Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Washington Post: The Impulsive Traveler: Columbus, Ohio, a new destination for food lovers

By Jane Black
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, January 28, 2011; 2:27 PM

The very first thing I did after signing up to move to the far west of West Virginia for six months was to log on to Mapquest. I'd be living in an entirely new and unfamiliar area of the country, and I wanted to know where my husband and I could go to eat.

The options were limited. Charlottesville, Va., Asheville, N.C., Knoxville, Tenn., all cities with reputations for good food, are more than five hours' drive away. It takes seven hours to get home to Washington and eight hours to get to Memphis. Only 21/2 hours away, though, was Columbus, Ohio, a city I'd never thought much about visiting, let alone considered a culinary destination.

Shows what I know.

The once-conservative Ohio capital has blossomed into a certified food lovers' town, with serious cocktails and microbrews, pastries worthy of Paris, fantastical ice cream flavors - think peanut with toasted coconut and chili - and extraordinary food shopping. In November, food guru Michael Ruhlman, who had dismissed Columbus as "Applebee's country" on an episode of the TV show "No Reservations," very publicly revised his judgment, calling the city a worthier food destination than his beloved home town of Cleveland.

A case in point is North Market, the city's food hub. Open year-round, the airy converted warehouse hosts 35 vendors: butchers, bakers and ice cream makers. Local food gets lots of shelf space - we found Ohio-milled grain, grass-fed beef and Lake Erie-caught walleye - but so do international delicacies such as imported cheese, wine and spices.

We stocked up on supplies (including a case of a terrific 2005 French Bordeaux priced at a glorious $11 a bottle). But we also filled our bellies in preparation for an afternoon of exploring. We shared a fragrant, yeasty cinnamon roll from Omega Artisan Baking and lingered over a case stacked high with potato-and-cream-cheese pierogis at Hubert's Polish Kitchen. But with the wind chill, it felt like 11 degrees outside, so we settled on two giant bowls of pho at Lan Viet Market.

After polishing off the aromatic Vietnamese beef noodle soup, garnished with mint, basil and bean sprout, we were warm enough to forget the blistering cold and justify dessert next door at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Founder Jeni Britton Bauer is one of the city's gastronomic heroes. Her market shop, along with six others throughout the city, offers about 30 flavors, such as Bangkok peanut (the one described above), brown-butter brittle and young Gouda with vodka-plumped cranberries, which sounds awful but tastes like decadent cheesecake.

Almost all Jeni's flavors feature local ingredients. That cranberry-soaking vodka comes from Middle West Spirits, an artisanal distillery a short distance from North Market. Housed in a renovated auto garage, Middle West, with its concrete floors, white subway tiles and salvaged turn-of-the-century antiques, looks more like a SoHo loft than a Midwestern manufacturing plant. But style doesn't trump substance. Smack in the center of the space is a stunning, custom-made copper still.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, vodka must be colorless, odorless and tasteless. And while Middle West founders Brady Konya and Ryan Lang don't officially disagree - that would be illegal! - they do everything they can to make their vodka, OYO, taste distinctive. The wheat, a soft, red variety, comes from just 25 miles outside Columbus. The liquor is distilled only once, which leaves a velvety feel in the mouth and a hint of sweetness on the finish. This is vodka for sipping neat.

OYO is available by the glass at Mouton, a spare-but-elegant cafe and cocktail bar a few blocks away. But the draw there is the classic cocktail list, which limits itself to excellent renditions of Prohibition-era classics: aviations and negronis, Manhattans and Mary Pickfords. (This is a stark contrast to many of the slick bars along the trendy Short North strip that seem to trade exclusively in cloying mocha martinis and cosmos.) The drinks are excellent: strong, smooth and never sweet. Still, after one, we switched to wine, all the better to go with Mouton's carefully curated list of American cheese and charcuterie, such as a salami, scented with black truffles, from Utah.

