Before and After: Weinland Park’s Ongoing Revitalization

Weinland Park has long been a downtrodden, middle-class neighborhood in one of the best locations in the city, situated directly between the Short North/Italian Village and OSU’s Campus area. High crime, poverty and other issues have plagued the neighborhood for decades, but in recent years, as development has converged from the north and south into the neighborhood, that is steadily changing. The before and after photos below show just some of these changes.

Indianola and East 8th Avenue, looking northeast
Before: 2011

After: 2017

East 8th Avenue, looking east
Before: 2011

After: 2016

Summit Street, looking west
Before: 2011

After: 2017

North 6th Street, looking south
Before: 2009

After: 2015

North Grant Avenue, looking north
Before: 2009

After: 2015

Courtland Avenue, looking south
Before: 2007

After: 2017

Cool Link of the Day: Census Record Transcribing

Okay, so this might not be the coolest link I’ve put on this site, but it may be one of the most important. The US Census records go back all the way to the 1700s, and a lot of these records have either not been digitized at all, or only rough copies exist in many different formats. Due to age, use, insect and water damage, etc., some of these records are in danger of disappearing forever. Many others are difficult to use because of the varying formats. Because of this, transcribing them into a standardized digital form is critical.
This site allows anyone from the general public to choose individual records and volunteer to transcribe them digitally. No experience necessary! The site gives basic walkthroughs and other how-to information, so anyone can do it, and at their own speed in their free time. Just click on the state and area of your choice and go from there.

July’s Missed Opportunity of the Month

July’s entry into the list of dumb ideas isn’t about something bad with the development itself, but rather the unfortunately common plague of NIMBYism that festers in so many urban neighborhoods, and how it can kill good urbanism because some people have delicate sensibilities that need stroking.

A while back, Kaufman Development proposed a 10-story, mixed-use project at 23 W. 2nd Avenue that spanned part of the block between Price and 2nd, most of which was already a vacant grass lot. The project proposed renovating the 91-year-old IBEW building and incorporating it into the overall project, which included a mix of apartments, retail and office space.

Last rendering in July 2018.

Victorian Village, the neighborhood of which the project fell under, was of course completely apoplectic about it. After the first neighborhood commission meeting, at which commission members and neighborhood busybodies expressed deep concerns about the design and size, Kaufman went back to the drawing board. Over time, Kaufman redesigned the project more than 20 times, the height changing from 10 to 9 to 14 and then back to 10 stories, with the number of apartments, uses, scale, etc. being changed over and over again to please the fickle nearby residents. These residents (and let’s not forget commission members, which admittedly, faced a 4-4 tie in the vote because the commission was lacking its 9th member, something the City hopes to rectify in the near future) complained about traffic and that the project would “block the sun”, among other roll-of-the-eyes nonsense. It was the kind of shenanigans that even Clintonville might suggest had gone too far.

So after 7 straight months of trying to please those that cannot be pleased, the actual preferred outcome inevitably occurred:

Instead of continuing to deal with unreasonable people, spending more time and money for something they couldn’t make work, Kaufman decided to walk away from the project altogether. Though they still own the property and may eventually come back to the table with another proposal, it seems unlikely to be anywhere near the scale originally proposed. The NIMBYism aside, this speaks to the disconnect between the real estate conditions in Columbus and the pushback on building new development that would actually help resolve some of the existing problems. Columbus is currently in the midst of a housing crisis. Population estimates show that the city has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing. This growth, combined with a historically-low inventory and record sales, has put a huge strain on the housing market, including pushing prices to ever-higher levels. Simply put, residential construction hasn’t been keeping pace with the influx of population into the city, and this has been the case since at least the 2009 recession. Instead of intentionally limiting developers to go smaller in prime locations- such as in the very-high-demand Short North off of High Street- development commissions across the city should be welcoming more housing.  Instead, projects are being downsized or rejected by local populations left and right. Let’s look at a few reasons why commission members and some residents opposed this particular project.

The argument that traffic would be a problem is silly and misguided for many reasons, but I’ll just review a few of them. First, the project plan provided parking in a garage for its residents and at least some for retail customers/visitors, and the extra cars driving around wouldn’t have been significant enough to make any noticeable difference in an already busy area. Second, Price Avenue was said to be too small and narrow to handle cars going in and out of the garage entrance per the project, but it’s clearly wide enough for 1-way traffic (its 1-way already) and 2 more lanes of curbside parking, so that reason seems equally bunk.  And entrance/exit from the project would not have taken up many existing curb spots, and no configuration changes to the street would’ve been needed except for perhaps a very small end section of Price.

