Olentangy River Corridor
Columbus, Ohio, USA
West 8’s plan for the Olentangy River Corridor reframes the Olentangy River as a unifier of Columbus’s diverse identities and a center of mobile connectivity for the city of Columbus, Ohio, USA.
Spanning six miles from Downtown Columbus to the Ohio State University’s main campus, and north to the Clintonville residential neighborhood, the Olentangy River Corridor has recently drawn attention from The Ohio State University and the City of Columbus for its unrealized potential. Commercial centers along the west bank have minimal connectivity to the residences they service on the east bank. Regional public transport is ineffective and unpredictable. Existing vehicular passages are congested and inefficient.
West 8’s proposal implements a Mobility Loop using the city’s major thoroughfares. This restructures the disorganized roadways that muddle the city and remedies connectivity issues. With the added integration of smart technologies to support increased public transit, we simplify the overall structure of Columbus’s transportation networks. Vehicular streets can convert into pedestrian-only avenues and surface parking along the river is transformed into 850+ acres of greenspace amenities. Residential neighborhoods can connect to commercial centers across the river, and densification can spread into the river corridor.
Recreational trails along the Olentangy River are already in place and widely used, but the 12′ paths are incapable of sustaining their current traffic levels for much longer. A popular destination already, we create more accessible trailheads connecting residential and campus spaces to a monumental pedestrian and bicycle superhighway – the “Buckeye Boulevard.” This iconic biking path creates a continuous connection from Downtown Columbus’s Scioto Mile Greenway to Ohio State’s main campus and beyond.
Green space around the river evokes the natural identity of the Ohio region while integrating a touch of urbanity. Olentangy Shale, native to the region, is used as an accent along the Boulevard and highlights iconic moments including Buckeye Beach and the piers at The Sandbar. Cottonwood and sycamore trees enrich the riverbanks with native Ohio flora while providing brilliant colors and tactile textures.
Three focal points were defined as community spaces critical to the revitalization of the riverfront:
- The Sandbar & Lighthouse Cultural Village – Situated at the confluence of the Scioto and the Olentangy, The Sandbar includes a series of small shops, restaurants, and galleries along the 315, looking out onto the natural sandbar formations. Shale piers extend from the shops, offering views of the confluence and the skyline of Downtown Columbus. Across the Olentangy, the Municipal Light Plant is transformed into a cultural village of makerspaces and galleries supporting Columbus’s local artists.
- Wexner Waterfront – Across from the Lennox Center commercial development, the expansion of OSU’s Wexner Medical Center is met with residential townhomes for students of the medical center. These houses look onto the Olentangy waterfront, connect directly to the Buckeye Boulevard, and set the precedent for residential and commercial greenspace development along the Olentangy.
- Buckeye Beach & Woody Hayes Bridge – Bringing campus recreational space to the river, the Buckeye Beach brings back the original dynamic meanders and strategically maneuvers river bends to accumulate sediments along the Ohio Stadium, creating the Buckeye Beach. Woody Hayes, a primary connection between east and west campus, extends to create a pedestrian and bus corridor bound by architectural trusses which pay tribute to the city’s own iconic arches. On game days, the bridge becomes a location for food trucks, tailgating, and street festivals bringing Ohio State’s traditional celebrations to the Olentangy River.
With increased regional connectivity and centralized recreational spaces along the river, the Olentangy River Corridor realizes its potential of a functional and scenic spine of the city, reflecting the optimistic, creative, and energetic culture of Columbus.
Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture, The Ohio State University