The eclectic communities of Central Ohio offer a perfect fit for every buyer.
Put simply, it’s a buyer’s market. That’s great news for anyone looking to purchase a new or existing home. Right now, the Central Ohio housing market offers excellent values, a varied stock and communities that run the gamut from downtown urban to nearly rural. Relocate America, an online consumer services directory, named Columbus one of its “Top 100 Places to Live,” as well as one of the “Top 10 Most Affordable Cities” for 2010.
“For anyone who is of a mind to get a new home, this is the perfect time to do it. The advantage is with the buyer today,” says Ken Danter, president of Danter Company, a Columbus-based real estate market research firm. The current economy has enabled builders to purchase lots at appealing prices, and the savings get passed on to buyers. For those interested in existing homes, noting how long a property has been sitting with a “For Sale” sign on the front lawn can prove fruitful. “Days on the market can indicate that the sellers are serious and looking for opportunity,” says Danter.
How long should buyers expect pleasing prospects around every corner? With the market slogging through a complex miasma of foreclosures, sluggish job growth, anxious sellers and underwater mortgages, the answer isn’t clear. However, notes Danter, “The last three years have almost been carbon copies of one another. . . . I think what we are seeing is a stabilization at the bottom of the market.” Although it’s unclear when the market will start to scrabble back up the mountain, buyers may want to take note of this observation.
We’ve compiled a tour of housing possibilities in Central Ohio, in localities ranging from hip urban neighborhoods to little villages to bustling suburbs. Within the Greater Columbus area, buyers can find homes to suit every price point and design sensibility.
Clintonville sits north of the Ohio State University campus along High Street. Populated by university professors, professionals, young couples and longtime residents, Clintonville began in the early 1900s as city dwellers built a community of summer homes to escape from the sweltering city. Largely constructed in the 1920s, Clintonville homes sit on smaller lots and often feature front porches and hardwood floors. Residents are known for their strong sense of community pride and their less-than-conservative political tendencies.
The Beechwold area, situated just north of Clintonville and south of Worthington, has similar home styles priced less expensively.
Spiffy redevelopment of the commercial zones along High Street and Indianola Avenue has added restaurants and interesting retail establishments to this near-urban environment. Toward the north, Graceland Shopping Center, once a faded retail presence, now flourishes. From May through November, the Clintonville Farmers Market provides locally grown and produced foods. The 13-acre Whetstone Park of Roses is home to multiple gardens and recreation areas; the newly renovated Whetstone Community Center adjoins the park.
Just a few miles east of downtown, Berwick and Eastmoor give residents easy access to downtown Columbus without the higher home prices and taxes of adjacent Bexley. Berwick resides directly south of Bexley, while Eastmoor lies east of central Bexley. Most homes were built in the 1950s, along with some 1920s-era construction. Buyers still can find houses on tree-lined streets for less than $100,000, as well as pricier executive homes. Eastmoor residents have particularly easy access to Port Columbus International Airport.
Downtown housing options have exploded in recent years. Renovations of former offices and hotels, plus attractive new construction projects, have generated an impressive selection of condos, lofts and apartments with artful designs and great views. Young professionals eager for an urban lifestyle and empty nesters ready to abandon yard work are settling into downtown digs. Residential tax incentives are available for some downtown area properties.
Cultural opportunities abound. Historic downtown theaters, the Columbus Museum of Art and COSI furnish endless entertainment. City dwellers can walk to the bustling Arena District to catch a movie, eat dinner, cheer on the Blue Jackets hockey team, go ice skating, shop at the North Market, attend a concert or catch a ballgame at Huntington Park, the home of the Columbus Clippers. The 71-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park on the Whittier Peninsula, just a short stroll south of downtown, offers an escape for nature-lovers and birdwatchers.
Two long-awaited community park projects debut downtown in July. Columbus Commons, a lush nine-acre greenspace in the heart of the city, includes a carousel, a seasonal cafe and colorful flowerbeds created by Franklin Park Conservatory. Down on the shores of the Scioto River, a riverside Promenade and the completely reworked Bicentennial Park will be part of the new Scioto Mile.
