I’ve been on the road a fair amount lately, and I’ve been facing the classic business traveler’s dilemma: I’ve got to be in another city for a meeting that begins at 10 a.m. Should I get up early and take the first flight of the day that will get me there just in time, or should I give up a night at home and head to the location of the meeting the night before?
My position on this unenviable choice has changed. I used to be all in favor of staying home and spending as much time with my family as possible, and then getting up before the crack of dawn, hitting the airport, and trusting in the benevolence of the Travel Gods. Then I had one instance where the Travel Gods weren’t kind, my flight was delayed and then rerouted, and I ended up missing an important meeting. The people involved were gracious about it, but I vowed that I would never let that happen again.
One other thing changed that also altered my perspective: I realized that I simply never got a good night’s sleep the night before, no matter what the circumstances. My subconscious brain was so worried about oversleeping that I was tossing and turning all night, waking up every 15 minutes to look bleary-eyed at the clock radio before finally, wearily, giving up on trying to get some shuteye and getting up even earlier than I really needed to to make the flight.
So now I always — always — go in the night before. If the Travel Gods are unkind, as they frequently are, I’ll just get in even later than planned. But I’ll still be there in time for the meeting, and in the meantime I just might get some sleep, too.
Refilling empties is a long-recognized recycling method. That same concept applies to our downtown areas, too — except instead of refilling bottles and cans you’re reusing parcels of property where buildings once stood, but that have long since become parking lots.
Of course, downtown areas need some parking, but block after block of parking lots is unsightly and depressing. They’re like the scarred urban equivalent of strip-mined land. It’s a big issue in Columbus, where in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s the core downtown area became a checkerboard of parking lots. One big lot is found at the corner of Gay and High, only one block from the Statehouse at the center of the city. Once it was a bustling five-and-dime store, now it’s just a sad asphalt surface.
The redevelopment boom in downtown Columbus started with refurbishing empty buildings and turning them into apartments and condos, but now it’s turning to refilling those empty parking lots. And, finally, the lot at the corner of Gay and High looks like it will get its turn, as a local developer has submitted a plan that would turn a parking lot into a mixed use structure that would include more than 150 apartments, retail spaces — and parking. At the same time, companies are working on renovating some of the other buildings in the neighborhood that have been either vacant or underused for years, and city planners are attributing at least part of the impetus for the work to the success of the Gay Street corridor of restaurants, which have helped to make downtown more hip and attractive.
I’ll look forward to the day when there aren’t many parking lots in downtown Columbus anymore; buildings tend to be a lot more interesting and attractive than parked cars. I also think, though, that it’s time to stop the ever-outward-radiating development of suburban sprawl that has turned what used to be rolling farmland surrounding Columbus into countless look-alike suburban communities, and focus instead on the central city. The infrastructure is here and now the people are returning, too. Let’s let our remaining farmland be and start to refill some of these empty spaces.