Thursday, July 28, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Gay-friendly, and growing - Franklin County tops in same-sex Ohio households

Tom Grote, left, and partner Rick Neal share a porch swing with their 2-year-old daughter, Amoret, in the backyard of their home in German Village. Grote says more gay couples are "settling down" and adopting.

Census Numbers

Gay-friendly, and growing

Franklin County tops in same-sex Ohio households

Thursday, July 28, 2011 04:25 AM


In the past decade, Franklin County added more households led by same-sex couples than any other Ohio county, new census information shows.

The 5,132 gay households make up just 2.3 percent of the Franklin County homes in which a couple lived together in 2010, but the number grew by almost 1,900, or 58 percent, during the decade.

The next-largest gain was in Cuyahoga County, which added 750 same-sex-couple households, or 28 percent. The statewide number grew by 51 percent, to 28,600 households.

Franklin also has more gay couples overall.

"None of this really surprises me," said Mike Daniels, co-publisher of Outlook: Columbus, a magazine geared to the gay community. "Columbus is a top-10 gay city across America, but Columbus is a very interesting place because it is a very welcoming environment for absolutely everyone."

(Click for a larger view)

The census probably "somewhere between mildly and grossly underestimates the number," Daniels added.

Same-sex couples are counted because the census tracks relationships within households. It does not ask about sexual orientation more broadly, so there is no census count of the total number of gays, including single people and couples who do not live together.

It's difficult to know whether the growing number of same-sex households means that more gay couples live in Franklin County, or whether more have become willing to identify themselves that way.

"I would suspect there might be a little of both," said Tom Grote, who lives in German Village with his partner, Rick Neal, and their 2-year-old daughter. "More people are probably familiar with that checkbox on the census form, and more people are in fact checking it."

The Columbus area feels welcoming to gay couples and families, and many employers - both public and private - offer friendly work environments and domestic-partner insurance benefits, he said.

"There's probably more settling-down going on," said Grote, 46, the chief financial officer at ButylFuel, a biofuel company. He also is a trustee for the United Way of Central Ohio and Miami University.

"I think you have more and more gay couples comfortable with coming out and living in the suburbs," Grote said. "We know a lot more people who are adopting - that definitely is a trend."

Neal, 45, who moved to Columbus from Washington, D.C.,said the city is a great place for families.

(Click for a larger view)

"It was really the right decision to come here," he said. "People here are very, very nice."

There are about the same number of gay and lesbian households in Franklin County, at just under 2,600 each, and about 21 percent reported that they have a child living with them. Statewide, about 26 percent of gay couples were raising children. About 41 percent of straight couples in Ohio - whether married or not - reported having a child in their home.

Five other central Ohio counties - Union, Delaware, Madison, Pickaway and Fairfield - were in the top 11 counties statewide as far as percentage growth in gay households. Union County was No. 1, up 185 percent to 114 households.

"When I was kid, if you were a same-sex couple, you moved to New York or San Francisco or someplace that you felt welcome," said Ed Mullen, executive director of Equality Ohio, an advocacy group for gay, bisexual and transgender people. Today, "people don't feel the need to."

For many gays, living in Columbus has a legal benefit: Neither state nor federal law protects gay people against discrimination, while the city of Columbus has a human-rights ordinance that considers sexual orientation, Mullen said.

The city has included gays as a protected class for more than two decades, and Columbus added "transgender residents" - men who consider themselves women and women who consider themselves men - in 2008. The ordinance applies to all private landlords and sellers of homes, employers and operators of public accommodations in the city, said Napoleon Bell, director of the Columbus Community Relations Commission.

The city of Columbus, Columbus City Schools, Franklin County, Ohio State University and some large private employers that are based here offer domestic-partner health benefits, also luring gays.

"Columbus has become a Mecca for GLBT folks," Daniels said.

The Census Bureau is advising that it will release "alternative estimates" later this year for same-sex partner numbers to account for "data capture errors." A census spokeswoman couldn't say how those estimates might differ from the current numbers.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Kroger designs store to blend with Short North streetscape

Sunday, July 24, 2011 03:14 AM


The newest store on N. High Street near the Short North has an entrance just off the sidewalk, big windows and retro signs befitting the neighborhood of art galleries, specialty shops and coffeehouses.

Oh, and it's a Kroger.

The store, which opens to the public Tuesday, was designed not only to sell area residents milk and bread but to serve visually and commercially as a bridge between the expanding development that is starting to link the Short North and the Ohio State University campus area.

For Kroger, it's the first time in central Ohio that the company has used such a design - one that extends the building up to the sidewalk. There's no yawning parking to interrupt the flow between buildings along High Street; instead, the main entrance and parking can be found facing 7th Avenue.