Sandwiched between Whitehall and Reynoldsburg on the east side, this sector of Columbus takes on a slightly rural flavor. Noe-Bixby Road, which wends along Big Walnut Creek on the western edge of this area, has been designated an Urban Scenic Byway. Reasonably priced homes are the norm, and buyers looking to renovate can find some great opportunities. Newer condos and developments with more of a suburban feel, located off Noe-Bixby and McNaughten roads between Livingston Avenue and Broad Street, cost more. Shoppers can head north to popular Easton Town Center, a retail and entertainment complex designed around a central fountain square. The airport also is just a short trip away.
Stationed directly south of downtown Columbus, German Village is a well-polished residential jewel, famous for its meticulously kept homes, charming restaurants and quaint shops. Settled by German immigrants in the 1800s, German Village fell into disrepair by the mid 1900s. Resolute restoration efforts turned the neighborhood into the largest privately funded district on the National Register of Historic Places. The rehabilitation of German Village turned the brick streets into coveted addresses, drawing young professionals and empty nesters.
Many houses, originally built in the 1800s, have been renovated and expanded, but still run smaller than traditional suburban housing, beginning at about 800 square feet and topping out at 5,000 square feet. The narrow lots often showcase professional landscaping and wrought-iron fencing. While the German Village Commission can be strict about renovations, new builds and exterior alterations, residents appreciate the community’s emphasis on maintaining the charm and old-fashioned character of the village.
An expansive chunk of real estate positioned west of Franklinton, the Hilltop has traditionally provided housing for Columbus’s blue-collar workers and middle-income white-collar residents. Now, the population covers the gamut from upper middle class to lower income and is subdivided into neighborhoods ranging from tidy Westgate, named one of the city’s top 10 neighborhoods by Columbus Monthly in 2007, to streets where nearly all the housing stock is dilapidated rentals. Many of the homes in the central Hilltop area, built in the same era as Clintonville and Grandview Heights, offer great woodwork, front porches, pleasant yards and sidewalks. The well-built homes begging for renovation are luring new buyers ready to remodel kitchens and bathrooms. Residential tax incentives can be utilized by homeowners in several sections of the Hilltop.
On the western side of the Hilltop, the 300,000-square-foot Hollywood Casino Columbus currently is under construction on a site formerly occupied by a defunct automotive plant. Slated to finish up in late 2012, the $400 million project also will feature a sports bar, an entertainment lounge and several restaurants.
A long swath of housing bordered by I-71 on the west and Westerville Road to the east, Linden is split into two sections. South Linden sits between Eighth and Hudson avenues; North Linden extends from Hudson to Cooke Road. Constructed in the post-WWII housing boom, the Linden neighborhoods feature smaller homes on decent-size lots. Over the past 30 years or so, parts of Linden have taken a downturn, but other portions, particularly to the north, remain good spots for those looking to rehab neglected properties that are priced to sell. Buyers interested in purchasing a Linden-area home may be eligible for tax abatements or community revitalization funds.
Near west side
Positioned just to the west of downtown, this area has seen depressed housing prices for years, but forces are at work to bring in new residents. Construction of the COSI science museum in 1999 and improvements to the Scioto riverfront polished up the eastern border of the sector, and the Franklinton Floodwall, finished in 2004, now protects these low-lying lands if the Olentangy or Scioto rivers overflow their banks during heavy rains.
Since construction of the floodwall, revitalization efforts in the historic Franklinton neighborhood have yielded numerous residential projects, a new firehouse and two new schools. Local leaders are working to promote Franklinton as a haven for artists and artsy types looking for affordable workspace and housing in a semi-urban setting. Some buyers can take advantage of tax incentives and community reinvestment programs.
After the opening of the popular Northland Mall in 1964, housing in this northeast portion of Columbus expanded quickly, producing several suburban-style developments. With the decline and eventual shuttering of the mall in 2002, the district has lost some of its luster. But the central zone of the Northland neighborhood, bordered by Morse Road, Rt. 161, I-71 and Karl Road, remains a solid community for families, with good schools and reasonably priced housing.
Economically, the area is showing improvement. The city has polished up the Morse Road corridor with landscaping, sidewalks and improved lighting. Menards, a big-box home improvement company, opened a new store this year on the former mall site. The property also is being repurposed through projects such as the Northland Performing Arts Center. Designed to house Vaud-Villities, a venerable local musical troupe, the arts center provides rehearsal, performance and meeting space for other groups as well.
