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Appreciating Arena’s Effect: NRI chief reflects on past 20 years

June 8th, 2017
Evan Weese, Columbus Business First

As Nationwide Arena turns 20, its developer reflects on a district that sparked new life downtown.

Heading into 1997, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. executives wanted to quietly put money to work in real estate development.

That vision of an under-the-radar affiliate lasted only months before Columbus voters turned down a proposal to build a publicly funded arena in the city’s downtown.

Bucking its conservative reputation, the property and casualty giant added an assignment for its Nationwide Realty Investors Ltd.: Build a National Hockey League arena in the shadow of corporate headquarters and a vibrant district of restaurants, offices and residences around it.

Twenty years later, President Brian Ellis spoke with Columbus Business First about the creation of an acclaimed urban enclave, the Arena District, and the evolution of what’s now a $2 billion real estate behemoth with a staff of 100.

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