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April 05--Orange barrels will remain a fixture of the neighborhood around the North Market and the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the next couple of years, with several long-simmering construction projects preparing to move forward.

The eight-story AC by Marriott hotel -- planned for 511 Park St., across from the North Market -- received approval for its overall site plan at this week's Columbus Downtown Commission meeting.

Site work already is underway for the 160-room hotel and a surface parking lot, with a parking deck and offices seen as possibilities in a second phase down the road.

The hotel will be the second AC in central Ohio; the first, which opened last year, was at the new Bridge Park project in Dublin. The boutique brand, which features sleek, modern decor with touches that are local to each hotel, was started in Europe and is still fairly new to the United States.

"I think AC sees this (Short North site) as an ideal location for the brand," said David Kass of Continental Real Estate Cos., the project's developer. "It's the center of things to do, the place to be in Columbus."

The hotel's modern mid-rise tower, to be set back from Park Street, will extend above several older two- to three-story buildings that will remain in place. Kass said he would expect vertical construction on the structure to begin in the fall. The project cost will be more than $40 million.

Located steps away from the North Market, Goodale Park, the Convention Center and Nationwide Arena, the hotel is likely to attract a steady stream of both business and leisure travelers, Kass said.

The major overhaul and expansion of the North Market itself is closer to becoming a reality, a year after the city announced the selection of developers Wood Companies and Schiff Capital Group. They since have been joined by NBBJ.

The project got a boost this week with the aid of $1 million in funding from the state capital budget signed by Gov. John Kasich. That money will go toward the cost of building the atrium that will connect the existing North Market with the planned 35-story residential and office Market Tower.

Cynthia Rickman, assistant development director for the city of Columbus, which controls the North Market property, said details of an economic-development agreement between the city and the developers are being finalized. They are expected to be presented to City Council by early summer for approval, with an anticipated groundbreaking for Market Tower planned for fall.

In addition to the tower, the project is to include a ground-floor arcade portion that will be built by the developers and deeded to the city. Rickman said the arcade will serve North Market patrons who want to "sit, eat and enjoy one of central Ohio's defining cultural institutions."

It also will host exhibits and events: "One can envision small musical performances, art installations and other...uses for this flexible space," Rickman said.

Also joining the mix later this year will be the groundbreaking for an expansion of the publicly financed Hilton Columbus Downtown across from the Convention Center on North High Street. That project will bring the Hilton, currently with 532 rooms, to 1,000 rooms. The hotel expansion is expected to be completed by 2021.

mrose@dispatch.com

@MarlaMRose

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