The Forest Park home that real-estate agent Ric Smith recently listed wasn't just another house.
Smith grew up in the split-level home, which had been in the family since Smith's father, Dick, built it in 1962.
When Dick Smith passed away in September, Smith's stepmother, Jean Smith, asked her stepson to help her sell it.
He agreed, on one condition: that he could renovate the home first.
Smith was determined that the home reflect Forest Park's heritage as well as its rebirth, so he spent months remodeling it. The result: modern updates as well as midcentury touches, such as a starburst clock, Fiesta dinnerware and an entertainment console, that pay homage to the home's 1960s roots.
"The hard part was tearing out things my dad put in," said Smith, 48. "My dad was never into the modern look."
Smith listed the home for $179,900, about $30,000 more than the neighborhood's average sales price.
Within two days, he had 16 offers, demonstrating to him that Forest Park is back.
"I've been selling real estate for 24 years and sold many homes in that neighborhood," said Smith, a Northland High School graduate who now lives in Pickerington. "I can see a huge, huge difference between the activity I saw in this property and what we saw five or 10 years ago."
His success in selling the home reflects renewed interest in the Northland neighborhood, which holds a prized place in Columbus history.
When it opened in 1961, Forest Park was billed as the "first self-contained community of its size" in the nation, with schools, a shopping center, a swimming pool, bowling alley, tennis courts, churches and walking trails in addition to residences.
"Hundreds of communities around the country used Forest Park as their model," said George Schmidt, who has served as president of the Forest Park Civic Association seven times. "You could get anywhere you needed to go by walking."
Forest Park, which originally was west of Karl Road and south of East Dublin-Granville Road, was such an instant success after the 1961 Parade of Homes that it was expanded east of Karl Road, creating Forest Park West and Forest Park East. (Forest Park also played host to the 1963 and 1969 Parades.)
By the 1970s, the neighborhood was thriving, well on the way to the 2,872 homes that would eventually be built. Forest Park Plaza, west of Karl Road, and Tamarack Circle in Forest Park East, provided commercial anchors to the neighborhood, capped by a YMCA at Karl Road and Sandalwood Place in 1978.
Smith has fond memories of riding his green pedal car around the neighborhood, including to one of Forest Park's two swimming pools and to the neighborhood IGA grocery store.
"This was just a great neighborhood to grow up in. Everything was here," he said.
But by the end of the 1980s, original owners started leaving for retirement homes while other residents headed to growing suburbs such as Hilliard and Dublin, an exodus that became more pronounced in the 1990s.
Forest Park struggled. Both pools closed and neighborhood events that were the fiber of the community, such as the Fourth of July fireworks celebration, became less frequent or stopped altogether.
The neighborhood's decline was accelerated by a 1980s decision not to renew deed restrictions requiring properties to be kept up, Schmidt said.
The deterioration continued into this century, worsened by commercial struggles along East Dublin-Granville and Morse roads and the housing crash of 2008.
By 2012, one in three homes sold in Forest Park was either bank-owned or a short sale, according to Mary Sguerra, an HER Realtors agent who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years.
Today, however, a very different story can be told.
Last year, only 6 percent of Forest Park homes were bank-owned or short sales. The average sales price in 2017 was $151,529, up more than 50 percent from the 2012 average price of $96,877.
"I used to have a lot of investors who would just buy and flip," Sguerra said. "Now they can't find one because there are so many bidders who want the homes to live in."
Schmidt doesn't have to look beyond his own block to see proof of the neighborhood's recovery. Five homes that sat abandoned on his street during the recession are now occupied.
"All those homes have been redone," Schmidt said. "I think Forest Park is pretty darn healthy now."
Sguerra and Smith say Forest Park buyers are drawn by the convenient location inside the beltway and by the abundance of well-built homes in a variety of styles, including mid-century ranches, splits and two-stories.
In October, Mitch and Stacha Derr paid slightly more than the $138,500 asking price for a three-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot ranch in Forest Park West.
The couple had checked out other neighborhoods, but Forest Park kept calling. Mitch Derr grew up there, his grandparents owned a home there and his parents still live in Forest Park.
"What ultimately brought us back here is the strong sense of home," said Derr, 29. "Other similarly priced areas don't come with that sense of charm and home that Forest Park has."
Derr would love to see the closed pool reopen in Forest Park West. The Forest Park East pool has been replaced by a storage center.
But the Sequoia Lanes bowling alley in Forest Park West remains robust and several restaurants can be found in the community's shopping centers.
Although some restaurants such as Donatos and Gabby's Bar are longstanding, the two African restaurants in Forest Park East -- West African Restaurant and Drelyse African Restaurant -- reflect the neighborhood's changing demographics.
Forest Park is far more diverse than it was when Derr grew up, but he welcomes the changes.
"I think the changes that have happened in the neighborhood are for the better. Forest Park is a cross-section that an American city should be."