“The Trolley Commons of Franklin Park” by the Urban Avengers

The historic “Old Trolley Barn” complex on the northeast corner of Oak Street and Kelton Avenue, near the renowned Franklin Park and Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (a landmark structure on the National Register of Historic Places), has significant historical heritage and value.  The buildings on the Old Trolley Barn’s 3-acre site were built between 1880 and 1920 serving the city’s trolley system for decades.  The local community takes great pride in their Franklin Park neighborhood, including having hosted the commemorative, international, quincentenary event “AmeriFlora 92” in 1992, from which many of the extensive landscaping and expansion renovations remain in place today at Franklin Park and the Conservatory.arial-shot franklin park

Current structures

The Old Trolley Barn site contains several historic and extraordinary brick buildings, two of which developers plan to save and restore with any new usage of the site.  Following are descriptions of each building and/or section of the Trolley Barn site and surrounding areas:

  • The building on the corner of Kelton and Oak – the Trolley Barn, which appears to be in somewhat better condition than the other buildings on the property, could likely be restored for commercial use, with minimal demolition and hopefully minimal costs for restoration.

 Western Bldg from Kelton

  • There appear to be four buildings in the center of the property, with one that is in fairly decent condition (located directly on Oak Street).

Middle bldgsmore demo

  • Remaining is a large building on the east end of the site in fair condition aside from the large hole in the ceiling in the center of the building.

Evan's Eastside shot

  • The property is in a (largely) single-family residential area and as previously mentioned is bordered by the 88-acre Franklin Park and Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens one block north.
  • Bordered on the south side by Oak Street, where there is also a parallel green space (approximately one acre in size – which, side bar –  would be an excellent location for a community garden or dog park!)

Green Space across Oak

  • Kelton Avenue borders the Trolley Barn site to the west and is a one-way street flowing northbound (with a dedicated bike lane). It is worth noting that Kelton Avenue does have its own exit off of Interstate 70 (several blocks south) which would allow versatile access; however, the one-way restriction of Kelton Avenue will likely cause some minor traffic concerns with the expected traffic increase in this area after the refurbishment is completed.
Kelton bike lane

One-way street Kelton Avenue, with dedicated bike lane dead-ends into Franklin Park South


Community Needs

After evaluating the neighborhood by car and on foot, and speaking with two locals who without hesitation (and/or coaching from any members of our group) expressed their heartfelt desires for this site to be transformed into a community-oriented facility (with a swimming pool), serving local residents of all ages with free (or very affordable) fitness and recreational activities.

  • “Bernice”, a mature African American female, who works at a local, minority-focused business was very passionate about the need for a swimming pool in this area, having lived in the area her entire life. She pointed out that the only other pool in the area is at Maryland Park and that the pool there is too small and unfit for community enjoyment.  Bernice also conveyed a plea for a recreational facility serving both children and adults, with a special need to address the lack of activities for senior citizens in this area.
  • Local resident, “Danette” – a 50-something year old Caucasian female, was quick to point out that the site has been an eye-sore for much too long and that this neighborhood would embrace a community center. She envisions an initiative that would appeal to people of all ages and cultures, bonding them together, to learn from each other and develop life-long bonds – as friends and as a prideful community.  Danette spoke of the important role this center could play in the lives of the teens attending East High School.

Both of the interviewed residents had passionate ideas completely in alignment with the proposal being recommended by the Urban Avengers.

