Columbus will have to wait a little longer for a new skyscraper.
The plan for a new 21-acre mixed-use district just west of COSI is moving forward without the twin 30-story residential towers initially envisioned, as Indianapolis-based Buckingham Companies was officially named late Tuesday as the selected developer.
The Dispatch first reported the expected selection of Buckingham in October.
Buckingham was chosen from a field of seven. The list was later narrowed to four, one of which dropped out, said Steve Schoeny, development director for the city of Columbus.
Buckingham, which recently built the similar CityWay project in Indianapolis, had a “realistic” vision which it seemed well-positioned to execute, said Guy Worley, CEO of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, which is overseeing the development.
Up to 1,700 total housing units — apartments and condos — are planned, along with 800,000 square feet of office space, up to 150,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and a boutique hotel with about 150 rooms.
The buildings will be mid-rise, up to about 11 or 12 stories each. The project could take up to a decade to complete and will be done in phases.
Scott Travis, Buckingham’s senior vice president for development, said the first phase would consist of five buildings south of Broad Street. The buildings would include a hotel fronting Broad Street. Other buildings would include retail, residences and offices along with an “iconic” building opposite COSI.
Buckingham’s plans for the project show 19 buildings on the site, though Travis cautioned that the development’s final design will be subject to market demand.
“Do we want this to be a destination? Yes,” Travis said. “But we want adjacent communities to inform what we look like.”
Worley’s organization has shepherded the overall vision for the overall 56-acre Scioto Peninsula effort, which includes the new National Veterans Memorial and enhancements to COSI. He said the group realized, in talking to developers, that skyscrapers will need to wait.
“That’s aspirational for us, but you can’t go from a (surface) parking lot to skyscrapers,” Worley said.
Schoeny said building codes make it much more expensive to construct a tower exceeding 12 stories. At this time, the rental rates the market will bear wouldn’t cover be enough to cover those added costs, he said.
Twenty percent apartments will be set aside for “workforce housing,” Schoeny said, allowing middle-class residents meeting certain financial criteria to live in the development alongside those making six-figure salaries.
He said affordability and a connection to Franklinton were important to residents whose input was sought before moving forward with the plan.
The project will benefit from public incentives, including infrastructure work provided by the city of Columbus and the standard 15-year, 100 percent property tax abatement on improvements within Downtown.
Columbus City Council and the Franklin County commissioners are scheduled to consider legislation addressing various aspects of the project next week.
The nonprofit CDDC laid the groundwork for the project in several ways: They completed the Scioto Greenways project that added parkland along the Scioto and removed a dam in the river. They built a park and play area atop a new underground parking garage in front of COSI. And they led the National Veterans Memorial and Museum project, being built on the former site of Veterans Memorial Auditorium. That project is expected to open in late summer 2018.
Buckingham will pay $29 million for the land. The property south of Broad Street is owned by the city, and the land north of Broad is owned by Franklin County. The estimated $10 million from the sale of the county’s portion will be set aside as an endowment for the Veterans Memorial.
Infrastructure work on the long-vacant land will take several months. Worley and Travis said they expect a groundbreaking for the project to happen about a year from now.
Buckingham was chosen over several experienced Columbus developers, including Crawford Hoying (partnered with California company SunCal); a group formed by Kaufman Development and the Daimler Group, both of Columbus, and New York-based Georgetown Co.; and a group including Casto, the Kelly Cos. and the Robert Weiler Co.
Dispatch reporter Jim Weiker contributed to this story.