Tag Archives: Columbus

Columbus Sprawls Through Malls

Polaris Mall in suburban Columbus. Image: Xing Columbus

This article originally appeared on Streetsblog.

Columbus, Ohio, is a retail Mecca. The town is home to the corporate headquarters of Limited Brands, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret. So it’s no surprise that malls figure prominently in the local economy. For decades they have guided development further and further from the core of the city.

Decades ago Columbus was served by a downtown mall — City Center — and malls in its west, north and east neighborhoods: Northland, Westland and Eastland. But in the ’90s, developers built three new malls around the city’s outerbelt. Tuttle Crossing, Polaris Mall and Easton were truly suburban malls, built in newer, car-centric suburbs.

When the new malls went up, the old malls foundered. Columbus recently tore down its City Center mall and is replacing it with a $25 million park. Northland was razed years ago as well. Wikipedia calls Westland a “dead mall that is still open to the public.” It hosts gun shows on a regular basis.

Columbus' City Center Mall, mid-demolition (with a weird car in front of it). Photo: That Car, Flickr

To make matters worse, when each of these malls closed, they brought their neighborhoods down with them. The streets that once served Northland have become a center for prostitution. In 2009, the Associated Press reported that the neighborhood surrounding Westland mall was one of the country’s emptiest. Only Eastland ducked the trend by orienting itself toward bargain stores.

Naturally, what the Columbus area needs now is more malls. And Network blog Xing Columbus reports that officials in exurban Delaware County are stepping up with plans for a new interchange on I-71 to serve a retail center that has been characterized as “a more-diverse Polaris.” The Columbus Dispatch is dutifully repeating claims that “the local economy could reap $965 million.”

John Wirtz at Xing Columbus had this to say:

A “more diverse Polaris.” That’s how the Director of Economic Development in Delaware County envisions the land development resulting from a new interchange either north of or south of 36/37 in Delaware County. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I’m imagining another shopping mall, huge offices, and big box retail separated by wide, high-speed roads with no sidewalks, now with a token residential component to be “more diverse.”

Does anyone actually think that this is an efficient way to organize our built environment?

The truth is this development won’t create almost a billion dollars in new economic activity. Some older mall or retail center will be closed: maybe struggling Polaris. The new interchange will simply transfer commerce further from municipal boundaries onto undeveloped farmland.

Not only will taxpayers be asked to foot the cost of expanding I-71, they will be asked to clean up the wreckage left behind, the way they have with a $25 million commitment at City Center and millions more for demolition and redevelopment at the Northland site.

What will taxpayers have to show for their investment in a new retail center for Delaware County? Columbus will have a larger carbon footprint. There will be less farmland. The central city will be weaker. More people will be utterly dependent on cars. Oh, and a few developers will have made a lot of money.

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Filed under Featured, sprawl

Fed Research Shows Positive Trend for Pittsburgh

This post was written by contributor Lewis Lehe. -KG

Stephan Whitaker, a research economist at the Cleveland Fed, has noticed two salubrious trends in RustBelt demographics:

1) between 2000 and 2008, college graduates rose sharply as a share of the work-force in several urban areas

2) in the future, the graduate share will keep rising as older, less-educated workers retire

This news is good taken at face value, because research by Ed Glaeser and other urban economists suggests cities thrive as idea-generating centers. When educated people interact face-to-face, they breed businesses and insights.

Educational Attainment of Working-age Adults in Fourth District Metro Areas

Working-age adults (2008) Degree share 2000 (percent) Degree share 2008 (percent) Change (percent)
Erie 151,718 22.5 28.2 5.6
Akron 386,990 26.1 31.6 5.4
Pittsburgh 1,235,251 28.1 32.7 4.6
Columbus 896,440 32.3 36.9 4.5
Lexington-Fayette 161,486 37.1 41.5 4.4
Mansfield 67,839 13.1 17.4 4.3
Youngstown-Warren 306,892 17.5 21.7 4.2
Cleveland 1,223,369 26.0 29.2 3.2
Cincinnati 863,150 28.6 31.7 3.1
United States 167,282,883 26.5 29.6 3.1
Canton 226,427 19.1 20.8 1.8
Lima 80,257 14.9 16.6 1.7
Hamilton-Middleton 195,416 25.9 27.4 1.5
Dayton-Springfield 508,775 24.4 25.8 1.3
Toledoa 419,227 21.6 22.9 1.3

