Our Fast-Growing Neighbor

Nationwide Children’s Hospital is growing faster than the feet of a 12-year-old boy, and there’s more to come.

Yesterday the hospital announced its additional development plans, which feature constructing seven new buildings, most of them in the narrow corridor between the I-70 freeway and Livingston Avenue.  When the buildings are completed, the NCH campus will stretch from its early buildings just north of Parsons all the way down to Grant.  The new buildings include a behavioral health center, a medical office building, and a research facility, and are forecast to cost $730 million.

nationwide-childrens-hospital-schieber-5The new buildings will continue the amazing growth spurt at the hospital, which has been home to ever-present construction cranes for some years now.  The ongoing expansion has helped propel NCH up the lists of preeminent children’s medical facilities in America.  The hospital is obviously a wonderful health care asset for the community and its families — anyone who has ever had to take a kid to Children’s for treatment knows that — and it’s also a growing employer during a period where new job creation isn’t exactly skyrocketing.  We’re indeed fortunate that NCH calls Columbus home.

As a German Villager, though, I’m also interested in the impact of the NCH expansion plans on this part of town.  You would expect that the construction of new buildings and a pretty campus will spur ancillary development efforts, and there’s at least a chance that the people who will be toiling in those new buildings might want to live within walking distance of their new workplaces.  I’m guessing that we’ll see a surge in interest in homes in Schumacher Place, German Village, and Merion Village, as well as attention to the buildings and lots on the south side of Livingston.  I think the NCH plans can’t help but improve our neighborhood.

There’s still a big piece of the puzzle, though, just west of the edge of the expanded NCH property, where the Columbus Africentric property now stands.  The Columbus Public Schools will be moving the school one of these days, which will leave a large parcel of property right on the edge of German Village and just across the freeway from downtown up for grabs.  Will NCH continue its move west, or will a developer decide that the school site presents a really choice opportunity for another mixed-use effort?

From Nowhere To Nowhere

IMG_6185There is a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the I-70/I-71 highway near our house.  Unfortunately, it really goes from nowhere to nowhere.

On the German Village side, the bridge is located directly behind the Columbus Africentric Early College School.  To access the bridge, you either have to walk through the school grounds, right between the school building and the playgrounds, or cut behind the school, on an access road between the rear of the school and the freeway.  On the downtown side, the bridge ends mid-block on East Fulton Street, in a kind of parking area.

It’s hard to image the pedestrian bridge being used by anyone other than, potentially, schoolkids and staff at Columbus Africentric.  From the school’s standpoint, that’s probably a good thing — who would want a bunch of strangers constantly walking through school grounds, anyway?  And who knows what will become of the bridge when the school moves to its new location, which is supposed to happen next year.

I’m a big proponent of improving walking and biking access between the German Village area and downtown; walkers and bikers tend to knit diverse neighborhoods together and encourage businesses to locate in the gap areas between established areas.  However, the noisy, clogged I-70/I-71 freeway is a huge physical and mental barrier.  More and better bridges would help, and a traffic-free, walkers and bikers only pedestrian bridge would be great — but it’s got to follow routes that walkers and bikers want to take.  A pedestrian bridge that goes from nowhere to nowhere is just a frustrating waste.