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Decade in Review: Community

Jeni Ruisch

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Decade of Change: Downtown’s Development

Cover image: Sarah Moore

Scrolling through social media rarely turns up much intellectual fuel. But clickbait articles can be so tempting. Especially when you see yourself in them. That’s why, if you’re anything like me, you nearly always click on the titles naming or alluding to our dear capital city.

“Why Columbus, Ohio is one of the top places to live in 2020.”

“This hidden Midwestern gem might be a place you’d like to call home.”

Digital junk food presented coyly to play (prey) on your sense of self and place. Gets me every time.

Photo: Brian Kaiser

As someone who has lived here nearly my entire life, I have a sense of obstinate pride about Columbus. I’m quick to point out that we have huge hubs of industry and business, teaching and research juggernauts, beautiful parks, a rich history, and an insistence that we DO have a fashion scene, if you’d only look for it.

But the truth is, Columbus is an established city that is still groping for something that would make us memorable to the rest of the country. This city is nothing if not in flux. Constant construction, new restaurants by the day, new events planned and held with the hope of becoming an annual tradition. And some changes are more physical than temporal, with no place seeing more renaissance than the heart of the downtown area.

When I was a kid, downtown equaled ghost town. Before the cap was built over 670, that space separated the Short North from the barren wasteland of What Came South. There was only a bridge with a tiny strip of concrete on either side for foot traffic. Now there is a seamless continuity to High Street, and you can window shop and eat your way from Worthington to German Village.

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The downtown core used to be devoid of life after the 9 to 5 workers went home. Cramped and crowded during the bookends of rush hour, with only a quick bustle of lunch between, and then the sidewalks seemingly rolled up, and out went the lights. Restaurants in this part of town were unheard of in the dinner hour, save for a few ancient stalwarts. There was no music or other entertainment. And certainly no one lived there.

In the open void of space between the time City Center closed, and the drums of revitalization began to beat, there were only little pockets of life and commerce.

But now.

Oh, now every inch is established. Buildings are shooting up into the sky like the old part of the city once called “Flytown”—so named because the buildings seemed to fly up over night. Anything not already built up seems to be in planning stages. But this isn’t a brand new circumstance. The last decade has seen a wave of change wash over Columbus.

In 2011, while the water in the rivers still ran swift and muddy, the city opened the Scioto Mile in anticipation of huge changes to the river itself that would take years to engineer and complete. After a restructuring of the physical bed, the flow of the river is now widened and slowed, with habitat for wildlife, and space for recreation under the skyline. Now kayakers dot the glassy summer surface of the water, and once-disappeared animals like otters and rainbow darters have returned to the renewed ecosystem.

That same year saw the completion of the Columbus Commons, a now-staple performance and gathering place in walking distance for not only the commuters to the big corporations downtown, but those that have chosen to dwell there.

The Metro Parks continued their upgrade with the 2013 expansion of Scioto Audubon. The former police impound lot now boasts a boat dock, climbing wall, paved greenways, maintained ponds, event spaces, dog parks, sand volleyball, and more. There is no shortage of outdoor adventure available here, even if you live in a luxury highrise.

In 2015 and 2016, Columbus saw advancement on the intellectual front with the new wing of the Columbus Museum of Art, and renovations to the historic downtown library. Last year, the new Vets Memorial rose from the ashes where its predecessor once stood. Our historic and beloved LeVeque Tower now houses apartments, a luxury hotel, and one of the best bar/restaurants in the whole city.

“Progress” is a fickle word when rising housing prices push out established low income communities. But the area west of 315 is seeing hopeful change coming down the line after the dissolution of the city’s flawed vice unit, and plans for a safe house for sex workers along the Sullivant corridor. Progress giveth, and progress taketh away.

The area around COSI is slated for a huge upheaval in the next several years, as the long-empty lots and lawns there will soon house (even more) luxury housing, and walkable shops.

Long time residents have seen head-spinning changes happen in the last decade that simply are not possible in longer-established metro areas. Columbus continues to evolve at a rapid pace, simply put, because it has the room to grow.

Like a middle schooler trying on ridiculous hairdos, searching for their signature style, Columbus has a chip on its shoulder about establishing a widely recognized identity.

But the truth is, we’re a work in progress.
And progress is something we have in spades.

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Sports

Columbus’s John Tortorella Coach of the Year finalist

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Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella / photo by Lori Schmidt

The NHL has announced that Columbus Blue Jackets head man John Tortorella is a finalist for the Jack Adams Coach of the Year Award. If he beats out Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins and Alain Vigneault of the Philadelphia Flyers, it will be the third time Tortorella has taken home the honor. 

He’s been a finalist for the award four times.

Not many seasons have been like this one, though. 

Before COVID-19 interrupted the Blue Jackets season, Columbus went 33-22-15 despite losing 419 man games to injury. 

Among those missing significant time for the Blue Jackets: last year’s leading goal scorer (Cam Atkinson), the team’s All-Star defenseman (Seth Jones), and All-Star goaltender (Joonas Korpisalo). 

Even as players fell to injury, the team rose to ninth place in the Eastern Conference, which qualified them for the modified postseason, which is scheduled for next month.

Columbus will face Toronto in Toronto for a best-of-five Stanley Cup Playoff qualifying round, the dates for the first games of which are set.

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Prior to that, Columbus will face Boston July 30 at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game. 

It won’t be long after that, Tortorella will learn if he is the NHL’s coach of the year. The winners of this year’s NHL honors will be revealed during the Conference Finals.

Hear captain Nick Foligno's thoughts on the Stanley Cup Playoffs below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6OyEsL0h68
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Ohio high school fall sports are on…for now

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Interim Executive Director of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Bob Goldring today announced that, as of now, fall sports are going ahead as scheduled. The decision as to whether to cancel play over COVID-19 concerns will be left up to individual schools. 

Goldring added that this could easily change. He talked about the fact that the governor might make a ruling that affects the ability of athletes, particularly those in contact sports, to play. 

There has been some discussion of pushing back the start date of sports in which the most contact occurs, particularly after This Week Sports reported an unknown number of local high school football coaches had suggested moving football to the spring, while having baseball staged in the fall.

Goldring did admit they have been looking at options and said they would be naive not to do so, especially because 80 percent of their revenue comes from ticket sales. Without games being played, tough decisions will certainly have to be made. 

 “The fiscal part of things is very much on my radar,” Goldring said. 

As to whether fans would actually be able to buy tickets and attend games if they do go ahead? Goldring said that, too, is ultimately a local matter. 

OHSAA may cut the minimum number of games a football team is required to play to qualify for the playoffs to account for the possibility of only some games being canceled. 

The board of directors is also still pondering the question of whether athletes can take the field if they are relying on virtual learning and aren’t allowed into the classroom. 

Right now, though, they are proceeding as if the fall season will kick off Aug. 1.

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News

Buckeyes back to work

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Ohio State athletics is permitting athletes from seven different sports to resume voluntary workouts after a pause due to an outbreak of COVID-19. 

Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade heads into a workout

The university said that all athletes were tested Monday before determining that the resumption was safe. 

“These young people come from across the nation and the world to be part of our Ohio State family, and we do everything we can to create a safe, healthy environment so that they have a chance to study and compete,” said Athletics Director Gene Smith. “Our medical team will continue to evaluate, and we will share decisions as we move forward.”

The Buckeyes have refused to say how many athletes have tested positive, but longtime beat reporter Tim May had said it was fewer than ten. 

OSU teams with athletes currently working out on campus are football, men’s and women’s basketball, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.

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