Designing the 15th and Excessive City Framework Plan and Improvement in Columbus, Ohio

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In 2013, Campus Partners nonprofit redevelopment company, MKSK, and university senior management came together to envision a future for the private and university property on the east side of High Street across from the main Ohio State University campus around the intersection of 15th Avenue and High Street.

The 15th & High Street Urban Framework Plan was developed as a new vision for this “gateway” to the university and surrounding neighborhoods and set out the commitments that Campus Partners would make to the improvement of the 15th and High District and community wellbeing as a result of the future reallocation of the area.

In the master plan, design guidelines for the six-block area were defined, which meet both urban planning and economic feasibility considerations with the following objectives:

1) Promoting a vibrant, mixed-use environment

2) Create a new common room community

3) Prioritize pedestrians

4) Reconnect neighborhood streets and

5) Solving parking problems within a dynamic, vertically integrated mixed-use campus development and landmark of the university.

Through this planning work, MKSK helped with the creation of the block and street layout, with the analysis of the parking space requirements and the traffic / pedestrian circulation and created the details for the public space, the street scene and the building front design for the new development area.

The plan proposed a more streamlined street grid for the boroughs to improve traffic and provide clearer sight lines from east of High Street to the University’s Oval and beyond to the west; a prominent building that anchors the eastern terminus of an axis of 15th Avenue bisecting the oval, with the William Oxley Thompson Library as the western terminus; mixed-use buildings with active ground floor use; and a high quality, walkable, pedestrian-oriented environment with new parking spaces designed to enrich the pedestrian environment.

Master plan for the east side (15th & High) and west side (OSU Arts District) of High Street, developed by Campus Partners and Ohio State University, respectively. Rendering by MKSK.

Through several months of land acquisitions and land swaps between campus partners and land developers and land owners and an expansion of the TIF district area for the university district, an agreement was secured with the city of Columbus on infrastructure funding for the implementation of the first construction phase at the end of 2016 with the demolition of existing buildings and infrastructure.

Full development is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. According to the latest news from the university’s website, the 15+ HIGH project is 60% complete, with Building A that will house the University’s Funding Office, which is slated to open in May.

Looking south on Pearl Alley. Rendering by MKSK.

As part of a comprehensive team of engineering and design partners under RAMSA as design advisor for campus partners, MKSK is part of the infrastructure team that helps with urban design and landscape architecture for public spaces within the development area. The design approach to realign 15th Avenue on High Street houses a new plaza and gate between the neighborhood and the university, which is on the OSU Arts District.

View to the south of the university square.View to the south of the university square. Rendering by MKSK.

MKSK is leading the design and implementation of University Square, which will serve as the physical and visual link between the University District east of High Street and the entrance to the university campus west of High Street. Other components of the 15 + HIGH development include the redesign of Pearl Alley, which will be converted into a lively pedestrian zone with reclaimed bricks and recovered historical materials, as well as new buildings that will house a parking garage, the WOSU production studios and the university academic Offices with commercial offerings on the first floor (restaurants, bars and retail).

After its completion, the 16 hectare rededicated development area will form a new lively and historical gateway for the university as a connection to the city districts and offer a mixture of amenities in a dynamic and walkable new city district.

MKSK planning urban development landscape architecture

MKSK is the landscape architect for the outdoor spaces featured on the 2021 Urban Living Tour, including the third floor courtyard and pool deck with dog park at The Nicholas and outdoor spaces for the Apartments at the Yard with Brooks Building & Yard Club amenities. These features were included in the Urban Living Tour booklets and will be featured in Columbus Underground. For more information, visit mkskstudios.com.

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MKSK

MKSK is a collective founded in 1990 of planners, town planners and landscape architects who are enthusiastic about the interaction between people and places. We work with communities and customers to reinvent, plan, and design dynamic environments for the benefit of all. We are a practice with a network of eight regional metropolitan studios in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, South Carolina, and Georgia. MKSK approaches planning and design with the clear understanding that every place is unique and has economic, social, environmental, historical and cultural influences that should be explored through thoughtful, context-sensitive design. We help communities and our customers meet the challenges of changing global conditions by focusing on resilience and sustainability. We design places to improve life, and we share our transformative stories and the power of strong planning and design to inspire ourselves, our colleagues, and the world to work together for the common good.