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The Best Downtown Urban River Parks

Updated on March 4, 2013
Mayor Michael B. Coleman
Mayor Michael B. Coleman | Source

A Super Mayor

The expanded Scioto Mile river parks complex does not appear on's 100 Greatest Places to Stand in America, because it was nonexistent in 2009 when the contest was held.

Segments of formerly neglected or rundown land along the Scioto River in Downtown Columbus Ohio were developed into individual parks by an initiative of Mayor Michael Coleman (since 2000) to clean up and beautify the city. At his instruction, the city bought up long-abandoned houses and replaced them with affordable housing and with businesses. Major multi-use buildings were constructed (an ongoing project) at most of the city's Gateway Entrances, and many of the people living in homeless camps along the river were directed to social services and job training services.

Mass transportation has increased with new bus routes by reducing the number of runs on extant routes, eliminating buses running empty of passengers at those cut times. Highways and streets have been repaired according to a schedule that is effective. We do not have a passenger train station, but high speed rail from Downtown to Northern Franklin County is still a possibility, as are streetcars. One streetcar already runs in a business campaign around Clintonville in North Columbus during the Christmas Season and another runs around the huge Easton Town Center in the northeast part of the city.

The Mayor's Top Initiatives

  • Community Mobility - More transportation of more different kinds.
  • Get Green Columbus - City, businesses, homes.
  • Operation Safe Walks - Comfortable, safe walking environments in every neighborhood. More sidewalks, better sidewalks.
  • Scooter, Moped and Motorcycle Parking - Designated parking construction began July 2008.

Developing the Scioto River Parks

Downtown Columbus fell into maximum disrepair from the 1950s - 1970s, businesses leaving and abandoned properties becoming crime and health hazards. The City Center Mall brought an upswing in development for twenty years and then also fell into disrepair, finally closing. Adding to this demise was the decline of F & R Lazarus and its several properties on the other side of High Street. It was a fallen empire.

At one time, Lazarus was a busy 7-floor department store with three annexes, several basements on different levels, restaurants and cafes, and a system of parking garages. "Everyone" went Downtown on Saturdays to visit Lazarus and some people shopped after work.

At Christmas, the picture windows at the southwest corner of the main building at street level presented a diorama of the North Pole with mechanical figures of Santa, reindeer, snowmen, people participating in winter sports, elves, and others. It was the Disneyland of Columbus from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. With the opening of giant shopping malls on the city's Far North Side and in Delaware-Westerville in the 1990s, Downtown Lazarus crumbled and the urban area with it.

F & R Lazarus Downtown Store, Front Street (rear) entrance.
F & R Lazarus Downtown Store, Front Street (rear) entrance.

The Lazarus warehouses had been on the Scioto/Whittier St. Peninsula south of Downtown, next to the city's vehicle impound lot, and peppered with homeless camps. It was not a pretty landscape at all. Today the site is a large park featuring an Audubon Society facility and plenty of park equipment - it is called the Scioto Audubon Metro Park. Landscaping and a climbing wall and other features transformed this land into a paradise when compared with the former eyesore. Other parks followed and the old City Center site is a 9-acre park that opened in May 2011.

A newer addition is the expansion of Bicentennial Park all the way to Spring Street with a 30-foot-wide grassy corridor called the Promenade.

Bicentennial Park, Columbus Ohio.:
John W. Galbreath Bicentennial Park, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

The Newest Park - A Signature Destination

Like The Promenade on TV's Deep Space Nine, the new green space is not only a place to walk. Businesses reside there and more businesses have contracted space to add construction that will not mar the green space. The Milestone 229 glass-enclosed restaurant debuted on the evening of July 7, 2011 with a full menu. From its windows or an outdoor terrace, guests can view the Scioto River, a number of gardens and fountains, and the sunset in the western sky.

While the restaurant does not feature dabo girls, it does have an elegant menu and the Promenade offers piped-in music, free WI-FI, chess tables and chairs under copper pavilions, benches for spectators, and even swings. Street performers will also be seen from time to time.

American Electric Power has added a large fountain that is beautiful to Bicentennial Park. Like a huge flower, it covers at least 15,000 square feet and shoots water jets up into the sunlight and fog amid colored lights at night.

Columbia Gas moved out of a a large building on land in the Promenade area and interviewed new tenants that will enhance the Promenade. Children already love the 1,000 water jets through which they can run through the Promenade. Easton Town Center has these water jets in its town square, but the area filled by them in the Promenade is several times larger.

The Promeade shows off the Scioto River's Downtown Bridges that have been replaced during the last half of the 2000s. They too had fallen into a crumble of disrepair and lack of safety, but the new ones are attractive and modern. These bridges are the Main Street Bridge, the Rich Street Bridge, and the Broad Street Bridge near High Street (see map below) - Broad and High being the center of the city. At that center is the Ohio State House, new businesses and a Jumbotron. The bulk of new park development during Summer 2011 occurred between the three bridges.

Scioto Mile Beginning

A Mile of Parks

Bicentennial Park, Columbus OH:
John W. Galbreath Bicentennial Park, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

Broad Street Bridge, Columbus OH:
Broad Street Bridge, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

Rich Street Bridge, Columbus OH:
S High St & E Rich St, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

The new Rich Street Bridge does not yet appear on this map.

Main Street Bridge, Columbus OH:
Main Street Bridge, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

For entertainment, a permanent band shell was placed near the AEP Fountain, with a 1,000-seat amphitheater. Luxury high rise apartment buildings have opened near the riverfront and a bit farther to the south, with additional living spaces planned. A development plan is ongoing that will attract new residents and businesses to the Downtown Area, especially to the riverfront.

Segway Tour of the Mile

New Festivals

The new parklands and Promenade have allready attracted at least one new Columbus festival - Rythym On the River beginning July 8, 2011 at 8:00 PM and held annually. It's free! Its first headliner guest? - Average White Band.

This is an outdoor festival featuring famous headliners, local musicians and singers, and BalletMet performing outdoors in the nearby pavilion. Fine arts are also involved to make a pleasant, enriching event.

New Jobs

In 2010, Columbus was named the Number One High-Tech City in the nation, an emerging global city - and by Money Magazine, the Number Eight best city to live in America. IT and other technology jobs have increased since these recognitions and other industries are set to follow. The city is known for having openings in Government, Higher Education, and Insurance. Although Healthcare has been a strong leader in jobs here, the IT Industry is outpacing them.

NEW JOBS July 2011: 30,000+, largely in

  1. Business Analysts - IT
  2. Project Managers - IT
  3. Java Developers - IT
  4. Software Engineers - IT
  5. Event Specialists
  6. Registered Nurses(RNs)
  7. .Net Developers - IT
  8. Pharmacy Technicians
  9. Merchandisers
  10. Physical and Occupational Therapists

Additional High Demand Jobs

  • Truck Drivers - Company, Owner-Operaters, Flatbed
  • Sales Representatives

The Scioto River parks and the Promenade are expected to impact employment projections for 2010 - 2020 by increasing numbers of jobs in finance and banking, recreation/parks, police and fire officers, and jobs created by incoming businesses, including IT.

Companies offering the most job listings:

  1. IBM - IT
  2. Manifest Solutions - IT Technologies:
  3. Ohio State University Medical Center and University
  4. JPMorgan Chase - Banking and Finance
  5. CVS/pharmacy
  6. Huntington Bancshares - Banking and Finance
  7. Capital Healthcare Solutions
  8. OhioHealth
  9. Mount Carmel Health
  10. Advance Auto Parts, Inc.
  11. AT&T - Telemunications and Technology
  12. Nationwide Children's Hospital


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