Of all the enlightening information in Dennis Read's "Downtown right now (July 2010 issue)," which details the various major projects in the center city, one fact pops out at me. Citing a source, he writes that five years ago parking lots occupied 48 percent of downtown. It's astonishing to think that the sole purpose of nearly half of the most significant real estate in the region was to provide space for hunks of metal and plastic on four wheels. But the story goes on to say the number of parking lots today have been cut in half. An encouraging sign.
The piece also reminded me it was time for my periodic walk along High Street to assess the state of downtown. My first 2.6-mile roundtrip journey in 2001 resulted in an open letter to Mayor Mike Coleman on how to improve the vitally important stretch of High Street from the Franklin County Courthouse to Goodale Street. At the time, I found plenty to complain about. When I repeated the stroll in 2006, things had gotten (somewhat) better.
So on a hot June afternoon, I set out on another hike. While there are still issues, I could sense a more dynamic feel, a certain vibrancy emerging-particularly near the gleaming new Franklin County Courthouse. Here's an update on some of the suggestions I had for the mayor nine years ago.
Replace the building on the northeast corner of Broad and High: Check this off the list. The 8 on the Square project (housing, retail, electronic signage, an NBC news studio, outdoor seating for the food joints) finally spruces up the most valuable piece of real estate in the city.
Murals and public art: Downtown continues to get more visually interesting (see 8 on the Square, for example), although it can be argued that too much electronic eye candy could turn out to be, well, too much. That big blank wall of the City Center parking garage still begs for a mural. And there continues to be a lack of public art. Turn loose those CCAD and OSU students.
A great jazz club (just because): Oh, well.
Promotion: In 2001, I asked for banners bragging about COSI, the Short North, CCAD, German Village, Ohio State, the zoo, the art museum and the Wexner Center, among others, to let folks know about the cool things in the city. And why not alert people to the fact there's a river a couple blocks away, as well as put up information plaques about our history? Who wouldn't want to know the site of the last public hanging? (Near Mound and Front streets in 1844.)
Unfortunately, not enough of that is happening (although I do like the addition of directional signs and maps of downtown districts). And here's a point about the banners promoting events: They're a good thing, except when they're outdated. Multiple banners were touting the Big Ten conference baseball tournament-about two weeks after the fact.
Pretty places: I'm impressed with the beautification of the strip, from the maturing trees and bushes to an array of flowers in large pots on the sidewalk and perched on light posts. The Nationwide complex, of course, continues to dazzle with its well maintained green spaces.
Raze City Center and start over: Yes, yes, yes, at long last, yes.
As you may have noticed, June's Columbus Monthly had a rectangular backbone, or perfect binding, as opposed to our usual saddle-stitch binding, to fancy up the anniversary issue. It also marked the beginning of a new era, if you will. The July issue and beyond will be perfect bound, which we believe will increase the publication's visual appeal.
Now you can rest more easily at night.