With great prescience, the city of Columbus always has retained the ability to expand outward. This is most evident in the northwest side of the city. Despite having Columbus ZIP codes, the northwest sector qualifies as suburbia, mirroring the surrounding communities. Recent housing developments, older traditional neighborhoods, apartments and condominiums fill the nooks and crannies between suburban cities such as Dublin, Upper Arlington and Hilliard.
In many parts of northwest Columbus, the city and suburbs have mutual agreements allowing city residents to attend suburban schools. As a result, Columbusites can send their children to highly rated suburban schools while benefiting from the city’s lower housing prices and tax rates. Young families often choose starter homes in the northwest area, then later move into the suburbs. Young professionals and empty nesters also favor the northwest side for good prices, reasonable taxes and convenience.
Aside from scattered offerings from earlier eras, most housing in this area was built after the 1970s. Construction along Hayden Run Road north of Hilliard has transformed farm fields into a conglomeration of apartments, condos and small- to mid-size homes.
Northwest Columbus falls between Upper Arlington on the south and Worthington and Dublin to the north. Retail is strong here, with the popular Mall at Tuttle Crossing and concentrated clusters of stores along Bethel, Sawmill and Henderson roads.
Olde Towne East/Near east side
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wealthy Columbus businessmen built their elegant brick homes and Victorian confections in Olde Towne East, along the streets directly east of downtown. Once the well-to-do began to move out to the suburbs, the district declined and many mansions were sadly neglected or awkwardly chopped into rental apartments.
Rediscovered in the last decade by those willing to strip woodwork and tear down walls, Olde Towne East now houses a mixed population of younger couples and longtime lower-income residents. Buyers can purchase already renovated homes or search for their own fixer-upper. Tax incentive programs are available in many sections of Olde Towne East and the near east side.
The city is working to revitalize the NoBo area, located north of Broad Street and east of I-71, by encouraging both retail and residential growth. The historic King-Lincoln District serves as the centerpiece of the neighborhood. Once a hub of African-American life in Columbus, this stretch of Broad Street boasts the recently renovated Lincoln Theatre, an Egyptian Revival jewel of a landmark.
Traditionally a home for blue-collar workers, this area lies south of German Village and extends from Alum Creek to the Scioto River. Properties tend to be affordable and varied. The established neighborhoods and speedy commute to downtown workplaces and activities are drawing younger couples and families. Neighborhoods directly abutting German Village, such as Schumacher Place to the east and Merion Village to the south, are particularly intriguing to buyers looking for old brick and history at a lower price point. Certain sections of the south side qualify as neighborhood investment districts where buyers can take advantage of helpful government programs.
The University District lies between Clintonville to the north and the Short North Arts District to the south. With Ohio State University at its heart, the University District jumbles together students, homeowners and renters. Student housing dominates in the section between 17th and 11th avenues, but home buyers can bypass the streets lined in somewhat-shabby rentals to find houses dating back to Victorian times, as well as more recent builds, all at reasonable prices. OSU offers incentive programs to faculty interested in living in the University District.
South Campus Gateway, a colorful and architecturally innovative combination of apartments, office space, restaurants and retail, anchors the southern end of the University District. The Gateway Film Center, complete with its own cafe, lures in a diverse crowd with a mix of commercial, independent and vintage movies.
Victorian Village/Italian Village
As downtown Columbus grew larger in the late 1800s, residents began to build their homes on the farmlands just north of the city. The resulting neighborhoods come stocked with exceptional turn-of-the-century architecture—Victorian, Romanesque, Gothic, Italianate—situated on smallish lots along tree-lined streets. The villages fell into disrepair by midcentury, but were rediscovered by brave remodelers in the 1970s. Since then, Victorian Village, which lies west of High Street, has been widely revitalized. Italian Village, occupying the land east of High, has followed the same trend at a slower pace. Most of the area has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The villages attract a mix of young professionals, some families, empty nesters, university professors and renters. Homes range from grand Victorians to new condos to humble little clapboards. Both neighborhoods have architectural commissions that must approve any significant exterior alterations.