Brunch is a meal I generally find disappointing: a blur of stodgy pancakes and rubbery eggs that not even hot sauce can save. (A "punishment block for the B-team cooks, or where the farm team of recent dishwashers learn their chops," is how Anthony Bourdain described it in his memoir, "Kitchen Confidential.") But all is redeemed at Skillet, a cozy 32-seat bistro in Columbus's historic German Village. The pancakes are fluffy and filled with shredded apples and farmer cheese. The omelets are stuffed with organic potatoes and house-cured sauerkraut spiced with pear and caraway, a nod to the neighborhood's heritage. And, just to make the already tough decision about whether to go sweet or savory even harder, chef Kevin Caskey offers dishes such as breakfast risotto: Arborio rice cooked in milk, then dotted with velvety bits of caramelized apples and salty bacon and finished with a scoop of mascarpone. Only a truly skilled cook could make something so indulgent taste light.

We had planned to walk off our meal as we toured German Village. But blustery winds and snow forced us to tour the narrow streets in our car. The tidy brick cottages and ornate Queen Anne Victorians are some of the city's most desirable homes. But that wasn't always the case. Settled in the early 19th century, the neighborhood grew quickly as waves of German immigrants arrived in Ohio. But the world wars stirred up anti-German sentiment and the area fell out of favor. By 1950, the neighborhood was considered a slum.

Over the past 20 years, young professionals and empty-nesters have resettled the neighborhood, which in addition to offering historic housing stock is a short commute to downtown. Stylish boutiques and restaurants soon arrived to serve them.

Pistacia Vera is testament to the changing neighborhood. For decades, the building it's in housed two no-frills family bakeries. But in 2004, siblings Spencer Budros and Anne Fletcher renovated the space into a chic patisserie with exposed brick walls, marble-top tables and bentwood chairs.

It would have been easy to sell muffins and ubiquitous cupcakes, Fletcher told us. But the pair was determined to restrict the menu to classic French pastries - croissants, brioches, palmiers and an excellent fig-cardamom braid - and elaborate desserts and truffles. Their most popular item? Technicolor macarons that come in seasonal flavors such as yuzu, caramel pecan and maple walnut.

A dozen made the perfect snack for the car ride home.

Black is a former staff writer for The Washington Post Food section.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: College graduates no longer leaving Columbus, new report says. City has been fighting "brain drain"

Columbus shows gains in keeping college graduates

Brookings Institution report indicates a turnaround

Monday, January 24, 2011 11:06 AM

The Columbus Dispatch

Columbus might not be shedding college graduates like it had in previous years, and that bodes well for a city that has struggled to keep its best and brightest.

A Brookings Institution study released this month shows that metropolitan Columbus gained residents 25 and older with college degrees at a rate of 0.16 percent between 2007 and 2009.

That's a marked turnaround from the previous three years, when Columbus lost those residents at a 0.23 percent rate.

Brookings demographer William H. Frey reviewed data from the Census Bureau American Community Survey and wrote that the poor economy had a lot to do with an overall national trend of people staying put.

Bill LaFayette, chief economist for the Columbus Chamber, said that some college grads might not be able to move because their houses lost value.

"If you have a house under water, it sort of ties you to a place," he said.

Officials have created several efforts to keep college graduates here.

That includes Compete Columbus, formed by the chamber and the Columbus Partnership to focus on growing certain industries, including health care and logistics, and Grants for Grads, a state programs offering home-buying incentives for recent college graduates.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2010 Central Ohio home sales show market improvement

2010 Central Ohio home sales show market improvement

Home sales statistics for central Ohio in 2010 showed marked improvements compared to previous years according to the Columbus Board of REALTORS® (CBR).

The average sale price of a home in 2010 was $158,893, just 0.6 percent lower than the average price of homes sold in 2009. However, the average price of homes sold in 2009 was 2.4 percent lower than 2008 which was 5.1 percent lower than 2007.

“Our market saw average sale price increases for eight of the 12 months of 2010,” says CBR’s 2011 President Rick Benjamin. “As we’ve experienced annual decreases in our average sale price since 2005, we see ending the year just half a point lower than 2009 as a positive for central Ohio homeowners.”

The 1,460 homes sold in December 2010 is just 0.3 percent lower than the number of homes sold in December of 2009. Annual 2010 home sales (19,676) finished 2.8 percent behind 2009 (20,235).

