Aesthetics & What Project Aims to Achieve

Why do we need to do anything?

This project is 15 years in the making, and we are now into a second generation of German Village leaders and stakeholders who really want to see these improvements. As a community, we’ve never lost sight of the vision of a safer, better, more aesthetic Third Street. But beyond that, there are real needs to improve lighting for pedestrians, to restore sandstone curbs and bricks sidewalks to keep our historic appeal, to declutter signage and utilities, and to fix the sewers and drains that cause property damage nearly every rainy season. If GVS doesn’t lead to set the vision and tone for Third Street, the city is likely to eventually make the necessary fixes, but on their timetable and choose their “finishes” (read concrete everywhere).

How will we keep this project from making Third Street too uniform?

We get it – the grit and quirk of our current street is part of our charm. The end result of the Third Street project can’t be homogenized or feel suburban. German Village Society will continue to remain at the table with the city and contractor, directing final decisions. We won’t just hand it off and let others design our “main street.” In fact, we’ve already talked with OHM Advisors (the City-contracted lead on the engineering study) about three particular pallets of brick at Hamilton Parker that should be used. The engineering study also accounts for rebuilding the varied sizes of tree lawn you’d find out there now.

The current plan is for a mix use of bricks and patterns – so walks will not be one continuous homogenous run.  The goal is to level walkways, with bricks that are in good condition.  But all walks will be brick with concrete sections being replaced with brick.

I’m worried about losing the trees – what can we expect?

This project requires a “full gut” of the street in order to address the problems faced for many years with the drainage system and make it fully functioning. That means that everything has to be removed from property line on the west side of the street to property line on the east side of the street, and that includes the trees. OHM’s survey shows that 59% of our Third Street trees are in decline. Additionally, they are not correct tree species to grow DOWN their roots, and therefore, they buckle sidewalks. And if you talk to virtually any Third Street parker, you’ll know they don’t really like those tree droppings stuck to their car! We can request in the next phase that the new trees are: 1) As mature as possible when planted, so we don’t lose our canopy; 2) bloom in spring, so we don’t lose that iconic spring image; 3) have appropriate root systems for a street tree so our new sidewalks won’t be buckled by trees.

As caretakers of our neighborhood’s legacy, through this plan – while it may greatly impact appearance in the short term – we are creating a project that will improve our streetscape for many years to come.

Why aren’t we burying the utilities?

Cost and history. The difference between burying utilities and cleaning up the clutter is $11M. That’s not an efficient use of funds. The final plan calls for all new utility poles with lines that don’t cross the street; and with a small tweak in the city ordinance to disallow utilities to EVER cross Third Street again. Also, if you look at 1890s photos of Third Street (check our archives site), you’ll note that overhead wires are part of our historic look.

Why aren’t we bricking, and could we put down asphalt for now and brick later?

The difference in cost between bricks and new asphalt (as in, removing what’s there and relaying the road from scratch) is $5M. That’s not an efficient use of funds. It is also not likely to be a sum we can raise now or in the future.

How does this project coordinate with Livingston Avenue improvements, shifting 70/71 and the idea of a Third Street cap over the interstate?

OHM’s engineering survey took into account how Third Street would be braided together with those projects. For instance, it adds a left turn lane from Third to Livingston, which will be two-way. It is GVS’s goal to make sure all of the City departments and ODOT are coordinating actions as they bring the various projects to fruition at our entry corner.

I already invested in my sidewalk on Third Street – what can I expect?

This project requires a “full gut” of the street in order to make the drainage piece work. That means that everything has to be removed from property line on the west side of the street to property line on the east side of the street. If you currently have a concrete sidewalk, you will have brick. If you currently have concrete curb or no curb, you will have a full-height sandstone curb. You will be expected to pay the special assessment for these improvements. What you trade off in having the project done twice, you will gain in having the drains work and your neighbors’ sidewalks look as nice as yours do.

Why can’t we have brick gutters (like along Whittier) or crosswalks?

Many people have suggested that we could take a “half measure” of getting SOME bricks in the street by taking one or both of these courses. The “block O” crosswalks at intersections are becoming quite common downtown. But, these partial-brick-roadway ideas were thoroughly vetted by the Streetscape Committee when KKG was leading the design study (2009-2011), and completely rejected by members of our community.

Is there some smaller list of projects we can do short of the full project?

This project requires a “full gut” of the street in order to make the drainage piece work. That means that everything has to be removed from property line on the west side of the street to property line on the east side of the street. Choosing to just add sandstone curbs, for instance, would risk putting new curbing in place to only have shoddy sidewalks up against them and still have flooding issues with as little as a quarter-inch of rain.