Price Avenue looking toward High, about where the Kaufman project would’ve gone on the left.

Third, traffic and parking shouldn’t be used as a hammer to squash development, but as the catalyst to demand better transit and pedestrian options. Whether those include buses, rail, bikes, better sidewalks, etc. can be debated, but transit is an important part of the picture in urban neighborhoods, whether people like it or not.  Furthermore, this area is already highly served by bus and bike, as well as car-share and Uber. The idea that people even have to drive here, or even to the Short North in general, is simply not true. Given that the Short North is highly walkable, many of the residents that would’ve lived here would’ve been less likely to use their cars for all trips, anyway, thereby further reducing the impact on local roads.

It’s Too Big for the Neighborhood!!!
To this, I say, bullshit. Multiple projects just as big or larger have already been built or are under construction on both sides of High Street, including in Victorian Village, which this site falls under. To say that the Kaufman site is not appropriate is completely arbitrary, even if the site is not on High itself, but set back slightly. To the east is the High commercial corridor and to the west is an alleyway. 4 single-family homes exist to the east of the alleyway, and would’ve been the only ones really directly near the project. The complaint that there would be significant “sun blocking” is ridiculous. It wasn’t a 50-story tower, and the orientation of project meant that any sun loss would have been minimal at worst.

The Historic Character of the Neighborhood is Being Lost!!!
This one comes up with virtually every single development in this particular neighborhood. Victorian Village is indeed a beautiful neighborhood with some of the city’s best-preserved historic housing. But the Kaufman project would’ve had no impact on that, whatsoever. No demolition would’ve taken place, as this particular land lost all of its historic buildings before 1980. It’s just a vacant lot now. More importantly, the proposal would’ve renovated an actual historic building, the IBEW, helping to preserve it for the future. The histrionics on preserving the neighborhood rings hollow when nothing was actually under threat.

In any case, the project is probably dead. Whatever might be proposed in its place will likely do that much less to help address the housing crisis or to keep the neighborhood progressing. It’s a shame that some people can hold entire neighborhoods hostage with outdated thinking, and how a 40-year-long vacant lot- and counting- can be preferable to the fear of change.

Pet Peeve: Renovation vs. Restoration

The other day, I was looking at real estate listings for the Near East Side, and noticed what I think is a very unfortunate trend- that many historic homes in the neighborhoods of Olde Towne East and King-Lincoln are being stripped of all their historic character in favor of a quick flip. These neighborhoods have some of the best historic housing in all of Columbus, even as the neighborhood has seen hundreds of teardowns particularly in the 1960s and 1970s during the Urban Renewal years. For a long time, the NES was being revitalized very slowly, with only piecemeal restorations of individual homes by private owners. This allowed many historic homes to be gradually restored. Here are some examples where I think the historic nature was largely respected:

1049 Franklin Avenue
This home, built in the 1890s, was updated in 2017.

Photo taken in 2010.

The 2010 photo of the 2-unit shows the home mostly intact, with really only some restoration needed, particularly for the porch area. The double porch is most likely not original to the house, which was likely a single-family home at one time.

Photo taken in 2018.

The 2018 shows a mostly unchanged look aside from a much nicer porch with appropriate color schemes and landscaping.
While I don’t have any old interior shots, the updated ones show consideration for the age of the home.

As these pictures show, the home has been updated without losing its character. Original hardwood floors have been restored, woodwork hasn’t all been whitewashed and details like built-ins and stained-glass windows remain intact.

248 South 17th Street
This single-family home from 1894 is another great example of a historic home being updated without extensive change.

Photo taken in 2010.

The 2010 photo shows the house needs some updated curb appeal, but not much else.

Photo taken in 2018.

In 2018, the exterior has only been lightly updated.

Again, the home has clearly been renovated, but it is also crystal clear that it’s a historic home.

So these are a few examples of the good, where the homes were respected for what they are.

Now let’s look at a few examples where the owners attempted to make the homes into something else, with minimal historic elements maintained or where the character of the homes was changed. These examples represent the majority of current renovations.

