There’s a new hotel in downtown Columbus that’s actually pretty old. If that sounds confusing, it’s because the LeVeque Building — since the 1920s, the most iconic building in the downtown area — has been rehabbed and converted, in part, into a hotel.
I went to meetings at the hotel yesterday and today, and they’ve turned this Art Deco masterpiece into a pretty cool hotel. The fixtures have been cleaned and brightened — allowing nifty Art Deco touches, like elevators with names like “health” and “prosperity,” to shine through. The lobby area (shown below) is open and airy, and there’s a nice second-floor bar, too. I spoke to someone who was staying at the hotel, and he said the guest rooms are great.
This is another nice step forward for downtown Columbus. Every town needs cool hotels in the core area.
I regret to report to everyone that, for the last few days, there has been no crawl on my walk into work.
I’m referring to the news crawl on the front of the Dispatch building, of course. I’ve come to rely on it for my news blurbs in the morning, so I can feel that I’m at least somewhat informed when I arrive at the office. And I’ve come to to look forward to the bullet-point format and phrasing of the crawl, too.
ANOTHER SHOOTING ON NEAR EAST SIDE . . . . TRUMP ANTICS MYSTIFY EUROPE . . . . THREE-LEGGED FROG DAZZLES FAIRGOERS . . . . 17 RECIPES FOR SUMMER PORK . . . . FLYING CARS MAY BE JUST AROUND CORNER . . . .
The crawl always seems to feature incredibly provocative stuff, presented in the most cryptic style. You’re never really sure what the news is, but it sure sounds interesting.
But now the crawl has gone dark, and with it, my morning mood. Come back, crawl!
For months, they’ve been refurbishing Pearl Alley, which runs between, and parallel to, Broad Street and Gay Street in downtown Columbus. The goal is to spiff it up for the farmers’ market and other events that often are held there. The alley has been pretty torn up as they’ve put in new light fixtures and probably made some less visible modifications, but it looks like they’re finally done — with work capped by this new sign at the Third Street entrance to the alley that I noticed for the first time on my walk home tonight.
It’s kind of a weird sign, but at least it’s got some symbolism going for it. The hand is extending what appears to be a giant pearl — get it? — and the tattoo on the bicep of the arm reads “Lynn,” which just happens to be the name of the alley that intersects Pearl Alley halfway between High Street and Third Street. Pretty clever!
The Pearl Alley project was a pain for those of us working in the neighborhood, but I’m glad they did it. Pearl Alley is used frequently, and if you want to encourage people to come downtown and even move downtown, nice urban spaces have to be part of the attraction. The Pearl Alley project has been another step in the process.
It’s the day of the annual Columbus Pride Parade. The parade hasn’t started yet, but the area around High Street in downtown Columbus is jammed with happy, cheering, rainbow-clad people.
Columbus is known for being open and friendly to everyone — which is one of the great things about our fair city. Those in the retail industry love the Pride Parade, because it brings people downtown who are interested in buying just about any rainbow-hued item. The street vendors with their carts are having a field day.
I’ve written about the enormous boom in new building construction in downtown Columbus, but there’s another trend underway that also is helping to make the downtown core cooler: taking old buildings and sprucing them up. Interesting signage on the walls, flags draped down the front, neon signs, bunting — they all can take an older structure and give it a fresh new look.
The latest example of this phenomenon is the Yerke Mortgage Company building, now called 145 Rich. I love the construction company sign that’s just been painted on the side of the building, which has a nifty retro element to it. Touches like these help to make the downtown area a more visually appealing place.
For years now, the skyline of downtown Columbus has stayed pretty much the same. For decades, it’s been the Nationwide complex of buildings to the north, the courthouse and municipal buildings to the south, and the cluster of high-rises surrounding Capitol Square and the LeVeque Tower in the middle.
All of that is now changing, and rapidly. As I mentioned recently, there are construction cranes all over the downtown area. Every day I walk past a construction site at the corner of Rich and Third Street that is taking the place of what used to be a grassy expanse adjacent to Columbus Commons that was home to kickball games and exercise groups. Soon it is going to be the location of a 12-story mixed use building with retail on the ground floor, a few stories of office space, and residential units. There are similar multi-story, “mixed use” buildings under construction up and down High Street, filling in most of the surface parking lots that have been an eyesore on Columbus’ main north-south street and helping to bridge the “skyline gap” between the taller buildings in downtown Columbus. And the city is abuzz about the recent announcement of a 35-story skyscraper to be built next to the North Market — an addition that will really change the look of the skyline.
Columbus isn’t Manhattan, where the construction of a 35-story building wouldn’t merit much attention. Here in the heartland, a 35-story building is a pretty big deal.
But, to my mind, the North Market high-rise announcement, and the other construction projects aren’t the biggest sign of how things are changing in downtown Columbus. Instead, the most compelling indicator is the money that has been poured into refurbishing the crumbling, crappy Long Street garage, where I used to park my car until the structure was condemned by the city. Amazingly, a new owner purchased the building and has been working on it for months, giving it a spiffy blue metal and glass facelift and adding a car wash option for parkers. You know your downtown area is heading in the right direction when developers are willing to put money into a derelict parking garage in the expectation that the conversion of surface lots into buildings, and the influx of workers and new downtown residents, will make a better parking garage a profitable enterprise.
What’s going on in downtown Columbus is pretty amazing, and we’re going to be seeing the results of the changes every day as we drive, and walk, and bike, into work.
Recently Kish and I went to a show at the Riffe Center, across the street from the Ohio Statehouse. We noticed a new Central Ohio Transit Authority sign, for “CMAX” as well as our old favorite, the CBUS.
It’s a new concept for COTA — a rapid transit bus line. The CMAX will make fewer stops, at major destinations on the most congested bus lines, with the goal of reducing travel time, reducing congestion, and creating better conditions for pedestrians. And, from the COTA website linked above, it looks like the ultimate plan is for the CMAX to include improved technology — like, perhaps, wireless options on buses. The Bus-Riding Conservative has long held that offering wireless could be the key to making riding buses really attractive to the Gen Xers, who he thinks would happily choose an option that would allow them to check out all of their social media contacts while they are commuting.
The first CMAX line will run along Cleveland Avenue, connecting downtown to Polaris Parkway — a route that COTA estimates serves more than 220,000 residents and 170,000 workers. The sign at High and State is for one of the stops at the downtown end of the route.
I have to give COTA credit — with the CBUS, the Airconnect bus that links the airport and downtown hotels, and now CMAX, our local transit agency is making a good effort to redefine “the bus” and provide service that is more targeted to what the community really needs. Here’s hoping that CMAX is another success story.