Saturday, January 31, 2009

2009 High Street Construction

2009 begins with High Street in a new construction boom. Even the removal of architecture is a big story like the removal of the skybridge at the City Center (and the planned removal of the City Center itself later this year). The former skybridge connected the mall with the former Lazarus department store and included shops and restrooms of its own. The dark tunnel is gone! High Street has opened up. The old Lazarus building has been converted into an exciting green building and now sports a series of light strips on its south side that flash and change colors. Southern Downtown has the most activity. New parking garages and the new "arched" Main Street Bridge are taking shape. A new County Courthouse (below, top) is going up in the shadow of the 440 foot Courthouse Tower. To explain this you have to understand that Franklin County took down its classic courthouse in the 1960's eventhough new modern office buildings had been built around it for county offices. A new windowless cube of a building was built to house the 12 main common please courts. As the county grew and grew more and more additions were made to the county courthouse campus until the tower was built in 1991. Still, the main courts were stuck in the windowless cube. This new courthouse will replace this building offering more courts in a window clad modernist building with an open, transparent theme.

Also in this southern downtown area is a block of middle income condos by Lifestyle Communities that will put wood construction next to some of our most substantial public buildings.(below, bottom) Considering that the City Center building will bite the dust after only 20 years, one can't rule out that many new downtown buildings are not expected to last much more than 20 years.

People continue to develop the Short North neighborhoods. Above is a house being greatly changed in Italian Village near Prescott Alley.
Above: one of the former Sheet metal shops on Prescott Alley being transformed into pricey lofts.
The biggest Short North project, The Ibizi condos, has not seen any forward progress in a year. The above signage was damaged in a strange way and has now been removed. It really seems to me that the Ibizi isn't the best concept for the heart of the Short North. The design is strange and the idea that we need a lot more condos doesn't seem to jive with today's economy. Unfortunately, the parking garage planned with the Ibizi is much needed and will have to wait as well.
The 25 year spruce-up of the Bollinger Tower is proceeding. This public housing high-rise in the center of the Short North was put in before the gallery hops began. Until the Ibizi is constructed, no other high-rises have invaded the Short North. Of course, 25 years ago the only people calling it the "Short North" were the police and the Short North Tavern. It was known as the Near North then and nobody thought the 12 story Bollinger Tower was out of place. My suggestion: sell the Bollinger to a hotel chain and use the money for newer low-rise public housing elsewhere. The medical offices that grew-up around the Bollinger in 1983 are long gone. This was the site of the New Francis Hotel in the 1970's and before.
Also being renovated: the Olde Time Religion Hall at Lincoln and High St. aka B.J. Snappers, aka 700 Club, aka Major Chords. Looks like another high-end restaurant will grace this space, but one can only hope for some dancing or theater.
Next big controversy: The Garden. Yes, the Garden Church that bought the Garden Burlesque Theater out of protest in the late 1980's has sold the property and moved to the church building on the street behind. The plan for the Garden property is collecting opposition. They want to build a parking garage in back (see above) that will take over the public parking lot next to Magnolia Thunderpussy Records. This garage will have some public spaces, but greatly cut parking for two years as they make the historic theater into a lobby for a mid-rise condo tower.
Speaking of mid-rise condo towers, The Jackson is finally being built (above) just south of the Garden. It only took 12 years of planning during a pretty good economy. How long will the Garden and Ibizi projects take to get off the ground in today's economy?
An exciting condo project is the Smith and High just north of Fifth and High Street in the northern most block of the Short North. The design is really striking. The Smith and High is built onto the front of a strip shopping mall that had a laundry and other shops (inducing a branch of the Public Library at one time). The strip mall will remain in the back (see top photo) while the new condos have these modern glass fronts on High Street. The project also adds new retail on High Street.

The Smith and High are next to the York on High condo project that is transforming the former York Masonic Temple building into condos. Actually, there is a 50's era apartment building in between the two projects (above).

Sunday, January 04, 2009

January, 2009 G-Hop: Surprising Good Weather

The January, 2009 gallery hop in the Short North was lightly attended outside of the restaurants, this despite the good (for January) weather. After a week of ice, wind, and freezing rain before Christmas, people didn't plan much for the January 3rd openings.
Infact, some galleries were closed, like Mahan Gallery and Rebecca Ibel Gallery (above). An official dress code seemed to be in effect, namely black clothes, anything black. This could have been the New Yorkers wondering down the street from the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Wexner Center, or maybe reflective of people's attitude about the economy.
Some storefronts, on the other hand, took down their Christmas windows and put up New Years displays. Above is Torso's front window where small TVs stand-in for faces.
Terra Gallery, (above) is a bright spot on the I-670 "Cap" courtyard showing art from many fine artists in their two small storefronts. This month they have some recent painting by Linda Apple, "the" original Short North artist who opened the first studio/gallery in 1977. Her new art seems to be random scenes along High Street.
RoyGBiv, (above) as well as the Ohio Art League were both showing minimalist, installation art. Above, you can see one artist at RoyGBiv covering the front window a a gold colored film. It was almost covered by the end of the hop. 
Kickstart (above) is a coffeeshop that sells scooters and scooter accessories. Its coffee is roasted in Cleveland and has a good taste not familiar to Columbus. They do a variety of events including a DJ during gallery hop. The art on the wall is by employees and hasn't changed for a while, if at all yet (not unlike Cuppy's Coffee's art on its wall). 
Other galleries like Rivet (above) continue to do a surprisingly  new show each month. Rivet has focused itself for artist made vinyl and plush toys. These mostly commercially trained artists also do drawings and paintings and have a punk attitude to their art. The Sean Christopher Gallery in the basement of the Greystone Apartments is another small operation that keeps finding great artists and showing them on a budget.

The ice and snow were gone. People were still lining up at Jeni's Ice Cream. The arches were actually doing a mild light show this gallery hop. January is always the most "iffy" of months for the gallery hops, having once been completely cancelled.