Policy makers were asked a few years ago to visualize what the area along U.S. 33 and the Post Road interchange would look like in the future. The generation of ideas and planning for the future of the West Innovation District began in earnest from that discussion. Today’s efforts consider all aspects of planning and serve as a framework for future development. The West Innovation District Plan establishes clear expectations to the development community and serves as an implementation guide for Dublin’s policy makers.
Dublin as part of the Central Ohio region
Dublin is one of Ohio’s fastest growing cities, strategically located at the juncture of U.S. 33 and I-270. Growing from obscurity in less than three decades, the city is home to over 41,000 residents and over 3,000 businesses. Dublin is located at the northwest corner of the Columbus, Ohio metropolitan area and fosters an estimated 65,000 jobs focused on administration, technology, science, health and information. Dublin has a national reputation for quality development and managed growth, and its location in the Midwest between Chicago and New York City makes Dublin easily accessible to most of the nation’s population.
Dublin’s Business Neighborhoods
Seven Business Neighborhoods serve as home to most of Dublin’s major corporations and technology-based firms and encompass most of the city’s employment core along I-270 and U.S. 33. The geography of the Business Neighborhoods (also referred to as Business Districts) is based upon the general character of development, focus on particular businesses types, various zoning regulations, development review processes and future planning efforts.
Initial planning for the West Innovation District, including the recommendations of the 2007 Community Plan, focused on higher-intensity, urban growth characterized by multi-story development. The recent policy to shift urban growth inside I-270 (in the Bridge Street District) coupled with recent economic changes has resulted in a need to reconsider the style and form of development in this business neighborhood. Current market conditions are pushing toward smaller office and laboratory space on relatively small sites. To ensure that Dublin can accommodate any business need from large to small, plans for the West Innovation District will balance the urban form inside I-270 with market demands for suburban development that can be quickly approved.
The West Innovation District
The West Innovation District is a critical component of Dublin’s business core. Located at the west end of the SR 161 corridor along U.S. 33, this Business Neighborhood is Dublin’s targeted area for future technology-related development. Dublin is projected by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission to be a major driver of future growth within Central Ohio. The West Innovation District provides the potential for new employment comparable to that of downtown Columbus. The district includes over 1,100 acres of largely undeveloped land that provides enormous opportunity for future growth.
Dublin’s traditional use of Planned District zoning to obtain high quality development has resulted in a very successful suburban employment center. The City is also widely known for its planning and ability to act with speed to address economic opportunity. Dublin recognizes growing regional competition and is looking beyond Central Ohio to drive future growth. The West Innovation District plays an integral role in this effort by targeting administrative approval of development proposals. With a focus on clear regulations and fast turnaround, this portion of Dublin’s business core emphasizes a “speed-to-build” philosophy intended to foster construction activity. The ability to address the needs of the private market, particularly those focused on research and time-sensitive grant funding, make the West Innovation District a unique component of the City’s economic development options.
Dublin’s Efforts in the West Innovation District
The City of Dublin has concentrated significant investment in the West Innovation District and surrounding areas over the past decade. A funding partnership with the Franklin County Metro Parks to assist the acquisition of over 1,000 acres of parkland just north of this planning area began these efforts. Many important projects have since been addressed to establish a high level of amenities and development quality that will benefit future development:
- Acquiring 175 key acres at the U.S. 33 / SR 161 Interchange and along Post Road to control development and provide direct availability of sites;
- Obtaining Job Ready Site status for municipal properties within the West Innovation District to enhance marketability;
- Commitment of funds to facilitate interchange improvements at U.S. 33 and Post Road / SR 161 as a major gateway
to the West Innovation District;
- Establishment of the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center (DEC) as an incubator and business start-up facility (now relocated for expansion and to facilitate new development opportunities in the West Innovation District);
- Donating 45 acres of land to facilitate the creation of the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine as an anchor campus within the District;
- Providing key water and sewer extensions to encourage annexation;
- Donating land for the development of future electric facilities;
- Completion of a new two-million gallon water tank to enhance service and facilitate the removal of the Post Road tank for redevelopment;
- Establishing a public-private partnership to construct the Ballantrae residential development and the Golf Club of Dublin as an open space amenity for the public; and
- Investment in park amenities at Darree Fields, such as the Miracle Field, soccer facilities and other recreation amenities.
The Role of the West Innovation District
The 2007 Dublin Community Plan outlined the importance of the larger U.S. 33 Corridor Area as a “…key employment and service center for the city that should include high quality development with strong gateway treatments and overall design features that exemplify the office and technology focus of the area.” The West Innovation District Plan is intended to clearly define that development goal for a targeted portion of this critical economic development corridor. While the 2007 Community Plan emphasized much broader policy direction, the West Innovation District Plan is focused specifically on the following key elements:
- Clearly defining future development patterns and character for the area in a manner that provides clear direction to the development community;
- Using the Plan as a supplemental guide to support the West Innovation District’s administrative zoning for coordinated growth with speed;
- Defining future infrastructure extensions and establishing a means to proactively program key elements to speed growth;
- Using the Plan as a framework for development-ready zoning that will encourage entrepreneurship and innovation; and
- Providing quality planning information that will support marketing efforts for the West Innovation District.