Our Fast-Growing Neighbor

Nationwide Children’s Hospital is growing faster than the feet of a 12-year-old boy, and there’s more to come.

Yesterday the hospital announced its additional development plans, which feature constructing seven new buildings, most of them in the narrow corridor between the I-70 freeway and Livingston Avenue.  When the buildings are completed, the NCH campus will stretch from its early buildings just north of Parsons all the way down to Grant.  The new buildings include a behavioral health center, a medical office building, and a research facility, and are forecast to cost $730 million.

nationwide-childrens-hospital-schieber-5The new buildings will continue the amazing growth spurt at the hospital, which has been home to ever-present construction cranes for some years now.  The ongoing expansion has helped propel NCH up the lists of preeminent children’s medical facilities in America.  The hospital is obviously a wonderful health care asset for the community and its families — anyone who has ever had to take a kid to Children’s for treatment knows that — and it’s also a growing employer during a period where new job creation isn’t exactly skyrocketing.  We’re indeed fortunate that NCH calls Columbus home.

As a German Villager, though, I’m also interested in the impact of the NCH expansion plans on this part of town.  You would expect that the construction of new buildings and a pretty campus will spur ancillary development efforts, and there’s at least a chance that the people who will be toiling in those new buildings might want to live within walking distance of their new workplaces.  I’m guessing that we’ll see a surge in interest in homes in Schumacher Place, German Village, and Merion Village, as well as attention to the buildings and lots on the south side of Livingston.  I think the NCH plans can’t help but improve our neighborhood.

There’s still a big piece of the puzzle, though, just west of the edge of the expanded NCH property, where the Columbus Africentric property now stands.  The Columbus Public Schools will be moving the school one of these days, which will leave a large parcel of property right on the edge of German Village and just across the freeway from downtown up for grabs.  Will NCH continue its move west, or will a developer decide that the school site presents a really choice opportunity for another mixed-use effort?

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.