German Village Gazette

Village notebook

Careful 'tweaks' to 'recipe' help keep Village thriving

I grew up near Blacklick, a village in eastern Franklin County that still has no discernible "downtown."

"Downtown" for my sister and I in the 1950s meant Lazarus.

We were specifically not allowed to go south of Rich Street for fear of venturing into "the wrong areas."

I never quite knew what that meant, even when I returned to Columbus for law school at Ohio State University.

In an urban planning course at OSU, the key question on the final exam was "how do you design a city?"

Although being my last exam question in law school had nothing to bear on it, I responded by reciting a recipe for a marble pound cake -- "... put all of the ingredients in a bowl and lightly stir, but be sure never to homogenize in order to come out with the most delightful product."

It was only in the 1970s, when I started working with residents in German Village on protecting The Village from increased commercialism, that I really understood what is now "new urbanism" and the value of preserving our historic spaces.

At that time, most of the construction noise occurred in the evenings and on weekends as "fixer uppers" did most of the updates themselves.

Now the construction noise, which in many cases is far more intense, occurs during the day, reflecting the higher income levels in The Village and the ability to hire outside contractors.

During the years, The Village has become more homogenous to a certain degree as early residents who grew up in the house in which they were born have "moved on."

However, with all the changes that have occurred, the original "recipe" of Frank Fetch and the founding members of the German Village Society has remained pretty much unchanged: combine all of the ingredients as you find them, but don't mix them up too much.

The current Society Board of Trustees has a primary goal of preservation of "what has been" with only slight "tweaks to the recipe" when needed to enhance the product or perhaps correct a wrong.

As has been the case for at least the last 25 years, the vitality of what is now German Village has become more widely known and The Village is becoming a far greater magnet for "new urbanists" of all ages, and most excitedly, new young families.

The "Southside STAY" organization of young families trying to improve the educational opportunities for their children is particularly noteworthy.

Absent a near term "tweak to the recipe," most of these young families will depart when their children come of school age, leaving a tremendous void in our village fabric, and indeed, the fabric of all downtown and the other surrounding historic neighborhoods.

Similarly, The Village, which was severely divided from downtown by "the trench" in the early 1960s, has the prospect of new connectivity with our own "caps" at perhaps High and Third streets.

Once established, the ebb and flow of a dynamic downtown with well-balanced residential areas augers well for our community, and our own historic part of Columbus.

 

German Village Society Board of Trustees Member Jeffrey McNealey submitted the Village notebook column.

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