Lazelle Street. That stretch is a de facto service alley today, but pedestrians use it and utilities run through it.

Members of the commission liked the design, which they called an upgrade for an older structure.

“It’s beautiful and very creative,” Commissioner Jana Maniace said. “There’s something nice about it being open.”

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