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Archive for May, 2007

In-Fill Opportunity

Strangely, it’s not highly publicized, but a few local banks have special mortgage offers for residences within a quarter mile of a COTA bus line. A $200/$250 (single/dual income) monthly allowance is granted for mortgage calculations when putting together the loan. As an added bonus, the buyer receives an annual COTA pass.

In the absence of at least one automobile, residents can afford more home, and this program supports that effort. Based on COTA’s routes, most every home in the city’s central neighborhoods would be eligible.

What if, however, an entire new development were to be created around this opportunity? We might not have light-rail or streetcars yet, but plenty of under-used land sits at the convergence of COTA routes 4 and 16 at the south end of High Street.

The satellite image below demonstrates how old models of parking have consumed tremendous acres of land and are simply no longer needed. Top left sits Wal-Mart. Bottom left is Lowe’s. In between there is a Kroger, a vacant Big Bear, and a handful of small shops catering to the local population. Across the street (center right) is the Great Southern Shopping center. We see a variety of housing types behind GS, but the site itself, is a perfect location of a “New Town” development.

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Moderate to high-density housing could be created here, as well as within the vast unused parking areas to the west (with a renovation of the existing strip center). Re-zoned for mixed use, residents would have quick access to downtown via COTA, as well as access to I-270 if they have an automobile and need to use it. Residential services are already in place, complete with grocery, pharmacy, sundries and public library. The land values are considerably lower than downtown, giving more folks a chance to live “in town” without the $300k+ price tag.

Tax revenue would be added to the city’s coffers through property and income tax, residents would have access to special financing because of the bus routes, everyday services are right at hand, and a massive annexation/utility core would not be necessary to accomplish it.

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Local Design

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The 40th anniversary Spring Exhibition for the OSU College of the Arts takes place this year, showcasing the best and brightest in this design competition. Design professionals from around the nation arrive at this event looking for talent, and since it’s right here in Columbus, why not drop in and have a look.

June 5-7. The opening reception is Wednesday June 6th, 6pm-8pm.
OSU Physics Research Building
191 West Woodruff Avenue

Admission is at no cost.

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The Long Emergency

Published in 2005, The Long Emergency takes a look at the western world, primarily the United States, as we leave the days of “cheap energy” behind us.

From the jacket cover:
The industrialized world is built on cheap energy. Over the past century, we have used the stored energy of millions of years of sunlight—in the form of oil, coal, and natural gas—to create the marvels and miracles essential to modern life. But now the cheap fossil-fuels fiesta is ending, climate change is upon us, and our models of global industry, commerce, food production and transportation may not survive. Industrial civilization is in big trouble, and the American people are sleepwalking into a future of hardship and turbulence.

The author (James Kunstler) discusses these particular problems as we move into this period. From our food to our clothing, most everything we consume is produced “elsewhere” and shipped in. Bananas from Africa are only here because it’s cheap to ship them in. A drive to Blockbuster on Friday night is compliments of cheap gas. Vacations in Europe, (or either cost, for that matter) are enjoyed simply because we can get there at a reasonable cost.

Mr. Kunstler points out that our lives will become intensely “local” claiming that it will be more difficult for Americans, simply because we’ve “zoned” production away from where we live. Farmland no longer exists outside our central cities, and in fact, we produce little, if anything, of what we need to exist, within proximity to our cities.

The discussion also turns to oil producing nations, faced with their own challenges, of supporting populations in geographic areas that are only inhabitable (water, cooling, etc…) due to income produced from oil. The world’s population is as high as it is because cheap energy has sustained it.

Competition for the remaining oil increases, too, he states, as newly industrialized nations, such as China and India add to the global need, thus driving up prices for everyone.

ISBN: 0-87113-888-3

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24/7

The twenty-four hour grocery store. Kinko’s is open all night. Most every service company has call centers open around the clock. I delighted in knowing that I could pick up fish sticks at one o’clock in the morning on those sleepless nights.

As a former transatlantic flight attendant who lived in Salt Lake and worked in New York, my schedule was a mess. Merchants who catered to my hectic life would be the beneficiaries. “Hooray for the brilliance of the American retailers”, I told myself.

This was not my feeling when I’d find myself in Germany on the weekend. I cursed the labor unions that gave workers Sunday off. I’d rush around Wiesbaden late Saturday evening, stocking up on the essentials, such as bread, cheese and fruit, (and beer) just like everyone else.

Rogue convenience-store owners in Finland stayed open longer than labor unions desired, creating a massive public dialogue over such greed. I supported their efforts because salt and vinegar chips sustained my dietary needs.

Now, as one of those seven-day-work-week guys, I’m finding that I’ve lost connections to friends because we simply can’t find common times to socialize.

Instant messages and text messages allow me to “bump” into friends and acquaintances at any give hour of the day or night. “Are you going out?” “We should get together soon”, being so common that I can now type them faster than ever. My social life, outside of work, has been relegated to two-dimensional static images of people with whom I used to speak.

With one common day off for everyone, our lives could return to the third dimension. Americans could return to personal dialogue, physical {hugs} and the exchange of ideas that are the root of democracy.

Might not America be a better place if, for one day a week, we were to stop filling our personal voids with a trip to the mall? We measure our nations wealth with the amount of good consumed, but we’re doing little to fuel our emotional livelihoods.

I agree, it’s a tough proposition. It takes two incomes to support one home. A generation ago, it was one income, one home. A generation be for that, one income often supported a home and a summer cabin. Maybe, however, it’s because we’re placing value on the wrong things.

France has reduced working hours to 35 per week, with the recommended day off being Sunday. Finland has experimented with a 6-hour workday. Finland also pays workers 13 months of pay, annually. Sweden mandates a minimum 5-week vacation. (Interesting note is that these countries have far less crime than does the United States).

While we chase money to fund our American dream, perhaps we’re lost the very time needed to capture them.

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Mauricio Fernandez

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A student of Industrial Design in his hometown of Mendoza, Argentina, Mauricio Fernandez now calls Columbus his permanent home. A current artist/photographer, he settled here in 2005, after spending time in various US cities following his arrival to the States in 2001. His work was on display at the Columbus Museum of Art during the 2006 celebration of Hispanic Heritage.

Visit his website or view his work at Kibibi’s Art Gallery in Grandview.
Welcome Mauricio!

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Downtown Indianapolis appears to have the interest of Target, the Minneapolis based retailer. An upcoming project on the former site of the Market Square Arena, calls for a mixed-use project, including condos, apartments, office and retail spaces. Target is considering becoming one of the tenants.

Two bids are currently on the table, one of which includes Smoot Construction of Columbus.

Target also has a downtown Minneapolis store, located on the first two floors of its corporate headquarters.

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