They’re in the process of demolishing the old Columbus Africentric School building along Livingston Avenue, adjacent to German Village. As of yesterday, the site was home to mound of rubble, lots of heavy equipment, and one sad, lone section of the old school building yet to be torn down.
The Africentric School had been unused for a while, and it had become both an unkept eyesore and a weedy squatting ground for homeless people. But then the property was bought by Nationwide Children’s Hospital from the Columbus City Schools at the end of 2017, and NCH has announced that after demolition is complete and the debris is removed, the property will be paved and turned into a parking lot. Given the amount of construction currently underway for Nationwide Children’s Hospital — with multiple buildings and garages being built along Livingston Avenue in the area between the Columbus Africentric property and the original hospital complex — many people suspect that the former Africentric grounds won’t remain a parking lot for long.
With the old school building gone, walkers along Livingston Avenue will have a better view of the eastern part of downtown Columbus — for a while, at least. I’m generally not a fan of surface parking lots, but abandoned buildings are never welcome in a neighborhood. I’ll take a well maintained parking lot over a crumbling magnet for vagrants, vandals and graffiti practitioners any day.
In our German Village neighborhood, most residents tend to be very protective of our streets and sidewalks. We also recognize, however, that come trash day it’s not uncommon for scavengers to drive up and down the streets, looking for the possibility that one person’s trash could become another person’s treasure. A large discarded item often is plucked before the garbage guys swing by.
But what if large items are so ugly or smelly that even scavengers won’t touch them — and they’re not within the guidelines defining appropriate refuse to be collected on the standard pick-up days? What’s a resident who cares about appearances to do then?
After this unappealing, overstuffed floral print chair and mirror appeared on the sidewalk and then stayed there, like a pimple on the smooth brick skin of Third Street, one resident decided to go down the passive-aggressive note route. First one hand-lettered note — the one asking to “please make them not be here anymore” — appeared. Then, when the floral monstrosity remained for a day or two more, the second one popped up . . . just in case the offender needed to know the proper method for disposing of the overstuffed horror. And does the handwriting indicate it’s one note-leaver, or two? The use of lower case in the newer note makes me wonder.
When I take my walk this morning, I’ll be eager to see whether the unsightly chair and mirror are still there — and, if so, whether a new, perhaps more pointed, note has sprouted on the rear of the mirror. We’ve seen the passive-aggressive “please” and “thx,” and the even more ironic “XO” hugs and kisses. What’s next? A passive-aggressive smiley face?
Russell’s dog Betty still has a lot of puppy in her, and taking her for a walk is a bit of an adventure. Every glimpse of another dog — regardless of age, breed, size, or whether they’re wearing one of those embarrassing head cones — puts Betty on full sensory alert and causes her to immediately begin panting and lunging forward in total sled dog mode. The other dogs are obviously the most fascinating things in the world. In German Village, which has more dogs out walking at any given moment than any other location in the free world, that means the Bettywalker is constantly trotting, arm extended and leash pulled taut, toward one dog or another. For Betty, only squirrels can rival other dogs as an attention-getter.
Imagine what it would be like if humans reacted in this way, treating every other person like they were The Most Interesting Man In The World in the Dos Equis commercials and making a beeline to every stranger you see on the street to give them a heavy-breathing, up-close-and-personal once-over. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad humans are a bit more diffident about other members of their species.
Hey, a squirrel!
We got several inches of snow last night. That means we’ll be living with a snow-covered street for the next few weeks, because forecasts are for temperatures with highs in the 20s, or below, for the foreseeable future.
It’s not that Columbus has inadequate plowing resources; in fact, the city’s road crews are pretty good. No, it’s because our street, like most of the streets in German Village, is paved with brick. Brick streets and snow plows don’t mix — unless you like plows hurling bricks from the road bed into parked cars, passing traffic, and pedestrians.
So we’ll have to wait to dispose of the snow the old-fashioned way . . . by melting.
Russell’s dog Betty needs to be walked, so we took her for a stroll around the neighborhood on this cold, bright Christmas morning — and discovered that even the front stoop German Village gargoyles are getting into the holiday spirit.
The spot in the middle of German Village where the original Max and Erma’s once operated for four decades has been vacant for a few months now, without any apparent signs of activity. Recently, though, stickers that look like those irritating “My name is” name tags that always fall off your suit coat appeared on the front windows. Yesterday Kish and I took a closer look, and the stickers represent some people’s wishes for what business should now occupy the property. I’m not sure whether the stickers were filled out by neighbors, former employees, Trader Joe’s shareholders, or somebody else who likes comics. Seriously . . . a comic book shop?
I’d like to see a restaurant in the spot. Something ethnic, perhaps. Maybe a good Szechuan spot?
The original Max & Erma’s restaurant, a German Village landmark for 45 years, has closed. It wasn’t killed by lack of traffic or any of the other issues that often put restaurants out of business — it was the building in which Max & Erma’s is located that apparently was the real culprit.
The company that owns the restaurant announced that the building “can no longer maintain the standards our guests deserve,” with one of the principal problems being the lack of an ADA-accessible bathroom. The company says it had “thoroughly explored available options, but both costs and covenants have proven to be to prohibitive.” This isn’t surprising for anyone who’s been to that quirky brick building — a building which lent some of the quirkiness to the Max & Erma’s ambiance generally. It was filled with little nooks and crannies and abrupt turns, and if you had to use the facilities, you had to navigate a narrow flight of steep stairs that took you into the basement. The original structures in German Village just weren’t built for wheelchairs, walkers, and other devices that are commonplace in modern America.
The closure of the restaurant leaves a kind of weird void on Third Street, because most of the people who live in, or visit, German Village expect to find a bustling Max & Erma’s, where they can get a cheeseburger and a beer and check out the quirky wall decorations. Forty-five years is a really long time by German Village standards, taking the original M&E’s back to the early days when the rehabbing wave was first washing over the neighborhood. Two of our friends had their first date at the original M&E’s back in the ’70s and liked to have a meal there when they came to Columbus for a visit. Now they won’t be able to do so.
We’ll miss the original Max & Erma’s, but German Village being what it is, the inevitable question now is: what’s going to go into that building now? With the closing of M&E’s and Caterina, a few blocks closer to downtown, we’ve got vacancies in two prime spots on Third Street. If the ADA issues can be resolved, we can always use another pub, restaurant, or shop.