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.

Oh Clintonville… The Queen of NIMBYism




Clintonville has long been making news for its near hysterical opposition to any change whatsoever. The fight over the North Broadway turn lane has become something of legend, and the neighborhood freak outs over everything from the Indianola Avenue road diet to the Olympic Pool saga have become nearly standard procedure.
This week, Clintonville’s notorious NIMBYism once again popped its ugly head in the news, this time about Columbus’ plan to install rain gardens in the neighborhood.

The story is a classic.

First, let’s look at some of the backstory to this outrage. All the way back in 2005, Columbus submitted a plan to the Ohio EPA called the Wet Weather Management Plan. The gist of the plan was the actions the city would take to reduce sewage overflows into rivers and streams during heavy rains, as well as reducing pollution runoff. For years, heavy rains would cause sewers to back up into the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, as well as causing pollution runoff from streets, parking lots and other surfaces. At times, this pollution would cause very unpleasant odors throughout the Downtown area, as well as along the rivers themselves. Coinciding with the city’s desire to create a more inviting riverfront (which it would later do with the Scioto Mile and Scioto Greenways projects), it had to create infrastructure to solve the pollution issues.
One of the biggest ways this was accomplished was by drilling a 5.4 mile tunnel under Downtown that would fully prevent all of the sewage overflows. Begun in 2007, the project took 8 years and $371 million to complete. You can read a bit more about that project here: http://www.dispatch.com/article/20150912/NEWS/309129781
In 2015, when the overflow problem was solved, the city came up with an updated plan called Blueprint Columbus. This plan continued to address runoff problems, specifically with the creation of a network of rain gardens throughout the city. If you’re unaware, rain gardens are basically special, landscaped ditches that function as water filters. They block runoff and help prevent flooding, and would potentially save the city millions of dollars in the long run. Check out the Blueprint Columbus plan here: https://www.columbus.gov/utilities/projects/blueprint/ There’s a ton of information there, including the locations of many of the proposed rain gardens… which brings us back to Clintonville. In 2016, Clintonville found out it would be hosting as many as 500 rain gardens in the initial pilot rollout that will eventually include 17 areas of the city: http://www.dispatch.com/article/20160110/NEWS/301109834
Almost immediately, the complaints began to pour in. At meetings during the summer of 2015, residents had already begun the fear-mongering outrage. It wasn’t until this year, however, that Clintonville really began to earn that long-standing reputation. Construction of the rain gardens began over the summer, and they not only were built in the grassy easements in front of houses, but some were built right into the street, removing parking spaces and creating zones where traffic would be forced to slow down. Residents were apoplectic.

Keep in mind, these are some examples of a typical rain garden:

Not so bad, right? And if they help clean the water, reduce flooding costs and beautify the neighborhood, what’s the problem? Plenty, according to Clintonville residents.

http://stagenc.build.dispatch.com/news/20171016/some-residents-dont-like-them-but-columbus-says-rain-gardens-are-working
In the Dispatch article, residents called them everything from “unsightly” to “toxic dumps”, while another article, http://www.thisweeknews.com/news/20171016/over-my-dead-body-rain-garden-rage-continues called them an outrageous example of big government overreach, as well as a potential danger to toddlers.

My favorite comment, however, was this one:
“That’s a real problem, that this is an experiment,” he said. “If they want to do an experiment, do it somewhere else — not on these homes. I am seriously considering moving.”

If that isn’t the epitome of irrational NIMBYism, I don’t know what is. Ironically, should that resident move, he’d have absolutely no trouble selling it. Clintonville is an urban neighborhood in a growing, desirable city. Given the record low housing inventory for sale in the area, he’d probably get top dollar for it.

As for why Clintonville is so irrationally opposed to any and all change? Perhaps because it has long been an insular community. Demographics there have been one of the steadiest in the county, let alone the city. It is among the least diverse and has one of the highest median ages of neighborhood populations in the city by far, even including suburbs. Things simply don’t change there, and many seem to vehemently want it to stay that way. However, change is always inevitable. Perhaps Clintonville should save its energy for *actual* nefarious practices, not imagined ones.

Update- Historic Residential Pages

I added a few dozen more houses to the Historic Residential pages, mostly to the Other Residential page. These are some of the site’s most popular pages, so if anyone out there has old photos of homes or neighborhoods around Columbus, I would love to add them! In the meantime, enjoy the more than 325 featured historic homes.

Columbus Area Murders by Zip Code 2008-2015

*Originally posted in 2013, reposted on 3/4/2015 and again on 1/28/2016, with updated maps.

I have been wanting to do these maps for awhile now, as there have been several searches on the site for them and they weren’t available. It took a lot of work, but here they are!

2008

In 2008, almost all murders were contained within the I-270 boundaries. The East and South Sides were the worst areas.

