Tonight we were at a lovely wedding reception at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. On our way out we passed a metal sculpture of a Komodo dragon, its head and snout polished to a bright gleam by the hands of countless curious children. I loved the skeptical look in the creature’s eye.
The Columbus Downtown Development Corp. is hoping to create more parkland in the downtown area. If it happens, it will be a good thing.
The plan is to put the parkland in the area around COSI and where the Veterans Memorial Auditorium now stands. Vets is supposed to be torn down and replaced by an amphitheater and a different kind of veterans center. At the same time, the damming on the Scioto River as it sluggishly moves through downtown is to be changed to allow the river to return to its more natural, narrower, more swiftly flowing state. The narrowing will create an opportunity for additional parkland. And, a third part of the plan — a 50,000-foot “indoor adventure” structure operated by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium — will be built just south of COSI.
It’s an ambitious plan, and, in Columbus, ambitious plans often are greeted with skepticism. The urban landscape is dotted with plan and concepts that have never become reality, and Columbus is no exception. When a planner says their vision is of Columbus’ version of Central Park — which is a bit of an overstatement in any event — the question of whether the project will get off the ground becomes even more compelling.
Still, the idea of more parkland is a good one. The future of downtown Columbus is as a residential area, not an industrial center. People like parks and playgrounds in their neighborhoods, and urban dwellers also like things to do within walking distance. That means parks, theaters, restaurants, bars, and other potential entertainment venues. A plan that provides parks, an amphitheater, and a downtown aquarium fits those needs. Putting those sites on the west side of the river in the Franklinton area also makes sense. In Columbus, as in other cities, the river is a real dividing line, and most downtown workers don’t venture over the bridges. That needs to stop, and putting some real attractions in Franklinton will help.
Columbus is changing, and most of the changes are for the better. Adding green space that makes downtown living more attractive will accelerate the positive trend.
Russell will be leaving Brooklyn and the New York City area in the few days; he’ll be heading to the Detroit area to begin the Master’s program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Moving from the East Coast to the Midwest can be an adjustment. Kish and I had the same experience years ago, when we moved from Washington, D.C. to Columbus. On the East Coast, you travel by subway and walk a lot. In the Midwest, it’s a car culture. On the East Coast, you tend not to make eye contact with people on the street. In the Midwest, you’re likely to get a friendly greeting and a cheerful hello from a complete stranger you pass in the street. On the East Coast, the tempo is rapid. In the Midwest, the pace is slower. The cultural and social differences are many, and frequently you don’t fully appreciate them until you’ve moved and you’ve noticed the abrupt change.
Even when you were born and raised in one area, you adopt the rhythms and mores of your new home. Russell’s lived on the East Coast now for six years. We’ll be looking forward to welcoming him back to his roots and getting him back into that Midwest state of mind.