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The local architecture firm who gave beautiful home to family in need

Mike Thomas

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Curt Moody knew he wanted to be an architect before he knew there was a name given to that particular career path. While enrolled in a middle-school industrial arts program, he discovered a love for drawing, but was less than taken with the rendering of machine parts that made up much of the curriculum.

“In the back of one of the books, there were houses,” Moody explains. “I asked my instructor if he’d allow me to draw those instead of what was normal for the class, and he said yes. That was when I knew I wanted to do buildings.”

Thanks to this gracious concession from his seventh-grade teacher, Moody had taken the first steps in what would be an accomplished career. Moody Nolan, the architecture firm that Moody would go on to found in 1982, is today a booming operation with offices throughout the country and an impressive list of awards and accolades to its name.

The successes enjoyed by Moody today are largely a result of opportunities available to him in his youth, and the fact that others may not be as privileged is not lost on him. Like many businesses that have achieved a certain status, Moody Nolan has engaged in the sort of philanthropic work that is expected of leaders in the community. 

In spite of years of time and energy spent giving to various causes and organizations, Moody couldn’t seem to shake the nagging sensation that he and his company could be doing more.

“There were so many golf outings and dinners that we participated in over the years, but if you asked us where did that money go,
we couldn’t tell you,” Moody says of the firm’s past charitable efforts. “We knew we were doing it for a good cause, but how can we do something better, using what we do? We are architects. We design buildings, we design houses—why can’t we use what we do to make something more permanent?”

Inspired to give back to the least advantaged members of society in a more tangible way, Moody and his associates conceived the Legacy Project. Designed to set an example to their peers in business and beyond, the project would begin with a single house, designed by Moody Nolan, to be given away to an underprivileged family at zero cost. 

“There are a whole lot of great programs out there when it comes to affordable housing, but the truth is there are not enough,” Moody explains of the issues central to the project. “There’s a problem that no one seems to know how to address: if you make $22,000 a year, what’s affordable [housing]? There’s nothing that you could purchase that is affordable when every bit of your income is going toward trying to just live.”

Its plan of action decided, Moody Nolan set aside 50% of its annual budget for giving to put toward the Legacy House. Moody reached out for donations from longstanding business partners, who donated time, funding, and building supplies to see the project through to completion. When all was said and done, the modern, fully-furnished 700-square-foot home included everything a family starting from scratch would need, from linens to cabinets fully stocked with food. 

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Thanks to a land donation from The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Moody Nolan decided to place the home in Columbus’ Linden neighborhood. Having previously designed a community recreation center in the area, Moody and his associates were already well aware of the challenges faced by this economically disadvantaged community, and knew that it could benefit from the positive exposure.

When it came to finding a family in need to receive the home, Moody looked to YMCA of Central Ohio and Southeast Inc. to help navigate a list of potential candidates. 

“[Curt] really wanted a family that was currently experiencing homelessness. This would be a new start, a new beginning for a family that was in about the most vulnerable state that you could possibly be in as a human—which is without a home,” says Sue Darby, the Senior Vice President of Housing for the downtown Columbus YMCA. 

While the family who was ultimately chosen has asked to remain anonymous, Darby describes them as a very young family experiencing homelessness for the first time after a series of unfortunate life events.    

“I think what compelled us the most through the interview process was their determination, always putting the children first in every decision,” 

Darby says of the family. “With the legacy house, you’re just really hopeful that the poverty cycle for at least this family has now been broken.”

While the Legacy Project has made an immeasurable difference in the lives of one family, the realities of homelessness continue to pose significant challenges to communities in Central Ohio and beyond.

Moody and his partners hope that the greatest impact of the Legacy Project will be found in its example, and encourage others with the means to do so to undertake similar projects.

“I admire Moody Nolan for what they did, and I encourage other companies and individuals to take this same challenge, and to build new or revamp some areas that could be used for individuals who are in this kind of crisis,” says Darby. “Right now at Van Buren [shelter] we have over 80 families every night that come through our doors who are experiencing this tragedy. Affordable housing is the number-one issue. It’s not rocket science—housing ends homelessness.”

Moody Nolan plans to build other homes in the communities it serves. For more inforation, visit moodynolan.com

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North Market Past: A history of the 143-year-old business

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Contrary to what some might expect, the North Market has outlasted a history that’s pitted culture and economics against it. It has, through dedicated merchants and customers, endured.

Columbus’ three other public markets can’t say the same. The Central Market, the East End Market House and the West End Market House have all risen and, ultimately, fallen over the decades. That leaves the North Market as the only space through which the city can preserve and celebrate this aspect of the area’s history.

The original North Market (image courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library)

“This place has been evolving since the day it opened in 1876,” said Rick Harrison Wolfe, executive director of the North Market Development Authority. “Everything changes. The merchants changed, the way people shop changes, the buildings change. ... We are an evolving thing, and that’s the only way we’ve been able to survive over these 143 years.”

