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Thread: Columbus, OH

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Columbus, OH

    I was interested in seeing what some of you here think of Columbus, OH? Do you see it as a liveable city? What is your take on urban community planning in Columbus.

    I lived in Columbus for nearly a year and was overall pleased. Here are my observations while I was living there.

    Sprawl

    You can approach the city from south or west and will not encounter much sprawl (in the western outskirts, you can literally see highrises on one side and farmland on the other). There is a small amount of sprawl to the north along Route 23 heading into Delaware, OH but it is not that bad. The worst sprawl is to the east towards Reynoldsburg where it is bad enough to impact traffic flow.

    Economy

    Columbus has a fairly diversified economy making it a little more resistant to recession. It has a well established service economy which helps to shield it from the full blows of the offshoring movement in certain parts of the IT and manufacturing fields.

    Neighborhoods

    This is a hard one to evaluate because Columbus is a large city with around 250 sq miles of area and a population of around 720,000. I like neighborhoods along High St, East Main and West Broad which were all self sustaining allowing one to be automobile free if they desired. Neighborhoods in Westerville, Gahanna and other locals in the city though were not quite as pedestrian friendly and were a little more spread out. The latest information I have read though indicates Columbus has plans to improve many of it's most important neighborhoods and will even diversify by using "New Urbanism" style planning in some.

    Housing

    Columbus has an assortment of housing. It has an active adaptive reuse scene making urban lofts very easy to acquire and fairly low price. There is also quite a selection of townhomes, condos and high rise apartments. Single family housing is also quite common throughout the city. Housing is quite affordable and matches prices found in much smaller cities which is quite amazing for a large city like Columbus.

    Entertainment & Culture

    Columbus has a rich selection of sporting venues. The science museum is excellent. The city also has numerous art museums as well as a huge assortment of SOHO style galleries. The zoo and amusement park are also a nice feature.

    Shopping

    In Columbus, the shopping attractions are in the urban parts of the city. Columbus has numerous large malls and all kinds of specialty stores in the downtown and along the main streets. I was really amazed at how many neighborhoods off the main streets also had their own stores and shopping centers in some cases with easy pedestrian access.

    Getting Around

    Considering it's size and economic activity, Columbus has a low traffic level on it's streets. Most of that can be credited to a massive free way system incorporating not only a beltway, but numerous freeways that cross and intersect in downtown much like the spoke of a bicycle wheel. The streets are laid out in a coherent and easy to navigate block pattern. It really is hard to get lost in this city.

    Education

    Columbus has a large selection of educational opportunities such as OSU, Devry, Columbus State and numerous other schools.

    Crime

    I was amazed at how low the crime rate was in Columbus. Even the worst neighborhoods which are in the eastern part of the city were tame. My assumption on this is that Columbus's economy is good enough that most people do not feel they need to be slinging drugs to make it. What are your theories on this?

    I know this one was pretty brief compared to my notes on Charleston, WV. Columbus would take a lot of work to document in that kind of detail considering it's large size and sheer numbers of different sections in the city.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Good info, scibax.

    I know what you mean about the eastern sprawl.....I have been stuck in some big traffic jams in that area. Seems like every conference I have ever been to in Columbus is in this part of the metro.

    The north outerbelt reminds me of The Monkees' tune, "Pleasant Valley Sunday", because of all of the new housing developments visible from the X-Way.

    Of course, I steer clear of Ohio State University. Michigan fans not too welcome.



    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  3. #3

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    I just remember how downright VAST the place feels. As other posters have noted, the "s" word certainly applies, but there are some really nice older birck neighborhoods that have become quite posh (Germantown). The suburb near OU (Upper Arlington) is quite lovely-I remember a lot of nice grey stone houses. Downtown struck me as a typical midwestern city center-lots of too big streets, bombastic buildings, weak poedestrian traffic, struggling government-sponsored retail malls, etc. It may have improved since its been a few years.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I firmly believe that one of the biggest factors making Columbus, OH such an interesting and attractive place (compared to many other places in the midwest and northeast) is that the city has been exceedingly aggressive and successfull in the annexation department, such that the city still has a large unincorporated frontier, allowing much that new development on the edge of the metro area to actually be in the city.

    How well is the Columbus doing in ensuring the continuence of that ability to annex?

    Also, only semi-related, but what is the latest on the status of Columbus' most famous incorporated suburb, that being New Rome, OH (speed-trap central)?

    Mike

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I think Columbus is an under-rated city. too often its over shawdowed by Cleveland and Cincinatti. But Columbus seems to have alot going for it.

  6. #6

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    I have spent some time in Columbus when I was consulting in rural Ohio. I found it to be a reasonably functional, reasonably pleasant place, with a reasonably nice airport. I didn't go east much, so I can't comment on that. I believe the reason that there is so little sprawl immediately to the south is floodplain, and that the sprawl has simply hopped down to some of the formerly small towns further south. The north has a definite edge city character. It rates pretty high on my list of big, but not real big places.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I am amazed as well at how much attention Cleveland and Cincinatti get when Columbus is actually the larger city between the three with almost 720,000 people. Columbus also has the best economy of the three and is clearly wealthier. As surprising as it may seem, Columbus is actually the 15th largest city in the US.

    I saw Asheville to the south of Columbus which is a sprawl town, but it really is quite a small amount of sprawl compared to most offerings I have seen outside other cities.

    New Rome is still a speed trap. That was exactly where I got my first ticket when I was an Ohio. hehehehe!

    BKM,

    The Columbus downtown is the still the same in some parts. I'm not overly impressed with the downtown itself, but rather the neighborhoods like Short North, Brewery Disctrict, Germantown and etc. All of these neighborhoods are self sufficient and certainly have their own character.

