Saturday, July 05, 2008

Rust Belt Columbus

I was surprised to read that downtown Columbus is struggling. But the thriving areas of the city are peripheral to the center. Considering the region, Columbus is economically healthy:

As 26-year-old Wes Meermans enjoyed a beer after work at a watering hole in downtown’s Historic North Market District, he ruminated on the city he adopted as home four years ago.

“It’s almost like the San Francisco of the Midwest,” said the Internet marketing executive. “It’s the most young, progressive city in Ohio, with a lot of professional opportunities.”

Such sentiments are commonplace in the young, hip neighborhoods like Short North and German Village that surround downtown Columbus.

A 9-to-5 downtown is commonplace. Pittsburgh is trying to address the same issue. I think Pittsburgh's Cultural District indicates that the business core can offer a viable nightlife. Columbus should be able to figure out how to spark some after-hours activity. My guess is that the setback is temporary.

I see Columbus as the third leg of an innovation triangle that also includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Transportation between the three cities should be improved and the inter-urban migration of talent is a strength. High gas prices will help each city's downtown and could portend a revival that grabs global attention.

1 comment:

John Morris said...

I think your comment about the downtown lacks perspective. First of all the area, of over 2 square miles is very large, one of the largest downtown areas in the country so reviving all of it will take a long time.

Secondly, I don't think it's an area that has had too much life in a long time and never had many residents. (I nead to check these facts)so it in no way should be suprising that it's an uphill battle.

My guess is that one of the best solutions, irnically would be for the state to empty out of some of it's offices downtown and sprinkle them at several points in the city or at least the downtown.

Large single purpose uses of land alost always create dead space and imbalances in activity at different times of day--in this case too much during the 9-5 hours and too little at other times. These imbalances also help create large requirements for parking for these peak hours which no doubt helps compund the issue.

Of all the activities sure to create dead space, a half mile or more of government office super blocks might be the best. No offence, but some of these people are not the most exiting in the world.

Perhaps one of the best examples of the problems caused by imbalances of use would be Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center.

I think when fully occupied, the two Trade Center Towers held something like 80,000 workers so when they fell, people expected a huge negative impact on Lower Manhattan. But almost the exact opposite happened because what the Trade Center contributed to the area was just more peak hour office workers in an area with too many of them.

In the period since, a large chunk of Wall Street has moved to Midtown and the West Side. This area has then been filled in by thousands of codo units which have brought 24 hour life to the area and balanced out the still large office crowd.

Just basic Jane Jacobs thinking here.