October 5th, 2014
Tom Fontaine, TribLIVE
COLUMBUS, Ohio — About $1 billion in development around an arena primarily for hockey transformed a dreary section of downtown Columbus that used to be an industrial area and home to a run-down prison.
“People didn’t come downtown very often, and they certainly didn’t live here. Things are different now. This is a place to be,” said Sherri Lyle, 44, of suburban Powell, who works in Columbus’ 14-year-old Arena District.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are paying attention. The team is preparing to develop a 28-acre site where the Civic Arena stood, across Centre Avenue from the $321 million Consol Energy Center that opened in 2010.
“We’ve sat down and talked with them several times about what they have done relative to development,” said Penguins Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams, noting the team studied similar projects in Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Jose, Washington and Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
“Developing a large site around an arena is a challenge,” said Brian J. Ellis, President and Chief Operating Officer of Columbus-based Nationwide Realty Investors.
“There are a lot of dark days when the team isn’t playing. The goal is to get 365 days of activity around the arena.”
The Arena District grew around the 22-acre site of the former Ohio Penitentiary.