Columbus’ University District- home to the City’s largest off-campus student haven

For the purposes of this evaluation I define the University District/Indianola Terrace as the area between Lane/Northwood and 11th street and between High Street and the railroad tracks. University District is actually a much broader area by most standards encompassing North Old Columbus and South Campus. Indianola Terrace is east of Summit Street.

Like much of north Columbus, the University District grew on a similar track with Ohio State, which opened in 1870 but didn’t really start to expand until the early 20th century. To people’s surprise the neighborhood was a fashionable “suburb” in the first half of the 20th century with a mix of brick rowhouses and large SF homes. Several curved roads and ravines lie between 16th and Lane Ave. The influx of servicemen into the neighborhood after WWII seeking housing lead to a population boom and the construction of new apartments and conversion of many SF homes to MF.  Perceived problems of vehicular congestion, crime, and litter resulted from this quick rise in density and the University Area Commission was created in 1972 to address them.

Its difficult for me to say whether I view the change of University District post WWII as necessarily an urban “negative”. On the one hand it most certainly rapidly altered the neighborhood creating a more transient less cared after place. On the other hand, it created a density level helpful in fostering vibrancy, mixed-use, and significant retail on Hight Street. In hindsight it probably would have been wise to rezone parts of the neighborhood closest to campus for high density apartments, and try to preserve homeownership heavy pockets east of Summit Street. Fortunately the University District feels more invested in than before, less gritty, attracting more homeownership, and hosts a dense mixed-use corridor along High Street. Hopefully the neighborhood can continue to attract a more diverse demographic (non-students) and become the vibrant and diverse place it could always become. I see many parallels to the University District with Pittsburgh’s Oakland or Cincinnati’s CUF and Corryville.
Click here to view my University District album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Good but not great transit access. Overall convenient access to lots of jobs with OSU and Dwtn.
* Great bike infrastructure with several dedicated bike lanes and good bike station coverage. 
* Quality historic architecture, but would be even better if the bldgs didn’t take a beating as student housing.
* Great ADA and sidewalks infrastructure.
* Not much modern in-fill within the neighborhood but lots of quality urban mixed-use infill along High Street.
* Decent racial diversity thanks to OSU diverse student body.
* A high level of density thanks to students being packed into rental housing.
* Not surprisingly tons of rents here and generally at pretty modest prices.
* High Street has very good urban massing and streetscape especially with its recent extensive urban in fill.  
* Cultural amenities include a great array of ethnic restaurants, lots of college bars & cafes, several live music venues, and the OSU cultural activities.
* The University District hosts a full service target,  2 CVS, several chain retailers, lots of banks, a handful of boutiques, and a cineplex and Barnes & Nobles on its southern border. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Lots of students living here which greatly reduces the University district’s economic and generational diversity.
* For sale housing is mostly limited to student rental. But some SF and duplexes in good shape selling in the 200Ks & 300Ks. You certainly get a lot of house for your money here.
* Park space is limited here to the nice but modest Luka Ravine park and the ballfields behind the Indianola Middle School. But park asset is probably OSU quads and green space.
* The neighborhood is a bit rough in spots (especially in Indianola Terrace and has a fair amount of grid but by no means a dangerous place.
* The neighborhood only hosts a small privet grade-middle schools. A couple others in adjacent districts. 

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