Columbus architects putting mark on intersection of Broadway, 12th Street

Architects link past to future through design work

Will Barnes and Paul Gibson with Barnes/Gibson/Partners are designing projects on three of the four corners of the downtown intersection.
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Will Barnes and Paul Gibson with Barnes/Gibson/Partners are designing projects on three of the four corners of the downtown intersection.

There is a story being told at the intersection of 12th Street and Broadway in downtown Columbus.

And the local architectural firm of Barnes/Gibson/Partners has been tasked with telling that story.

“The story is the rebirth of a forgotten corner,” said partner Paul Gibson. “You are almost creating a set where activity takes place.”

Gibson and his partner, Will Barnes, should know. Their firm, based in midtown Columbus, designed the recently completed Frank D. Brown Hall, the $27 million Columbus State University facility that houses the school of nursing and many of the educational programs.

With the CSU project done, Barnes/Gibson/Partners has been retained to do two more high-profile projects on property visible from the third-floor conference room of the new CSU building. They are working with the Pezold companies to design an 88-room Hampton Inn across 12th Street from the CSU complex. They are also working with Columbus developer John Teeples to redesign and repurpose the 1200 Broadway building that formerly housed Raymond Rowe furniture.

“How many opportunities do people have to develop something or to influence something that is going to have such a far reaching effect?” Barnes asked.

They get to put their mark on three of the four corners of a high-profile downtown intersection that is the gateway to the economic revival of the Broadway’s 1200 block. The only corner not facing major renovation is the one where the Columbus Bank & Trust building is located.

“All three of them came into our offices early on knowing the responsibility — for lack of a better word — and opportunity they had,” Barnes said. “CSU continues to set the pace. But all three of them came in and were aware that this is not just a suburban greenfield development where you put up a building here and not design the other sides of it. You have to design all sides of it. You have to address parking. You have to address the public in a different way because of the pedestrians and people live downtown.”

You have to look at and respect the history before you can design the future, Gibson said.

“You are paying homage to a historic city street,” Gibson said. “One of the things you see about Broadway is the rhythm of the smaller store fronts as you go down. There was a transformation with what we did with CSU. It started lengthening the facade along Broadway. There is a balance you are working with from proportion, historic precedent and the rhythm of the street that you have to pay attention to.”

But sometimes you have to abandon the old and look to something new, Gibson said. The northwest corner of 12th and Broadway is an example of that. The original plan was to redesign the former Aaron’s Rents building and use it for the bulk of the new hotel.

“We would love to have been able to do something with the building that was there for the Hampton,” Gibson said. “But structurally and functionally it would not work. When you come back with something new, it still has to feel like it belongs.”

Three firms were interviewed in the process to select an architect for the hotel, Pezold Management Chief Operating Officer Tracy Sayers said.

“We liked what they were doing across the street at CSU,” Sayers said of Barnes/Gibson/Partners. “We thought they were the best qualified to do what we wanted to do. They had an understanding of the concept from the beginning.”

The old Raymond Rowe 1200 building at the northeast corner of 12th and Broadway offers a chance to blend the old and new. Plans currently call for a fifth floor to be added to the building and the structure could possibly handle a sixth floor.

But it is the facade that intrigues Gibson.

“You can take the entire skin off that building,” he said. “It is a cast in place concrete structure. So all skin can come off that building and the structure is still stable.”

Barnes puts it another way.

“We can put anything we want as far as design,” Barnes said.

They have submitted several deigns to owner John Teeples and his partners.

“John wants stretch it a little more,” Barnes said. “Because it is non-load bearing, he will probably have more hung panels and less brick.”

Teeples is looking at the opportunities the renovation project offers.

“We don’t have a lot of special, but we have a place where we can stick a stake in the ground and make something special,” Teeples said. “The Columbus State building was limited in its design because at the end of the day it always had to be a school building. They did a great job of making it look interesting, but it is still a school building.”

Which brings Teeples to the 1200 Raymond Rowe building, which he plans to use the ground floor for retail and a mix of office, possibly residential and restaurant space in the remainder of the building.

“We have an incredible opportunity to build a new building in an old one,” Teeples said. “That building is a tank. It will easily hold another floor and could accommodate a six story.”

All of the corners and the buildings will fit together when it is done, Barnes said.

“All of them, for some part, will have some visibility into the upper floors,” he said. “Drive by at night and you can see all the way to the third floor of the CSU building. Very much the concept with the Teeples building because you will be able to see the second floor. That is probably the better space than the first floor because you have a view of the intersection from up above. Teeples and the Hampton will both have rooftop areas that will be activated.”

The success of the Columbus State project, which was completed in time for classes to start earlier this month, brings with it expectations for the other two corners, Barnes said.

“The responsibility and the success is the same kind of impact we have had with the CSU opening,” Barnes said. “We have had so many people that are excited to go see it. They are saying, ‘Man, I can’t believe how good it looks and how appropriate it is.’ That was on the reaching edge of contemporary. If you you look at the Hampton concept right now, it is very much in the traditional proportion. The traditional materials. It will have some contemporary details because it is being built in the 21st century.”

The goal is to get it right, Gibson said.

“I want to contribute in a way that feels like it has been there forever,” he said. “I want to make a contribution. The responsibility is to do good work, not necessarily make a statement. I have never been one pushing to get a signature style.”

For Barnes the goal is to have the new work blend with the old.

“The trade center and Hilton (now the Marriott) where where Columbus started to reinvent itself,” Barnes said. “You could say the RiverCenter was a catalyst. CSU coming to downtown. This intersection is a stage and the story here is people can come to this intersection in five years and say I never realized it was here. The mass was there, but the activity wasn’t.”

Columbus continues to reinvent itself in the right way Columbus continues to reinvest in downtown, Barnes said.

“And it didn’t start here,” he said. “There were seven things before this for this to happen. It is a responsible continuation of what has been started.”

“What I want people to say is the same thing they say about Rozier Dedwylder and other people. Man, he really did do something. I want them to say, ‘Look at these buildings that are still valuable today because we did something that wasn’t just cutting edge at the time. It was something that proportioned everything and it fits and was well done.

There work will be judged for decades, Barnes said.

“The responsibility of this is 50 years from now, you want people to say we have got to keep these buildings and renovate them,” Barnes said. “And you want them to say how are we not going to have these long term tenants disrupted as we renovate this. That is long-term success.”

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams