Today my law firm, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, turns 110.  The firm has maintained its roots in a building at 52 East Gay Street in Columbus, Ohio for the entire time of its existence.

110 is getting up there.  I’m happy to say that I’ve only been at the firm for less than a third of those 110 years, having joined the firm in August 1986.  It’s been a wonderful place to work, and I can’t imagine practicing law anywhere else.

Happy birthday, VSSP!  May you have many more!  And on a day like this, Cracker’s Happy Birthday to Me seems apt.


Officially A “District”

I was walking through the Columbus airport on may way back from Denver last night when I passed a painted wall map depicting some of the different cool spots in Columbus.  There was the Short North, of course, and the Arena District, and the Brewery District, and the University District, and the Discovery District, and the Gay Street District.

Wait a second — the Gay Street District?

Well, if a painted wall on the airport says it, it must be so.  Good old Gay Street is now officially a “district,” right up there with the other established hot spots in Cbus.  If you’re a “district,” you know you’ve arrived.

Gay Street deserves to be a “district,” too.  It’s easily the coolest street in the core area of downtown Columbus, and it’s getting cooler by the minute.  With the recent addition of the Buckeye Bourbon House, the opening this week of Tiger + Lily, an Asian fusion restaurant, and the forthcoming opening of an Irish pub just across the alley, Gay Street offers a wide range of food and liquor options — and there is even more coming, with the Veritas Tavern set to open next year in the Citizens Building at the corner of Gay and High Street.  The street is bustling from noon onward, and it really shines during the spring and summer months, when the outdoor dining venues like Plantain Cafe, the Tip Top, and Due Amici all seem to be filled to overflowing when the workday ends and the fun begins.

For those of us who worked on Gay Street in the early ’90s, when the area was a kind of ghost town after 5 p.m., the transformation to the Gay Street of the modern day has been both exciting and amazing.  And I like to think that our firm, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP — which has remained in its offices on Gay Street through thick and thin — helped to make that transformation happen with its large array of hungry and thirsty lawyers, paralegals, and staff helping to fill up the coffee houses, restaurants and taverns that now call Gay Street home.

“The Gay Street District.”  Yep, I like the sound of that.

The Coolest Street In Downtown CBus

I’ve mentioned before that Gay Street, where I’ve worked for 30 years, is the coolest street in downtown Columbus.  I’m happy to say that this Columbus Underground article agrees with me, and provides some useful information about the additional development efforts that are underway, and being planned, for our little part of the downtown area.

IMG_2356Why has Gay Street become a destination street, and home to hotels, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and interesting retail ventures?  I think there are a lot of reasons, but two in particular stand out.

First, Gay Street managed to avoid the urban renewal meat axe that turned a lot of downtown Columbus into a kind of surface parking lot desert.  Our block of Gay Street, between High and Third, is filled with three-, four-, and five-story buildings, most of which were built in the early 1900s.  The buildings are small enough that they could be bought and rehabbed, one by one, by individuals or small firms — and that is exactly what has happened.  In short, Gay Street is an example of what small-bore capitalism can accomplish.  And the different looks and styles of the buildings also give the street a lot of charm and make eating at a sidewalk table at Due Amici or the Tip Top a fun experience.

Second, it helps when a street has a kind of reliable anchor tenant whose employees will help to fill the restaurants and coffee bars and make them successful.  The Vorys firm has been that anchor tenant.  We stuck with Gay Street in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when the street hit a low point and there wasn’t much going on, and now our lawyers are regular patrons of Cafe Brioso or the Plantain Cafe — to say nothing of the guys who are known, by name and standard order, at the Subway across the street.  When you’ve got a business with hundreds of employees looking every day for a lunch spot, or a place to have a beer after work, it helps to make the capitalist engine hum.

There are other contributors, of course.  As the CU article notes, changing Gay Street from a one-way to a two-way street definitely helped to give the street a more relaxed feel, and the City of Columbus has allowed the restaurants to set up sidewalk eating areas that not only increase the numbers of tables they can serve but also add a bustling, cosmopolitan element.  And some big developers have helped, too, by filling the blocks to the east with condominiums that have brought more permanent residents to the Gay Street mix.

It’s been great to see the change on Gay Street over the past 30 years, and to watch the developments occurring to the east and now to the west of our block.  With the long-vacant Madison’s building now being redeveloped, and the surface lot at Gay and High about to be filled in with a mixed-use building, there will be more changes to come.  I can’t wait to see where Gay Street is heading.