What can we expect as to the style and color of pedestrian lighting?

That is a question that will be answered in the next phase – design – when we choose things like lighting, brick colors and signage design.

Who Benefits

I own property on Third Street – how do I benefit?

Improvements to your safety, sidewalk (walkability, plus ADA-compliant ramps), drainage, tree/landscape (where applicable), and to the roadway will all add value to your property. Additionally, appropriate trees should not send debris onto your car, which is the current situation.

I don’t own property on Third Street – how do I benefit? Will these improvements also solve some of our drainage problems?

Third Street is the primary entryway to German Village from downtown, and in that way, it is the primary road most of us get in and out of the neighborhood. Improvements to the roadway, drainage, lighting, signage and the addition of bike lanes are a boon to all. New bikes lanes will slow traffic for everyone, improving safety. Engineers also tell us that the improvement of sewer drains – both by making gravity work in our favor again, and by the addition of about 10 inlets along Third – will improve water flow and the smell, currently resulting from sewer problems, all across German Village.

How do visitors benefit?

What’s good for visitors is often good for residents and Third Street is an example of that. Third Street is the primary entryway to German Village from downtown and, in that way, it is the primary street most use to get in and out of the neighborhood, including guests. Improvements to the roadway, drainage, lighting, signage and the addition of bike lanes benefit all. Because many of our businesses are owned by neighbors, or staffed by neighbors, the ability of guests to get to and support our businesses is critical. Anyone who enjoys walking to their favorite restaurant or shop as part of your Village quality of life, must also recognize that our businesses can’t solely stay afloat on the patronage of neighbors.

Funding

Why isn’t the city paying 100%?

GVS has asked the city to pay 100% of the cost, pointing out our centrality to Central Ohio’s quality of life and economic development, not to mention the taxes German Villagers pay. The City believes the portions of the project for which property owners would generally pay – namely, sidewalks and drainage on personal property (think sump pumps and gutters) – should not be paid from City coffers. Additionally, GVS has been provided three other examples of roadway improvements in other neighborhoods where property owners were assessed 33%, 50% and 75%. GVS expects Villagers to have to pay about 20-25% of our project total – or roughly the equivalent of sidewalks and personal drainage costs.

The City is putting all of that money in Linden and Franklinton without charging the citizens there, why not here, too?

Each project is different and can be funded differently. Linden and Franklinton may qualify for federal blight grants for which German Village does not. Some projects may get ODOT matching funds if they are part of a state project, or near the 70/71 project. GVS continues to ask for those comparisons, but it is hard to know just from reading headlines exactly how any project is getting funded until you ask.

How real are the prices in the project plan?

The grid below represents the ACTUAL cost of labor and materials as of March 31, 2015, when OHM Advisors presented the draft of the engineering survey to a public meeting held in Brent Warner Fest Hall. Prices are likely to rise the longer we wait to break ground, and that’s a big part of the reason GVS pledged the remainder of the UIRF money to jump start the next phase of this project – design. The faster we get to ground breaking, the lower the costs will be.

Curbs: Sandstone-$774,000 Street: Reconstruction Asphalt-$1.2 Utilities: 2 side poles-$1.8m
Sidewalks: Brick-$1.3m Drainage: $500,000 Lighting: Historic post, High pressure sodium-$558,000
Landscaping Commercial Blocks: Street Trees-Planter/Ground cover $124,000 and raised sandstone curbs $397,000 Landscaping Residential Blocks: Street Trees/Tree Lawn seed-$56,000 Site Furnishings: $50,000
Signage: $100,000 TOTAL: $6,803,000
Aren’t my taxes high enough to get this done without me chipping in further?

Here is the way your property and income taxes are spent by Franklin County and the City of Columbus:

Property Taxes (collected by Franklin County): Income Taxes (collected by City of Columbus):
General Fund: 2% Development: 3%
Children’s Services: 7% Fire: 28%
ADAMH: 3% Gov. Services: 14%
Developmental Disabilities: 10% Health: 3%
Metro Parks: 1% Judicial: 3.5%
Zoo: 1% Police & Safety: 40%
Senior Options: 2% Rec & Parks: 11%
Schools: 66% Refuse: 4%
City of Columbus: 4.6% Public Service: .7%
Library: 4%

You’ll note that most of your property taxes go to schools, and most of your income taxes go to fire and police.

