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Scioto Mile Park Boosts Downtown Attractions
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The appeal of living in downtown Columbus gets a major boost this summer with the planned opening of the Scioto Mile – the park under construction along the Scioto River. Property owners and housing developers hope the park will attract buyers, but they are having some difficulty doing that.
The $40 million Scioto Mile is expected to open early next month. The park winds its way from Bicentennial Park on the south side of downtown to the Arena District on the north. It includes wide greenspaces, walking paths, bikeways, plazas and a new signature fountain. City leaders and property owners hope the revitalization project will boost values and stimulate commercial growth.
One property that stands to benefit is The Waterford Tower condominiums on West Main Street. The 19 -story tower overlooks Scioto Mile. Manager Mark Reader can’t wait for the park to open.
“Aesthetically it’s just beautiful, if you got up to our higher floors that face the north you can see the entire park. They’ve been testing the water with the lights, they have a new restaurant opening, an amphitheater. I think it’s going to provide a lot of entertainment, a lot of amusement,” Reader said.
But sales have been slow. Some 15 Waterford units are for sale out of 102. None were sold last year. Realtors say buyers want to wait until the park is finished. They also blame the age of the building – it’s 22 years old. And the newer downtown condos enjoy a 10-year tax abatement because of a city incentive program. Real Estate Agent, Lee Goodman of Transaction Realty says that makes it harder for Waterford to compete on price.
“And part of the problem is that well A the Arena district properties are tax abated, so it makes it tougher for those south projects to compete in and also the south side is a little out of favor. There’s a lot happening in the northern area, the Arena district, the short North,” Goodman said.
There are new units on the southern edge of the Scioto Mile. Along Front Street, there is a line of new units: The Annex at River South, developed by Lifestyle Communities, opened in 2009. The complex is nearly full, but it’s all rental units. Marketing Director, Russell Boiarsky, says the complex was intended to be a mix of apartments and condos but, changed into all rentals because of buyer apprehension.
He says when the economy slowed, some buyers were afraid to commit to buying a downtown home.
“We listened to our residents, we listened to our prospective residents and what we were hearing was there was a lot of fear in the market, and people were really interested in the property, but more so from a rental standpoint,” explained Boiarsky.
Other condos along the Scioto Mile are also feeling the effects of the housing slowdown. The NorthBank Tower on the southern edge of the Arena District, is only 60 percent sold. And throughout downtown housing prices have been cut in half from $300 a square foot to $150 a square foot. Real Estate agent, Robert Bickis is still optimistic. He says improvements to the southern part of downtown could boost sales.
“Up until the Scioto Mile park opens here, Miranova and Waterford Tower have kind of been an island out there in the middle of nowhere. So what people really like when they come downtown is walkability. That’s one of the big reasons they move down here, they want to be able to walk out their door and walk across the street to a caf , or walk across the street to a restaurant,” Bickis said.
Through April of this year, 31 downtown condos have been sold, about the same as last year. But the number of available units is down by nearly 100. While some of those were sold, others are being offered as rentals.