Being the Editor-in-Chief of a city magazine makes me by default a hobbyist city planner.
Now, as I pass by every boarded-up house, construction site, or thinly papered storefront window, I start scanning fake blueprints in my head, consulting the imaginary projects in my head. What about an arcade deli? Are we zoned for that? I ask my imaginary right-hand man. What about a bike trail that leads only to bars? What about a bike trail that IS a bar?
Okay, so maybe rather than city planning, my mind turns most often to some sort of a wacky putt-putt course full of watering holes, but nonetheless: regenerative energy in Columbus is strong right now, and the possibilities seem endless.
People believe in the city again. People are investing in the urban core, and not just the ones that can afford or desire high-rise luxury. There is a belief in urban gardening, in improved subsidized housing…in the way living in the city feels and sounds. Belief in that charmingly claustrophobic way a city folds itself over-top of its landmarks and residents, creating an enveloping, diverse culture that blurs the lines between backyard and business.
The city is once again a place where the parking lots and patios have every bit as much to do with the neighborhood vibe as a church or a schoolyard does. We’re gardening here, we’re biking here, and we’re raising kids and livestock here.
During my interviews for this issue, I met homeowners who used to dodge bullets that now leave their back door unlocked. Neighbors who pluck mint from the garden next door without having to ask permission. Long time residents who were part of civic action to bolster their block, sitting on the patio of a new local bar, satisfied in neighborhood development the way a city official or a realtor would be.
It struck me that, in order to get to this point, we’ve needed everyday people – not just officials and businessmen – investing faith as much as cash. For every new bar or gastropub or condo development, there was a young couple in search of urban culture, who didn’t want to sacrifice their safety to find it. It was their belief, and their faith, in some cases over the course of decades, that led the great influx around Downtown we’re experiencing today.
Italian Village, Merion Village, Olde Towne East, and in the earlier stages, Franklinton, people are claiming their area of the city without having to sprawl out further than they desire.
And this isn’t a crap-on-the-suburbs piece meant to display how much hipper it is in the urban core. They’re catching on outside 270, too. Take a trip to Uptown Westerville, where the birthplace of the Temperance Movement is embracing a new brewpub, or Downtown Powell, where a Tuesday night in Southern Delaware County can feel like a sleepy little New England town.
Regardless of the zip code, it’s a trend you should be rooting for.
This isn’t just about real estate, or where should you put down roots in Columbus, although it could be used as a reasonable primer. Any authentic neighborhood is the sum of its parts, and this issue is about preserving and promoting the entities that give them life. It’s about preserving Columbus, or in some cases, like photographer Kojo Kamau, about preserving the legacy of those that do.
I urge you, after reading this, to make a similar investment in your neighborhood, wherever it may be. Meet your neighbors, ride your bike somewhere, start a community garden, or a Little Library…
And if you’re interested in opening up a Pedicab Deli, or Gastro Condo, I am available for consultation.