Reshaping the Skyline: The Modernization of the City of Columbus Zoning Code

April 26, 2024

This month, the City of Columbus introduced a revolutionary proposal to modernize its 70-year-old zoning code. The initiative aims to address the city and the region’s rapid growth by strengthening housing, mobility, and affordability to foster and sustain the rise of this vital Midwest city.

The Zoning Code Change Overview

The zoning code proposal, led by Mayor Ginther, recommends creating six new mixed-use zones on 12,300 parcels of land along Columbus’ busiest streets. These parcels are projected to support the creation of 6,000 housing units. However, through market-driven parking strategies, permissibility for taller construction, and a more transparent and navigable process, the proposed code could unlock the creation of 82,000 additional homes.

Key Changes in the Proposed Zoning Code

The key changes in the proposed zoning code for the City of Columbus include the following:

  1. Creation of Six New Districts: The proposal recommends creating six new mixed-use zones on 12,300 parcels of land along Columbus’ busiest streets. Each district would create flexibility for developers and more straightforward guidance on what would be allowable in the district.
  2. Increased Building Height: The new proposed code allows for taller buildings, including the ability to build 10-story buildings if at least 20% of the building’s housing units are reserved for income-qualified tenants. This change could lead to more dense urban developments and potentially alter the city’s landscape, but it would also allow for more residential housing, including affordable housing.
  3. Reduced Parking Requirements: The proposal would reduce the need for expensive parking lots or garages. The proposal moves from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to one that considers the particular nature of the district and availability of transit. This policy continues to City’s recent strategy to pivot away from car-centric designs.
  4. Simplified Process for Variances: The new code would reduce site-by-site community negotiations for “variances” from the existing city building code. This means developers would no longer need to go through a review process involving neighborhood area commissions in order to build structures higher than 35 feet.
  5. Promotion of Mixed-Use, Transit-Oriented Development: The proposed changes promote dense, mixed-use, transit-oriented development. This is expected to make neighborhoods more walkable and transit more accessible.

Impact on Residents

The zoning code update is expected to support the creation of 88,000 new homes, addressing 44% of the region’s housing demand over the next decade. This significant solution to the region’s mounting housing pressures could lead to a more equitable, vibrant, and sustainable future for the City. In addition, with the focus on mixed-use developments, business owners may have a great access to a growing customer base and provide opportunities for innovation.

Impacts on Business Owners

The proposed zoning code updates in the City of Columbus could have several impacts on business owners:

  1. Increased Development Opportunities: The new zoning code could remove some of the barriers that housing developers and businesses currently face. This includes the creation of six new mixed-use zones on 12,300 parcels of land along Columbus’ busiest streets, which could provide more opportunities for businesses to expand or establish new ventures.
  2. Changes in Building Regulations: The proposal would eliminate a stipulation that requires special permission to construct buildings over three stories. This could lead to the creation of mixed-use developments with businesses on the ground level and apartments above, potentially increasing foot traffic and visibility for ground-level businesses.
  3. Potential for Increased Property Taxes: While not directly mentioned in the zoning code updates, changes in zoning can sometimes lead to increases in property values and, consequently, property taxes. Business owners should be aware of this potential impact.
  4. Reduced Ability to Contest Future Building Plans: If the new zoning code is approved, it will be more difficult for business owners to contest future building plans that conform to the new code. This could impact businesses concerned about potential changes in their local area.


The zoning code update is a critical step toward shaping the future of Columbus. The City has made significant progress in welcoming a diverse population. Since the “great recession,” the City of Columbus has seen tremendous progress in welcoming new businesses, new residents, and providing growth opportunities. The proposed changes appear to be the next steps in driving the City to the next level. Residents and business owners can review the proposed zoning changes and provide feedback to the City concerning the proposed changes by visiting Zone In Columbus during the 60-day comment period, ending June 10, 2024. This modernization of the zoning code will address critical housing and affordability challenges and lay the foundation for a more equitable, vibrant, and sustainable future.

For more information about the proposed changes to the City of Columbus’s zoning law, please feel free to reach out to a member of our Real Estate Practice Group or a member of our Columbus office including Demetrius Robinson, at (614) 427-5749 or djr@kjk.com.