Editorial: ‘Front door’ development guidelines make sense

Republic file photo Bicyclists pedal to downtown Columbus on the People Trail near the Front Door Bridge during the annual Bike To Work Day on June 6, 2014.

Columbus’ Interstate 65 “front door” at the intersection of State Road 46/Jonathan Moore Pike is the first impression of our area for thousands of visitors every year. But the area also is a statement to the world that there is something special here in our community.

So it makes perfect sense that the city looks at this area in terms of what may be built there a little bit differently than other parts of Columbus.

The Republic’s Brad Davis reported recently that the Columbus Plan Commission endorsed “revisions to the city’s zoning ordinance that will create a new zoning district on the west side in order to ensure ‘cohesive development’ at Columbus’ I-65 front door using a uniform set of architectural design guidelines.”

Columbus City Council will have the ultimate say, but we believe planners are wise to recognize the need for this approach for establishments that plan new developments in this high-profile area.

Davis reported that the council on Wednesday will consider three amendments to the zoning ordinance: one to create a new “Columbus Front Door Overlay Zoning District,” another to include properties near the I-65 and Jonathan Moore Pike intersection in the new district and a third to rezone Columbus Crossing from PUD (Planned Unit Development) to CR (Commercial: Regional Center).

Of course, these changes will only apply to developments going forward, yet planners noted that most (but not all) of the developments in the area meet the proposed guidelines.

“Topics addressed by the guidelines include building facade materials and features, rooftop mechanical equipment, downspouts, building orientation, screening signs, and accessory/incidental structures,” Davis wrote. Senior Planner Jessie Boshell said that the guidelines were based off what has been built within the Columbus Crossing PUD and the properties directly north along State Road 46.

On the whole, those establishments are generally aesthetically appealing and arguably more welcoming, and heightened standards for planning, design and development have much to do with that.

And certainly more development in this area is likely.

Columbus Regional Health recently announced it is in talks with development company Midland Atlantic Properties to sell more than 20 acres it owns east of I-65 on 46 that formerly housed the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.

And a little closer to downtown from the front door, CRH has long-term designs on a new hospital and mixed-use development on 700 acres south of 46 and west of State Road 11.

Development will continue near our “front door,” where more than 70,000 vehicles pass daily on either I-65 or State Road 46. Given this reality, the city should set high and uniform standards for this future growth.