In Columbus, Parsons Avenue is a kind of dividing line. To the south of downtown are German Village and Merion Village, where you will find carefully restored old houses, young professionals, and empty nesters, and the gentrification wave has spread east through Schumacher Place — which is bordered on one side by Parsons Avenue.
As our friend The Activist said, Parsons Avenue is sort of like the demilitarized zone. After walking through shaded streets filled with well-kept brick homes and pretty landscaping, you come to a busy street with a decidedly grittier urban vibe. Some of the storefronts are vacant, and those that are occupied are home to revival churches, nail salons, fast food outlets, second-hand shops, and convenience stores. It’s not uncommon to see shirtless guys standing around or police cars stopped, with their lights flashing.
The Parsons area seems to be in transition, however. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is a big impetus for change. Located at the corner of Parsons and East Livingston Avenue, the hospital complex has been growing rapidly in all directions along both of those streets, adding new care facilities, medical buildings, and ancillary service businesses. The ongoing expansion has brought construction cranes to the skyline, created a range of new jobs, and attracted doctors and the other people staffing the new buildings to the area — and many of them seem to have decided to live in Schumacher Place, Merion Village, and German Village.
The advance guard of gentrification, in the form of banners hung from lampposts and decorative planters, have found Parsons Avenue, at least in the blocks between the hospital and East Whittier Street. The planters include painted information about the area — such as when George Parsons lived — and the banners grandly proclaim that Parsons Avenue is “The Gateway to the South.” If you agree with the teaching of Broken Windows Theory, these kind of beautification touches will aid the gentrification effort because they will help to make people feel more comfortable on Parsons Avenue — but fewer stopped police cars and fewer shirtless guys loitering near gas stations would help, too.