The 14th Street pedestrian bridge will be officially opened and dedicated to the memory of former Mayor Frank Martin on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 10:30 a.m.
The Frank K. Martin Pedestrian Bridge will serve as a gathering place and as a viewing stand for those who want to watch rafters and kayakers going through the whitewater rapids below.
John Martin, Frank Martin’s son and former law partner in the firm the elder Martin founded, said he and his family were “excited and honored” that city leaders would choose to name the bridge for his father.
“We’re excited that the legacy will be preserved, especially for my son and others in the family that will come after me,” Martin said. “It will be a permanent way to remember all the things that he did.”
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Martin was elected mayor in 1990 and served one term, from 1991-94. During those years, Columbus passed a special purpose local option sales tax that led to many improvements that have changed the face of the city.
During those years, the city saw ground broken on the Riverwalk, Civic Center, a new Public Safety Center, the South Commons softball complex and renovations to Golden Park. It also saw the seeds planted for the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, which would dovetail with then-Columbus College beginning its move into downtown Columbus.
Of all those projects, the Riverwalk probably drew the most criticism.
The 22-mile linear park was born of a federally mandated sewer repair project to modernize the city’s antiquated combined sewer/rainwater system. The city had no choice but to do the work, but civic leaders, spearheaded by Martin, used the construction project as an opportunity to create the Riverwalk.
As long as the city had to spend $80 million to fix the sewers, why not get something out of it, they said. That did little to quiet the critics.
In 1993, Teresa Pike was an Atlanta lawyer with Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrrison and Norwood, and was sent to Columbus to work a case for several weeks. While staying in a downtown hotel, she would walk along what is now called the Promenade and see the Riverwalk under construction below. She would also hear the criticism Martin was taking for spearheading the project.
“It was in the paper every day and people were giving Mayor Martin and others such a hard time about the expenditure of money on the Riverwalk,” the lawyer who is now Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson recalled. “I remember thinking as an outsider -- not knowing then that I was about to be transferred to Columbus -- ‘Wow, they don’t realize what they have here. This is just remarkable.’ "
Martin’s leadership in the face of withering criticism impressed the woman who would one day assume his office.
“For somebody with that kind of political pressure to have the fortitude to withstand the criticism and the constant barrage of naysayers and say, ‘No, this is about the city’s future, and this is what we’re going to do,’ That takes real leadership.”
For all the accomplishments of his administration, Martin, who died in 2012, would never take sole credit for them, his son said.
“He would say what he always said, that they had a great team, and it takes teamwork to get anything done,” John Martin said. “It’s a tribute to everybody who worked with him in the administration and all that they got accomplished.”