The goal of the new design, and the zoning requirements that inspired it, is to not only create business continuity down N. High Street but to ensure that the area's urban atmosphere remains intact, said Dick Makley, a planning manager for the city of Columbus.

This ensures that new businesses on N. High Street have storefronts that are real storefronts instead of brick walls, he said, "so you don't end up with a City Center mall effect, where there is no visible retail presence on the street, where you have to (physically) go inside the store to actually see anything."

"Having the buildings street-level allows for a more pleasant walking area and allows more easy access to the building on foot," Makley said.

All new commercial buildings along a stretch of N. High Street must incorporate a streetscape design because of the revised Urban Commercial Zoning Overlay the city began requiring in 2002, he said. The rules require that new commercial buildings sit right on the sidewalk and that 60 percent of the storefront of the building be windows.

Kroger joins a growing list of companies that recently have built new stores close to N. High Street, such as Taco Bell, Donatos, Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, CVS, Turkey Hill Minit Market and Giant Eagle's GetGo fuel stations.

New urbanism is the charge leading this trend, said Dan Stanek, executive vice president of Big Red Rooster, a Columbus-based retail innovation and design firm.

While compact, street-front development is common in big cities such as New York and Boston or in Europe, it's also a trend catching on more broadly as there's more desire to have stores and neighborhoods more integrated, he said.

Even big-box retailers in some cities are shrinking their size in an attempt to fit in.

"It's a combination of more younger people who prefer to live in an urban environment and the boomer market that is finding it more appealing to live in a condo or urban setting," Stanek said. "I think you'll see more of this urban trend because stores are going where the people are moving."

Kroger's new store, 1350 N. High St., attempts to appeal to the diverse clientele: OSU students, more-affluent shoppers from the Short North and moderate-income residents in neighborhoods to the east.

The store will offer a professional chef, an in-store bistro with seating, a sushi bar and expanded prepared-food offerings.

Customers will be able to look into the store's bistro area, which has a salad bar, large produce section and floral department, from on the sidewalk, spokeswoman Beth Wilkin said.

"It's the only store in our Columbus division like that and is something we'd look at doing in the future if the situation warranted," Wilkin said.

The 60,000-square-foot store is twice the size of the store it is replacing , which was demolished last month. Wilkin said Kroger held focus groups to determine what the community wanted for the area between the Short North and OSU.

"We see ourselves as the bridge between the two neighborhoods," Wilkin said.

So does Campus Partners, developer of the South Campus Gateway project just up the road, spokeswoman Erin Prosser said. She said Kroger's efforts are a significant investment that will help spur other private investment along that stretch of N. High Street.

"High Street is such a strong spine of the city and that connection between the two neighborhoods is beneficial for everyone," Prosser said.

Michael Wilkos couldn't agree more. He is a senior grants officer at the Columbus Foundation and resident of the Weinland Park neighborhood, which is one of the neighborhoods the new store serves.

Wilkos, who also sits on the Weinland Park Collaborative, a group that is working to rebuild the neighborhood, said the store is a "tremendous improvement for the neighborhood."

"It supports the pedestrian and transit focus of the neighborhood," he said, noting that half of the people in the neighborhood don't have access to a car.

"Kroger understands the diverse people in the neighborhood," Wilkos said. "From students to families, those with high incomes, middle incomes and low incomes, the store's design understands that mix and works to meet all those needs."

Short North businesses also are happy with the new design, said Diesha Condon, senior director of the Short North Business Association.

Attention to detail - right down to the color of the brick used to build the store - is just one reason why the store is key in generating new business to the area, she said.

"They were thoughtful and careful to make sure the building kept that historic look," Condon said. "We're very thankful that Kroger invested in our neighborhood and are excited about this being a big step in bridging the gap between the business districts."


Kroger's new store at 1350 N. High St. is designed to appeal to the store's diverse clientele: Ohio State University students, more-affluent shoppers coming from the Short North and more moderate-income residents in nearby neighborhoods. Some of its features:

• Eat-in options, including a salad bar, soup bar, beverage center and sandwich station

• In-store seating and dining

area with Wi-Fi

• BuckID, OSU's identification and debit card, can be used to make purchases

• Specialty products are offered, including sushi, bulk natural foods and organic items

• Expanded selections of food, produce and baby items

Source: Kroger

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wonderland Columbus to secure new facility

For Immediate Release

Contact: Adam Brouillette,

Wonderland Columbus to secure new facility

In the continuing efforts to create a physical home for Wonderland Columbus, to better fulfill its mission to offer Columbus new cultural, educational and collaborative opportunities, board and staff of the emerging non-profit are currently investigating a variety of locations around Columbus. Initial plans to locate the project within the former Wonder Bread factory in the Short North ultimately proved unfeasible.

