Improvements are coming to downtown Columbus’ Frankfort Square this summer in hopes to make it more inviting to the public.
“Columbus is unique in that we have a whole city block that is a public parks space in the center of downtown, so naturally in the planning process, Frankfort Square became a hinge-point of all discussions,” City Administrator Tara Vasicek said.
“We are fortunate to have that space, it’s just not used by many unless there is a community event. Many in our community would like for it to be utilized like a park by the public on a regular basis.”
The City of Columbus is proceeding with a Frankfort Square project that will create an additional sidewalk connecting the current southeast and northeast sidewalks, the installation of two small concrete pads (32 feet by 24 feet each) to house picnic tables on each one and relocating a bench to face another in the vicinity. It’s also important to note that all 25 existing flag holders in Frankfort Square will remain at the downtown park.
The idea for the picnic tables and relocating a bench is to create an atmosphere where people can sit and have conversations in the park.
But updates to Frankfort Square weren’t pulled out of thin air.
Plans came about after feedback received from two downtown revitalization studies commissioned in the last 15 years, the most recent one completed approximately six months ago. Public feedback from the most recent survey indicated Columbus residents had a desire for Frankfort Square to be an activity space that could be used regularly outside of planned community events, Vasicek noted.
“… We’ve had a lot of planning and things suggested, but nothing has ever been put into action,” Vasicek said. “Improvements or changes to downtown often get polarizing opinions.”
This time, City leaders wanted to make sure feedback from those studies didn’t go to waste and budgeted $125,000 in this year’s fiscal budget to bring about the most popular things the public said it wanted via the study: Downtown improvements, specifically to Frankfort Square.
Initial plans were discussed in-depth during a May 8th Public Property, Safety and Works Committee that was open to the public. Those plans called for the creation of concrete pads along 26th Avenue in the Square to have a space where a list of food-truck vendors who would be rotated out could set up with City approval and offer quick lunch options for people to eat in and enjoy the park. That would be accompanied by two smaller pads for picnic tables, the relocation of a bench and the sidewalk extension.
Those initial plans also would have required the relocation of the Union Pacific Railroad bell in the park, resetting some underground sprinkler heads and resetting the 25 flagpole holders that are used for displaying American flags of residents who served in the military. Fourteen of those flags were to be relocated to Roselawn Cemetery as there would have been a lack of space because the flags have to have a specific amount of space between them and there wouldn’t have been enough room to accommodate them all, according to City Engineer Rick Bogus.
Vasicek shared the plans with the Columbus City Council three times in the six weeks leading up to its May 15th meeting; however, many members of the public who spoke at the meeting indicated they had concerns with the concrete pads to accommodate food trucks and the relocation of some of the flags. That led to discussion among the Council.
After much deliberation, the City Council approved a motion 7-1 (Councilman Charlie Bahr voted against it):
- The motion axed the vehicle pads but moved forward with the extension of the walking path, the creation of two smaller concrete pads to install picnic tables and the relocation of one bench. Bogus said City officials tweaked the location of the additional sidewalk the day after the Council meeting so that it wouldn’t disrupt the flags and they all could remain in the park as Council requested.
- The motion also called to construct sidewalk under-crossings to enable food trucks to run their electrical connections when they park along 26th Avenue.
Take a look at a rendering of the plans for Frankfort Square here.
Bogus said the project will cost an estimated $40,000 and is expected to be completed this summer.
“The food truck pad was taken out, but sidewalk under-crossings along 26th Avenue were added, resulting in about the same total cost,” Bogus said.
The city engineer clarified that further work may have to be done to the electrical system to allow food trucks the proper connection even once this initial project is completed.
The City Council will consider approving the purchase of picnic tables during its June 5th meeting, according to City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen.
The city administrator said there have never been discussions about taking the military memorials out of the park. The goal is ultimately to enhance Frankfort Square by making it a destination more people want to spend time in rather than walk through or drive by.
“We have always said that any improvements that were finalized would only be included in the plan if they enhance what happens downtown,” Vasicek stressed. “We will not do anything to Frankfort Square that would hinder or detract from what’s already happening in the Square.”