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All posts for the month June, 2014

NRI lays out the future of Grandview Yard

Published June 30, 2014 by justicewg
Brian Ellis announces the new Nationwide Ins. campus at Grandview Yard

Brian Ellis announces the new Nationwide Ins. campus at Grandview Yard

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.

Mayor Degraw wins big time

Mayor Degraw wins big time

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.

Poor map of the Yard, I added some callouts. Click to bigifye.

Poor map of the Yard, I added some callouts. Click to bigifye.

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.

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Big announcement about the Yard Monday evening

Published June 30, 2014 by justicewg
NRI announcment 2007

NRI announces the start of Grandview Yard in the middle school, Dec. 19, 2007.

Mayor Ray DeGraw will be giving us the details of a new development in the Grandview Yard on Monday at 5:30, in the Community Center. A big change in focus for the Yard will be on the way following Nationwide Insurance’s announcement that they will be moving 3K jobs to new offices inside the development. There have been stories about the move in the Dispatch and the Business First.

Two thoughts on this news before the meeting.

This will mean jobs and a big increase in the income taxes Grandview will be receiving from the Yard. So, hooray. I’m not so happy about getting those jobs by taking them away from Dublin and Westerville. This moving jobs around inside the central Ohio area is not real growth, it is moving the chess pieces. Grandview might be the winner now, but if the numbers are run in 10 years and some place else looks better, we could be left with a lot of empty buildings as Nationwide moves on.

Second, this is not bringing us any nearer to the large retail shopping development that was promised back in 2007. Although NRI never said anything other than “commercial development”, we were hoping for a Mini-Easton. I don’t see how that is possible now with 500K sq. ft. of office space being used up by Nationwide (the current offices built and in construction are only 200K). We will hear NRI’s plans on Monday, I’ll be interested in hearing them say if any big retail shopping is now possible, or if that dream is dead.

Car2Go is going to be in Grandview

Published June 2, 2014 by justicewg
C2G_DC

CC Elvert Barnes on Flickr

It looks like the Car2Go service will be allowed to expand into Grandview heights. There are questions about the service that have not been fully answered, a 60-day trail period is built into the agreement that could cancel or modify the contract. The council will need your feedback on how Car2Go is working on your street. Special attention should be given by the residents who live in the permit parking area to the east of Grandview Ave., there may be a return of the parking problems which resulted in the permit system.

Rental cars without the rental building

There is nothing really new about the Car2Go rental service, other than adding a lot of networking and computer control to the rental car business. The label “car sharing” is how the company refers to itself, but I don’t think a user of the service is any more an “owner” of the car than vacation time share owners are “owners” of their condos.

You use the website to find a car parked on a street near where you are located, optionally reserve it, walk up to the car, then use a membership card to unlock and drive the car. At that point it’s just like a standard rental car, although the charge by the minute (with a daily max of $73) is a little more finely graduated than the normal hourly rates.

The unique part of the service happens when your trip is over. You find a legal parking spot (the GPS unit inside the car checks if you are legal) then you use your card to end the trip. No driving to the rental agency.

In a higher income area like Grandview, rental cars are not going to be primary cars, most people have one car or two cars for dual income families. The idea is that Car2Go cars will be replacing old family cars that normally sit unused for much of the time, and that people will realize it is almost as good to have a nearby rental car as owning that extra car. The fixed costs of a old car – insurance, licensing, maintenance, etc. – can make a rental car a better deal (although most people have already paid off the old car, so there are no monthly car payments.)

Will Grandview Heights residents want to dump the old car and go with Car2Go? That’s the big question. If we keep the old cars, then add a fleet of Car2Go cars to the streets, the normally tight parking in Grandview will get worse.

Council is ready to vote

I asked councilman and safety committee chair Chris Smith some questions about the Car2Go service, he gave this reply.

C2G plans on expanding its service to Grandview Heights and the Fifth by Northwest area of Columbus. You are correct that the vehicles do have GPS devices, which should eliminate most potential parking issues.  Additionally, a majority of council is of the belief that the “short-term use” operating model of C2G will make parking issues very minimal, if at all, and may actually reduce parking issues.  It is worth noting that German Village in Columbus is the largest area of that city that has permit parking in that city where C2G has operations, and there has been no issues reported there.  C2G has had such high demand for its services in Grandview Heights that it expects C2G vehicles to remain idle in the City for very short periods. – CS

No doubt that the cars will spend most of the day in use, I don’t see the Car2Go owners have any reason to flood the area with more cars than are needed. The real problems could be the permit area east of Grandview Ave, and the overnight parking.

