Columbus neighborhood thriving 50 years after revival

Columbus neighborhood thriving 50 years after revival

While morning commuters do battle on nearby Interstates 70 and 71, Russ Arledge makes his morning commute on foot - about eight minutes doorstep to doorstep.

"My wife and I, we both have cars, but I probably fill my car up once every other month, maybe once every three months," says Arledge, who works for the German Village Society. "Some weeks, I don't even drive the car at all."

Proximity to downtown Columbus is one of the perks of living in the historic German Village, which sits in the southern shadow of the city's skyline.

In 1960, the founders of the German Village Society set out to save the neighborhood from the wrecking ball. Now 50 years later, the neighborhood is thriving and celebrating the golden anniversary all year with special events. (Visit germanvillage.com for details.)

The village's 3,300 inhabitants are working to make neighborhood a little greener as well. This is old-school, shoe-leather ecology, the kind that was a way of life to the original German Villagers of the 1890s.

A community farm grows fresh vegetables thanks to volunteers on the society's "Go Green/Go Grün" Committee. Windows and doors aren't replaced but restored. And instead of driving to Walmart, residents think first of walking to the local Giant Eagle or riding their bikes a few blocks to North Market.

"It's pedestrian-oriented," says Jeanne Likins, secretary of the German Village Society. "When you are in a neighborhood like German Village, which was built for people and built before cars, when you are in the environment and walking the streets, it feels human-sized."

For Angie's List member Julie Parsons, it means she knows her neighbors, and she walks to her downtown errands when she can, even on a cold January day. "I just bundled up and walked," she says. "I'm like a New Yorker is about New York. I love it."

The 233-acre village is on the National Register of Historic Places and is regulated by the seven-member German Village Commission. The society is a nonprofit group of homeowners, but the commission is a governmental body that enforces the district's guidelines, such as exterior changes to a house.

Before landscaping her front yard and moving a gate, Parsons had to present her plan to the commission. "They said, 'That's not historic, so we don't care what you do with it,'" Parsons says.

Her box gutters, however, are considered a historic feature of the house, and she had to find someone who could custom-craft them from wood. "It might have cost more than to have the whole roof done," she says.

But commitment to restoration goes beyond simply complying with a law. Likins says residents are caretakers of a legacy. "There are those who have gone before us and those who are to follow us," she says. "It's a fitting philosophy for life as well, and for the planet."


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Jeanne Likins

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A technical clarification: The German Village Society is for anyone to support not just for homeowners or just for those who live or work in German Village.

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