Grandview plans for the Yard’s extra traffic

When a 100-acre development is plopped into the middle of a city, people are going to ask about traffic congestion and who’s going to pay for all those new streets and garages that benefit private offices, hotels and shops.

The developers of the $650 million Grandview Yard and officials in Grandview Heights did their best to answer those questions from skeptical residents and a school official at a special City Council meeting on June 26.

Initially, Nationwide Realty Investors will pay $145 million of the total $158 million tab for public streets, utilities, garages, a wider railroad bridge and a park. The remaining $13 million will come from state grants and loans to the city.

Grandview will repay NRI with new property taxes on buildings and some income-tax revenue collected on workers in the Yard.

“The withholding taxes that are generated … are the exclusive resource, or revenue, that we use to pay back NRI for the investment that they are making in our city to build the roads and utilities and public spaces,” council President Anthony Panzera told residents at last month’s meeting. He said Grandview’s entire capital-improvements budget last year was only $350,000.

Much of the new revenue is expected to come from the next phase of construction: a 500,000-square-foot campus for 3,000 Nationwide Insurance employees moving to the Yard from company offices in Dublin and Westerville. The first of three buildings is expected to open in spring 2016.

About $42 million has been committed to infrastructure work so far, said city Administrator Patrik Bowman. The work includes widening and improving Goodale Boulevard, installing utilities, building at least three new streets and extending existing streets into the Yard. Two parking garages are to be built, and one of those is under construction.

“We expect Yard Street to be the signature street, not a lot of traffic,” said Brian Ellis, president of Nationwide Realty Investors. “The bulk of the traffic is to be carried by Rail Street and Bobcat Avenue.”

Eventually, the Yard is to have 4.6 miles of streets.

Three other garages are to be built as part of the Nationwide campus, Ellis said, providing plenty of parking for workers, shoppers and people living in 1,300 “urban residences” ranging from condos to perhaps small single-family homes.

There will be open spaces for relaxing, including a 2.5-acre park at the looping eastern terminus of 1st Avenue at Nationwide’s main campus building, Ellis said. The street will be the Yard’s “community access,” the primary bicycling and walking route for Grandview residents into the development, Bowman said.

The plan is to realign 1st Avenue so it is directly across Northwest Boulevard from Burrell Avenue, which will be renamed 1st Avenue. A traffic signal would replace stop signs.

Parents are concerned that 1st Avenue will become a commuter route for Nationwide workers from Dublin. They said it could endanger children and parents crossing the two-lane street to get to Stevenson Elementary at Oxley Road.

“I think 1st Avenue is already busy enough for that village-like feel,” resident Tracy Kessler said at the council meeting. “I just see danger ahead.”

Mayor Ray DeGraw said the school’s primary entrance will be moved from 1st on the south to Oxley on the east. Parents driving from the west on 1st would exit onto Parkway Drive on the north side of the school, then south onto Oxley. Parents driving from the east could take Hilo Lane on the north side of Pierce Field to Oxley.

The council’s safety committee is to discuss traffic issues at 6 p.m. Thursday at the municipal building, 1016 Grandview Ave.

Doyle Clear of Trans Associates civil engineering said a study of worker habits at the Dublin office showed that workers commuted there from all over central Ohio, so they will take different routes to work at the Yard. “They’re not necessarily clustered in Dublin,” Clear said.

Traffic on 1st Avenue will increase, he said, but it will be mostly Grandview residents heading to shops and entertainment at the Yard.

Grandview is working with the city of Columbus and CSX railroad to widen 3rd Avenue and the railroad bridge just east of the Yard by early next year, Ellis said. There are no plans to do the same with the railroad bridge at the Goodale entrance to the city because that street already is four lanes.

Widening the bottom of the exit ramp from Rt. 315 onto Olentangy River Road also is planned.
by Earl Rinehart, The Columbus Dispatch

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