At a time when the coronavirus pandemic and a troubled economy have led to a slow-down in new development proposals, Michael Schiff is ready to bet big on Downtown Columbus.
The local developer today unveiled a proposal to build a 30-story tower on the east side of North High Street, between Spring and Long streets. The building would replace a surface parking lot that sits just north of the historic Atlas Building, which Schiff renovated into apartments in 2014.
“Everybody told me I was crazy [to take on the Atlas project], but thank God it’s been successful, and hopefully even helped to contribute to the transformation that we are now seeing,” Schiff said, mentioning The Nicholas on High Street, and other development activity in the area.
The new plan calls for a 30-story tower on the northern portion of the site, separated from the Atlas Building by a five-story building that would hold a parking garage as well as office and retail space. The taller building would be split evenly between condominiums on the upper floors and a hotel on the lower half.
It was a recent proposal for a hotel on another nearby parking lot that got Schiff thinking about the potential of the site. The other project – which was stalled due to the COVID shutdown before it was officially unveiled – would’ve put a large hotel on the lot north of the Madison Building, at 84 N. High St.
“We had the whole property in contract to sell,” he said, referring to the Atlas Building and adjacent parking lot. “Then, when COVID came, and the buyers cancelled the contract, I had heard that a major hotel was possibly going to be developed within a block of here and realized it was a potentially great hotel site.”
“We came up with something, gave it to the architects and they came up with great plans,” Schiff said. “Because of our already owning the property, we won’t have the land costs, and also, we believe construction costs will come down after COVID…all of that led us to believe that maybe this is the right time to do a project like this.”
For the hotel, Schiff said that “we have a flag in mind that we will probably team up with…we’re very excited, this company is not in Columbus and it’s not the highest-end, and not necessarily the lower end of spectrum either, it sits perfectly in the middle, which we think is something Columbus needs.”
The company has “a very strong urban presence around the country,” he added, saying that the brand was interested in going into Bollinger Tower in the Short North before Schiff and his partners sold that building (it is now Graduate Columbus).
As for whether the market will be there for high-end condominiums when the building is complete, Schiff is confident that it will be. Fifteen floors of the building will be devoted to condos – the floor plates could be divided into as many as three separate units, or buyers could take a whole floor to themselves.
“When you look at 15 stories, divisible by up to three, you technically only need 15 to 45 condo buyers,” he said, “and in the big city of Columbus I believe there’s that many people that will want to own one of these, especially with the views, amenities and the location.”
Parking for the project, which is being called Harmony Tower, will run along the back of the two new buildings. The garage will hold between 250 and 300 spaces and will serve Atlas residents as well as hotel guests and residents of the new building.
Although he is looking forward to moving on the project, Schiff said there is “not a rush” to get it started, and there is no definite timeline for bringing the project before the Downtown Commission for an initial review.
The design team for the development so far consists of NBBJ, Columbus Architectural Studio and Meyers + Associates.