Downtown Concierge

Vets Memorial plan good to go


In the Media


The Columbus Dispatch

The west side of Downtown is primed for a rebirth that will benefit all of Franklin County and finally pay proper homage to Ohio’s veterans.

Franklin County commissioners on Tuesday are expected to approve a lease with the Columbus Downtown Development Corp., clearing the way to raze the outdated Veterans Memorial and develop an exciting civic attraction.

When done, Columbus will have a cultural center, a new park, a new urban neighborhood and an architecturally striking Ohio Veterans Memorial and Museum.

The project will transform 56 acres along the riverfront, complementing efforts on the east bank to revitalize the once-neglected Downtown riverfront. First came the Scioto Mile, a dazzling string of parks, and then the greenways project to remove ecologically-unfriendly low-head dams and restore recreational space along the banks.

Now it’s Franklinton’s turn to shine. “This is probably the biggest city-changing project that we’re going to work on in a generation,” said Guy Worley, the corporation’s president.

The new park undoubtedly will draw retail and housing; Worley said the Scioto Mile and Columbus Commons generated $225 million in private development investment.

Most of all, this redevelopment will bring educational wonders to urban children and Downtown visitors, pairing the top-rated COSI Columbus and a new satellite location of the nationally renowned Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The Veterans Memorial board has had its say, but its alternative proposal is unrealistic, lacking support to raise the $100 million it says it needs to remodel what is, in truth, an unworkable building. Further, the building’s mechanicals, lighting and technology needs require $8 million in immediate fixes. That would throw good money after bad.

The new plan already has a $25 million commitment from Limited Brands founder Leslie H. Wexner and his wife, Abigail, and would replace a static exhibit with an interactive one that will teach and inspire.

As Commissioner Marilyn Brown says in a letter to the community, “I believe that the one thing that the existing Vets Memorial does least well is serve as a memorial to our veterans or a showcase for their service.

“The plaques and other important artifacts are displayed in a part of the building seldom seen by the visiting public. No one attending a trade show or an event in the theater is likely to walk past them.”

These historic plaques and memorabilia instead will be showcased at their original home, Franklin County Memorial Hall, at 280 E. Broad St. The Veterans Service Commission, which has a warren of rooms in Vets, also will move into this bright new space.

Under the new deal, the county’s cash investment is capped at $3 million for construction, in addition to helping ready the site for development. Proceeds from parking on the site and land sales, under the county’s lease with CDDC, will go into an endowment fund to pay the operating costs of the new memorial.

Razing Veterans Memorial will not take away a single memory of an event attended or diminish the honor due to veterans. This plan respects the past and moves Columbus into the future.