Through a process involving input from
independent property appraisers and several developers consulting with Wonderland, including a review of comparable properties in and around Downtown, it was determined that the final asking price for the building was not fiscally defensible for a tax-exempt organization seeking public support. According to executive director Adam Brouillette, this development will do nothing to slow the projectʼs momentum and may help expedite Wonderlandʼs application for 501c3 non-profit status with the IRS.

The search for a new physical home for Wonderland Columbus has begun with
the help of a committee of trusted advisors who have volunteered their time to the task. So far, several locations with great potential have been identified. The architecture firm of BBCO Design will remain with the project and is also assisting with the search effort.

“The community response to this project has been overwhelmingly positive,” Brouillette said. “Iʼm encouraged by the continued support Wonderland is getting in its efforts to find a new home. With the help of our community supporters, weʼll be able to create an even better asset than what we had planned before." Representatives from Wonderland will be available to the public for questions and feedback at a variety of upcoming programs on the Wonderland calendar, starting with the creative networking event Wunderblender August 2 at The Jury Room. Progress updates will also be shared at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Housing market: Buyers practically home free these days

Sunday, July 10, 2011 03:11 AM


When shopping for their piece of the Earth, homebuyers increasingly are asking for the moon

From pool tables to appliances, new roofs to big-screen televisions, buyers are demanding — and often receiving — concessions from sellers.

“Buyers now want a house to be perfect,” said Jeff Ruff, a partner in the Real Living HER agency Vutech & Ruff. “Sellers generally have to do everything, down to the smallest detail, and, if they don’t, in many cases, there’s just too many choices and buyers will move on.”

In the past five years, as central Ohio home sales and prices have steadily dropped, the real-estate balance of power has shifted to buyers. This year, with home sales down 16 percent and almost 16,000 Columbus-area homes on the market, buyers are flexing their muscles more than ever at the bargaining table.

Besides sometimes steep price discounts, buyers routinely are asking sellers to pay thousands in closing costs.

Then there are the physical demands, which range from tiny to tremendous.

Sue Lusk-Gleich, a Keller Williams Capital Partners agent, recalls getting a long list of conditions with an offer on a Columbus house she was selling.

“I was listing a home in Eastmoor, and buyers insisted that we fix a screened-in door to a screened porch because it didn’t latch properly,” she said. “I said, seriously? Let’s get down to what’s really important.”

On the other extreme, Lusk-Gleich has had buyers insist on a new roof, which can cost sellers $6,000 to $10,000.

Such requests typically are prompted by the findings of an inspection, which has become the weapon of choice for homebuyers seeking deals after agreeing on a price.

Traditionally used to identify structural or safety defects or items that one day might need repair, the inspection has evolved into a laundry list of problems sellers are expected to remedy — at their cost — before the deal can close.

The result is often a two-tiered set of negotiations: once for the price and once again for all the items homeowners will pay to fix or replace.

“Inspections continue to be a renegotiation for the buyers, which is not what they were set up to be,” said Jo-Anne LaBuda, an agent with Keller Williams Capital Partners. “It’s become a time to renegotiate the contract, to see if they can get a better deal than they did initially.”

Savvy buyers know that once sellers see an inspection report, they must disclose all the problems to the next buyer, leaving them with even more incentive to close the deal on the table.

“They’ve got you,” said Ralph Renninger, a RE/MAX Premier Choice agent in Powell. “You’re already in contract, you’re excited, and now they come with a list of X amount of items that could be $3,000 or $4,000 more. What you would have said no to before, now you just put your head down and say, ‘OK.’  ”

For that reason, many agents recommend that sellers avoid viewing the full inspection report.

“I ask for just the items that are relevant to the deal,” Lusk-Gleich said. “I don’t want the entire inspection.”

Columbus Board of Realtors President Rick Benjamin received a different set of requests when selling his own home last year.

“They asked for the pool table, which we left behind. Initially, we counted out the washer and dryer, but they had sold theirs and asked that we leave them,” said Benjamin, an agent with RE/MAX Premier Choice in Powell. “Pool tables, patio furniture, washers and dryers were ordinarily never part of the discussion.”

But Benjamin also knows buyers now have the upper hand: “If you don’t do it, they’ll walk.”

Agents understand that today’s buyers expect to get the best deals possible, but they caution against weighing down a deal with a bunch of merchandise.

