Downtown Grows Up

By Dispatch Editorial | 06 Jan, 2012

Among skyscrapers and asphalt, a real neighborhood takes root

For the longest time, when Columbus residents talked about Downtown neighborhoods, they meant German Village or the Short North. That’s no longer true as the city core develops into a real neighborhood, with 24-hour occupants and a sense of community.

Two announcements this month drive home this change. Hills Market, a popular suburban grocery, will open in the spring at 95 N. Grant Ave. It will feature organic produce, a full-service deli, butcher shop, coffee shop and a café. This isn’t a grocery being built to serve only suburbanites who commute to work Downtown; it’s a neighborhood market.

The news is evidence that enough people are living Downtown to attract a grocery. If it is successful, it will mean a critical mass has been reached.

“A successful venture like this will likely spur other ventures,” predicted Cleve Ricksecker, director of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, a group of Downtown business owners.

The first residents moving into new Downtown housing developments had to pull their cars from the garage at Waterford Tower or spaces at Market Mohawk to trawl for groceries or find a coffee shop open on a weekend.

With North Market, a Kroger in the Brewery District and Hills Market, central city residents will be served well. Hills will be part of the Neighborhood Launch housing development, which stretches from 4 {+t}{+h} Street to Grant Avenue, along Gay and High streets. The brownstone-style condos start at $200,000.

Hills is making a smart move, because even more housing is coming.
The second announcement was for another 102 apartments, which could serve as student housing for Columbus State Community College and the Columbus College of Art & Design.

Developer George Berardi has submitted plans to the Downtown Commission for a five-story, $11.5 million building at Spring and Neilston streets. It would include ground-level retail space.

Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman came into office with an ambitious goal to recolonize a residentially barren Downtown. A decade of city incentives has helped to build more than 2,500 housing units, reversing a 50-year population decline in the core city. That is all the more impressive because it came as the national housing bust slowed the market.

Since 2000, 5,600 new residents have moved Downtown, according to the city’s development department. Gay Street, the RiverSouth area and the old City Center Mall area have been re-energized with new parks, restaurants and mixed-use projects in various stages of development.

Columbus residents have changed their relationship with Downtown. It’s no longer “the office.” For many today, it is home.