“There’s no question the home buyer tax credits had a significant affect on last year’s home sales,” adds Benjamin. “Providing home buyers with a substantial monetary incentive really helped to energize the market in the first half of 2010.”

“Homes in contract (which are expected to close in January or February) are up slightly from the previous year suggesting that home sales in the first of the year could be strong.”

Homes spent an average of 90 days on the market, a reduction of seven days from the average time to sell a home in 2009.

In December 2010, the month's supply of homes was down to 9.93, the lowest since last June. Month's supply is the ratio of inventory to sales which takes into account both supply and demand. A healthy market has a 6.5 to 7-month supply of homes, meaning if no new homes were added to the market, it would take about 6.5 or 7 months to sell all the available homes.

The Columbus Board of REALTORS® Multiple Listing Service (MLS) serves all of Franklin, Delaware, Fayette, Madison, Morrow, Pickaway and Union Counties and parts of Champaign, Clark, Fairfield, Hocking, Knox, Licking, Logan, Marion, Muskingham, Perry
and Ross Counties.

Click here for additional central Ohio housing statistics.

Click here for Ohio home sales statistics

Click here for the national home sales release

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

President Obama names Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman to federal historic-preservation panel

A link is here

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

  • Michael B. Coleman, Member, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • Horace Henry Foxall, Jr., Member, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • Bradford J. White, Member, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • Carole E. Goldberg, Member, Indian Law and Order Commission
  • Theresa M. Pouley, Member, Indian Law and Order Commission
  • Ted Quasula, Member, Indian Law and Order Commission
  • Norma Lee Funger, General Trustee, Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

President Obama said, “I am proud to appoint such impressive men and women to these important roles, and I am grateful they have agreed to lend their considerable talents to this Administration. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”

Mayor Michael B. Coleman will be appointed to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in addition to his duties as Mayor of Columbus, Ohio.

President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

Michael B. Coleman, Appointee for Member, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Michael B. Coleman was elected mayor of Columbus, Ohio in 1999 and was reelected in 2003 and 2007. As mayor, he has focused on rejuvenating downtown Columbus by initiating Neighborhood Pride, a proactive effort to engage residents and businesses to fix up thousands of homes and clean up their neighborhoods. Mayor Coleman also created the Affordable Housing Trust Corporation to provide more housing options to inner-city residents and led the restoration of the historic Lincoln Theatre and the landmark Lazarus Department Store building in downtown Columbus. He received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati and his J.D. from the University of Dayton Law School.

Horace Henry Foxall, Jr., Appointee for Member, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Horace Henry Foxall, Jr. recently retired as Manager of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Center of Expertise for Preservation of Historic Structures and Buildings. For more than three decades, Mr. Foxall assisted the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense, and other Federal agencies in developing historic preservation projects and programs, advising staff, architects, engineers, and outside consultants in the execution of historic building preservation. Mr. Foxall currently serves on the Board of Advisors of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He received his M.Arch. in Architectural Design and Urban Design from the University of Washington and his B.S. in Urban Development and B.Arch. in Architectural Design from the University of Oregon.

Bradford J. White, Appointee for Member, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Bradford J. White is a Principal of Brad White & Associates in Evanston, Illinois, providing development consulting on affordable housing and historic resources. He is the former Senior Vice President of Acquisitions and Development at The Habitat Company LLC. Prior to joining Habitat, Mr. White was Vice President of Related Midwest LLC, where he was responsible for the acquisition, financing and development of affordable and market-rate housing. He serves on the board of the Illinois Housing Council and is past chair of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois and Preservation Action. Mr. White received a B.A. in economics from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from DePaul University.

Carole E. Goldberg, Appointee for Member, Indian Law and Order Commission
Carole E. Goldberg is currently the Jonathan D. Varat Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, where she directs the Joint Degree Program in Law and American Indian Studies and serves as faculty chair of the Native Nations Law and Policy Center. She is also a Justice of the Court of Appeals of the Hualapai Tribe in Arizona. Ms. Goldberg is author of numerous books and articles in the fields of Federal Indian Law and Tribal Law, and has been the Principal Investigator on major grants from the National Institute of Justice to study the administration of criminal justice in Indian country. In 2006, she was the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Previously, Ms. Goldberg served as an Associate Dean of UCLA Law School. Ms. Goldberg holds a B.A., magna cum laude, from Smith College and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.