Footprints and Site Plans


Original rough draft of plans



Final usage footprint

Building Footprints

Final Footprint

Breakdown of Non-Profit and Commercial Categorization


Our idea for the new development would be branded as “The Trolley Commons.”  Our initial plans were simple, and after several consultations Urban Avengers created site footprints which led to the following restorations, additions and demolitions:

  • The western most building at the corner of Kelton and Oak (believed to be the original Trolley Barn) would house small business office space and a small historical museum-type welcome center.
  • Directly north of this building would stand a newly built, state-of-the art community recreational center, targeting all age groups. The community center building would be L-shaped housing indoor half-court basketball courts, fitness and weightlifting areas, community rooms (similar to classrooms with at least one kitchen for healthy nutrition and cooking classes), an indoor walking area, and a swimming pool which would be both indoor and outdoor as weather dictates.  A similar type facility is pictured below:

Recreation center image

  • The community rooms will offer both educational and inspirational classes surrounding hobbies, self-improvement to support heathy ideals, self-defense, life skills, and crafts.
  • This building will also house a small display of the history of the property and its significance. The main purpose of this community center is to promote healthy living for local residents of all ages and cultural backgrounds.
  • It is our recommendation that the community center be operated by the City of Columbus in order to make it financially accessible to all people. One member of our group suggested the community center could honor and be named after current (and out-going) Mayor Michael B. Coleman who has had a significant positive impact on the City of Columbus during his 15 years as mayor.
  • The eastern-most building is recommended to be kept and repurposed. The southern end of this building would be home to a farmer’s market, hosting Ohio grown produce, fruit and other healthy food options to build on encouraging a healthy lifestyle for the entire community. While it would be of a small scale, it would be the only healthy alternative located in this neighborhood.Evan's Eastside shot













  • Urban Avengers also envisions another community-driven initiative that would utilize the eastern building and fill a huge void for this area, by bringing a senior citizens’ recreation center to serve the surrounding neighborhoods. Some ideas for the senior center could include:
    • Healthy cooking and baking sessions;
    • Crafts such as quilting and art;
    • Mentoring youth (perhaps partnering with local East High School and Columbus Preparatory School for Girls);
    • Tap Dancing;
    • Sharing and recording memoirs (especially important for memorializing local history from those seniors who are native to the area);
    • Music lessons (both given and taken by seniors); and
    • Financial and retirement advocacy.
  • With extremely limited restaurant options in this area, the southern-most central building will be kept and repurposed as a café. The café will be a small, locally owned company featuring healthy food options, beverages, and a small outdoor seating area to enjoy the beauty of the area during pleasant and clement weather seasons.Middle bldgs
  • Lastly, the remaining centrally located buildings, deemed unsalvageable, will be leveled to pave way for the community swimming pool, and to provide ample parking to support the community center, offices, senior center, and market. The parking areas will be largely concealed from street view, behind buildings and a greenery of trees and shrubs on the Oak Street side of the property.

more demo







Urban Avengers’ objective for “The Trolley Commons” is to build and support a healthy, informed, and involved community in the area of Franklin Park, maintaining historic elements that attribute to the integrity and pride of the citizens who live and work there.

The Diamond Developers: Blog 5 Brownfield Renovation

THE Diamond Developers: Trolley Barn Brownfield Redevelopment

Trolley Village

Existing Conditions/Site Description/Surrounding Area:

      The Old Trolley Barn site in Olde Towne East is a historically significant site. It is very worthy of being saved and rehabbed but is also in need of site cleaning and many repairs. The current plot consists of the large trolley barn building on the southwest corner of the site, some very dilapidated and less-significant buildings in the middle, and one story storage-like buildings on the east edge. The surrounding area is completely residential with green space directly across the street, a two-way street to the south of the site, a one way and busier street to the west of the site, and the large and well-known Franklin Park and Conservatory just a short two block walk north. There are also vacant, two-story townhomes across the street to the south that could present a unique redevelopment opportunity in the future.