2009

In 2009, there began to be a bit of diffusion on where murder was taking place. While parts of the urban core remained the worst areas, suburban areas also saw the occasional murder.

2010

The diffusion continued in 2010.

2011

And in 2011.

2012

2012 was the most diffuse of all the years, with no heavily concentrated areas, even in the urban core as much. Meanwhile, most of the suburban zip codes within Franklin County saw at least 1 murder.

2013

2014

2015 saw most activity on the eastern side of the city, particular South Linden and the Far East Side around Whitehall and Reynoldsburg, but all areas along the 270 area on the Far East Side had the highest levels of murder in the county. The central core generally stayed a lot lower.

Columbus Walkability 2015, and the Flaws of WalkScore

WalkScore has update its rankings and numbers for US cities in terms of walkability, transit and bikes. https://www.walkscore.com/cities-and-neighborhoods/

Columbus does not rank all that highly for walkability. Here are the 2014 and 2015 numbers for comparison. Keep in mind that this is just one site’s ranking of walkability, and any changes may not actually mean much, if anything. In Columbus’ case, many urban neighborhoods which have been feverishly building infill have inexplicably had their numbers drop over the course of the year. This seems very strange, and highly unlikely that these areas actually became less walkable.

Top 25 Most Walkable Columbus Neighborhoods, 2014 and 2015
2014                                                                          2015
1. Downtown: 86——————————————1. Necko: 86
2. Dennison Place (Short North): 85———————-2. German Village: 85
3. Italian Village (Short North): 85———————3. Weinland Park: 84
4. Weinland Park (Just northeast of Short North): 85—–4. Schumacher Place: 84
5. Indiana Forest (Northeast Campus Area): 84————5. Italian Village: 84
6. Necko (South Campus): 81——————————6. Indiana Forest: 83
7. Victorian Village (Short North): 81——————-7. Victorian Village: 80
8. Old North Columbus: 80——————————–8. Dennison Place: 80
9. Glen Echo (North Columbus): 80————————9. OSU Campus: 78
10. North Campus: 80————————————-10. Iuka Ravine: 77
11. German Village: 79———————————–11. Downtown: 77
12. Tri-Village (5th Avenue West): 79——————–12. Brewery District: 76
13. Brewery District: 78———————————13. Tri-Village: 75
14. OSU Campus: 77—————————————14. Indianola Terrace: 75
15. Iuka Ravine (North Columbus): 76———————15. Clintonville: 74
16. Clintonville: 75————————————-16. King-Lincoln: 74
17: King-Lincoln (Near East Side): 74——————–17. Old North Columbus: 73
18. Schumacher Place (Near South Side): 73—————18. Olde Towne East: 71
19. Busch (Northwest Columbus): 72———————–19. Merion Village; 71
20. Indianola Terrace (North Columbus): 71—————20. North Campus: 70
21. Merion Village: 69———————————–21. Glen Echo: 69
22. Governours Square (Bethel and Henderson): 68———22. Livingston Park North: 67
23: Harrison West (Hilltop): 67————————–23. Southern Orchards: 67
24. Old Beechwold (North Columbus): 67——————-24. Mount Vernon: 66
25. Olde Towne East: 67———————————-25. Woodland Park: 64

So why might the numbers have gone down in so many urban areas that are seeing large amounts of infill and revitalization? Well, part of the methodology used to compute the WalkScores are US Census tract population data. The most recent Census estimates had large amounts of urban tracts losing population within the urban core, even in high-growth areas like the Short North and Downtown. If these incorrect estimates were incorporated, it might appear that such areas were in decline rather than in the rapid growth they are experiencing in reality, and that associated amenities are going down as well. There’s really no other explanation. The simple fact is, however, that these areas, with perhaps some exceptions, are NOT becoming less walkable, but more. This is a classic case of garbage in, garbage out. Columbus is not a particularly walkable city overall, by any means, but this data really has to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Overall Columbus Neighborhood Walkability Score Breakdown, 2014 and 2015
2014       2015
90-100 (Walker’s Paradise): 0——–0
70-89 (Very Walkable): 20———–20
50-69 (Somewhat Walkable): 72——-37
0-49 (Car Dependent): 120———–155

Average Columbus Walkability Score, 2014 and 2015

2014: 47
2015: 40

Bike and Transit scores did improve over 2014, but they’re unrelated to population changes and amenities, which would indicate the real movement of Columbus rather than its walkability scores.

Bike Score Neighborhood Breakdown, 2014 and 2015
2014     2015
90-100: 0———0
70-89: 14———14
50-69: 45———45
0-49: 153———153

Average Columbus Bike Score, 2014 and 2015
2014: 45
2015: 46

Transit Score Neighborhood Breakdown, 2014 and 2015
2014     2015
90-100: 0——–0
70-89: 0———0
50-69: 11——–15
0-49: 201——–197

Average Columbus Transit Score, 2014 and 2015
2014: 29
2015: 30