Archive for April 28th, 2007

It seems that Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation has done her work. Columbus blogs have lit up with comments, and that’s likely the most valuable piece of her $165k fee. Granted, I myself could do a hell of a lot with that amount of money, but it’s a mere drop in the bucket for a civic-works-a-go-go package.

With that said, here’s my point of view;

No government initiative is going to make Columbus cool. I think we all agree with that. A lively downtown coupled with a good art/music scene is a reasonable start. Parts of that will be encouraged through zoning and tax incentives, but that’s not enough in and of itself.

Artists arrive when there is a market for their work. The same thing holds true with musicians. Neighborhood markets will spring to life when the population decides to stop shopping at the Blue Box, and “mallternatives” prosper when we stop driving to the suburbs to shop at the malls. In a nutshell, we might believe that a vibrant urban community is something that we want, but if our value system does not support it, it won’t happen.

It’s like believing that recycling is a good thing, but not taking the time to buy products made of recycled material. We might believe that public transit is a wise investment, but how many of us are using the current system? If we believe in strong downtown retail, then why did City Center fail?

I’ve lived on both coasts, as well as a few places in-between. I was one of those that had never heard of Columbus, Ohio either. While living in Salt Lake City, some chat friends from here said I should visit. I never considered it. It was out of “the loop” as far as I was concerned.

In 1999, I arrived here for the first time because of work. At the time I was living in Orlando. In my free time, I set out on foot, exploring the Short North, Goodale Park, Clintonville and German Village. I fell in love with the city that first day and moved up six months later.

What I liked most about Columbus was the potential. It was easy to see what the city was about to become. There aren’t many mid-tier cities with healthy inner-city neighborhoods. Whether it was an oversight of the wrecking ball, or simply luck, Columbus neighborhoods look and feel good, and they’re getting progressively better.

I had been priced out of my native Minneapolis, and I watched Salt Lake City grow from a place where people burned down their houses as a way to get rid of them. I would have never imagined Salt Lake becoming as cool as it is today. New York was outrageously expensive, as was San Francisco and I knew I’d never have a decent life there. Orlando was a sub-urban nightmare.

But when I discovered Columbus, I realized that I could live in a great neighborhood, walk to most everything, have good neighbors with a good work ethic and have it at an affordable price. Friends around the US (many of whom still have not come to visit) are floored when I tell them how affordable it is here. There is value in these attributes.

Columbus is becoming a great city. It may never be a “Chicago” or a “San Diego”, but it will become the sum of its population, and will evolve to reflect the values of those living here. Individual value systems are not the work of government planning, rather, our “values” are tallied by our consumption and the market place adjusts accordingly.

Tell us your Columbus story.

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Expand your knowledge

There is still time to catch a few of remaining Winter/Spring lecture series at the Knowlton School of Architecture.

The lecture series are held on Wednesday evenings at 5:30pm in the Knowlton Hall Auditorium at OSU. 275 West Woodruff Avenue, 43210.

The next lecture, on May 2nd, is a look into European and American urban projects.

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