The future will be dominated by the Nationwide Insurance campus. The retail dream of a mini-Easton might have been a possibility back in 2007, but it’s dead now. There were some holes in the map of the Yard that were plotted as ghost white possibilities, but it seems clear that the Yard will be a Nationwide Insurance campus foremost, with 1300 residential units second priority. Another hotel, and retail and food/drink establishments will fill in the gaps, as announced at the June 30, 2014 meeting.
I was encouraged to see the three new parking structures placed firmly on the map. A couple of years ago when the future of the Yard seemed to be headed for a big box store dominated retail there were surface parking lots plotted all over the map. The four story parking buildings will go a long way to insure that the development has the right density of mixed-use construction.
The big surprise was a new 135 room hotel and conference center, with a ballroom for 300 and multi-use areas. I always wondered how it could be possible for the hotel market to have any room for expansion given the new hotel on Olentangy and the hotel being constructed in the short north. Somebody thinks that the market is not saturated. The hotel taxes from the current Hyatt Place has been a boost to the city, if the new hotel is as popular the taxes will be a windfall for the city.
Well, almost a windfall. The current businesses in the Grandview Yard have not caused much of an increase in city employment, but as the thousands of jobs move into the office buildings and retail businesses open in this round of expansion, city police and fire personnel will need to increase.
We should be glad?
Mayor DeGraw took some time to point out that Nationwide Insurance is a top 100 corporation who had a lot of different choices in where they could have located their campus, and that Grandview should take pride in being the kind of place where a top business would want to move. There was a bit of obsequiousness toward Nationwide in that pronouncement.
Ray has done some good work for the city, and he will go down in the history books as being the Mayor who brought our small, landlocked, drifting into obscurity city into the big time, while the rest of the region suffered through a major recession. There was no guarantee the G.Y. development would succeed. He has every reason to feel thankful for Nationwide’s choice.
If I were the Mayor of Dublin or Westerville though, who will lose all those jobs, I would not be so happy. There is an element of Greek tragedy to modern business machinations, in which the Gods make their moves while us little people dance around and must cope with tragedy or are blessed with good fortune.
There is a term in business called “eating your own dog food”. That happens when a business uses its own product in the daily business activities of the company. This doesn’t happen as much as you would expect, because the people who make the product are fully aware of the limitations.
Did Nationwide Insurance “eat their own dogfood” when they selected their own development for their campus? Nationwide Realty Investors is a subsidiary of the Insurance company, the choices the insurance part make are supposed to be independent of the investment arm. But it sort of looks like dog food chow to me.
Connecting the Yard with the city
One of the most difficult problems for the city has been connecting Grandview Yard with the rest of the city. When the area was light industrial, nobody wanted to walk there, and the street layouts helped to wall it off from the rest of the city. Now that the Yard is trying to become a walkable destination, the old layout works against the plan. The solution on the maps for now is to re-build the intersection of First Ave. and NW Boulevard, and create a walker friendly, tree lined entrance to the Yard as an extension of First. The new improved road into the Yard will end at a 2 acre park, roughly in front of the Nationwide campus.
This also enhances the car traffic into the Yard. The planners expect Third Ave, and Goodale to be the main traffic feeders for the Yard, but First Ave. will also become a commuter route for local traffic. An expert hired by the city said that 8 percent of the traffic on First would be going to the Yard.
Residents at the meeting were not happy with the though of sleepy commuters driving down First in the morning, as the kids are being dropped off at Stevenson. Even with a relocated school entrance and drop off area to the east on Hilo Lane, the additional traffic on First will be a problem for the school. A board member at the meeting said they were not involved in the negotiations with NRI, explained by the city council as being needed for sensitive talks.
How do you make an inviting connector to the Grandview Yard without increasing car traffic? My suggestion – widen the road and plant the trees, but make the road going into the Yard at First a bicycle path and walking route, and keep the cars out of this entrance to the development.
Where is this push-back originating?
I had a short email conversation with council president Panzara, mainly to find copies of the traffic studies that were mentioned at the meeting. His take on the traffic problems that G.Y. might cause was that the issue was overblown by the reporters at the meeting. He had personally gotten very few comments or question from Grandview residents about traffic problems.
Today in the Dispatch (July 7) there is an unsigned editorial that is headlined “Increased traffic is manageable” , it is a rebuttal to the questions about the traffic that will be driving into the yard every day. Like the council at the meeting, we are reminded that this was all in the planning documents since 2009, so our objections are unreasonable. Never mind that the whole plan for the business tenants and expected traffic has changed multiple times in the years since the first announcement, we should have foreseen the future and raised objections five years ago.
Then the editorial states “But Grandview is an urban suburb, and that means traffic”. As the first commenter to this editorial reminds us, Grandview Heights likes to think of itself as a small town surrounded by the big city, but still small enough to avoid bad traffic. If the choice was living with choking traffic (like Powell, OH), and receiving all the new taxes, or forgoing the big development for more modest traffic, I think the majority of the residents would vote for less traffic. (I don’t think Powell levels of traffic were in the plans, but I have yet to read the documents).
Why are the small time traffic questions for Grandview Heights receiving editorial page coverage in the Dispatch? Oh , I forgot, “Capitol Square Limited, the commercial real-estate arm of The Dispatch Printing Company, publisher of The Dispatch, owns a 20 percent stake in Grandview yard.” Funny that this disclaimer is often included in articles, but is not added to the editorials in the paper.
Another Dispatch article was printed on July 8th, telling us about the funding for the streets and other public utilities inside the Yard. The issues with traffic on First Ave. were again mentioned, with assurances that the city had plans to cope with the increases.