Where all the blights are light

Jack Baruth here is talking about Columbus, Ohio, but some of this could apply to any capital of a state beginning with O:

These people have used the force and power that comes with money to have their dirty work done for them. Via the proxies of developers and city officials, they’ve eminent-domained hundreds of acres and forcibly displaced the people who lived there. They’ve torn down hundreds of homes and businesses to re-create the “Short North” in the image of Williamsburg. (Brooklyn, of course.) They’ve paid for this dirty work to be done and they are unhappy when it’s not done to their complete satisfaction. They want their Disney World, a “downtown” filled exclusively with high-net-worth individuals and a fascinating variety of shopping opportunities staffed by people who vanish into the ether when their shifts finish, and nothing less than perfection is acceptable.

It’s easy to hate them, easy to despise the unthinking, callous way in which they assume that the mere fact of their willingness to pay $500 a square foot for downtown condo space should remove all barriers, human or otherwise, to the SoHo lifestyle. But the real problem is that there aren’t enough of them and that they aren’t parents. The existence of a large group of successful young parents in downtown Columbus would improve everything from the streets to the schools, and those improvements would be shared with the people who live there now.

Unfortunately for that plan, most people with any sense, and certainly most people with any combination of sense and children, wouldn’t move into downtown Columbus if the housing were free. You get all the inconvenience of living in Manhattan with none of the benefits. You can’t park your car anywhere but there’s also no grocery to which you can walk. It’s noisy at night but there’s not a single jazz or blues club open. Most of the shops close at seven or before.

In some regards, we’re doing better: most new downtown housing is $300 a square foot or less, there’s something of a club scene, and there’s the John Rex School. The Native Roots Market in Deep Deuce is smallish as grocery stores go, but it’s close by, and it’s open most nights until 10 pm.


  1. McGehee »

    9 May 2015 · 2:27 pm

    I might be willing to live two or three blocks from a main street in a town of fewer than 25,000 — if the house is big enough and the property has enough privacy from neighbors and the street. Which pretty much rules out any house within two or three blocks of pretty much any town of 200 or more.

    So, I live out of town.

  2. McGehee »

    9 May 2015 · 2:28 pm

    I’ll assume readers here are intelligent enough to read the missing words — “…Main Street in…” — into the correct place in the last sentence of the first paragraph.

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