Here is a comparison of Columbus taxes with other nearby suburbs, courtesy of the Franklin County Auditor website.

DIST NO. DISTRICT NAME LIBR
SPEC RATE
CNTY RATE TWP RATE LOCAL
SCHL RATE
CITY/
VILL RATE
VOC
SCHL RATE
TOTAL RATE REDUCTION FACTOR
CLASS 1 RES/AGR
REDUCTION FACTOR
CLASS 2
ALL OTH
EFFECTIVE RATE
CLASS 1 RES/AGR
EFFECTIVE RATE
CLASS 2
ALL OTH
010 CITY OF COLUMBUS 2.80 18.47 0.00 76.10 3.14 0.00 100.51 0.314573 0.196478 68.892352 80.762073
020 CITY OF BEXLEY 2.80 18.47 0.00 113.40 7.85 0.00 142.52 0.476541 0.289901 74.603441 101.203357
025 CITY OF GAHANNA-GAHANNA JEFFERSO 2.80 18.47 14.50 72.61 2.40 2.00 112.78 0.274864 0.204856 81.780925 89.676388
040 CITY OF GROVE CITY 1.00 18.47 23.95 73.25 3.50 0.00 120.17 0.314367 0.205896 82.392611 95.427574
050 CITY OF HILLIARD 2.80 18.47 21.62 89.55 1.60 1.60 135.64 0.311390 0.222449 93.403194 105.467075
060 CITY OF REYNOLDSBURG 2.80 18.47 20.50 74.90 0.70 2.00 119.37 0.239391 0.193949 90.793976 96.218343
070 CITY OF UPPER ARLINGTON 2.00 18.47 0.00 106.08 6.58 0.00 133.13 0.436218 0.352743 75.056398 86.169401
080 CITY OF WESTERVILLE 2.00 18.47 0.00 80.60 20.30 0.00 121.37 0.234815 0.184461 92.870564 98.981974
090 CITY OF WHITEHALL 2.80 18.47 0.00 73.80 1.50 2.00 98.57 0.236093 0.152613 75.298365 83.527021
100 CITY OF WORTHINGTON 4.80 18.47 0.50 96.94 5.00 0.00 125.71 0.338307 0.182890 83.181432 102.718995
What happens to Third Street property owners if fundraising falls short?

When the City gives the green light to GVS to begin the project, efforts to raise the money and garner signatures from Third Street property owners will begin simultaneously, and in earnest. There was very good indication from participants at the World Café event that there is significant support among non-Third Street stakeholders to help pay for the project.

How will GVS raise philanthropic dollars for the project?

We already have money on hand from L Brands and the 2015 Big Give initiative dedicated to Third Street, but those represent about 1% of what we’ll need to raise. We intend to ask individuals for gifts, to work with businesses to leverage their support and their customers’ support, solicit from local companies and foundations, and seek grant funding. But the bulk of fundraising is going to have to be raised from individuals’ gifts. GVS will not spend existing dollars, such as the maintenance funds or funds marked for other projects, on Third Street.

How will GVS track dollars for the project to make sure they get spent on the project?

Current dollars earmarked for Third Street are in the “For The Good of the Neighborhood Fund,” on the balance sheet, along with the income in excess of revenue from 2015. The GVS Finance Committee will recommend that a Third Street Project Fund be created to accept and track these dollars over time.

Taxation

Why aren’t you planning to tax the whole neighborhood, as opposed to just Third Street property owners?

We discussed three taxation opportunities with the City of Columbus: Special Improvement Districts (SID), Tax-Increment Financing (TIF), and special assessment.

SIDs: German Village faces some high hurdles to create an SID. According to Ohio law, “the petition must be signed by persons owning either (1) at least 60 percent of the front footage of all real property (with the general exception of church and government owned property) located within the proposed SID or (2) at least 75 percent of the area of all real property (with the general exception of church and government owned property) located within the proposed SID.” That number of signatures in our neighborhood where 50% of properties are rentals is difficult. Additionally, it is hard to raise ENOUGH money with SID dollars for capital improvements – the SIDs in Downtown Columbus and the Short North purchase increased clean-and-safe services, but not brick and mortar.

TIFs: Ohio law states that “Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is an economic development mechanism available to local governments in Ohio to finance public infrastructure improvements… Payments derived from the increased assessed value of any improvement to real property beyond that amount are directed towards a separate fund to finance the construction of public infrastructure defined within the TIF legislation.” Because German Village is already very developed, we would not recognize enough new value to raise enough money.