240 South 18th Street

Photo taken in 2010.

In the 2010 photo of this 1900, 2-unit home, the right unit is boarded up, but otherwise the exterior appears to be in great shape.

Photo taken in 2018.

In 2018, it appears that there has been virtually no change to the exterior.
The same cannot be said for the interior.

The renovation is not necessarily bad, but you get the feeling that the owner thought exposing brick somehow equals an appreciation for character. Instead, because the original floors, woodwork, doors, mantles, etc. have all been replaced, removed or covered up, it comes off less as a historic home, but more of an industrial loft that you might find Downtown. This is typical of the vast majority of renovations in the neighborhood. Historic character is an afterthought.

55 Hoffman Avenue
This early 1900s home has a unique exterior that was changed little between 2010 and 2018, other than receiving a new paint job and landscaping.

Photo taken in 2010.

Photo taken in 2018.

I feel like this renovation is somewhat a transition between the first set of homes and the 240 S. 18th example. The renovation is much more extensive than the first set, but not quite as bad as 240 S. 18th. However, it shows the popular use of whitewashing everything to make the interiors look modern. The historic character that remains is mostly maintained due to the configuration of walls and windows rather than anything specific about decoration or color choices.

The 2 homes above are not the worst, in that they maintain at least some historic elements even if they might have gone a little too far in the modern updating. The next examples are the Frankenstein monsters of the group, where the renovations basically gutted every last historic detail of the interiors, and even significantly altered the exteriors.

422 South Ohio Avenue
This late 1890s home was in very bad condition in 2010, as the photo shows The house had completely lost its original front porch, windows were missing and the home was a candidate for demolition.

Photo taken in 2018.

What?? The new porch looks like something taken from some mountain retreat with its oversized wooden beams. It looks completely inappropriate to the home. Yes, the house needed a new porch, but come on. It’s not only the wrong architecture, the color scheme clashes and comes across as tacky.
The interiors are even worse, in that they do not even try to match the exterior style.

Some rooms are heavily industrial, others are featureless and bland, and then there are others that look like the houses from the 2nd grouping, that maintain some historical elements. Now, given the poor state of this home several years ago, the interiors were probably heavily damaged and it was essentially a blank slate, but this design reeks of someone who didn’t quite know how to create any cohesive look.

505 Linwood Avenue
Now, this is not an old home, as it was built in 2017. So this is not a case of renovation or restoration at all. However, it falls into the Frankenstein category for simply not keeping with the architecture of the neighborhood at all.

Photo taken in 2017.

So what’s the style of this? It has some design elements of historic homes, like the punched out windows, but the exterior once again is designed like some kind of modern cabin. And then you have those ridiculous lion columns.

I honestly don’t hate the interior. It has a quirky, but interesting design. It just doesn’t seem to go with the outer look at all, and the whole thing seems so random.

Luckily, the last 2 examples are not the norm, but the rare exception. Still, the fact that most homes fall into the 2nd category is not encouraging. Many people may find no issue in that group. The renovations aren’t distasteful exactly, but to me, something is being lost in trying to turn these homes into the equivalent of a loft apartment rather than appreciating the elegance that a historic home offers. Once those original details are lost, they’re never coming back.

Worst Heatwaves in History

The next week looks to be very warm and humid, with heat advisories popping up all over the region.  While this heatwave looks bad, it’s definitely not the worst Columbus has ever had.  Let’s take a look at some of the worst.

To find out what the worst heatwaves were, I looked at average temperatures for different consecutive time periods- 3 days, 7 days, 10 days and 30 days. Unsurprisingly, some historically hot summers popped up, particularly from the 1930s.

