Otterbein University is putting plans forward to create Uptown West, a mixed-use development on the vacant land next to the Arts and Communications Building called Braun Farm, as well as a new campus building similar to The Point.
Otterbein began its investment in Braun Farm in 2012 when they purchased 25 acres of land off Cooper Road. In 2019, Campus West LLC, an Otterbein-owned company, purchased the remaining 39 acres of Braun Farm land for around eight and a half million dollars. They did it that way so no university funds, or any part of its endowment, was put toward this purchase according to university president John Comerford.
They intended to partner with a developer to create a community filled with residential, retail and dining options. Otterbein found a partner in Lifestyle Communities who agreed to cover all the building costs. To make money off this development, Otterbein will split rent with Lifestyle because they will own the land while Lifestyle will own the buildings.
The proposal is residential-focused, with plans to fill much of the development with townhouses. Despite this, “The price point is not student-friendly," said Comerford, who claims there is not enough demand for student housing to make that a priority.
Uptown West is also a long-term project. Comerford said, “Unfortunately for many of the students here now will only see bulldozers.” Otterbein’s 2021 strategic plan claims this is a three-to-five-year project. However, Comerford explained their timeline is very vague. He said it is unknown when construction will begin and that it depends on when the City of Westerville approves their proposals.
Once construction finishes, Otterbein will add The Point 2.0 to its campus. As the name suggests, it will be very similar to The Point. An Otterbein facility that has labs, classrooms and offices for business tenants. The Point 2.0’s objective is to create more space for all of that.
Erin Bender, executive director of The Point, said it is too early to know what academic programs or partners will utilize the new building. However, there have been talks with Southside Education Center that are likely to turn into an early childhood education center.
Also, the plans include moving Columbus State’s Westerville campus into The Point 2.0. Columbus State is already occupying space in the Art and Communication building.
Though The Point 2.0 is the only campus building included in the plans, Otterbein believes the rest of the development will benefit students. Bender said, “I think it will give the students a way to feel more connected to this end of campus.” The development will become a walking community. Creating trails and leaving open space will make this part of uptown easily accessible without a car. There are even plans to build a COTA transportation hub.
According to Comerford, Uptown West plans to create that connection with students through its commercial centers and public amenities, like Uptown Westerville. Included in the plan is The GOAT, a community center which anyone can be a member of, including students. The development will bring in new parks and “amenitize Otterbein Lake” according to Comerford.