Apartments buildings hit by wrecking ball labeled media

After increasing pressure from North Campus residents, the high-end apartment developer behind The View on Pavey Square has drawn up another redesign. The developers said while previous designs were a mismatch, this new design complements Pavey Square, which is arguably one of the city’s most historically organic and visually distinct areas. Some of the North Campus activists, or the group Protect Old North, say this is another victory considering the developer, JSDI Celmark, has come back with several redesigns in response to their push back.

Some with Protect Old North have told The Columbus Free Press their position has always been that all development plans follow the University Area Plan, which calls for a maximum height of 45-feet for this area of High Street.

But does their position truly protect North Campus?

JSDI Celmark’s redesigns for Pavey Square continue to shrink in height, but the number of proposed apartments and bedrooms has roughly remained the same. A large complex of overpriced apartments jammed into urban settings and targeted for rich students or young professionals are cash-cows for developers. JSDI Celmark’s latest redesign for Pavey Square calls for a reported 115 multi-bedroom apartment complex, along with office space and a 230-car parking garage.

The Free Press believes North Campus residents should not cow to JSDI Celmark. A high-density apartment complex for North Campus is simply a bad fit. North Campus already is one of Columbus’ densest neighborhoods. More importantly is what major development might do to the neighborhood’s character, its soul. Luxury apartment complexes may work for Grandview, but they won’t work here.

Just down the street, South Campus Gateway was promised to be a glorified entryway into the Ohio State University area. The area is becoming just the opposite. South Campus on Friday nights before football games is not the community-bonding love fest it once was. Retail and restaurants, such as Eddie Georges Grill 27, continue to bolt as this part of campus becomes more sterile.

The Free Press is asking JSDI Celmark and the heirs of Dr. Charles Pavey, the namesake of the properties, to abandon plans for a high-end apartment complex or any large structure.

But such a request is like asking a wolf to not devour a lamb. Especially when the lamb’s shepherd is looking the other way.

Last month Protect Old North asked Columbus City Council for a demolition moratorium for Pavey Square. But when considering the demolished history of Columbus, city council is a questionable ally. And according to Protect Old North, the mayor-appointed University Area Review Board is refusing to enforce the University Area Plan which has yet to be codified into law.

On a locally-based web site for developers, one reader commented North Campus will succumb to this “faux-turn-of-the-last-century Easton” style of architecture. Potentially worse is how JSDI Celmark turns Pavey Square into a fraternity-like party scene. Other worst-case scenarios suggested by some interviewed for a series of Free Press stories is that The View on Pavey Square turns into the Continent.

Next school year OSU is requiring sophomores to live on-campus. Yet over a dozen new off-campus apartment complexes have been proposed or currently up-and-renting. Richard Talbott has over three decades of off-campus renting wisdom as owner of Inn-Town Homes and Apartments. He told the Free Press this convergence of too many expensive apartments when the off-campus market is about to lose a third of its customers does not bode well for these new and inexperienced developers.

“They are making the mistake of their lives,” said Talbott.

To nip this impending development disaster in the bud, the Free Press believes other local media should call on developers to pass on Pavey Square. Again, it’s too much to ask for as most local media are JSDI Celmark apologists.

Take for instance a recent cover story by Columbus Alive showing a hand with a pencil erasing Pavey Square into oblivion. The story questioned whether Protect Old North has any claim to advocating against student-oriented apartment complexes. There’s confusion over whether Pavey Square is no longer Old North Columbus but more North Campus, wrote the reporter.

There’s no confusion when you consider OSU has long encroached on those who made North Campus – generations of creative types, working-class families and, yes, students. While officially known as Old North Columbus, this unique make-up of people have together always called their neighborhood North Campus.

The reporter of the Columbus Alive story told the Free Press the article was an attempt at traditional objective journalism. Yet to balance the story the author could only find one person who’s for new development to be plopped on top of Pavey Square. This single source suggested, because North Campus homeowners and landlords don’t keep their properties in meticulous shape, that JSDI Celmark has every right to turn Pavey Square into a Chipotle on steroids. The source was a 3rd-year OSU landscape architecture student, and the crescendo of laughter erupting from Dick’s Den is deafening.

Once a true alternative newspaper, the Alive used to take a stand for historical structures under attack by unsympathetic development. But that’s just a memory now as the Alive handed over its alt-press editorial license to the developer-friendly Dispatch Co. back in 2006.

Before this, our own Bob Fitrakis once wrote articles for the Alive about how a CIA-connected airline was lured to Ohio with tax breaks and then suspected by local law enforcement of running drugs into Columbus. These days the Alive’s hardest hitting journalism amounts to cover stories about male adult fans of My Little Pony.

Worse than the media’s lack of conviction is how the Ohio History Connection once again is the elephant in the room. One that seemingly never makes a peep when a historical structure faces the wrecking ball.

The Ohio History Connection, for years called the Ohio Historical Society, is not making the connection a lot of people don’t want their community turned into a giant and ugly luxury apartment. If they were to attempt any advocacy for Pavey Square, pushing for a modest-sized museum honoring Jesse Owens in lieu of luxury apartments would be a good idea. OSU’s greatest athlete was a North Campus resident when a student.

Certainly a media outcry against irresponsible development for Pavey Sqaure, including a harsh rejection by the Ohio History Connection, can only help save North Campus.

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