Victorian Village and Italian Village straddle the portion of High Street designated as the Short North Arts District. Loaded with independent galleries, funky boutiques, bars and some of the city’s best restaurants, the Short North is within walking distance for most village residents. Goodale Park, a charming 32-acre park with large trees, a pond and a gazebo, provides greenspace.
The Westland area officially begins on the west side of the I-270 outerbelt and is bordered by the Conrail tracks to the north and Grove City Road to the south. Significant development began here in the 1950s, and the current population incorporates both longtime residents and new arrivals, including a significant immigrant population. Housing is affordable, retail is plentiful and the outerbelt provides quick connections to most of Columbus.
Hopes are running high that the nearby Hollywood Casino Columbus, opening in late 2012, will foster economic opportunities, particularly for businesses along the West Broad Street corridor.
Tree-lined streets, lovely homes, excellent schools and an affluent, stable population characterize this east-side suburb. The upscale area beguiles professionals and white-collar families, who tend to stay for years—often long enough to see their children grow up and buy homes in the neighborhood. A fine selection of distinctive older homes is available in Bexley, from cozy little houses to mansions, in addition to new builds. Many houses have been renovated or expanded. Smaller homes on the city’s edges tend to be more affordable than the large beauties in central Bexley.
East Main Street, the major retail corridor in Bexley, has been gradually improved over the years, most recently with the addition of the Bexley Gateway, which brought additional retail, restaurants and luxury condominiums. Commuters have a quick trip to downtown Columbus via I-70, Main Street or Broad Street.
Canal Winchester once bustled with commerce from the Ohio and Erie Canal, which ran right through town in the mid 1800s. After the heyday of the canal system, this quiet village southeast of Columbus settled down until Central Ohioans rediscovered it about a decade ago. New developments provided housing for residents looking to find affordable properties with a rural flavor, without giving up access to the amenities of a city. Those who prefer historic homes can find buildings in the village dating back to the 1800s.
Downtown Canal Winchester hosts a farm market from June through October, as well as summer concerts, the Blues & Ribfest and the Labor Day Festival.
Once the farms and woodlands of far northwest Central Ohio, Dublin now is filled with upscale developments popular with white-collar families. Dublin attracts buyers with a large selection of newer homes, great schools, bike paths and the wonderful Dublin Community Recreation Center.
In 2010, the picturesque downtown added BriHi Square, a 22,000-square-foot development featuring retail, offices, restaurants and public space, all wrapped up in Dublin-friendly architecture. In August, the annual Dublin Irish Festival draws more than 500 performers and 100,000 revelers to the city for a three-day celebration of everything Irish.
Dublin’s Muirfield Village Golf Club, founded by Columbus native Jack Nicklaus, hosts the nationally televised Memorial Tournament every June. The golf club also serves as the centerpiece of Muirfield Village, the huge housing development that first lured buyers out to Dublin.
Residents easily can hop onto I-270 and shop at Tuttle Crossing mall and the retail big boxes lining Rt. 161 and Sawmill Road.
Gahanna has gone from being a little stop on the outerbelt to a suburb with convenient routes to downtown Columbus and the airport, as well as great shopping at Easton Town Center. The downtown area, dubbed Olde Gahanna, has seen growth thanks to the Creekside project, a series of handsome buildings combining retail, restaurants, condos, offices and community gathering space, plus a public park along scenic Big Walnut Creek. Gahanna holds numerous festivals throughout the year, including the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival and Herb Day. In 2007, Money magazine included Gahanna on its list of “100 Best Places to Live.”
Gahanna has a range of affordable suburban housing available, largely constructed within the past 30 years. Those looking to spend more can find pricier, executive-style houses in Jefferson Township.
Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff
These adjacent suburbs tucked between the northwest edge of downtown Columbus and the southern border of Upper Arlington feel like small towns. Attractive older homes, good schools and a pleasing stretch of retail along Grandview Avenue—complete with upscale restaurants, bars, coffeehouses and specialty shops—have made Grandview and Marble Cliff popular with buyers.
