Apartment building blowing up

City planners and everyone else for that matter are convinced Columbus is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Data from the US Census Bureau shows from 2013 to 2014 the region grew by 25,000 residents, and many more are said to be on the way. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission or MORPC predicts Central Ohio will attract 500,000 more residents over the next 35 years.

The numbers are eye-opening and many are taking notice. Such as high-end apartment complex developers and owners who are salivating over these predicted herds.

From downtown to Franklinton, from Grandview to North Campus and into Clintonville, high-end apartment complexes are up-and-renting or being proposed. The developers and owners are inspired by predictions from MORPC and others that Columbus is one of the last Midwest boomtowns, this according to several real-estate experts interviewed by the Free Press.

“A lot of high-end apartments are coming online,” says Joe Peffer, who owns the Columbus-based Delicious Real Estate and once penned a blog on Central Ohio real-estate trends. “People are paying exorbitant amounts for Columbus to rent small bedroom apartments and studio apartments.”

Yet what is alarming for many long-time residents is that these “luxury apartments” and the complexes they come with could shred the souls of several unique and quirky Columbus neighborhoods.

A push back is in progress. By North Campus (or Old North Columbus) locals and advocates, for instance. Some are part of the creative class, who embrace affordable renting as long as they can pursue their passion. They also prefer and want to keep their establishments independent and original, such as the iconic jazz bar Dick’s Den of North Campus.

On the flip side, some believe high-end apartment complexes are remaking certain communities for the better, such as in Grandview. A stretch of West 5th Avenue is thriving after several high-end complexes recently came online, attracting new restaurants and other establishments such as the nearby Four Strings Brewery. 

But make no mistake about it the developers of these high-end complexes – such as locally-based Celmark Development Group and Solove Real Estate – do not care whether they are changing a neighborhood’s soul. And they certainly are not concerned about forcing out the creative class that can’t afford their apartments.

They care about making huge piles of cash from high-rent, high-density apartment complexes. Celmark Development Group and Solove Real Estate, known together as JSDI Celmark, have a luxury apartment complex on West 5th Avenue, and now this same tandem is targeting North Campus’s Pavey Square with similar development.

But North Campus advocates believe the planned apartment complex, with its reported $1,000-a month one-bedrooms, is a bad fit. Akin to hipsters and the creative class trying to, well, take over parts of Dublin. The North Campus advocates are asking City Council to pass a moratorium on demolition and new construction.

“This proposed project in our neighborhood – The View on Pavey Square – has served as a wake-up call,” stated the advocates in their letter to City Council. “We believe the The View on Pavey Square is just the first of several developments that will be proposed soon pushing the capacity in our neighborhood past the breaking point.”

The View on Pavey Square is just one of over a dozen apartment complexes either newly built or proposed for the campus area. The latest proposal is for an apartment tower to be built practically on top of the Varsity Club on Lane Avenue. Former City Council candidate and North Campus advocate Joe Motil is calling the proposal a “seven-story monstrosity”.

Other distinct Columbus neighborhoods are also under attack from luxury apartments, such as Clintonville. Two summers ago Clintonville lost one of its community icons, the Olympic Pool, to a high-end apartment complex.

Peter Niswander is a concerned Clintonville resident and unsuccessfully ran for a spot on the Clintonville Area Commission in 2014. Back then he stressed the importance of balancing growth while preserving Clintonville’s character. He doesn’t want Clintonville to mimic the Short North or Worthington. He wants Clintonville to remain Clintonville.

Niswander doesn’t believe the luxury apartments arising from the grave of Olympic Pool will ruin Clintonville. He also understands owners of private property can build whatever they like as long as it meets legal requirements. Put simply, residents have limited means to protect their quirky neighborhood from deep-pocketed developers.

But he suggested if other historic areas of Clintonville are demolished, Clintonville residents, the “most civically-engaged” people in Central Ohio, will take action.

“The commission, if it doesn’t reflect the will of the people, these folks are going to find themselves out of a job,” he said. “That’s not to sound threatening, but that’s part of their job to respond to these things. But the fact of the matter is the commission doesn’t have real power.

Whether or not City Council steps in and allows a moratorium for North Campus and Pavey Square is still up in the air. Same goes for the predictions that tens-of-thousands of Columbus newcomers are seeking tiny one-bedrooms that cost $1000-a-month. After all, no one is an expert at predicting the future.

This much is certain, however. The amount of money developers, real-estate agents, and construction companies, pump into local campaign election coffers does not bode well for those trying to save their quirky neighborhoods from luxury apartments.


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