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Area Around COSI To Be Transformed, Local Leaders Say
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Plans were unveiled Tuesday to develop the area around COSI. Fifty-six acres surrounding the center would be highlighted by a new veterans’ memorial, a downtown Columbus zoo exhibit, the creation of a new neighborhood and a lot more green space.
Rumors that the Franklin County Veterans Memorial would be torn down and an arts venue erected in its place were only half-right. If all goes according to plan, Vets will meet the wrecking ball but a new memorial will be constructed in its place – mostly an outdoor amphitheater with enclosed museum, office and classroom space. Guy Worley, is head of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation.
“We have the No. 1 zoo in America. We have the Number One Center for Science and Industry. We’re going to have the best state veterans’ memorial in the entire country,” Worley said.
It will be a stunning structure overlooking the Scioto River with a magnificent view of the Columbus skyline. A committee of veterans chaired by former senator and veteran John Glenn came up with the concept.
“If we can make all these interactive exhibits and not make it just a dry museum, then this will be more than worthwhile,” said Glenn.
Glenn says he’d like to see a sky bridge or underground walkway from COSI to the new memorial.
Just south of COSI planners want to build an indoor zoo attraction, though they say it’s too soon to know what form that attraction might take. Zoo president Tom Stalf says a partnership with COSI will benefit both institutions.
“We were extremely excited about being close to COSI. COSI and the zoo have a great partnership and we’re looking forward to having a stronger partnership,” Stalf said.
Developers also want to build 1,200 residential units to the west of COSI which will also feature retail shopping. That way, say leaders, the area won’t shut down when its cultural attractions close their doors at day’s end.
It’s all a part of a plan to reverse the decline of east Franklinton. City and county leaders hope the project will revitalize the area’s sagging economy.
But who’s going to foot the bill? John Glenn says Les and Abigail Wexner have agreed to finance the $25 million memorial but the remainder of funding appears sketchy. All Guy Worley would say is this:
“[There will be] public/private partnerships. We will start to develop each one of these concepts. Today what you saw was a strategic land-use plan; what would be the best use of the land. The next thing we’ll start to do is design these different concepts and start to put together public/private partnerships to raise the funds to actually implement this plan.
Planners are moving forward in at least one area. They’ll demolish the Main Street dam which will narrow the course of the Scioto adding additional real estate on the Franklinton side. Planners want to turn 33 acres into an arboretum with about 1,000 trees.
All this won’t happen overnight. Worley says the entire project could be ten years in the making.