Car2Go don’t need no stinkin permits

After the Grandview Ave strip became a fashionable place for restaurants and movies, and the parking behind the Bank Block Building became constantly full, the residents living to the east of Grandview Ave. found parking in the evenings to be constantly taken by those business patrons. After a lot of complaints the city created a “parking by permit only area” that extended a couple of blocks to the east. Not sure but I think this happened in the 90’s?

The Car2Go owners insist that they must be allowed to have nearly full parking privileges for the concept to work. That means they can park in metered spots without paying (although I guess the company pays something to the cities for that privilege). They also get to park in all “residents only” permit areas, which will mean the Car2Go cars will be parking east of Grandview Ave.

Will the Car2Go cars bring back the overuse of the parking areas east of Grandview Ave.? I asked Chris.

Yes, that was a big concern of mine as well, which I raised during the hearing. No one else in attendance had a problem with C2G having parking access in those spaces. Based on its operating model, I was given assurances that this would be no problem due to these vehicles moving out so quickly. Again, the German Village scenario was mentioned for the case that it would not be a problem. Be assured that council will be monitoring this aspect of this agreement, most notably myself. If it does create problems, we will take appropriate action. – Chris Smith

The parking spot in front of your house

On my street most people park directly in front of their own houses. We try to be nice to each other and don’t park in front of a neighbor’s house if ours is taken by a stranger. There are some spots we know are normally empty because that house has all the cars in the back garage, or they don’t need both parking spots. It doesn’t work all the time, but mostly we can expect to park right in front.

The Car2Go service will ignore this neighborhood agreement. If a Car2Go car ends the day parked in front of your house, that is where it will spend the night.

The Car2Go people say that the cars will circulate a lot and this will not happen often. They also hope that the service will cause people to get rid of their old cars, leading to more spots opening up. Maybe this will happen. The drivers of the Car2Go cars can do much to help on these issues.

If you are using a Car2Go car, and you want to go to a restaurant on Grandview Ave. that has valet parking, use that service instead of parking in front of a house east of Grandview.

Don’t end the Car2Go trip by parking in front of a house. Very often in Grandview there are cross streets at the ends of blocks that have no houses facing that street. Park your Car2Go car on these side streets. I wish that the GPS units in the cars could be programed with this level of detail, but according to Smith they don’t want to do that.

After the Car2Go legislation passes council and the cars are on the street, keep in contact with the city about any problems you see. This is the time to refine the agreement with the Car2Go company, not after the 60 day trial period.

C2G street

The car on my street

This Car2Go was dropped off by the company (two cars arrived, then an employee dropped the car). This happened sometime Friday August 22, I didn’t see it but a neighbor said she saw the drop in the morning. This is a parking spot that is normally used by the neighbor that lives at the end of the street, so as long as this car stays put, it is disrupting the normal parking on our street.

Let’s see how long the Car2Go car is parked without moving on my street.

(Saturday 2:30PM) Still there.

(Sunday 1:30PM) not moved.

(Monday afternoon) The car is gone. Spending an entire weekend unused is not a good indicator of the need for these cars, the claim by the Car2Go people that the cars sit unused for a few hours on average was not supported on my street.

Anyone else have an experience with the Car2Go sitting unused for long periods?

Second Car2Go car on my street

C2G out of order

 This car showed up a couple of days ago. I don’t think it has moved since then. This afternoon I saw someone inside it, and heard a car alarm going off. The person then got out without moving it. I checked the display panel on the car, it says “out of service”. When I went to the website for Car2Go, it showed this car as being a good distance away from the place where it was supposed to be, and also it is listed as ready to be rented. This will be a big surprise to the person who walks blocks to use this car and only finds out it is unusable after they get to the car.

(Aug. 28, noon) Still sitting, out of service.

Aug. 29) The car was gone this morning. Not good sign that it takes four or so days to service a car.