Since this zone is landlocked, nearly all housing construction ended by the 1980s; more than half the housing stock is pre-WWII. Homes range from cute pastel-colored clapboards with cement stoops to million-dollar-plus rambling homes along the southern edge of Grandview. Due to low turnover and high popularity, buyers will find higher prices in these neighborhoods than they might pay for similar homes in other suburbs.
The main new builds are condos, including projects in downtown Grandview and in Marble Cliff at upper-crust Prescott Place, positioned along a ravine. Grandview Yard, a new 90-acre, $500 million mixed-use development on the site of a former warehouse, continues to add more residential, retail and office options.
Southwest of Columbus, tucked into the intersection of I-270 and the southern leg of I-71, Grove City and Urbancrest have seen strong growth over the past few years. Despite being less than 15 minutes from downtown Columbus, the area retains a slow-paced, small-town feel and offers a selection of reasonably priced homes, both new and old. The development surrounding Pinnacle Golf Club has brought high-end housing to the area. Downtown Grove City, prettily renovated with lots of brick and gas-lit streetlamps, and the expansive parks system also lure buyers. The city’s Big Splash family aquatic facility keeps residents cool with water slides, interactive toys and two award-winning aquatic climbing walls.
With histories dating back to the days of the Ohio and Erie Canal, these two villages mix small-town milieus with nearby urban amenities. Situated about 15 minutes southeast of Columbus, with accessible connections to I-270 and Rt. 33, the Groveport and Obetz suburbs have seen strong growth. The population is largely blue-collar and the home prices remain reasonable. The area contains loads of public parkland, highlighted by Heritage Park, home of the 190-year-old Groveport Log House. The village runs its own golf course, The Links at Groveport, as well as a $12 million recreation center and an outdoor water park.
Once a small farming community in the northwest sector, Hilliard has seen huge growth in the past 15 years as developers transformed farmland into housing and retail space. The strong schools, abundant shopping options and well-priced newer housing brought in both blue- and white-collar families. Affordable midcentury housing can be found near the town’s center, and homes in more recent developments range from starter-house affordable to golf-course-lot luxurious. Hilliard recently spiffed up its vintage-flavored downtown with new sidewalks, decorative street arches and landscaping. In 2008, the city also greatly expanded its city pool facilities, adding features such as two 30-foot-tall water slides and a lazy river.
Hidden away in the Northland area, the tiny village of Minerva Park measures only half a square mile and is surrounded by Columbus. A high percentage of the homes were built in the 1950s, with construction gradually tapering off since then. Residents of Minerva Park enjoy a strong sense of community, tree-lined streets and being part of the Westerville school system.
New Albany/Plain Township
Formerly a farming community in northeast Franklin County, New Albany underwent a major metamorphosis in the 1990s. Billionaire Les Wexner, founder and CEO of Limited Brands, oversaw the transformation of sleepy New Albany into an upscale suburb full of classic Georgian homes fashioned from red brick and white columns. Elegant white fencing edges the expansive green fields and the New Albany Country Club sets the tone for the community. The top-notch schools boast state-of-the-art facilities, and the lovely McCoy Community Center for the Arts hosts lectures, concerts, dance and theater and serves as home base for a number of community groups. Not surprisingly, housing in this tony community is among the priciest in Central Ohio.
This suburb can trace its roots back to a tiny town in the early 1800s, but growth didn’t really begin until the 1970s, when Pickerington beckoned buyers looking for a pleasant countrylike setting to build a new home. Most of Pickerington actually resides in Fairfield County, which borders Franklin County southeast of Columbus. Development has continued steadily, giving Pickerington a solid range of housing stock, from entry-level to executive, with a slightly higher price point than nearby Reynoldsburg. Heavy commuter traffic was an issue in the past, but improvements seem to have eased the difficulties.
Powell/southern Delaware County
This suburb, just past the northern border of Franklin County, has seen tremendous growth in the past decade. Southern Delaware County, which encompasses Powell, Lewis Center and several townships, was considered a rural region until recently and still has plenty of land open for development. It attracts buyers looking for newer homes, sizable lots and a good school system.
For shopping, residents can head a short distance east to Polaris Fashion Place, a huge mixed-use retail development, or south to the busy Sawmill commercial district. Downtown Powell, long regarded as a mini-mecca for antique hunters, retains its old-timey flavor, with a seasonal farmers’ market and historic little homes converted into quaint shops.