Theresa M. Pouley, Appointee for Member, Indian Law and Order Commission
Theresa M. Pouley is currently the Chief Judge of the Tulalip Tribal Court. She is also an Associate Justice of the Colville Tribal Court of Appeals, and a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Northeast Washington. Judge Pouley has served as the President of the Northwest Tribal Court Judges Association since 2005, and on the Board of Directors for the National Tribal Court Judges Association from 2003 to 2004. From 1999 to 2005, Judge Pouley was the Chief Judge of the Lummi Nation. In 2009, she worked with the Department of Justice as a facilitator for the “Tribal Nations Listening Session”, and in 2010 she facilitated a “Focus Group on Human Trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Children” developed by the Office for Victims of Crime. She has also worked and lectured with the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts on domestic violence and Indian law issues for the last several years. Judge Pouley frequently lectures at local, state and national conferences on Tribal Courts and Indian law issues, and makes regular presentations at the University of Washington’s Indian Law Symposium. In 2005, The National Tribal Child Support Association named her Outstanding Judge. Previously, Judge Pouley practiced law in Michigan and Washington until her appointment to the bench in 1999. She continues to teach Indian law at Edmonds Community College, and previously taught at Northwest Indian College. Judge Pouley holds a B.A. from Gonzaga University and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School.

Ted Quasula, Appointee for Member, Indian Law and Order Commission
Ted Quasula is currently the General Manager of the Grand Canyon Skywalk located on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. He is a member of the Hualapai Tribe in northern Arizona. Previously, Mr. Quasula served as chief of police for the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe from 2003 to 2007. He also served for 26 years in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Law Enforcement Services within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where he worked his way up from field criminal investigator to Director of the national program from 1990 to 2000. Mr. Quasula started his law enforcement career with the Flagstaff, Arizona, Police Department in 1972. Currently, he serves as Chairman of the Nevada Indian Commission and Vice-President of the Board of Directors for the Northern Arizona University Alumni Association. Mr. Quasula is a graduate of the Government Program for Senior Executives at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in police science and administration from Northern Arizona University.

Norma Lee Funger, Appointee for General Trustee, Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Norma Lee Funger has been in the real estate business for more than 27 years. She has served the arts in many roles, including as a member of the Board and Nominating Committee of the National Symphony Orchestra, the National and International Committees for the Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center, the Leadership Benefactors and Laureates Circle of the Kennedy Center, as a Commissioner for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Trustees Council for the National Gallery of Art and its Collectors’ Committee, and as a board member of the Washington Performing Arts Society, serving on the Society’s Impresarios and Nominating Committees. Ms. Funger also serves on the Foundation Board of the Children’s Hospital National Medical Center.

ACHP Website is here

Mission statement

The mission of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation is to promote the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation's historic resources, and advise the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.
—adopted by ACHP membership May 31, 2002


The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) is an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation's historic resources, and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.

The goal of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which established the ACHP in 1966, is to have federal agencies act as responsible stewards of our nation's resources when their actions affect historic properties. The ACHP is the only entity with the legal responsibility to encourage federal agencies to factor historic preservation into federal project requirements.

As directed by NHPA, the ACHP serves as the primary federal policy advisor to the President and Congress; recommends administrative and legislative improvements for protecting our nation's heritage; advocates full consideration of historic values in federal decisionmaking; and reviews federal programs and policies to promote effectiveness, coordination, and consistency with national preservation policies.

ACHP Activities

The ACHP's 23 statutorily designated members, including the Chairman who heads the agency, address policy issues, direct program initiatives, and make recommendations regarding historic preservation to the President, Congress, and heads of other federal agencies. Members meet four times per year to conduct business.

An Executive Committee, headed by the Chairman and Vice Chairman, governs agency operations such as management, budget, legislative policy, and oversight of the most prominent Section 106 cases. Also serving on the Executive Committee are the Departments of Interior and Defense and ACHP members who chair three standing committees that correspond to the ACHP's three program areas.