Columbus was incorporated as a city in 1834, and the first public market was born a little over 10 years later: the Central Market, built around 1850, stood on Fourth Street between Rich and Town Streets. If that location rings a bell, it’s because today, that is the location of the Greyhound Bus Station.

At the time—before the era of supermarkets—public markets were a place for Columbus residents, farmers and merchants to buy and sell fresh food and other products. This was a national trend according to the Ohio History Connection, many cities were building public markets “to facilitate agricultural and industrial as well as retail trade around the middle of the 1800s.”

The Central Market House became “one of the best-known institutions of Columbus,” with blocks of stalls lined with horses and wagons where three mornings during the week and Saturday nights it was “a very busy scene,” write Lyan Liu and K. Austin Kerr in their book The Story of Columbus: Past, Present and Future of the Metropolis of Central Ohio.

The two other now-closed markets, the West and East End Market Houses, were built following the Central Market House, and in 1876, the North Market opened on Spruce Street.

The land upon which the North Market sits has a story that precedes the historic space. It was Columbus’ first cemetery, the Old North Graveyard, dating back to 1813. The cemetery remained in use until 1873, growing to more than 12 acres and becoming the final resting place for some of the city’s founders, including Columbus’ second mayor, who was buried there in 1823, according to Jannette Quakenbush’s book Columbus Ohio Ghost Hunter Guide.

But times, and Columbus, changed, and the city needed to make room for the future. Columbus’ first railroad station was built next to the cemetery, and as it grew throughout the 1850s and 1860s, the railroad companies led lawsuits to acquire more and more of the cemetery’s land, Quakenbush writes. In the end, many—though not all—of the Old North Graveyard remains were transferred to Greenlawn Cemetery.

The original North Market was a two-story brick building. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the market had a slate roof and was 325 feet long and 80 feet wide—distinctly different from its space now. The neighborhood in which the North Market was built was undergoing a massive transformation in the late 19th century, becoming a hub of commercial and warehouse buildings and reflecting “the growth of Columbus as an important retail and distribution center after the Civil War,” according to the Ohio Historic Places Dictionary. It’s perhaps fitting, then, that the market would eventually come to occupy one of those old warehouses after an incredibly turbulent and uncertain period in the market’s history.

By the mid-20th century, public markets were losing their popularity, and a fire at the East End Market in 1947 put an end to one of Columbus’ four markets. Just a year later, the North Market itself burned down. To revive the market, its merchants pooled their resources and purchased a military-surplus Quonset hut. In contrast to the market’s previous building, the Quonset was a metal, arch-shaped building meant to be a temporary space.

However, as the remaining markets went out of business— the original Central Market was demolished in 1966—the North Market limped along.

“That was maybe the 50s or 60s, as public markets were starting to struggle, and we were city owned and city operated up until the late 80s,” Wolfe said. “Generally speaking, that’s not in this day and age the best way to do it.”

The market was losing money, but as the last one standing at a time when people were once again becoming interested in markets and their vendors, the city, merchants and shoppers decided to create the North Market Development Authority in an effort to reinvigorate the space.

The NMDA in partnership with the city and community partners was key in transforming the North Market into its modern iteration. In 1992, the city purchased a former Advanced Thresher warehouse adjacent to the Quonset hut. It was a space with “an interesting interior structure of wood and steel, abundant windows to provide natural light so lacking in the old market, good vertical and horizontal clearances to enable movement of crowds, and a second level of office, restaurant and dining space,” as the AIA Guide to Columbus describes. In other words, the foundation in which the current North Market resides could be built. The North Market moved in 1995.

North Market, 1985 (Photo courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library)

“There was no arena, there was no convention center. All the buildings on Park Street were boarded up,” Wolfe said. “It took the support of the city, and individuals and some of our corporate friends around to keep this thing alive.”

When Wolfe became the NMDA executive director in 2013, he says he wanted to get the market out of more than 100 years of operating in the red. Continued investment from the city has been vital to make that vision a reality.

“We have to be subsidized, and we also have to be creative on how we make money,” Wolfe said.

The North Market may be the only remaining public market in Columbus, but two others still exist in Ohio: one in Cleveland and one in Cincinnati, Wolfe says. It’s not even the only place in Columbus people can go for a reminder of this piece of Columbus’ history; a new restaurant called the Central Market House is named in tribute to “the thriving Central Market which served as the central economic center of Columbus from 1850 until 1966,” according to its Facebook page. However, the market is a must-see for Columbus residents and visitors, presenting a one-of-a-kind microcosm of the city’s food and cultural scene, and it’s a storied space that Wolfe himself is partial to.

“The Short North ... COSI, the art museum, those are all amazing resources and amenities to our city. But you know, we’re free to hang out. I think we’re the best out of all those. I think we’re the best.”

