The resident population in downtown Columbus is expected to reach 10,000 this year, despite Covid-19 and an uncertain business and office market.
The report by the State of Downtown Columbus of Capital Crossroads and Discovery, which was unveiled during the Columbus Metropolitan Club forum on Wednesday, said 9,855 people live in the downtown area, with a housing occupancy of 85.7%. That was a decrease of 94% in the previous year.
One reason: Six residential buildings were opened in downtown Columbus, bringing the total number of residential units in the city center to 8,062. Another 1,169 units are under construction, an investment of $ 128 million. Another 1,591 units for a total of $ 506 million are proposed.
Brad DeHays, founder of Connect Realty and one of three panelists on the forum, believes the demand for downtown housing will continue. He said the number of new projects in the works shows that developers remain optimistic.
Downtown Timothy Crawford, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University, said he had no problem selling his downtown property and into one last year to pull another house downtown.
“We got an offer the week we did it,” he said.
Still, the median sales price for condominiums in 2020 was $ 316,500, compared to $ 392,000 a year earlier.
Marc Conte, the acting executive director of the special improvement districts, said the downtown protests, which began in May over the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, caused some to rethink moving downtown, where the owners are with Millions in damages had to fight.
Conte said downtown is still recovering from it. And he said the location advantage of the urban core will only recover once the pandemic has subsided.
“Covid is a bump on the road, not a monumental change,” he said.
DeHays said the popularity of Connect’s MicroLiving Lofts apartments at 260 S. 4th St. supports the economic argument that there are not enough affordable apartments in the downtown area. The apartments cost $ 809 to $ 929 per month, according to Apartments.com.
“Every metropolitan area has the same problem,” he said. But once people move into the city center, attracted to restaurants and bars and other reasons, they find larger residential areas nearby.
The resident population in the inner city is projected to reach 10,100 this year and 12,421 in 2023. In 2002 the population was 3,619.
For comparison: 20,000 people lived in Downtown Cleveland in 2020, in Cincinnati 10,140 last year.
For the purposes of the report, the downtown Columbus boundaries are Interstate 670 to the north, Interstate 71 to the east, Interstate 70 to the south, and the CSX railroad tracks in East Franklinton to the west.
According to the report, 89,199 people were working downtown as of 2018, the latest numbers available.
Office market issues
Until last year, 19.2% of the office space in the city center was not let. That is an increase of 14% in the fourth quarter of 2019.
The question is whether companies are bringing their employees back downtown all day or whether there will be some kind of hybrid when more choose to work from home, at least temporarily, if not all day.
DeHays said he believes companies will bring people back to the office. There could be hybrid workplaces, but companies need central locations, he said. One reason: to help with the recruitment of workers.
“It’s difficult to create a culture when you work from home,” said DeHays.
Now that people can work remotely from anywhere, local developers are seeing a trend that employers in expensive coastal cities are looking for offices in places like Columbus, where Ohio State University is bringing new talent.
He said one thing that will help bring people back to the city center is removing the boards from buildings.
“We asked some people from out of town why the boards were still open,” he said. “Perception is reality. We know that we have a safe environment in the inner city.”
Bob Szuter, co-founder and operations manager of Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, agreed.
“We never closed our shop,” said Szuter. “We always felt that it was important to stay open. This is our city. We will be here.”
Despite Covid-19 and economic uncertainties in 2021, 32 projects were still under construction in downtown, investing a total of 1 billion US dollars. These include Crew Stadium ($ 300 million), the Hilton 2.0 in the Greater Columbus Convention Center ($ 220 million), and the mixed-use Scioto Peninsula development west of COSI ($ 272 million).
A further 36 projects totaling $ 1.5 billion were proposed, including the Confluence Village project on West Nationwide Boulevard, the Gilbert, a 13-story, $ 44 million residential building on the southeast corner of East Broad Street and Young Street and Harmony Tower, a 30-story, $ 100 million residential and hotel tower for a parking lot north of the Atlas Apartments on North High and Long Streets. That sum also includes $ 761 million for the construction of Interstates 70 and 71 Downtown.
Projects completed include the first phase of the Municipal Light Plant project ($ 20.2 million), Xander on State Apartments ($ 35 million) and Industry Columbus, an apartment project on East Long Street ($ 25 million) .
The downtown hospitality sector was hit hardest in 2020. The pandemic resulted in orders being left at home, restaurants and bars being closed, and events being canceled. The number of visitors to the city center fell from 10 million in 2019 to 1.3 million. Hotel occupancy was only 23.7% after 66.5% in 2019.
Corporations are likely to think about sending people on business trips, according to Conte, and convention planners have a long lead time with booking.
“We know our hotels will get back on their feet,” said Conte. “We don’t know when.”
Szuter said the expansion of outdoor dining, which the city approved last year, will be of great help to restaurants. But he said the city needs to slow traffic on North 4th Street, where Wolf’s Ridge is located, to make it feel safe enough for guests to be outside along the busy street.