This material is used by permission of Ohio University Press, www.ohioswallow.com

The north leg of the city’s Innerbelt freeway had for decades separated the area around Union Station and the North Market from the stretch of North High Street known as the Short North. The conventional freeway bridge over the multilane highway was a major deterrent to pedestrian traffic. With the replacement of Union Station by the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the rebirth of the North Market in a renovated industrial building, along with major investment in the Short North as the city’s arts district beginning in the 1980s, pedestrian traffic in the area increased tremendously. It became increasingly apparent that the streetscape gap caused by the old-fashioned freeway bridge had to be closed.

The opportunity for change came in the late 1990s, when reconstruction of the freeway began. Local advocates and the City of Columbus prevailed upon the Ohio Department of Transportation to build the new bridge on High Street as a cap over the freeway on which buildings could be constructed.

Local developer Continental Real Estate Company chose the demolished 1890s Union Station Arcade, which had stood at the crest of the High Street viaduct just to the south, as the design inspiration for the commercial structures lining the freeway cap. To a passing pedestrian, it is not at all apparent that the entire assemblage is a bridge. The storefronts and restaurant spaces have filled up one by one, and today visitors can sit, eat, and shop oblivious to freeway traffic rushing by directly below. This cap is a perfect example of how the scars caused by the construction of urban freeways decades ago can be transformed into lively, pedestrian-oriented places that reconnect the urban fabric.

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