  • Preservation Initiatives focuses on partnerships and program initiatives such as heritage tourism to promote preservation with groups such as state and local governments, Indian tribes, and the private sector.

  • Communications, Education, and Outreach conveys the ACHP's vision and message to constituents and the general public through public information and education programs and a public recognition program for historic preservation achievement.

  • Federal Agency Programs administers the National Historic Preservation Act's Section 106 review process and works with federal agencies to help improve how they consider historic preservation values in their programs.

A Budget and Planning Committee is convened under the direction of the Vice Chairman and advises the Chairman and management on budget formulation and execution, management and implementation of the strategic plan, and serves as the audit committee on behalf of the membership.

A professional staff that supports the ACHP's daily operations is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

USA Today: November home prices fall 5%, expected to fall more

U.S. home prices fell 5.1% in November from a year earlier and are expected to go lower as the housing market struggles to find its recovery, according to a report Tuesday.

Real estate analytics firm CoreLogic said that single-family home prices declined for the fourth month in a row and at a faster pace. They dropped 3.4% in October year-over-year.

November declines occurred in 44 states, up from 18 in June when federal tax credits for home buyers were still pumping up sales. Sales and prices fell after the credits expired.

The credits "created the illusion that the market was stronger than it's been," says Patrick Newport, economist at IHS Global Insight. His firm predicts national home prices will fall 5% to 7% more this year before potentially rebounding later in the year.

Rather than draw many new buyers into the market, the credits "just pulled sales forward," says Sam Khater, CoreLogic senior economist. The higher rate of decline in prices in November from October underscores the big challenges the market faces with recovery, he says.

The state of the housing market isn't good news for the overall economy, which is showing improvement. But lower home prices are also not surprising given the expiration of the tax credits, says economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics. The economy avoided a double-dip recession, but "Housing is double dipping," he says. Zandi expects home prices to continue to decline, about 5%, until at least midyear. By the time prices hit bottom, the housing crash will have lasted five years and driven prices 35% off their 2006 peak, he says.

CoreLogic reports November prices did rise in six states: Indiana, Vermont, New York, Wyoming, North Dakota and Maine. Maine led the nation with an 8.6% jump, followed by North Dakota at 4.4%.

In general, states seeing rising prices didn't experience the real estate boom to the extent that other states did, and so they aren't feeling the bust as much, says IHS Global Insight analyst James Diffley.

Market researcher Zillow, which doesn't include foreclosure sales in its data, says November marked the 53rd- consecutive month of declining home values. Zillow's data show national home prices down 5.1% in November from November 2009, resetting to levels last seen in October 2003.

Zillow expects sustained declines until late 2011. Even then, "The bottom will be very long and rocky," says Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Columbus City Council Appoints Two New Members

City Council Appoints Two New Members

(Columbus)— Columbus City Council President Andrew J. Ginther is pleased to announce the appointments of Michelle M. Mills and Zachary M. Klein to the City Council. Both were selected from a field of nearly 50 applicants and will immediately begin their duties as Councilmembers.

“From the very onset of the application process, I was impressed with the quality and caliber of all who applied to fill the vacancies on Council,” said President Ginther. “On behalf of my colleagues, I would like to thank those who submitted resumes and took part in the interview process. I am certain that Councilmembers Mills and Klein will serve with distinction as we work to create an even better community to live and raise our families.

Resumes for Councilmembers Mills and Klein are attached.


Klein Resume -

Mills Resume

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: (In Italian Village) Old bakery inspires rising hopes

Old bakery inspires rising hopes

Despite delays, planners enthusiastic about turning vacant building into creative multiuse space

Sunday, January 9, 2011 02:57 AM


Wonderland co-founders, from left, Josh Quinn, Adam Brouillette and Andrew Dodson
Tom Dodge | DISPATCH photos
Wonderland co-founders, from left, Josh Quinn, Adam Brouillette and Andrew Dodson
The building as seen looking south on N. 4th Street
The building as seen looking south on N. 4th Street
Artist renderings of how the Wonder Bread factory would look as the multiuse arts space Wonderland
BBCO Design photos |
Artist renderings of how the Wonder Bread factory would look as the multiuse arts space Wonderland
Artist renderings of how the Wonder Bread factory would look as the multiuse arts space Wonderland
Artist renderings of how the Wonder Bread factory would look as the multiuse arts space Wonderland

Open chairs and Wonder Bread sandwiches lasted only minutes at the first meeting, when hundreds of excited guests crammed into a room and hallway in Junctionview Studios to hear about a large, recently empty structure at 697 N. 4th St.