Repurposing the buildings:

  • The westernmost building (The Trolley Barn)
    • The trolley barn is what sits at the farthest south and west corner of the site. This building allows for a very unique redevelopment opportunity as it is a very long and open building with an interesting past. This building is currently boarded up, but with careful restoration, new windows can be installed opening and brightening up the large, two story interior. With minimal work done on the exterior other than some sprucing up, along with complete renovation and cleaning of the inside, our team envisions this building as an art gallery and creative-oriented business with a “400 West Rich Street” vibe to it.
  • The easternmost buildings (One story, storage/warehouse buildings)
    • The easternmost buildings on this site present an opportunity to create an active, flexible, and vibrant working space for local artist at an affordable rate. These one story buildings can be outfitted to accommodate many small work spaces for artists and craftspeople much like similar and recent projects in the city. The flexible spaces within can be adaptable to fit a variety of needs and rented out at affordable monthly rates. Because these will be used as work spaces, the exterior will need cleaned up and rehabbed some but the inside can remain rather gritty, as long as it is conducive to the ability to be creative and work easily inside. With these spaces very nearby to the proposed gallery in the trolley barn, original works can easily be transported and sold just steps away adding to the authenticity and artistic vibe of the area.

New Development:

      Our team saw a fantastic opportunity to add to the already great potential uses on this site. We believe the addition of both residential and retail would greatly benefit the attractiveness of both the site and the neighborhood as a whole. We envision 3 story townhomes or brownstones lining Kelton Avenue to the west from just north of the trolley barn all the way to the alley north of the site. In the first floor of the first unit in this section of the new development (closest to the trolley barn) would be a small retail site that could end up being a cafe or restaurant, something that is certainly needed in this neighborhood. This business would not only bring a wonderful amenity to the neighborhood, but would also bring more jobs and opportunities to the local live-work artists and youth of the area.



      From the intersection of Kelton Avenue at the alley north of the site, the 3 story buildings could continue and wrap around the northern section of the site creating an ‘L’ shape in new development. These should remain the same material for aesthetics purposes but could have a slightly different design to them allowing for different floorplans and densities.

      On Oak Street facing south, our team envisioned more 3 story townhome-style units of the same materials. However, these should be different. These units should be affordable units rented out at lower rates allowing for a mix of incomes in the neighborhood. While the units facing Kelton could be larger and more expensive, we believe that the new buildings facing Oak should be built somewhat smaller allowing for higher density housing and cheaper housing. A good mix of for sale units, rentals, and different incomes levels creates a stronger community.


The New Trolley Village


       In the middle of all the new development and the repurposed buildings to the southwest and east sides of the site would be parking. While this site is situated on a bus line near a stop, we understand that this area is still very car-dependent. There are many bike lanes in the neighborhood and improvements have been made in the city in regards to transit options, but parking is necessary and will be mostly hidden in this site.

      The opportunity of adding some green space should not be passed up and would fit in well in this neighborhood. On the northern end of this site in between the new housing and the repurposed north-eastern workspace building would be a small shaded lawn or pocket park with seating. In the middle of the eastern-positioned buildings, there seems to be a roof collapse. We see this as an opportunity to create another small pocket park with the possibility of hanging lights creating a community hang-out and gathering space.


      Also, on the far southeastern section of this site, we envision a green space with a lot of benches, trees, and a signature sculpture or work of art facing Oak Street that could be created by one of the local artist. This would serve as a fantastic area to relax and socialize in for this small neighborhood and the community as a whole. Finally, in between the affordable-rate units on Oak and the trolley barn building would be a relatively wide pedestrian walkway with trees and benches allowing for easy access from Oak along with the main entrance from Kelton Avenue.


      There are always concerns when new development arrives in a neighborhood. However, our team believes this plan is not only an appropriate plan for this brownfield site, but also a plan that will bring out that sense of community and pride in this Olde Towne neighborhood. While there may be a very slight increase in traffic and noise, we believe the benefits of gaining local cafes and galleries will outweigh any extras that nearby neighbors may be worried about.

      It is important to save sites like this. Historic sites tell stories, they are attached to a culture and help make cities what they are. Sites like these give cities their identities and bring a sense of pride and community to the whole area. Reviving, repurposing, and redeveloping brownfield and historic sites like this one bring economic recovery, an increase in tax base for the cities in which they belong, and clean up areas that may have been dealing with trash, crime, and toxic materials due to abandoned sites like this one. It is vital that this site, and others like it, be saved.