Students and professionals work to develop new vision for Olentangy River corridor

Two-day charrette explores unified vision between university and downtown

By: Chris Booker

Published on November 08, 2017

Highways and homes, restaurants and retail mark the two-mile stretch between The Ohio State University and downtown Columbus. Through the heart of this community runs the Olentangy River and an opportunity to tie it all together.

Now leadership from Ohio State and across Columbus are working with three professional design teams to develop a new vision of the Olentangy River corridor.

“The purpose of the project is to explore the connection between the university and downtown Columbus,” said Keith Myers, associate vice president of planning and real estate.

Myers said that while the corridor is only about two miles long, it’s a complicated piece of property.

“It has freeways, it has old Olentangy River Road, it’s got a river and a floodway through it. So it’s all quite complex,” he said.

The hope of finding a plan to untangle that complexity led to the Olentangy River Corridor Charrette this autumn at the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture.

The charrette, an intense design period, featured representatives from architecture and design firms NBBJ, West 8, REALM, Tom Leader Studio and MKSK. A dozen current Knowlton School architecture, landscape architecture and city and regional planning students supported those teams.

“It can be developed in a more user-friendly fashion,” said Neil Hoh, a fourth-year landscape architecture major. “There's a few areas in the corridor that are very weird in kind of janky way, so to speak. And I think that this project will really smooth those kinks out and make it much more compelling.”

Myers led a tour of the area for the design firms and their student aids in October. Then three teams spent two days exploring existing and future forms of transportation, natural river systems and riverfront connections along the corridor. The results will be presented later this month.

Ohio State isn’t leading this effort alone. The Columbus Downtown Development Corp., the Columbus Partnership, Nationwide Realty Investors, MORPC and the City of Columbus are sponsors of the charrette. It’s a collaboration that should yield a unique vision.

“The sort of intellectual partnerships that you get when you go through universities leading these things are ones that you wouldn’t get if it was only business or municipal,” said Claire Agre, a principal and senior landscape architect at West 8, a New York-based firm.

Knowlton student Christian Moore, a fourth-year studying landscape architecture and philosophy, said the desire to see the project through is personal.

“I think it’s critical for me,” he said. “It’s a great stress reliever because of the bike path that runs all the way downtown. When I'm tired of studio work here at Knowlton, I'll get on my bike and ride down and go all the way down to the Scioto Mile downtown. It’s a good experience for me to clear my head and really just be able to relax for a little bit.”

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