Special Assessment: This tax requires 60% of property owner signatures with property that abuts the improvement. So, someone on Jaeger – even someone who is willing – cannot legally be taxed for the Third Street project.

Will absent landlords agree to tax themselves?

There are 153 properties on Third Street, according to data provided by the City. About 1/3 of Third Street properties are rentals, and about half of those have owners who live, work and are active in German Village. So locating those owners and talking with them about the project should be attainable. Two dozen property owners along Third (both owner-occupied and landlords) have already indicated to GVS their support for the project.

Does Third Street rob our brick street fund?

German Village was awarded just over $1M dollars in Urban Infrastructure Renewal Funds (UIRF) for use between 2015-19. They are City dollars and neighborhoods are asked to direct their use.

German Village Society volunteers assessed every street and alley in the neighborhood for inclusion in the brick street repair dollars – also known as our UIRF. Of 31 streets submitted for repair, 2 were rejected as “not yet in need of improvement” by the City of Columbus, 1 was rejected by the Society because it isn’t brick (Jaeger Street from Beck to Sycamore), and 6 more are currently being assessed the by City. The rest are either repaired or scheduled for repair, using both our UIRF dollars and other city capital fund dollars. After all of these brick streets were scheduled for repair, we’re left with more than $400,000 to dedicate to the Third Street project – namely, to jump-starting the design phase so we can keep the momentum and keep prices as low as possible.

I’m on a fixed income and can’t afford more taxes, who’s going to help me?

Special assessments passed by 60% of landowners along the corridor will automatically add the tax to your annual bill, whether you sign the petition or not. The assessment also follows your address, so any future buyers will have to pick up the payments until complete. GVS is looking at the idea of having taxation “scholarships” as a mode of support that donors could opt, but we don’t yet know if that’s legal, optional or palatable.

Next Steps

Assuming the City says the project is a go, what is the most likely timetable?

Our partners at the Department of Development and Public Works have told us they will not OK a move to bid out the design piece until they know, with consent of the Mayor’s Office, in what year the project will be funded. We should have those answers yet this summer, and we expect the project to break ground not later than 2020, but perhaps as soon as 2018. Design takes about 18 months after the bid process closes. The project would break ground the following spring.

The City is putting all of that money in Linden and Franklinton without charging the citizens there, why not here, too?

Each project is different and can be funded differently. Linden and Franklinton may qualify for federal blight grants for which German Village does not. Some projects may get ODOT matching funds if they are part of a state project, or near the 70/71 project. GVS continues to ask for those comparisons, but it is hard to know just from reading headlines exactly how any project is getting funded until you ask.

Who decides how the final design looks for this project?

German Village Society will continue to remain at the table with the city and contractor, directing final decisions. We won’t just hand it off and let others design our “main street.”

How long will the project have Third Street closed or with limited access?

Full details to this answer will come as part of the design step, but the basic scenario is this: The first summer of construction would close the north half of Third Street  – closing the west lane for the first part of the project, then closing the east lane. The following summer, this would repeat for the south half of Third Street.

How will businesses and residents and their guests access their properties?

It’ll be a juggling act for two summers, to be sure, but working together we can manage. German Village Business Community members along Third have already had the chance to state their preference: Since Third Street is quite wide, we will maintain one lane of traffic coming from the north and one lane of parking. Signage will reroute the northbound traffic, but we don’t know yet where that traffic will be directed. GVS has also requested signs for businesses individually, and signs to help guests find parking. More details will come from the design phase.

Who maintains these improvements after they’re in place?

In general, landscaping elements will be contracted to be cared for by the neighborhood. Sidewalks will continue to be the responsibility of the property owner. The city will continue to take care of streets, signage and curbs.

German Village Society’s Projects

What happens to the rest of the strategic priorities of GVS while Third Street is underway?

GVS is already beginning to make plans for shifting and coordinating the work. There will be pieces of Third Street likely to be contracted to third-parties who have managed these kinds of projects before. We will seek short-term project help from qualified volunteers. With a staff of four, there is no question there will be times during the project when staff must concentrate almost-solely on Third Street – followed by periods where the next move must come from the contractor or the City. One critical piece of how many projects can move forward at once (sidewalks, safety, signage, etc.) is how generous German Villagers choose to be with their time, but especially with their money. The below grid shows all of the items slated for new funding in the strategic plan, and an estimate of their costs. So if you want to see things move forward that fit YOUR interest and passion, please step forward and help us get it done. GVS’s priorities have been set and vetted by our stakeholders – we are implementing the projects you tell us you want. Be we can only do it with your financial support.

phil