Public against COSI move, Foes’ poll finds

The Columbus Dispatch – February 8, 1994

Most Franklin County residents surveyed think Ohio’s Center of Science and Industry should not move to the west bank of the Scioto River, according to a poll financed by a group opposed to the move.

”We don’t think there’s public support for this,” Norton Webster, president of Rediscover Columbus, said at a news conference yesterday.

COSI officials said in a statement that ”we welcome the input” of the survey results. But they noted that a poll conducted last year showed most people favoring a move.

Rediscover Columbus is a group of Downtown business people and others who say COSI is essential to the economic health of its current neighborhood.

In the telephone poll conducted Jan. 18-20, Saperstein Associates asked 302 Franklin County adults chosen at random which location they preferred for an expanded COSI – the current site at 280 E. Broad St. or the so-called Scioto Peninsula. Saperstein, a Columbus research firm, was paid $4,200 to conduct the poll.

COSI officials have been exploring the idea of relocating the science center to the riverside location for years. Recent efforts have focused on moving it to the site of Veterans Memorial, 300 W. Broad St.

The Riverfront Development Corp., commissioned by the city and county governments last month to plan development on the peninsula, has agreed to become involved in finding a site.

Ohio has committed $18 million for COSI to move specifically to the peninsula; COSI intends to eventually seek $50 million for the project.

Of those polled by Saperstein, 56 percent said COSI should remain at its current site, while 35 percent said it should move to the peninsula. The remaining 9 percent had no opinion.

The 56 percent opposed to the move were then given more information about the move and asked again whether COSI should stay where it is. The percentage in favor of COSI staying at the current site then climbed to 78 percent, with 17 percent favoring a move across the river and 5 percent with no opinion. The people queried a second time were given this information:

An expanded COSI at E. Broad Street would be 295,000 suqare feet and cost $40 million, while a facility across the river could not exceed 255,000 square feet and would cost $117 million.

The E. Broad location is safe from flooding, while the Scioto Peninsula is a flood plain.

If COSI moves across the river, the land around Central High School could be paved for parking.

Moving COSI across the river could prevent Veterans Memorial from expanding.

Using part of a Veterans Memorial for COSI could reduce the space available for expositions at Vets by almost 60 percent.

If COSI moves, parking would be difficult when COSI is open and Vets has major events.

”All that information is information that has come out in the newspapers and come from COSI,” Webster said. ”I don’t think we were playing on people’s fears – we were giving additional facts.”

The polling method drew criticism from Terri Farell, spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Lashutka.

”The mayor does not take those kinds of loaded questions seriously,” Farell said.

She also said results from other polls, specifically one conducted last year by Partners in Marketing for a local business publication, provided a different view of people’s opinions.

Harry Leibowitz, president of the Columbus research company, said 1,000 households were given choices as to where COSI should be located.

Leibowitz said 33 percent thought COSI should remain at its current site; 45 percent said it should move to the Central High School site; 8 percent preferred Veterans Memorial; and 14 percent had no opinion.