Midtown Inc. wins $200,000 Knight Challenge grant

Midtown Inc. and its executive director, Anne King, are one of 32 winners nationwide of a Knight Cities Challenge grant, the Knight Foundation announced Monday.

King’s submitted idea, called Minimum Grid: Maximum Impact, calls for designing “an interconnnected system or pedestrian, bicycle and transit connections within and between Columbus’ core community of Midtown and Uptown,” according to a release from Midtown.

“We are daring to reimagine how people connect and move about within the Core Community,” King said. “We want to connect scattered gems and enliven the heart of the community for residents and visitors.”

“We want to learn how to support and encourage a community that walks, bikes and connects, as well as drives between points A and B.”

What exactly the minimum grid will look like remains to be determined, King said.

“We don’t know what it will look like. That’s the exciting part,” King said.

Midtown is bounded on the north by Talbotton/Warm Springs Road, on the east by Interstate 185, on the south by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and on the west by 10th Avenue. It encompasses about six square miles of residential and commercial land. While it accounts for less than 3 percent of the city’s land, over 12 percent of the city’s population (about 23,000) call it home.

The $200,000 grant will allow Midtown to work with the urban design firm of Gehl Studio, who recently sent two designers, Matthew Lister and Julia Day, to Columbus to see what the city has to offer for design potential.

Sometime this spring, the designers will present a preliminary plan, for local consideration and input. In the summer, they will present a plan that will include ideas for specific pilot projects that involve the minimum grid concept. One of those will be selected and the rest of the grant will be applied to bring it to life.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said the grant and the plans that will elminate from it have the potential to be “transformational” for the city. She said as businesses and people look for cities in which to locate, they are more and more looking at the city’s “livability.”

“This is a new era for designing cities,” Tomlinson said. “This is about much more than just bike lanes.”Tomlinson said the city will be “an essential part” of the project.

Uptown Columbus President and CEO Richard Bishop said creating a bike and pedestrian grid that links Uptown and Midtown will benefit both greatly.

“To be able to walk or bike in a protected area will enhance the biking and walking communities,” Bishop said. “Whether you’re a walker, a runner or a biker, it will definitely make it easier to move around.”