C+S April 2021 Vol. 7 Issue 4 (web)

Forming a nutritious meal plan and a campus plan are not so differ- ent in execution. Both involve understanding context, problems to be solved, and having the foresight to provide solutions with efficiency, ingenuity, and durability to improve human lives. Mitchell Hall in Columbus, Ohio is one of the few instances where programming and design intersects nutrition and design. This $34.5 million project, near the heart of Columbus State Community College’s campus and Columbus’Discovery District, has exemplified how an early collabora- tive planning process with like minded approaches can enhance greater communal living. Similarly, for those who know the site history, it has become a great lesson in showing how quality architecture is never a straight path; ultimately, it takes the right combination of skill, leader- ship, perseverance, and good fortune to arrive at the desired solution. Providing Equity At the very beginning, bringing social equity to the northeast corner of downtown Columbus was viewed as a benchmark for a successful project. There were historical reasons for this. Before Columbus State had taken root in the Discovery District, the campus was previously the home of Aquinas College High School which served the black neigh- borhoods in nearby Hanford Village and King-Lincoln/Bronzeville. Between 1936 and 1952, redlining of districts started to occur which zoned out “declining” and “high risk for mortgage” neighborhoods. The 1952 HighwayAct set the groundwork for the development of I-71 and I-670 in 1966 and 1975, respectively (two main roadways still in use today by current residents). The new development removed entire blocks directly north and east of the high school and greatly impacted the African American community in Central Ohio. As described by Erica Thompson of the Columbus Dispatch, the highways represented a “colossal example of institutional racism and harm to Black com- munities.” (cite: Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 3, 2020 “How Highways Destroyed Black Neighborhoods in the ‘60s” by Erica Thompson) In 1963, the high school and surrounding area was converted into Co- lumbus Area Technician’s School and was eventually renamed the Co- lumbus Technical Institute in 1965. In 1987, the 70-acre campus came to its current name, Columbus State, and has since grown beyond city limits, operating at 6 additional off-site campuses with 27,000 students enrolled. By no means small and with diverse enrollment, Columbus State has played an integral role in healing previous racial divisions within the city. Providing Connections Recently, the school’s own growth was accelerated by a generous do- nation from Cameron Mitchell for the development of a state-of-the-art center for hospitality and culinary education. Seeing the potential for COLUMBUS STATE’S MITCHELL HALL PROVIDING VALUE BEYOND CAMPUS BOUNDARIES

Exterior. Photo: © Brad Feinknopf

the project to provide social equity, Columbus State engaged Design- Group as architect of record to bring value to Columbus State and the public at-large. Situated at the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Mt Vernon Avenue, DesignGroup sought to connect both routes through open spaces and setbacks that would allow for a natural flow from campus to a redeveloped Cleveland Avenue. “We wanted to im- prove the streetscape by giving them parallel parking, buried power lines, providing turn lanes, and medians,” DesignGroup’s Education Market Leader Ben Niebauer indicated, adding, “it was important to add cross traffic along Cleveland Avenue while providing dining seat- ing not directly up against heavy traffic.” The culinary center itself would similarly act as a thoroughfare to connect previously severed portions of Mt. Vernon, thereby making progression seamless into the campus from the west. To anchor the underlying design principles of opportunity, equity and integration, Mitchell Hall’s center was conceived by DesignGroup as a three-story naturally lit hub that would double as a meeting space and as a link between the campus and the Discovery District surround-

Campus Site. Photo: Courtesy of DesignGroup



April 2021

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