The 64,000-square-foot brick building, as of that night, was known no longer as the closed Wonder Bread bakery but as the future site of Wonderland, a multiuse space for art, performances and retail.

Proposed by an artist and four entrepreneurs, the idea sparked such instant enthusiasm that, in two weeks, a Facebook group in its honor amassed more than 5,000 friends.

A neighbor in Italian Village was among the first to comment on the page: "Oh my GOD, I am SO excited about this!"

"This is out of control, beyond awesome!" followed a city-planning professor at Ohio State University.

"YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" wrote an artist, using twice as many exclamation marks.

And then, there wasn't much news for several months.

One year after the announcement, the 100-year-old building is still, for the most part, a big abandoned bakery. The founders, who originally said tenants would move in last summer, now aim for an opening party in which the iconic Wonder Bread sign would be lighted on New Year's Eve 2011.

Critics have compared Wonderland to Ibiza, which isn't a compliment. The Short North housing development remains a vacant lot, stalled since 2006.

Last January, though, the vision for Wonderland was relatively simplistic: a building with rented spaces that could be constructed by volunteers with hammers.

Then came that first meeting, the inquiries from more than 1,000 prospective tenants and the comments from community leaders about Wonderland as a boon to economic development and a symbol of the city's creative spirit.

"It really became much bigger than just a bunch of storage units. It became a cultural zeitgeist," said artist and co-founder Adam Brouillette, 30 - who is now Wonderland's executive director.

"When people ask me, 'I thought you guys were going to be done by now,' I say we had a choice: We could do it fast, or we could do it right. We just chose to do it right."

Wonderland leaders expect more visible progress in the coming months, when they secure nonprofit status and kick off a fundraising campaign. The organization will begin leasing the building, purchased for $1.2 million last year by real-estate developer and original co-founder Kevin Lykens.

The team, which now consists of Brouillette, co-founders Josh Quinn and Andrew Dodson and a board of directors, will also introduce a series of monthly events.

At a Chinese New Year celebration planned for February, a lighthearted science fair in March and an April show-and-tell dinner with the newly selected Wonderland tenants, more about the group's plans will be revealed.

Construction, expected to begin by June, will likely entail the building of artist studios, rehearsal spaces, a performance and event venue, a recording studio and places to eat, drink and shop.

Artists and possibly community members could share equipment in workshops, those without offices could rent a workspace, and tenants and visitors alike could display their work in a shared gallery.

One mode of transportation between the two levels: a tube slide, playground-style.

Wonderland officials, who plan to select about 150 tenants in March, have unexpectedly received more than 1,000 proposals, including some they had never imagined - including a 20,000-square-foot brewery and a closet-sized space where a tenant would spay and neuter cats.

The atmosphere should be collaborative, with each tenant having opportunities to work with others - whether the occupant is a musician or a lawyer helping artists with intellectual-property issues.

For Eric Rausch, a ceramic artist who works out of a musty South Side warehouse, Wonderland could mean having a studio with more equipment, the space to host workshops and gallery exhibits and the chance to learn from a neighborhood of diverse artists.

"It all sort of seems like I'm describing the dream," said Rausch, 27, of the Short North.

Of course, Wonderland can't become reality without funding.

Brouillette once pegged the project cost at $7million to $9million, later saying the estimate could be higher or lower, depending on the selection of tenants and contractors. Regardless, he feels confident that Wonderland can secure the funding despite the current economic challenges.

"I graduated from (Columbus College of Art & Design) with a printmaking degree; I haven't run a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign," said Brouillette, who heads the arts group Couchfire Collective and manages Junctionview Studios in Grandview Heights.

