Brick building with sign at top saying Used Kids and a storefront with windows, a black car parked in front

There’s not a single independent record store on High Street across from campus. Thus the apocalypse for off-campus has officially arrived even though the bell has been tolling for the previous two decades.

True, the internet has caused record stores to almost go the way of the dinosaurs, but to think there’s not a Used Kids, a Johnny-Go’s, or a Magnolia Thunderpussy between Lane and Chittenden says a lot. High Street has become antiseptic, or better yet, a septic tank of corporate bull poop. And a Target is on its way, whoop-de-do.

Ohio State and their non-profit Campus Partners got to work in 1995 following the tragic murder of OSU student Stephanie Hummer and they should be commended. But you may remember how Campus Partners said they wouldn’t demolish High Street’s independent and quirky vibe.

Now their mission to clean-up High Street is approaching an end stage. It’s clear however “clean-up” was a veiled way to describe how they wanted to also corporatize campus. In essence, make it more appealing to rich parents and their trust-fund children who are considering OSU for higher education.

Former City Council candidate and progressive activist Joe Motil fondly remembers his generation’s campus establishments of the 80s and 90s – Mean Mr. Mustards, Papa Joes, Bernies, Tradewinds, ect. Perhaps he says it best about what the hell is going on down, down, down on High Street, baby. Which, by the way, is the refrain from the greatest song about High Street ever, but it sure as heck isn’t relevant now.

“I think everybody expected change but not what has basically been the annihilation of the past,” says Motil. “High Street from Lane Ave south is like an Easton styled strip mall lacking character and places students in an atmosphere of isolation from the real world. It’s basically 90 percent corporate. I am both saddened and disgusted.”

But that doesn’t mean the cool and creative kids, the punks and the goths, the stoner students and the hippies, have completely vanished into thin air. Nor have their establishments, which helped shaped their identity. So don’t pout. Pockets of cool campus still exist. You just have to accept the change and adapt, says Greg Hall, owner of Used Kids Records.

Used Kids Records occupied a High Street address across from campus for 30 years until 2016. As high-end redevelopment swirled around his building, says Hall, he could tell his landlord was seeking a change. In the way of more money from a new tenant who would want to pay a much higher rent.

“I was hell bent on not seeing the business close,” says Hall. So he moved Used Kids Records to Summit Street near the corner of Hudson, an area some are calling “SoHud,” an emerging neighborhood that’s looking more and more like old-school campus, where other independents have gravitated, such as Wild Goose Creative and Evolved Body Art.

“Unfortunately, from a business stand point, change always happens,” says Hall about the surging development on High Street he left behind. “Some want to believe that campus always has to stay this groovy hip place. The world isn’t like that. And other powers with far deeper pockets don’t owe us squat. If they want to turn High Street into Easton, then let them.”

Yes, the reality is Campus Partners changed the culture of High Street, says Hall. But that doesn’t mean you bow your head in defeat.

“It’s not that the culture ever left campus, it just left from directly across the street,” he says. “I think this corridor along Summit and 4th, and the area around Hudson and High, is where all the cool stuff is.”

Ripping on Campus Partners is easy to do, especially when you consider they helped replace Mean Mr. Mustards with University Gateway and Papa Joes with a high-end apartment complex.

They are a non-profit that has spent millions to convince High Street property owners to hand over the deeds to their buildings that housed some of campus iconic places.

“The acquisitions were standard real estate transactions between Campus Partners and the property owners,” says Erin Prosser, Director of Community Development for Campus Partners.

Transactions preceded by massive monetary offers no one could resist.

In regards to the project that will transform 15th and High, Prosser told the Free Press it “will provide a great opportunity for our small business owners and entrepreneurs to continue to be a key element of the University District.”

But how can a small business owner, one selling records and CDs, for example, compete with a Target?

The Free Press asked Campus Partners about all the former and current campus peoples who feel High Street is becoming a soulless stretch of corporate lameness. Their answer was typical anti-septic nothingness and, once again, probably an empty promise.

“The goal is to have a variety of spaces to accommodate a wide range of tenants,” said Prosser.

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