“I’ve had a lot of buyers want to ask for big-screen TVs and pool tables and whatever they can, but lenders really frown on that,” said Chris Reese, an agent with Metro II Realty in Columbus. “Other than appliances and window coverings, lenders don’t want to see anything of value in the contract.”

Other demands come in less-traditional forms. Renninger had a buyer place a rent-to-own offer on a $430,000 home he was listing in Powell. The catch: The price would be negotiated after the home was rented for a year.

“They worried that the value would drop over the year, but there was no guarantee at all for my sellers,” said Renninger, whose clients rejected the deal. “Two years ago, that deal would never have even been on the table.”

Cindy Calendar, an agent with Coldwell Banker King Thompson’s Polaris office, grew equally frustrated with an offer she received on an estate home she was listing in the Northland area for $99,900. A shopper who had visited was pondering an offer when she saw a home down the street go on the market for $75,000.

So the buyer offered $75,000 for the house Calendar was listing.

“Theirs was a split; ours was a ranch and was all updated, but it didn’t matter to the buyer,” Calendar said. “Then she asked for 5 percent closing costs.”

Calendar’s clients, who were eager to sell, negotiated and eventually accepted $80,850.

But, as someone who also represents buyers, Calendar knows the other side of the coin.

Since February, she has represented a family looking to spend about $300,000 on a home. So far, she’s shown them more than 50 homes, none of them satisfactory.

She thought she found a home last week that fulfilled all her buyers’ wishes — 3,400 square feet, six bedrooms, an acre of land, a three-car garage, three living spaces and a mother-in-law suite — listed by a bank for $329,000, more than $100,000 less than it sold for new eight years ago.

“She walked in and didn’t like it,” Calendar said. “She wants everything perfect.

“But for a lot of buyers, they know the market’s flooded and they think there’s going to be more coming, that there’s going to be a better deal tomorrow.”

The Other Paper: Wonderland abandons Wonder Bread factory

Wonderland remains more concept than reality

It won't be occupied for a very long time: The old Wonder Bread factory, which Wonderland organizers hope to turn into a multi-use facility (file photo)

Wonderland's ambitious plan to transform the site of Columbus's old Wonder Bread factory into a mixed-use Mecca for artists and musicians won't come to fruition.

That's according to an email that Wonderland executive director Adam Brouillette sent to supporters -- that was then leaked to The Other Paper Wednesday afternoon.

In a story published Feb. 24, Brouillette told TOP: "We're trying to home the point that Wonderland is a concept," adding, "If the building goes away, the project doesn't go away."

Wonderland changed the address listed on its Facebook page Wednesday from the former Wonder Bread factory (697 N. Fourth St.) to 851 N. Pearl St. -- the current address of the rent-a-desk co-working community, Sandbox.

Brouillette's comments in February seemed to imply that plans to develop the abandoned Wonder Bread factory had the potential to fall through. In his email to supporters Wednesday, he confirmed that this was true.

"Initial plans to locate the project within the former Wonder Bread factory in the Short North ultimately proved unfeasible, as the building could not be secured at a rate that would be fiscally defensible for a tax-exempt organization seeking public support," Brouillette wrote.

"This was determined through a process involving input from independent property appraisers and several developers consulting with Wonderland, including a review of comparable properties in and around Downtown."

He added: "With the demand and desire in the community, Wonderland will undoubtedly and quickly be able to find another facility to support the project."

He closed the letter by asking recipients to avoid publicly discussing decision "due to the high-profile nature of this project."

Brouillette did not return phone calls requesting comment. According to his email, a press release on Wonderland's altered plans will be released in the near future.

Central Ohio Real Estate: June Blooms with Contracts!

(July 20, 2011) The housing market in central Ohio took a turn for the better last month when 2,552 homes were successfully put in contract. This marks a 54.6 percent increase over homes put in contract during the same month one year ago according to the Columbus Board of REALTORS®.

Home closings, however, continue to lag the previous year. The 1,989 homes closed during the month of June were 16.6 percent lower than closings during June of 2011.

“Both the sales and in contracts are still strongly tied to the expiration of the home buyer tax credits last year,” says Rick Benjamin, 2011 President of the Columbus Board of REALTORS®. “June 30, 2010 was the deadline for homes to close in order to take advantage of the tax credit so closings were exceedingly high last year during the months of May and June.”

“The deadline for homes to be in contract, however, was April 30, 2010 and the rush to get into contract caused a bit of a lag in the following couple months. That said, a 55 percent increase in homes going to into contract is exceptionally high - and a good indication that sales should be healthy in July and August.”

The average price of a home sold last month was $172,512, which is 9.1 percent higher than the average home sale price during the previous month, and only 0.8 percent lower than the average sale price one year ago.

