As pandemic eases, Columbus eyes major downtown revitalization

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – As coronavirus numbers drop and temperatures rise, developers are looking forward to a busy season.

A new report shows downtown Columbus is expected to have a major rebound after a slow 2020.

It’s no secret that the pandemic had a major impact on the way people work, live, and eat in an urban area like downtown Columbus.

For nearly a year now, social distancing and working from home have taken a major toll on some of the businesses that rely on foot traffic during lunch and dinner hours.

Despite the economic slowdown, more than $220 million of construction was completed in the heart of Columbus last year, and much more is on the way.

Another $1 billion in projects are currently under construction and another $1.5 billion in projects have been proposed.

These include big projects like the new office and residential development next to COSI, the Columbus Crew SC’s new stadium, and a new Hilton hotel.

But Columbus is not alone. Developers across central Ohio said each day brings the region closer to knowing what a post-pandemic world will look like.

“We think in our region, it’s going to come rather quickly,” said Kenny McDonald, president and CEO of One Columbus. “In fact, it has already started. There’s been some evidence that our market has a lower unemployment rate, is beginning to recover to a little bit faster.”

These major investments and more have stakeholders excited about the future of downtown.

“COVID and everything else that happened in 2020, I think, is just a bump in the road,” said Marc Conte, acting executive director of Capital Crossroads and Discovery. “The growth and vibrancy of downtown is going to continue after 2022 and we see that both in the number of projects that are under construction right now plus with all the new projects that are being announced for the future.”

New office, retail and residential spaces are still being built, despite the still uncertain future.

“People are going to need offices,” Conte said. “I don’t think the work-from-home effort is going to work for the majority of people or the majority of companies.”

Downtown Columbus will hit a major milestone this year, with more than 10,000 people living downtown.

“Every time we hit another five-thousand resident milestone, you notice, a different kind of energy downtown,” Conte said.

That energy? The spirit of progress and change not just downtown, but across central Ohio. 

“I’m inspired by the energy that I see,” Conte said. “Cranes in the air, movement, companies moving forward, our great logistics and manufacturing industries with parking lots full.”

Last summer’s spirt of protest and resulting property damage was also a setback for businesses, but sparked important conversations about what a post-pandemic economy should do.

“Black, white, minorities, not having the same outcomes, economic outcomes over the last decade and how are we going to both grow and close those gaps at the same time,” Conte said.

One of the biggest sectors that will need a post-pandemic boost is the hospitality industry. Last year, just over one million people visited downtown Columbus, down from 10 million the year before.

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