Things I thought were interesting

Whitaker finds that Pittsburgh stands out in both trends, because we are gaining lots of graduates (mainly PA locals and international immigrants) and because our older workers are very uneducated—probably because they grew up in a city with steel mills. He speculates: “If the highly educated cohorts in Pittsburgh continue to phase in, the city will eventually have a workforce like a university town rather than a former industrial center.”

I also did my own comparison and found that the number of college-grad immigrants Pittsburgh gained exceeds the entire population of Bloomfield. I think this is a good thought comparison because Bloomfield itself is split between young college grads and old people. Here is a picture I took in Bloomfield that captures the tension:

These trends indicate Pittsburgh will probably become a better place for people like me to live. More college graduates will produce wider cultural variety, more startups, and less-corrupt politicians.  I’m excited about that, but I believe there’s another side to this coin: Pittsburgh’s graduate share will rise in part because it is not a good place for working-class men and women to move. It’s not necessarily a bad thing when you take the whole universe into account, though. After all, in order for some places to be good at attracting working class men and women, other places have to be good at losing them (or at least not gaining them). But it’s worth keeping in mind.

In contrast, I thought this was worth highlighting: “Columbus and Cincinnati both experienced large increases in their populations of unskilled immigrants. In Columbus, the nondegreed immigrant adult population increased from just under 30,000 to over 46,000, and the equivalent population in Cincinnati increased from 19,700 to 29,600.”

Since unskilled immigrants are the working class of the working class, I say hats off to Columbus and Cincinnati for providing an attractive place for these families to live. Doubly so for Columbus as it is also a highly-educated city.

-Lewis Lehe

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Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Education, Headline, regionalism

Mapping Race and Ethnicity

How segregated is your city?

You can see at a glance thanks to a project by developed by Bill Rankin, focusing on the city of Chicago. His idea was expanded to 40 US cities by Eric Fisher and posted on Flickr.

Using U.S. Census data from 2000, he created a map where one dot equals 25 people. The dots are then color-coded based on race: White is pink; Black is blue; Hispanic is orange, and Asian is green.

Let’s just have a look see.

Chicago

Chicago

Columbus

Columbus

Get a load of Detroit. Sheesh.

Get a load of Detroit. Sheesh.

-AS

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Filed under Headline, Race Relations, Real Estate, sprawl

Columbus Updates Parking Code for Bikes

The city of Columbus has overhauled legislation on parking at new developments, seeking to limit parking spaces and expand amenities for cyclists, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

askjack

Here’s a rundown of the new requirements:

– Every type of building — bowling alleys, churches, shopping centers, restaurants, office buildings, etc. — must provide a minimum of two bike-parking spaces.

– Bigger places must provide an extra bike parking spot for every 20 car-parking spaces, up to a maximum of 20 bike spaces.

– Bike racks must be anchored to the ground and support a bicycle upright in two places.

– The rules apply for new developments or when a building’s use changes (if a restaurant becomes a retail store, for example).

Columbus: Midwestern trendsetter?

-AS

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Filed under Featured, the environment, Urban Planning

Guest Editorial: The Stigma of the Small City

I have recently returned to Cleveland after several years in the “Capitol of the Midwest,” Chicago. Chicago is filled with Midwesterners from all corners, and those who have committed to living there have a mixture of disdain, pity, and guilty longing for the places they left behind. The opinion they expressed was that leaving Chicago for a smaller Midwestern city would stifle career ambitions and deprive one of big city amenities. All they saw outside Chicagoland was corn fields and closed factories. In a discussion of urban development, one economist (originally from upstate NY) asserted, “Detroit and Cleveland no longer have an economic reason for being.” When I told people in Chicago that I planned to return to Cleveland, most looked dejected and some said, “I’m sorry.”