"But I've come to a pretty distinct understanding that this is, in the grand scheme of things, not that large of an amount of money."

Wonderland has qualified for up to $1.2 million in state and federal tax credits for historic preservation and was recently awarded its first grant: $50,000 from the Columbus Foundation.

The Hodge Group, the project's hired fundraising consultants, won't specify possible sources of funding yet.

But Russell Hodge, managing partner, said Wonderland can find success by diversifying its fundraising: pursuing additional grants, corporate donations and "nontraditional opportunities."

What Brouillette calls a "fancy wedding registry" will be created online so that individuals, who will be recognized on plaques when the building opens, can make donations toward tangible items such as drywall, doors or light switches.

Already, in the absence of formal fundraising, more than 2,500 individuals have made contributions to the project.

"One of the impressive factors here has been the groundswell of support that has been generated for this project, which shows that it's really not a noble vision of a few but a cause among many," said Doug Kridler, president and CEO of the Columbus Foundation.

The Wonderland grant, he said, is rare during an economic time when the foundation isn't looking to fund startup efforts. In 2009, less than 1 percent of its funding went to new organizations.

"It comes down to what refreshes a city, and it's the ability to renew and reinvigorate," he said. "This is a great idea being advanced by smart, open and highly engaged people."

Wonderland, projected to be self-sufficient at 80 percent occupancy, would eventually buy the building and use its profits to fund loans or grants for tenants who outgrow their space there and wish to establish their own facilities.

When paired with existing resources, Wonderland could help sell the city in both tourism and business circles, said Mike Brown, director of development and public affairs at Experience Columbus.

"For me, this is exactly what the real Columbus is all about," he said. "There's this appetite among the young, creative class in Columbus to do something.

"The Wonderland project is a place where it's crystallizing. It's giving them a mission."

Brouillette hopes visitors to Columbus will return home talking about "this crazy old Wonder Bread factory where there was all this stuff going on" and that the city will be mentioned among New York; Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; or Portland, Ore., as a cool place that creative people want to move.

"But I think Columbus is not like Portland or Austin," he said.

"I think Columbus is like Florence, Italy, in the 1500s: We are essentially beginning a new renaissance."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

NY Times: A Little-Known Strategy for Cutting Mortgage Payments


A Little-Known Strategy for Cutting Mortgage Payments

HOMEOWNERS looking to lower their monthly mortgage payments and also save some on interest may be able to do so without all the hefty fees and daunting credit requirements of refinancing.

A little-known strategy, called “recasting,” or “re-amortization,” is available through some mortgage lenders and servicers.

It involves paying off a lump sum of the principal amount and asking to have the monthly payments reset according to the original interest rate and loan terms. The lump sum reduces the principal, so your new monthly payments decrease slightly and you save on interest paid over the life of the loan.

Lenders typically charge an administrative fee of $150 or more for this service, though borrowers are not required to pay closing costs or submit to another credit check, because they are not asking for a new loan.

Recasting works well for those unable to qualify for refinancing amid the ever-toughening credit guidelines — perhaps because they are self-employed or have less-than-stellar credit — as well as for those with extra cash, like a year-end bonus.

“People don’t really know about it,” said Alan Rosenbaum, the founder and chief executive of the Guardhill Financial Corporation in New York, “but it’s become more common recently.”

Although the term “recasting” is often used by the mortgage industry to refer to interest-rate resets on adjustable-rate mortgages, here the interest rate and loan term stay the same.

Here’s how it might work. Let’s say that as of late December, you had just over $230,449 of principal left on a 30-year fixed-rate loan for $300,000 taken out at 7.93 percent in 1995. You have been paying just under $2,187 a month in principal and interest. But if you put in $20,000 toward that remaining principal and asked your lender to reamortize your payments over the remaining 15 years on the loan, your monthly payment would drop by $52, to around $2,135. Putting in $100,000 would save $730 a month and bring payments to $1,457.

Making extra payments toward the principal while not asking the bank to recast a loan keeps monthly payments the same and merely shortens the time it takes to pay off the loan.

