City hires project manager for ‘Columbus Downtown 2030’ plan

People gather for a block party under the Exhibit Columbus installation InterOculus on the opening weekend of Exhibit Columbus in August. The city’s redevelopment commission is pursuing a new master plan for the city’s downtown and hired a project manager Monday.

The Columbus Redevelopment Commission on Monday unanimously approved a resolution to enlist Bonnie Boatwright as project manager for the city’s new “Columbus Downtown 2030 plan.”

Director of Redevelopment Heather Pope said the city is looking for a plan with a narrower focus than 2018’s Envision Columbus to account for a changed climate downtown post-COVID.

In her role, Boatwright will engage community stakeholders, brainstorm with a steering committee, provide regular updates to city bodies and lead a request for proposal process to pick the urban planning firm to conduct the study and put together a new master plan for downtown, Pope said.

Boatwright’s contract is for one year through May 21, 2025, for an amount of $75,000, plus a reimbursement for “reasonable expenses” not to exceed $2,800, according to the resolution.

“We’re six to seven years into that and post-COVID — so a lot of things have changed,” Mayor Mary Ferdon said of the Envision Columbus plan. “We feel the need and there’s a lot of community excitement and drive to do an updated plan.”

Ferdon said the idea is to recruit developers who will try to activate downtown in a way “that we think best serves our design culture, as well as our economic development need.”

Boatwright has worked at Cummins for 20 years in a variety of managerial roles, from marketing to human resources. She initiated Cummins’ onboarding program and led the company’s COVID response team for two-and-a-half years.

Once an urban planning firm is in place, community engagement would begin, which Mayor Ferdon said would be similar to public sessions held for NexusPark, where the firm would be able to receive input.

“If I wasn’t asked to project manage, I would want to be a stakeholder because I have a lot of passion for our downtown and a lot of love in my heart for Columbus,” Boatwright told the commission. “… I”m really excited to see what the future is for downtown Columbus and I’m excited to be able to help guide some of those conversations, bring in some expertise and hopefully put a plan together that meets all of the expectations you just outlined.”

Councilman Tom Dell said Boatwright “can help the effort to get the community excited about what our new downtown could be” and direct the process “to get us to the outcome we all really want which is a vibrant, active and exciting downtown for people to come work, play and live.”

Hutch Schumaker, who had been involved in the firm selection process for a number of previous downtown plans, said he was also thankful for the endeavor.

“I think it’s an incredible opportunity to develop a whole new sense of collaboration between the redevelopment commission, city administration and city council. If they’re not all in the same direction, it can be pretty rough waters. So I think it’s a great opportunity for the community to have a breath of fresh air and say, all right, let’s all hold hands, Kumbaya.”