    There is some work ongoing in the downtown to improve it and make it more pedestrian friendly. There seems to be a focus on the use of skywalks which is an interesting way to address the problem.

    Some of those malls have closed recently and met the wrecking ball to find new life as condo and retail areas. Columbus was definitely malled out, but it has a few malls with some character and attractiveness. I still think the downtown mall should be closed as it is just a plain boring design and really has nothing noteworthy to bring you back. As a matter of fact, I went to the downtown mall one time the entire time I lived in Columbus. hehehe!

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Peter Bratt's avatar
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    Ann Arbor, MI
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    Columbus

    I went to Ohio State for my MA in History (before I realized my purpose was urban policy), and lived in a neighborhood of Columbus called Clintonville, which is located about two miles north of the OSU campus. Clintonville is a lovely streetcar suburb, and most of the housing stock is between 1900 and 1940. The neighborhood is very walkable, and the High Street business corridor is rapidly becoming a yuppie street as in Germantown. I loved living in this community, and if I ever had to return to Ohio, Columbus would be the only place to live.

    That said, Columbus is a huge city. I remember my first day that I was in Columbus, and I figured that I needed to get to a Walmart. Well, I said, learn by doing, and so I headed down High Street, which is the main North/South corridor in town. I drove all the way to the southside of the Columbus, when I came across the store, and that was a trip of 20 miles. I saw nearly every sort of urban geography, and it is apparent (and from other trips I've taken through town) that the north and eastern sections of the town are doing much better than the south and west.

    If you want to see a history of sprawl in Columbus, go drive from High and Morse and head west. You start with the Northland Mall, which was one of the first malls in the US. there is nearly sixty years of sprawl and shopping on this street, and while depressing, is really interesting from a historical point of view.

    Columbus does have some crime issues, which unfortunately occur in the area near the OSU campus, the student ghetto to the east of it, and the underclass ghetto that is right next to it.

    If any one wants a good book on Columbus, go ahead and read Henry Hunker's Columbus: A Personal Geography. It is a poorly written book, but does go over some of the attributes of Columbus.

  9. #9
    Cirrus's avatar
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    Columbus is a smaller metro area than Cleveland and Cincinnati. Municipal population means nothing.

    Anyway, though I have to laugh a bit at some of the comments in this thread (Wow! Columbus has Devry! Awesome!), I like Columbus and think it is definitely a solid step above most sunbelt cities. You donít find many neighborhoods of Short North quality off the coasts.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    I spent a weekend in Columbus last fall and found it to be a very nice city. My friends owned a nice, affordable townhouse that was in walking distance of a nice district with shops, bars and restaurants. The downtown did look kind of sterile, but the outyling areas were pretty cool. It seemed to have nice parks and laid back people.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    The problem with downtown Columbus is that it seems kind of boring and drab. I agree completely that it is the neighborhoods that make the city and it reality many of the neighborhoods have their own "downtown" so to speak.

    I still do not think that Columbus has as bad of sprawl problem as many other cities. Most sprawl that does exist is within the city limits and there really is not a whole lot outside of the city when you drive south on 23. I've made the trip probably at least 100 times between Charleston, WV and Columbus. The only real sprawl is a few small towns south of Columbus like Asheville and such. The real Columbus sprawl is east and northeast. I approach this area when coming into Columbus from Parkersburg, WV and the trip is fast until you start reaching the sprawl towns that stretch about 15 miles from the city limits and create a traffic nightmare with box store land dumping traffic into a single artery. My grandmother lived north of Columbus in Delaware, OH. I've made this trip many times and the sprawl outside the northern city limit is there in form of about five box store centers along route 23 while Polaris Parkway is the real sprawl center to the north.

    I guess I just see it as sprawl if it is outside of the city limits. When you put Columbus up against Greensboro, it simply does not come ANYWHERE close to matching in the sprawl department and it is a more than double the size of Greensboro. How about Phoenix, AZ, talk about sprawl, they are the only city I have personally seen that beats Greensboro though I am sure there are others out there. Los Angeles was also a sprawl capital as well. Guys, I simply did not have much of a life and probably still don't. I used to drive from city to city just for the sake of a road trip with no particular purpose in mind.

    I noticed someone thought my mention of Devry was comical, but keep in mind I have not attended any of the schools I mentioned there other than Devry which was IMHO a waste of money. hehehehe! I only listed the names of the school because they are part of the educational assetts of the city. That does not mean I endorse them in any way. I try to write about what is there and keep my own opinion out of it as I wanted your opinions here. Columbus is a city I could consider moving to in the future if the economy does not improve in Charleston. I am just here to share information, get your perspectives on it and hopefully learn from it. Take it or leave it as that, but please don't think what I say is a laugh because nowhere have I EVER claimed to be an expert on any of this.

  12. #12
    Cirrus's avatar
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    I guess I just see it as sprawl if it is outside of the city limits.
    Low-density, auto-oriented, single-use clusters of development are sprawl whether they are located inside the city limits or outside them. Columbus, like all American cities that are growing, has plenty of sprawl. What separates Columbus from the rest of the sunbelt is the relatively large and healthy inner city of high-density, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use neighborhoods.

    As for Devry, I don't mean to insult the education you received there, but Devry is everywhere. Using it as an example of why Columbus is great is like saying the restaurant scene is really good because there's a McDonalds in town.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Cirrus
    As for Devry, I don't mean to insult the education you received there, but Devry is everywhere. Using it as an example of why Columbus is great is like saying the restaurant scene is really good because there's a McDonalds in town.
    I had no idea that Devry was that common and thought there were only 20 locations or so. If I had known it was more common, I would have excluded it from the list. None of the schools on the list are really worth mentioning other than OSU which has several excellent programs. I was merely listing assetts, not endorsing any of them.

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