Editorial: West bank is on the rise
The east bank of the Downtown riverfront, the Scioto Mile, has become an urban oasis of parkland, playgrounds, fountains and festival grounds stretching from the Arena District to Scioto Audubon Metro Park.
But last week’s announcement of a partnership between COSI and a prestigious New York City museum to establish permanent and traveling exhibits — dinosaurs are coming! — advances ambitious plans for the west bank: Columbus’ “cultural mile” is taking shape.
The American Museum of Natural History regularly has traveling exhibitions, but COSI’s stature made it a natural choice for the museum’s first dedicated off-site dinosaur gallery and a special exhibit-gallery.
The dino gallery is expected to open in fall 2017, and the special-exhibition gallery will open in early 2018, on COSI’s first floor.
“We are very pleased to bring these exciting new exhibitions and educational resources about current science and discoveries in paleontology to the Columbus area,” said Ellen V. Futter, president of the Natural History museum.
And we are so very pleased to be getting them. This is incredible. After a great deal of hard work by city leaders and business boosters, the stars are aligning for Columbus.
Time’s Money magazine this week picked Columbus as one of six best big cities (http://ti.me/2cxO4k1) and says we make the Midwest cool to live in. Other winners include Boston and Portland, Ore.
And this was before Columbus knew it was getting a life-sized model of the massive Tyrannosaurus rex fossil.
The partnership with the Natural History museum was made possible because of a $5 million investment from the state of Ohio and a $2 million gift from Abigail and Leslie Wexner. The Wexners have been key figures in transforming the riverbank, donating an additional $25 million for the construction of a new veterans memorial. That attraction, to open in mid-2018, is expected to attain national stature: An Ohio congressional delegation — led by Reps. Steve Stivers, Joyce Beatty and Pat Tiberi — introduced legislation on Sept. 15 to designate the site as the “National Veterans Memorial and Museum.” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is handling companion legislation in the Senate. (A website with the new name is already live at http://www.nationalvmm.org)
“The museum will be the only public museum of its kind that exists for the exclusive role of sharing the experiences of veterans across all eras, conflicts and branches of the military,” a news release says. This memorial, with its iconic design and educational mission, should become a huge draw for the riverfront.
COSI already gets more than 600,000 visits a year, a figure Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther expects to grow dramatically under the new partnership.
The city also is investing in COSI, providing $2.1 million from a voter-approved bond package for repairs and improvements to the city-owned building. The money largely will be used for such needs as roofing and flooring, but also will go toward a new sign facing the Scioto Mile. This is a smart advertising move. (Columbus also is giving $1.6 million to the Columbus Museum of Art for improvements, as well as $1.5 million to the Franklin Park Conservatory in a city park.)
And talks also are underway with the Smithsonian, and other partners for the Scioto Peninsula might include New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Royal Shakespeare Company in the U.K., reports Columbus Monthly.
“We’re a compelling partner for any national or international organization,” Les Wexner told the magazine.
That’s big — T-rex big.
This article first appeared on the Columbus Dispatch's website on September 22, 2016.