Home & Garden editor Sherry Beck Paprocki, a Downtown resident, offers up some tips from personal experience.
Real estate is booming in Downtown Columbus and the surrounding neighborhoods of German, Italian and Victorian villages. Conversation is abuzz among suburbanites about the lure of the city—where spectacular restaurants, classy cocktail lounges and awesome breweries beckon under the glistening lights.
With all of this in mind, I offer up some personal experience. After being a Downtown resident for nearly two years and writing about some of the city's best living spaces over the last 25 years, below is a list of 16 good and bad (and ugly) things that you'll face if you, too, decide to take the urban-living leap.
1. The more you pay, the better your view. That means that a cheap loft may have a view of the brick building right next door. When you're 20, that view may not bother you, but if you're 50 and moving in from a lush suburb, that likely won't be the view of your choice.
2. You'll need to simplify your stuff. In the heart of the city, you'll pay handsomely for limited square footage. Most condominiums in areas where you want to live will start around $300,000 (such as the Waterford on River South for less than 1,200 square feet) and escalate to over $2 million for penthouses at the LeVeque or North Bank that might get as large as 2,600 square feet. If you just can't ditch all of your things, look for storage facilities in one of your favorite 'burbs. This will give you a good excuse to get out of town on occasion.
3. Your residential options are limited. If you drive through Downtown, it may seem like you have a lot of condominium choices. But if you plan to buy a condo, as opposed to rent an apartment, then you're probably going to land in a high-rise on River South or River North, in the rare few condos of the LeVeque Tower, in the Neighborhood Launch townhomes near the Columbus College of Art and Design, at townhouses in the Arena District or in a few other miscellaneous and sundry condominiums scattered throughout the city.
4. If you're moving from an outlying suburb, home prices in Short North neighborhoods and German Village can be staggering given their square footage. There's a cost associated with a historic neighborhood's charm. Also, consider the following: Does your current vehicle fit into an old German Village garage? Will the home's windows open or have they been painted permanently closed during a recent renovation? How much yard space will you have? (These are concerns that have been reported to us by homeowners in those areas.)
5. Property taxes are low when compared to the suburbs. But if you're in a condo, you'll pay a monthly homeowners association fee in addition to your mortgage (if, in fact, you have a mortgage). In locations we've checked, HOA fees can run from about $350 per month to more than $1,000, depending on the size of your condo. Always ask your Realtor what is covered with the HOA fee. Is there a workout facility? Is there a swimming pool? Is it just the basics, such as trash pickup and water?
6. Major perk: you'll be home long before your suburban friends (assuming you work Downtown). Rush-hour traffic heading out of Downtown on most weekdays intensifies, beginning at 3:30 p.m., causing gridlock on surrounding highways for the next three hours. You, though, will get home in about 10 minutes and be at happy hour before the suburbanites hit I-270. (Note: Happy hours Downtown can serve as half-price dinners, too. One of my favorites is happy hour at M, where sushi, sliders and a limited selection of beer and wine are all half price, 5-7 p.m. nightly.)
7. Kitchens are not as relevant in the city. Yes, we still love a nice, big kitchen with sparkling new appliances. But you'll cook less because there are so many great food options within five minutes of your home, no matter where you live Downtown.
8. Nightlife is abundant. Moving from a sleepy suburb? Rest up because you can go to many places in town where drinks and merriment will be underway until well past midnight. Among favorites: cocktails at Mouton, shows at Shadowbox, jazz at Notes, dinner at Marcella's or Guild House followed by a Short North pub tour, late-night snacks and wine at Lindey's or The Keep in Hotel LeVeque, dinner in DeNovo's backroom overlooking Columbus Commons and more.
9. You'll want to wake up early on weekends. You'll practically have the city to yourself because offices are empty and the younger set is still asleep. You can easily enjoy a bike ride or a jog on paths along the river. One of our favorite activities: grab a bike at Bicentennial Park's rental rack and cruise along the river into the Arena District or Short North for brunch.
10. Visit Franklinton. Hang out with the creatives at the new pubs and art openings there. If you're a Columbus old-timer, think Short North back in the 1980s and you'll get Franklinton today. It's just over the river, behind COSI.
11. Festivals and concerts abound. They occur nearly every weekend in the summer, and some weekdays, too, so schedule them on your calendar and figure out which ones you must attend and which ones you would like to avoid. Being within walking distance is a big bonus. On the downside, Downtown traffic intensifies on festival weekends and blocked roads may affect your ability to easily come and go from your home.
12. You won't always walk to work. Columbus is the 14th largest city in the country and it is not immune to crime. Be sure your parking accommodations are convenient and preferably in a gated and locked area. Car break-ins and other minor incidents regularly occur. Any number of factors, including the weather, your wardrobe, your shoes, your schedule, as well as the crime and homeless challenges of living Downtown, will affect your feelings on walking to the office. Always be aware and stay safe.
13. Plenty of people are homeless. Decide how you will support Columbus' homeless population because you'll have an unquenchable desire to do so. You likely will be asked daily for money by someone standing on a street corner.
14. Tips on pets. Because I don't own a pet, this clearly isn't my area of expertise. But be aware that most Downtown condos are going to have some restrictions regarding your pets. There may be size or breed restrictions, especially for dogs. Pet interviews are not unheard of when it comes to moving into condominiums, so check out your HOA rules in advance to see if you need to prep your dog or cat for his big interview day. Living with pets in high-rises means additional rules may apply. There may be special doors that you'll need to use to access a lawn. There may be scant lawn space available for your pet, requiring you to walk to the nearest park several times a day. And, because your neighbors are closer, you may feel the need to apologize more often for your pet's faux pas.
15. You can get the hot ticket. Because you live Downtown, you can nab discount tickets to hear Nora Jones play at the Ohio Theatre on a whim. Or, you can see the Wailers playing at a late-night show in the Arena District. And the Clippers and Blue Jackets play just a few steps away. These are the times when you know that you've made the right choice to live Downtown.
16. Know how to party. City neighbors are much closer, so keep in mind that parties are quieter than they were in college, with fewer people and better wine. Unless you buy a penthouse, chances are you won't be throwing huge bashes for all of your suburban friends to attend Red, White and Boom. (Parking is a challenge during the city's busiest night, so any guests may need to arrive earlier and stay later, perhaps even overnight.) Every Downtown residential facility will have quirky rules and responsibilities for its residents, but if you follow them, your neighbors will stay happy with you. The fact that you will be surrounded by interesting restaurants makes it even more tempting to take the party on the road, use a restaurant's valet service and send your friends safely back to the suburbs with the glow of the city lights burning brightly in their rearview mirrors.