The New Parsons Branch

It was a big day today in the German Village/Schumacher Place/near East Side part of Columbus.  The new Parsons branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library opened.

The old Parsons branch was the smallest branch in the excellent Columbus system.  It was really more like a high school or junior high library than a public library branch, but it was the only library within walking distance when the Main Library closed for renovations, and Kish and I visited and used it extensively.  Then the old Parsons branch shut down, leaving us without a nearby library for an uncomfortable period of time for us regular library users, before the new branch opened a few blocks directly south of the old location.

IMG_1146The new branch is a big improvement — literally.  It’s much larger, inside and out, and my brief bit of perusing during our visit indicates that its collection is more extensive than that at the old branch, too.  That’s a welcome change indeed, because I like browsing and grabbing a book that strikes my fancy at the time, and I had just about worked through all of the selections in my preferred literary genres in the standing collection at the old branch.  With the additional book options available at the new location, I’ll be kept busy for a while.

I’m not sure that we’re going to keep using the Parsons Branch, however, when the Main Library renovations are done and Main reopens to the public in a few weeks.  With the shift of Parsons to the south, it’s almost certainly farther away from us than the Main Library.  When you add that fact to the far more extensive standing collection at Main, I suspect that my choice when I’m in the mood for some browsing will be to cross over the freeway and head to Main.

The new Parsons branch will be interesting to keep an eye on for another reason.  It’s part of the ongoing effort to improve Parsons Avenue, and with the move south it’s an attempt to nudge the redevelopment wave a few blocks farther away from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital zone.  The new neighborhood for the branch has a decidedly more gritty feel, but that may change as the new library and some other redevelopment efforts in the area come on line.  I’m sure that civic leaders are hoping that a new library can help the area feel more like a neighborhood and less like an urban renewal project.  Today, at least, the branch was jammed on its opening day.  It would be a good sign if that continues.

At The Crest

IMG_6441Yesterday Dr. Science and I decided to grab lunch at The Crest Gastropub, newly opened near the corner of Livingston and Parsons, catty corner to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The Crest is seen by many people in the neighborhood as a key component of the effort to revive the Parsons Avenue corridor.  It’s also a place with an interesting air of legend surrounding it.  For decades, the Crest Tavern was a legendary saloon in the Clintonville area, and more recently it was purchased, refurbished, and turned into a well-regarded foodie destination.  I’ve never been there in either of its incarnations.  Now the proprietors have opened a new location, and Parsons Avenue boosters are hoping it thrives.

IMG_6437If my visit yesterday is any indication, I’d say the Crest will do just fine, thank you very much.  The new location is roomy and attractive, with a central bar/counter area, a cluster of high-tops where Dr. Science and I landed, and more conventional tables sprinkled just about everywhere.  It’s got high ceilings, a bright feeling, and a cool piece of artwork on one wall that looks like a recreation of tree bark with bits of moss on it.  I’d guess that the ambiance will appeal to most diners.

I think they’ll find the food pretty appealing, too.  The Crest has a large menu with lots of enticing options, and according to our friendly server it’s known for its salads.  I recoiled in horror from that suggestion and went instead for the Americana burger, which is two hamburger patties, cheese, bacon, and onion straws.  The quality of burger offerings tell you a lot about a place, and this was a juicy slice of culinary excellence.  I’d recommend that you add some of the Crest’s own special recipe hot sauce, which really gave the burger a nice kick.

One note:  the Crest isn’t cheap.  The Americana burger comes in at $16 and thereby continues the trend toward burger-entree price convergence that you see at many more upscale restaurants.  At many places, burgers have long since crossed the $10 threshold, marched relentlessly upward in price, and broken through the $15.00 barrier.  I love burgers, and I’m willing to shell out $16.00 for a really good double-patty effort once in a while, but at some point — I’m not sure just where right now — I’m going to draw the line.

I’ll happily go back to The Crest Gastropub, though.  If you visit, be sure to pick up one of the cool, free buttons they are offering, with a lamb and Ohio flag logo that celebrates the proprietors’ Lebanese heritage.

Prettying Up Parsons

IMG_5970In 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.

IMG_5969The 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.

From Main To Parsons

A few days I got an email advising that the Main Library is going to be closing during its renovation after all.  So, I’ll need to bid farewell to the Main building, with its great historic features and interesting artwork, and find a new library branch.

IMG_4669The plan was to keep the original Main library building open while work proceeded on the newer building, but the email from the Columbus Metropolitan Library said that for “budget, safety, and scheduling reasons,” they will need to close the Main Library entirely effective April 13. According to a local TV station, library officials cited lower than expected usage since the partial closure and the cost of keeping the older building open during the construction project.  In my recent visits, I’ve noticed an apparent drop-off in patrons.

So, I need to find a new branch, and although the Main Library closure won’t take effect until April 13, there’s no time like the present.  The Columbus Metropolitan Library website has a helpful locations page that shows that the next nearest branch to us is on Parsons Avenue, to the east and south but well within walking distance — so that’s what I’ll start using.  Unfortunately, the information for the Parsons branch indicates that it is closed on Sunday, which is pretty inconvenient for us working stiffs who reserve Saturday for chores around the house and think Sunday is a great day for a library visit.  We’ll just have to adjust our thinking, and our schedules, until the Main Library comes back on-line.

One other thing about the closure of Main — it means I’ll be seeing a part of Columbus I really haven’t seen before.  I don’t think I’ve ever been on Parsons Avenue south of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and given the explosion of building in the Children’s Hospital area it will be interesting to see if the construction projects are changing the neighborhood where the Parsons branch is located.  If only it were open on Sunday!