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Farm to Vehicle: Veggie Van brings affordable staples to those in need

Linda Lee Baird

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Bushels of greens, squash, tomatoes, beans, and peppers are laid out on tables under a tent on Cleveland Avenue—the organic produce clearly labeled as such. I’m munching on fresh peach salsa, and holding a recipe card listing the ingredients I’ll need to make the recipe at home. It feels like an upscale farmers market, but it’s a different take on the concept. This is the Local Matters Veggie Van, a mobile, affordable market that brings fresh food into neighborhoods under-served by traditional grocers. Every week, the Veggie Van makes regular stops in the city’s Linden, Hilltop, and King-Lincoln neighborhoods.

“Our goal is for you to be able to make a complete meal for under $10,” said Monique Williams-McCoy, Local Matters’ Community Food Access Coordinator. To achieve this, the Veggie Van sells staples such as lemons and limes, and shelf-stable items like beans, rice, and olive oil, in addition to seasonal produce. While the “local” part of the organization’s mission is brought in through food farmed from Local Matters Community gardens and relationships with Ohio growers, what matters most to Williams-McCoy is making sure people have healthy food on their shelves. “It’s important for us to be able to get it local, but it’s more important for people to have access,” she said.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Accessibility goes beyond presence; it’s also about knowledge of how to prepare what’s available. To assist, Williams-McCoy leads cooking demos and hands out samples of prepared foods using the ingredients which are for sale that day. “I’ll have recipe cards. I’ll take them right up here to the market ... [and] show them what they need to get,” she said. “We may not have anything fancy like ugly fruit or jackfruit, but we will have those things that ... you know how to go about preparing them— where you’re not going to be intimidated.”

First launched in 2009, the Veggie Van didn’t resonate with customers as hoped the first time around. “It was way before its time,” Williams- McCoy explained. But when Kroger’s Northern Lights location closed in early 2018—leaving the Linden area without a major supermarket— staff at Local Matters began thinking about pursuing the idea again. With issues such as food justice, accessibility, and smaller-scale food production garnering attention over the past decade, the timing felt right. Local Matters was selected by the University at Buffalo to participate in a study about the role of mobile food markets on increasing food security and improving fresh food access in communities under-served by grocery stores. The Veggie Van relaunched in July.

Community support and partnerships became the key to the project’s success this time around. Ijeoma Nnani, Owner and Pharmacist at Trio Pharmacy, said she was committed to the project. “When Kroger closed down, the whole area became ... a fresh produce desert. So I thought of what I [could] do to get people to eat fresh,” she said. Nnani heard about the Veggie Van through conversations with people in the community, and she reached out to Local Matters. “They came, we had a meeting, and that was it.” The Veggie Van now sets up shop in front of her business every Tuesday.

Williams-McCoy said the Veggie Van is well-received by patrons. “They love the display of the market because they feel like they’re shopping with dignity, and they love that everything’s fresh, and they love that the prices are very reasonable,” she said.

In addition to accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, Local Matters offers Produce Perks, doubling the value of SNAP benefits spent on fruits and vegetables. The community pitches in as well—sometimes people will leave extra money when they make their purchase for others who need it. “People are paying it forward here,” Williams-McCoy said. “I don’t want anyone to walk away from my stand hungry.”

The potential benefits from this project extend far beyond the conclusion of a satisfying, home-cooked meal. Reliable access to healthy foods, as well as the knowledge and skills required to shop for, prepare, and cook healthy meals on a budget, are key aspects of increasing food security and preventing diet-related disease, a point Nnani emphasized. “Even though my profession, my business, is to give people medicine, I tell them that if you eat well, you don’t need my medicine. You may put me out of business—who knows—but I’d rather that you’re well!”

If you ever spot the Veggie Van around town, Williams-McCoy invites you to come by. “You need to stop and get your shopping done, and know that you’re supporting something that’s really needed in the neighborhood.”

Visit local-matters.org/veggie-van for the Veggie Van’s weekly schedule.

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Arts & Culture

Two of the 13 “Greatest Places in America” are in Central Ohio

Mike Thomas

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Throughout Central Ohio, efforts to uplift communities have been ongoing for decades. Now, some of these efforts are garnering attention on the national stage.

According to a report from Columbus Business First, The Short North Arts District and Delaware's historic downtown were named among 13 “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association, a national organization of urban planners.

The APA's picks highlight locales representing “the gold standard for a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for the future.”

In its rundown of the Short North Arts District, the APA points to the neighborhood's status as "a pioneer in urban revitalization in Central Ohio," and goes on to call the neighborhood the "art and soul" of the City of Columbus.

As for downtown Delaware, the APA It highlighted efforts by civic and business leaders in transforming the derelict city center into a thriving neighborhood full of attractive amenities for locals and visitors to enjoy.

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