Having spent a year now in Cleveland, I realize that it is not a small city with nothing going on. It is truly a major city with sufficient scale for most things you find in major cities. We have finance and legal industries. We have designers and publishers. We have bicycle messengers. We have at least a half dozen companies that do nothing but walk dogs for busy professionals. We have a sand volley ball league, a dozen ski clubs, and thirty-some yoga studios. We have immigrants from all over the world in our universities and running ethnic groceries. We have commuter trains, valets, and loft condos with concierges. Life in Cleveland is much more like life in Chicago than people there, here, or elsewhere recognize. Is our perception about smaller cities also wrong?

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Photo by David Richardson via Flickr.

Just as Chicago collects people from Detroit, Minneapolis, and Columbus, I have found that Cleveland has no small number of people who grew up in Youngstown, Lima, and Wooster. From time to time, I find myself in smaller cities or reading blogs about them – Erie, Jamestown, Flint, etc. I start to wonder about these places as the people in Chicago wonder about Cleveland. How can they have an economic future? Who would move there? If I were a young, educated person, how could I justify staying there? Would I have returned to Flint if that’s where I grew up? If so, who would I work for? Who would my spouse work for? What if I had to change jobs mid career but there’s only one local employer in my field?

Looking at the latest population change estimates, I was struck once again by the falling populations in “small” places near “big” places – shrinking counties south of Atlanta and Charlotte and west of Dallas and Austin (http://www.census.gov/popest/gallery/maps/County-Numeric-Change-00-09.html).

What do you think about roll-up? Should we be promoting the gathering of educated young people of our region from rural areas to cities? From small cities to large cities? From large cities to Chicago? Should we be trying to save every urbanized area? At some point, do we have to say to some small places, “You are just too small. You will never have the jobs or amenities to stop your shrinking. Let your young people go to a bigger city. At least we can save that city, and they can visit you on long weekends.”

Even though Cleveland has a lot to offer, we are struggling with inadequate numbers to fill and hold desirable urban neighborhoods. There are places in Cleveland with dozens of rehabbed homes and new condos. Young professionals live in these and support local businesses and artists. But for every young professional household there are three or more rentals. The nice housing is mixed in with blight. The surplus space keeps rent low and intimidating characters outnumber friendly neighbors. I wish we had a few thousand more young professionals so we could make at least one neighborhood feel as safe as Lakeview or the West Loop in Chicago.

I see people making a valiant effort to save Jackson, MI, and Findlay, OH, and I feel like saying to them, “Let it go. We can’t save everything. Cleveland needs all the young talent we can get, and we’d love to have you as a neighbor here.” At the same time, I know exactly how it feels to hear that. The difference, if anything, is that Chicago doesn’t need any more young professionals. Cleveland needs more educated people to slow and reverse its decline. But Erie needs more educated people too. What should we do?

-Anonymous

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Filed under Brain Drain, Editorial, Headline, Real Estate

Ohio’s 3C Rail Plan gets $400M Boost

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the Obama administration has earmarked $400 million for Ohio’s plan to link Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Cleveland via high-speed rail.

From The Dispatch:

Ohio officials are banking on federal stimulus money for most or all of the estimated $517.6 million they say they need to improve existing freight rail to passenger standards and to buy trains.

obama-green-high-speed-rail

“This is some of the best news we have had in a long time,” Senator Sherrod Brown said. “If I put my ear down to the rail I think I hear a train coming.”

This is good news for people who are from Columbus but live in Cleveland (like me!) and their families. Hooray!

-AS

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Filed under Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Public Transportation, The Big Urban Photography Project, U.S. Auto Industry

Rolling the Dice on Casinos

Ohio voters recently passed a constitutional amendment that will allow for the construction of four casinos in the state for the first time.

story

One will be located in each Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

Ohio voters have turned down ballot initiatives like this one before. But it seems this time the need for jobs and the pervasiveness of casino gambling in neighbor states helped sway the electorate.

Anyway, there’s been a lot of debate over whether this will ultimately be good or bad. I thought it would be interesting to hear from other Rustifarians about their cities’ experiences with casino gambling.

What’s the word Pittsburgh? Detroit? St. Louis?

-AS

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured