A few years back, when Paul Bonneville wanted to buy a duplex in the Campus area, he began to scour the web for information about local neighborhoods: trend stories, population stats, neighborhood guidelines, residential data.
Then the Downtown condo boom started, and people were desperate for the same info Bonneville had started to collect about locations around Columbus. When he removed the password from his treasure trove of links -- essentially a blog before blogs had a name -- traffic skyrocketed.
Columbus RetroMetro was born.
The site functions as a one-stop shop for urban news and neighborhood resources, and it's made Bonneville an important figure in the ongoing discussion about how to make Columbus great.
From his apartment in Italian Village, he spoke more about what it takes to do so.
It seems your site was a lot more fun to run when the condo craze was in full swing. Has excitement died off a bit?
In your opinion, what happened to the Downtown condo boom?
Arena District was one of the first places to have tons of units. There were ConneXtions and a couple other buildings that were done prior to [that], but Arena District launched, and they raised their prices, like, three times within six months. They were having people coming in and buying units and had a huge interest, because it's the Arena District. It's all brick. You've got the neighborhood. It's completed. You can walk out your door, and you've got little parks. It sold very, very well.
When the condo craze was just kicking in full gear, a lot of other developers watched those price increases and did the same thing. Everybody inflated their prices, matching what happened in the Arena District. Again, this is just my theory. But Arena District's price increases were real. They sold. They're not sitting there with a building that's empty, or taking a couple years to sell it. There was no market determined Downtown.
You've talked highly about Independents' Day, an upcoming art and music festival hosted by local artists group Couchfire Collective. What makes that event so good for Columbus?
To me, Independents' Day is not just about the arts and all that. It's an opportunity to nurture that spirit of, "Hey, come do it yourself. Don't wait for the city." This isn't putting the city down. It's saying, "Stop thinking that the city is going to make Columbus a great place."
[The city] will support any activity that people want to come up with, and they always have. If you step forward to do things, then the city is more than willing to help. I think there's a huge prevalent attitude in Columbus that the city or such-and-such agency is supposed to be responsible for the success of Columbus. And that's a complete fallacy. [Couchfire Collective] is doing it. They're not talking. They're not asking.
What's the future of RetroMetro?
My version of where I want to see RetroMetro go is helping to establish an information base. What are the organizations? What are the neighborhoods? Who's involved with what? Who's who? Not from a social standpoint, but from a business standpoint.
So if I was a business, and I was looking at Columbus, I would want Columbus RetroMetro to serve as a source. Hey, what neighborhoods are economically doing really well? Where are businesses moving into Columbus or around Columbus? What new initiatives or new building projects or infrastructure upgrades are going on in what part of the city? It'd be like a chamber of commerce tool where you're able to look at data accurately as opposed to just do all these separate reports.