Downtown Columbus’ population has more than doubled in the past decade, reaching and surpassing the 10,000 mark, according to 2020 population figures recently released by the US Census Bureau.
The question now is whether the number of downtown residents will continue to grow at a similar rate over the next 10 years, as many office workers continue to work from home and others worry about the security.
Some believe it.
“I don’t think that’s really a wild card,” said Marc Conte, acting executive director of the Capital Crossroads and Discovery Downtown Special Improvement Districts. “People still want to live in an urban environment. People want an urban lifestyle.”
Within the traditional downtown boundaries, the population has grown from 5,226 in 2010 to 10,342 in 2020. These boundaries roughly follow Interstate 670 to the north, Interstate 71 to the east, Interstates 70 and 71 to the south and the section of the Scioto Peninsula to the east of the CSX railroad tracks and Highway 315 to the west.
Population declined slightly in a downtown east census tract bounded generally by Grant Avenue to the west, Broad Street to the north, Interstate 71 to the east, and Interstates 70 and 71 to the south, from 1261 to 1253.
Conte said there are currently 15 projects with 1,300 homes under construction downtown. He said with the housing shortage in central Ohio, those units will be in demand.
“I think those units will fill up,” he said.
These projects include a couple by the Edwards Companies: the conversion, already underway, of the 14-story PNC Plaza building at 155 E. Broad St. into 120 residences and a 13-story, 133-unit building at 195 E. Broad St. St.
Conte said he believes the conversion of office buildings to residential space will continue. Buildings that have small floor plates lend themselves to residential conversion, he said.
“If you look at what’s been built in the Short North, the floor plates are just as small,” he said.
Also in the Downtown project: a six-storey building and 145 apartments currently under construction at Grant Avenue and Oak Street by the Pizzuti companies. And the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation plans to build a $20 million, 93-unit affordable apartment complex at East Town Street and South Washington Avenue near Topiary Park.
The development corporation is focused on creating more affordable housing options downtown after Guy Worley resigned in May under pressure from Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, a board reshuffle and appointments of Amy Taylor as President and Greg Davies as CEO.
Taylor said she remains optimistic about downtown’s growth because of the amenities it has, including parks such as Scioto Mile and Topiary Park. “There’s an ability to grow from what we’ve seen,” she said. The Downtown Development Corporation is overseeing the 26-acre development just west of COSI on the Scioto Peninsula across from downtown, comprising 1,800 residences.
In 2002, former Mayor Michael B. Coleman set a goal of 10,000 downtown residents by 2012. The city created tax incentives to stimulate remaining downtown residential projects.
The downtown population peaked at 29,845 in 1950, said Michael Wilkos, senior vice president of community impact at United Way of Central Ohio, who has studied demographics and demographic changes in the area of columbus.
Wilkos said he thinks the trend in Columbus and across the country will be for residential demand to continue in downtown areas as empty nesters and young people like the lifestyle and amenities like restaurants. and entertainment.
“A lot of people work elsewhere but live downtown,” he said.
Even Youngstown — where the population fell by 10%, to just over 60,000, between 2010 and 2020 — has seen downtown population growth, he said. The population of the census tract that includes downtown Youngstown increased by 15%, from 3,052 to 3,506.
Brad DeHays, founder of Connect Realty, is developing four 150-unit downtown projects that are already under construction or in the planning stages.
“I think for the next 12 months we’re going to see the momentum pick up,” said DeHays, who said the COVID-19 pandemic and protests over the past year have hurt downtown. “There are still a significant number of projects going on. I see the majority of these projects being built. They are some of the most unique products in Central Ohio.”
Tony Lococo, president of the Downtown Residents Association of Columbus, said he doesn’t see downtown residential growth slowing due to the demands of city living, and thinks office workers will be back in two years. .
“People want to live in an urban atmosphere,” Lococo said.
People like Emma Mulvaney. She lived downtown for about three years, moving there so she could be close to Capital University’s law school. She first rented, but eventually bought a condominium.
Mulvaney is a lawyer and her law firm is Downtown, but she works from home. Still, she loves the flexibility of walking to work when she has to come in.
“Convenience plays for staying downtown,” Mulvaney, 26, said as she walked her two dogs down Gay Street earlier this week. So make easy access to restaurants and places like Pins Mechanical, she said, a bar that offers duck bowling.
Rob Vogt, managing partner of Vogt Strategic Insights, a Columbus-based real estate research firm, agrees he thinks people will feel comfortable returning to the office once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. That said, he still expects downtown to see moderate residential growth.
“We have such a housing shortage,” Vogt said of Columbus.