German Village Gazette

Village Notebook

Persistent efforts keep Village in forefront at City Hall

I've begun to feel like I live at City Hall and 50 W. Gay St. A lot of my attention in the past six months has been on city affairs and the several projects we are moving forward thanks to city partnerships.

The perception when I took this job was that the city has forgotten German Village.

We're considered too able to take care of ourselves to be bothered with -- precious city resources were focused elsewhere.

I'm sure there was a time (perhaps a very long time) where that was true, but in every office I enter and for every project coming our way, I can tell you I believe those days are over.

Not without some considerable work on the part of the German Village Society -- but I am tickled to share some of the highlights of how attention is swinging back in our direction.

Historic Preservation Advocate Sarah Marsom and I have begun meeting monthly with City Historic Preservation staff to make sure issues raised by last year's petition process, by regular German Village Commission meetings and longer-term questions and challenges become actionable.

This is critical and the Historic Preservation Office is focused on collaborating with the German Village Society and the German Village Commission to make sure we're working to align our preservation efforts with best practices.

Treasurer and Parking Committee Chairman Tim Bibler and I have spent many meetings with the City Mobility Options team, seeking ways to improve parking use in German Village.

The gift of the OSU graduate planning students, who diligently studied the neighborhood (doing repeated parking counts out in the cold during the worst winter on record), was nothing short of brilliant.

And more proof that German Village is once again being taken seriously by the city of Columbus.

Our Urban Infrastructure Recovery Funds for the Third Street Engineering study have put Civic Relations Chairman Nelson Genshaft -- and other members of Civic Relations -- into direct contact with the city and its contractor on the project, OHM.

That half-million-dollar investment from city funds for Third Street improvements will not only restore our connection to downtown, but show us best practices in curbs, sidewalks, utilities, lighting, safety and drainage to apply to the rest of our neighborhood streets.

And already our city partners have their eye on how to fund the actual improvements once the study is complete in summer 2015.

The city also asked us to the table this winter to prioritize the next several years' worth of UIRF-eligible projects.

The Civic Relations team, working closely with Marsom, put together a set of terms and priorities that led us to put brick-street repair at the top of our list and now we're working with that department to assure our projects get funded in a timely manner.

Marsom is also working closely with our Interstates 70/71 guru, Trustee Bill Curlis, to understand the new caps coming to Third and Fourth streets and to advocate for proper signage to help our residents and visitors navigate the new interstate traffic patterns and find German Village.

The next piece of the interstates puzzle is what's to happen with Livingston Avenue.

I'm pleased to report that yet another city office invited Curlis and me to preview plans this week and those will be shared first with the Society Board and then with the full community probably before fall.

They've asked us to the table because they understand our feedback is critical to the project's success.

In short, there are two conventional wisdom narratives I hear a lot about German Village that I'm hoping to debunk in sharing these details.

They are:

* We aren't taken seriously by City Hall.

* Why do we need so much money for operations?

Our building and our staff are the two biggest spends out of our budget each year.

Many nonprofits are taken to task for having administrative (building, staff) expenses that take up too large a percentage of spending.

But what I hope you can see in the examples above is that much of the German Village Society's output -- our "projects and programs" -- are heavy lifts for staff time, expertise and relationships.

This is where your investments pay off, whether you're a member, donor, ticket-buyer, volunteer or other contributor.

Thank you for being on the team.

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