A few minutes to the west, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium draws big crowds with world-class animal exhibits such as the recently added Polar Frontier, where polar bears romp in an Arctic setting. The zoo complex also includes a popular water park called Zoombezi Bay and the Safari Golf Course.
Traffic congestion during rush hour irritates local commuters, but the area allows convenient ingress via I-270, I-71 and Rt. 315 during nonpeak times.
Reynoldsburg lies directly east of Columbus along Rt. 40, just beyond the I-270 outerbelt. Residents settle here for the good schools, reasonable taxes and housing that encompasses subdivisions from the 1980s and newer developments established within the past 15 years. The east-side enclave with a small-town atmosphere draws blue-collar and middle-class residents. The city hosts the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival every September, celebrating the legacy of Alexander Livingston, the 19th-century Reynoldsburg resident who tamed the wild tomato.
Home to some of the most beautiful old houses in Central Ohio, Upper Arlington fits into the near northwest zone between Rt. 33 and Ohio State University. Founded in the early 1900s, Upper Arlington has excellent schools, a stable, upper-middle-class population and relatively expensive housing. Homes representing every architectural style of the 20th century line the winding, shaded streets, from simple 1940s bungalows to golf-course-view mansions. Like Grandview Heights, Upper Arlington is landlocked, which places a premium on the existing real estate. Retail in Upper Arlington pops up in scattered clusters throughout the suburb, keeping commercialism to a minimum. Currently, Upper Arlington’s largest shopping zone, Kingsdale Center, is undergoing a major transformation that incorporates the Market District, a huge Giant Eagle grocery store with an on-site restaurant.
Westerville/Blendon & Genoa townships
Westerville sits on the northeast curve of I-270, extending from I-71 to the banks of Hoover Reservoir. From there, it heads north into Genoa Township. Blendon Township wraps around Westerville to the east and south.
Residents gravitate to Westerville for the great city services, schools, park system and local community. In 2009, Westerville earned slot No. 15 on Money magazine’s list of “100 Best Places to Live.” Historic houses, some dating back to the early 1900s, cluster around the Uptown area. Most of the suburban-style development took place between the 1960s and the end of the ’90s. Recent construction has moved northward, up into Genoa Township. The starter home, second home and luxury home markets all coexist in the Westerville area.
Conveniently situated between Central Ohio’s newest retail outposts, Polaris and Easton, Westerville has its own lovingly preserved downtown full of antique shops, specialty retail and restaurants. Otterbein University, a small private institution known for its Department of Theatre and Dance, regularly presents musicals and plays. Nearby Hoover Reservoir has more than 4,700 acres of beach, woods and water and offers swimming, fishing and boating.
Westerville has a colorful history as the headquarters of the Anti-Saloon movement in the early 1900s. Uptown Westerville kept up the tradition until 2006, remaining dry for more than 100 years.
Largely constructed during the post-WWII housing boom, Whitehall occupies the land east of Bexley and south of Port Columbus International Airport. Homes here are affordable and well-made, which appeals to first-time buyers and empty nesters.
After a downturn several decades ago, Whitehall has shined up its retail areas, as well as the Town & Country shopping center, widely believed to be the first mall in the country. Whitehall’s improved image has lured more homeowners to the area.
On the north side, bumped up against the outerbelt, Worthington has a long history: Its first settlers arrived in 1803, the same year Ohio became a state. Downtown Worthington still exudes a colonial atmosphere, with a Village Green, several old churches and a collection of attractive stores and eating establishments including the elegant Worthington Inn, a restaurant and former hotel dating back to the mid 1800s. A popular farmers’ market is available in both summer and winter. The eclectic McConnell Arts Center debuted in 2009 with a dance studio, digital imaging studio, gallery and theater.
Worthington’s population swelled between 1950 and 1970, accounting for much of the home construction, which incorporates small ranches, cozy Cape Cods, bigger houses and the unique Rush Creek Village subdivision, modeled on Frank Lloyd Wright’s design principles. The schools are highly rated and housing here tends to be more expensive than in outlying suburbs, though less pricey than in Upper Arlington or Bexley.