At the end of June, there were approximately 16,065 residential homes available for sale in the central Ohio area. School districts seeing the highest number of listings added to the market include Columbus, Olentangy, South-Western, Westerville, Hilliard and Dublin.

“These school districts also saw the highest number of in contracts and closing last month,” adds Benjamin. “Although this is due in great part to the fact that these areas are highest in population, it’s an ideal time for buyers interested in those areas to take a look at what’s on the market today.”

Click here to view the June sortable housing market report by area.
Click here to view the entire central Ohio Local Market Update.

For more information about the central Ohio housing market, visit
To view commercial properties for sale or lease in central Ohio, visit
To view residential properties for sale, visit

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WBNS-TV: Man Collapses, Dies At Goodale Park

Man Collapses, Dies At Goodale Park

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 4:05 PM


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Police were investigating the death of a man on Tuesday at Goodale Park.

A witness said that he saw the man walking with a dog near the park's new fountain when he collapsed.

Officers said that they did not see any signs of foul play but were investigating the cause of his death.

The man's identity was not immediately released.

Stay with 10TV News and for additional information.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Columbus Alive Preview: Olde Towne East Tour of Homes

The story is here

See for yourself:

Begins at Columbus Preparatory School for Girls

1-7 p.m. Sunday, July 10

1390 Bryden Rd., Olde Towne East

Olde Towne East, the near east side neighborhood between Downtown and Bexley, has been on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows since its initial days in the 1800s as the home of Columbus royalty.

That bumpy ride is about to plateau in a state of awesomeness, according to the community's leaders.

"I'm a lifelong resident of this side of town," said Alex Macke, a Realtor and co-chair of the area's Tour of Homes, taking place this weekend. "In the past, it wasn't shining as bright as it could. It had hit rock bottom."

Crime, foreclosure and demolition have plagued the area.

"We're a strong grassroots community," Macke said, "and all of us have a strong will to survive and succeed."

Residents have discouraged alcohol sales in certain parts of the neighborhood, which Macke said lowers crime rates. And businesses like the Angry Baker, Yellow Brick Pizza, Black Creek Bistro and Carabar and art events such as CS Gallery's Hit & Run series have been bringing people east.

Hip young home buyers, especially, have been heading to the area, Macke said. A bare-bones fixer-upper sells for as little as $20,000, and on the high end sit houses for $400,000.

"It's an extremely viable option for downtown living," he said. "They find other neighborhoods are outpriced and they have limited space. Over here it's quite opposite of that."

Dana Pearch and Raymie Smith are two of those young homeowners.

"We wanted to be central but have space for our dogs," Smith said.

"I always thought this was the prettiest neighborhood," Pearch added.

The couple gave us a sneak peek of their house. Walk through it and 15 other stunning spaces on Bryden Road during the Olde Towne East Tour of Homes this weekend.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Get ready for the Scioto Mile (a video preview)

The Scioto Mile opens tomorrow evening with a 5:30 ceremony featuring Mayor Michael B. Coleman and other officials.

More exciting to the average person, the new fountain in Bicentennial Park will have its first water and light show at 6 p.m. A series of fun events follows with stuff for kids at 6:15, the Hoo Doo Soul Band and opening of the Milestone 229 restaurant at 7:30 and a 9:45 p.m. evening fountain show.

We'll have full coverage of the new Downtown park in tomorrow's paper. For now, enjoy the video tour (above or in a bigger window at this link), and the stories we ran on Sunday about how the project came to life and its expected impact on Franklinton.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Yankee Trader building sold; plans call for apartments, offices, restaurant

The story is here

Friday, July 1, 2011 10:52 AM

The Columbus Dispatch

The building that housed the Yankee Trader, a fixture for decades in the Short North, has been sold to a local firm that plans to renovate the building as offices, apartments and ground-floor restaurant space.

Westerville-based Triad Architects hopes to move its offices to the site at 463 N. High St. in the fall of 2012. The company also plans to renovate the top three floors of the five-story building into upscale one- and two-bedroom apartments.

"We were looking to move our offices, and really wanted to be part of the Downtown community, where there's a lot going on," said Zach Price, a Triad principal.

Price said the company hopes to be moved into the building around the same time as the new Hilton Columbus Downtown convention hotel on the next block opens, which is expected to be by September 2012.

Price said Triad affiliate Henry Price Investments closed on the purchase from Yankee Trader Inc. on Tuesday. The $900,000 purchase price was a 25 percent discount on the asking price of $1.2 million.

The Yankee Trader store, a longtime purveyor of party goods and novelty items, closed in November.