There are a few caveats to recasting, however. The first is that you may need to have a large sum on hand. JPMorgan Chase, for example, charges a $150 fee and requires a minimum $5,000 payment toward the principal.

Another issue is having a lender, or loan servicer, that offers the service. And even those that do may impose restrictions. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America exclude loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and loans that were sold off and securitized may also need investor approval.

While few if any lenders advertise recasting, “they are trying to become more customer-service-oriented, and they will do it on a case-by-case basis,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. Homeowners should contact their lender’s customer service department.

Lenders, which would probably rather earn thousands of dollars in closing fees from refinancing your loan, are not obliged to recast mortgages. And certain types of mortgages, for example interest-only and adjustable-rate loans, usually aren’t eligible. The borrower will also need to have been current with all mortgage payments to qualify.

Edward Ades, the owner of Universal Mortgage in Brooklyn, says recasting can be especially useful to recent buyers, for whom it makes little financial sense to refinance but who expect to receive a tax refund or other substantial money after closing on their property, like proceeds from a relative’s sale of property, stocks or other assets.

If your interest rate is 5 percent or lower, Mr. Ades added, it may not make sense to recast a loan, because the extra cash could be put into an investment with a higher return. “At the end of the day,” he said, “I always tell people they have to do whatever makes them sleep better.”

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: In German Village, Maennerchor trustees OK sale of building to schools


Maennerchor trustees OK sale of building to schools

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 02:55 AM

ThisWeek Community Newspapers

The expansion of Stewart Alternative Elementary School has cleared a significant hurdle.

The Columbus Maennerchor's board of directors has approved the sale of its S.High Street property to the Columbus City Schools.

The district officially will take possession of the building when the $1.3million deal is closed, which tentatively is set for Jan. 12, said Kim Norris, spokeswoman for the district.

The district will then lease the main building back to the Maennerchor until Aug.31.

Several important legislative maneuvers remain.

The German Village and Brewery District commissions must approve the school district's plans, and the Columbus City Council must vote on vacating Pearl Street, which separates the two properties.

Meanwhile, the Maennerchor intends to move to an adjacent building, known as the Dutch House.

Columbus Dispatch: You can now begin to use credit cards in parking meters

Parking? You can charge it

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 02:54 AM

The Columbus Dispatch

Columbus began installing 977 "smart" parking meters in high-traffic areas such as Downtown and the Short North yesterday.

The meters accept credit and debit cards as well as coins.

The city plans to replace its more than 4,000 coin-operated meters with the new meters, about 1,000 a year.

David Vega installs one of Columbus' first "smart" parking meters. Vega, who works for IPS Group Parking & Telecommunications in San Diego, was on Grandview Avenue yesterday.
Kyle Robertson Dispatch photos
David Vega installs one of Columbus' first "smart" parking meters. Vega, who works for IPS Group Parking & Telecommunications in San Diego, was on Grandview Avenue yesterday.
The parking meters being installed in Columbus accept credit and debit cards in addition to coins. They are powered by batteries that are solar-rechargeable, weather permitting.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Columbus City Councilmembers have (unanimously) elected Andrew J. Ginther President of the City Council



For Immediate Release: January 3, 2011

For More Information:

John Ivanic, (614) 645-6798



Columbus City Councilmembers have (unanimously) elected Andrew J. Ginther President of the City Council. Ginther, a councilmember since 2007, has served as the chair of Finance & Economic Development, Public Safety, and Utilities committees.

“I appreciate my colleague’s vote of confidence, and I am honored to have been chosen to lead City Council,” said Ginther. “I look forward to working with my fellow councilmembers, Mayor Coleman and community leaders to help create jobs, keep Columbus neighborhoods safe, and maintain the quality of life Columbus residents have come to expect.”

“We have a number of immediate challenges ahead of us, beginning with the appointment of two new Councilmembers and adopting a balanced budget for the coming year,” said Ginther. “I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead, and I am ready to get to work.”

A proud graduate of Columbus City Schools, Ginther holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. Before joining City Council, Ginther, spent six years on the Columbus Board of Education. A native of Columbus, he resides with his wife and daughter in Clintonville.