German Village Gazette

Village notebook

Village proud to be on frontline of national preservation, urban renewal wave

"Historic preservation is about protecting, promoting, and using historic places. It is also about the power of place, places that matter because they help tell the story of ... who we are and where we come from."

That's the lead quote from the website for the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, and it really defines the thinking of preservationists, among whom the German Village Society proudly counts itself.

German Village is also proud to be part of a city on the frontline of a national wave of preservation and urban renewal.

We, as a city, are such leaders that our own Mayor Michael Coleman was appointed by President Obama to the White House Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, in part, because "he has focused on rejuvenating downtown Columbus."

There's a real concentration of energy and interest -- not just in the mayor's office -- around revitalizing our urban core, and while German Village might have led the way in 1960 with the forming of the Society and the creation of the first historic review district, we are cheerleaders and students of the new trailblazers who are focused on Weinland Park, Franklinton and the near east side.

That quote up top helps to explain why.

Preservation and urban renewal have real economic and lifestyle consequences.

In July of this year, the Columbus Dispatch reported a super-low 4.5 percent rental availability rate in the downtown core.

"For decades, injecting some residential life into Downtown was an oft-stated, never-attained goal. Lo and behold, though, more and more people, especially young singles, have come to demand the benefits that only city life can bestow: restaurants, entertainment, parks and workplaces within walking distance; a lively atmosphere; and plenty of other young professionals as neighbors ... ," the paper reported.

We see it in The Village. Census 2010 stats show us half of our neighbors rent and half are ages 20-49.

Just last month, the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions -- a body that serves as a national voice representing the particular needs of commissions -- profiled Columbus Historic Preservation Officer Randy Black.

He notes Columbus has 18 historic districts and 59 individual buildings listed on the historic register, plus five historic architectural review commissions.

Black told the NAPC "... a growing interest among people to live in city centers will lead to restoration and adaptive reuse of historic residential and commercial buildings. Rehabilitation will remain the most cost-effective use of development dollars."

German Village is a model of urban neighborhood preservation and revitalization -- a nationally recognized success story.

In the upcoming year, the German Village Society is turning a laser-like focus on using that reputation to continue to lead in preservation efforts.

We are looking at hosting a regional conference for planning professionals.

We will continue our workshop series for historic property owners.

We will look to strengthen and extend our partnerships with Columbus Landmarks and Heritage Ohio, plus Columbus' other great downtown neighborhoods.

We hope to start strategizing an historic signage plan for the district, and create new field trip opportunities that bring students down to learn about our architecture and community advocacy.

And we intend to launch a mini capital campaign to improve the Visitors Center in ways the make our preservation story more experiential and memorable for those who visit us from around the city and around the world.

Watch this space for ALL of the exciting details.

German Village Society Director Shiloh Todorov submitted the Village Notebook column.