COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Big changes are coming to the Arena District and the North Market in Columbus.
The North Market Tower development project is set to break ground in a few short months. NBC4 is learning the project is getting $1 million dollars from state lawmakers on top of a local tax break. Critics are calling it a misuse of tax dollars.
The North Market Development Association calls the new build a unique public space that will serve the entire community. The plan calls for a 35-story tower with residential and office space, and a large two-story atrium or arcade to connect it with the existing North Market.
“I am definitely excited, especially for a lot of the grocers in here,” said John Reese, co-owner of Black Radish Creamery in the North Market.
The cheese maker is looking forward to a larger venue and customer base, and isn’t whining about the project just yet. “I am sure there are going to be growing pains,” Reese added.
In the latest state budget lawmakers included $1 million to help build the atrium in the North Market. Critics of the plan are concerned how much tax payers are covering.
“Do we really need to be spending state tax dollars, when we have all kinds of other pressing state needs?” said Greg Lawson with the Buckeye Institute, which tracks government spending.
Lawson believes state dollars should go to state needs like sewers and other infrastructure.
“Being able to put in a nice atrium into a building is something that is not an essential government service,” Lawson added.
The state tax dollar provision is on top of the local tax break the development already has. Last year, Columbus city council awarded market tower developers Schiff Capital Group and Woods companies a 15-year, 100 percent property tax abatement in exchange for bringing jobs and revitalizing the area.
Lawson said this may lead to taxpayers paying more.
“Someone ends up paying those taxes, what you end up seeing over time, is increased taxes on other individuals, residents in particular,” Lawson said.
Supporters say the overwhelming majority of funding for the roughly $120 million project is private dollars. Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) is the state Senator for the North Market district.
“It’s bringing resources into our community,” Tavares said. She believes directing state dollars toward projects like this spurs the local economy through growth and new jobs. She also believes in this project because it protects a piece of Columbus history.
“The North Market is the last remaining public market that we have in the city of Columbus,” Tavares added.
Cynthia Rickman with the City of Columbus said the arcade will be built by the Wood/Schiff Team, then deeded to the North Market to operate as a public gathering place and venue for reserved events.
“One can envision small musical performances, art installations and other value added uses for this flexible space,” Rickman added. “North Market visitors can sit, eat and enjoy one of Central Ohio’s defining cultural institutions.”
As for cheese connoisseur John Reese at Black Radish Creamery, he is hopeful for the future. “I would like to think that I’d be able to smell or sniff out a bad plan,” Reese said.
The North Market Development is expected to break ground by fall 2018, with a completion date expected within two years.