Five Design Firms Share Development Visions For Local Waterways
What would Columbus’ public spaces look like if regional planners focused on building connections with local waterways? That was the question put to five design firms, and now, they’re sharing their ideas.
The Urban Land Institute and Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission commissioned designers to pitch ideas as part of their Rapid 5 project. The idea was to split the region in five, corresponding with the paths of major nearby waterways: Big Darby Creek, Scioto River, Olentangy River, Alum Creek and Big Walnut Creek.
Some of the proposals designers came up with, like improving trails or developing branding, could move quickly. Keith Myers who chairs the land institute and led the Rapid 5 initiative says others would require a longer-term commitment, but they could be transformational.
“We in central Ohio should not be afraid of big ideas. We’re capable of it,” he says. “We can talk ourselves out of anything, but it’s important not to do that. It’s important to embrace the ideas and some of the big ideas that these teams have developed.”
Among others, those ideas include improving public access and recreation at the Scioto and Olentangy River confluence or revitalizing Hanford Village along Alum Creek. The predominately Black neighborhood was cut in half to make way for I-70. One of the firms suggests re-orienting freeway entrances and exits to begin to stitch the neighborhood back together.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity not just to right a wrong, although that’s important too, but to really build something that is going to contribute to that neighborhood in a really significant way,” Myers says of the idea.
One of the more straightforward ideas Myers highlights would be to use the Darby Creek metro park as a way to encourage recreational connections with a string of nearby communities. The design firm suggests those communities might work together to create a kind of regional tourism identity along the lines of Napa Valley or the Finger Lakes.
“It’s not a big capital lift,” Myers says of the proposal. “It’s really an organizational opportunity and a branding and marketing opportunity and I think that’s one that’s fairly easy.”