Top 5 3-Day Periods with the Warmest Average High Temperature
1. 7/20-7/22/1934, 7/9-7/11/1936, 7/12-7/14/1936: 103.3
2. 7/24-7/26/1934, 7/8-7/10/1936, 7/10-7/12/1936, 7/11-7/13/1936: 102.7
3. 7/8-7/10/1881: 101.3
4. 7/2-7/4/1911, 8/5-8/7/1918, 7/21-7/23/1934, 7/7-7/9/1936: 101.0
5. 7/3-7/5/1911, 7/13-7/15/1936: 100.7

Top 5 7-Day Periods with the Warmest Average High Temperature
1. 7/8-7/14/1936: 103.1
2. 7/9-7/15/1936: 102.1
3. 7/20-7/26/1934, 7/7-7/13/1936: 101.7
4. 7/10-7/16/1936: 100.7
5. 7/19-7/25/1934, 7/11-7/17/1936: 100.3

Top 5 10-Day Periods with the Warmest Average High Temperature
1. 7/8-7/17/1936: 101.0
2. 7/7-7/16/1936: 100.8
3. 7/6-7/15/1936: 100.2
4. 7/9-7/18/196: 99.8
5. 7/5-7/14/1936: 99.2

Top 5 30-Day Periods with the Warmest Average High Temperature
1. 6/29-7/28/1936: 92.7
2. 6/28-7/27/1936: 92.6
3. 6/27-7/26/1934: 92.5
4. 6/26-7/25/1934, 6/30-7/29/1936: 92.3
5. 6/28-7/27/1934: 92.2

So with a few exceptions, the heat waves in 1934 and 1936 dominated for high temperatures. The top 5 highest individual temperatures ever are:
1. 7/21/1934, 7/14/1936: 106
2. 7/9/1936: 105
3. 7/22/1901, 7/4/1911, 7/25/1934, 7/11/1936, 7/14/1954: 104
4. 7/10/1881, 8/5/1918, 7/22/1934, 7/12/1936: 103
5. 7/12/1881, 7/4/1897, 8/6/1918, 7/24/1934, 7/26/1934, 7/8/1936, 7/27/1936, 6/28/1944: 102

High temperatures in the upcoming heatwave should only reach the mid-90s.

Now that we’ve see the worst periods for high temperature, let’s look at the worst for the mean temperature, which is the average between the high and low. This details those periods that provided little relief even at night.

Top 5 3-Days Periods with the Warmest Average Temperature
1. 7/20-7/22/1934: 90.5
2. 7/8-7/10/1881: 90.3
3. 7/9-7/11/1881: 90.0
4. 7/10-7/12/1881, 7/9-7/11/1936: 89.8
5. 7/12-7/14/1936: 89.5

Top 5 7-Day Periods with the Warmest Average Temperature
1. 7/8-7/14/1936, 7/9-7/15/1936: 89.1
2. 7/6-7/12/1881: 89.0
3. 7/20-7/26/1934: 88.9
4. 7/7-7/13/1881: 88.6
5. 7/5-7/11/1881, 7/10-7/16/1936: 87.9

Top 5 10-Day Periods with the Warmest Average Temperature
1. 7/8-7/17/1936: 87.4
2. 7/7-7/16/1936: 87.2
3. 7/5-7/14/1881, 7/6-7/15/1881, 7/9-7/18/1936: 87.1
4. 7/4-7/13/1881: 86.9
5. 7/6-7/15/1936, 7/7-7/16/1881: 86.6

Top 5 30-Day Periods with the Warmest Average Temperature
1. 6/27-7/26/1934: 81.4
2. 6/28-7/27/1934: 81.3
3. 6/26-7/25/1934: 81.2
4. 6/29-7/28/1934, 7/19-8/17/1940, 7/20-8/18/1940, 6/28-7/27/2012: 81.0
5. 7/18-8/16/1940, 6/29-7/28/2012: 80.8

1934 and 1936 still dominate, but 1881 makes a strong showing. Only 2012 shows up with anything in the last 60 years, and that year also saw one of the worst wind events in Ohio history, partially fueled by the heat of that summer:

Finally, let’s look at periods that featured consecutive days with highs of 90 degrees or higher. What are the longest?

# of Consecutive Days with Highs 90 or Above
1. 7/3-7/16/1881: 14
2. 7/18-7/30/1940: 13
3. 6/24-7/5/1934, 7/7-7/18/1936, 6/28-7/9/1949, 7/21-8/1/1999: 12
4. 7/20-7/30/1901, 8/4-8/14/1918, 8/25-9/4/1953, 8/8-8/18/1988, 6/28-7/8/2012: 11
5. 7/27-8/5/1887, 9/7-9/16/1897, 7/29-8/7/1955, 6/13-6/22/1994: 10

A short video and article from 2016 about the 1936 heatwave, still the hottest in history.