Thursday, August 25, 2011

Business First: Food trucks congregating at Columbus Commons on Friday from 4-10pm

Mojo TaGo Brian Reed
File photo by Janet Adams

Brian Reed’s Mojo TaGo taco truck will appear at the festival in Columbus Commons.

Food trucks congregating at Columbus Commons on Friday

Date: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 11:06am EDT

Hungry Columbusites curious about the mobile eats movement will have a prime opportunity to sample the city’s selections Friday.

The Columbus Food Truck & Cart Festival will be held at Columbus Commons from 4-10 p.m., offering more than 20 local food trucks and carts spanning cuisines, live music and local vendors.

“It’s going to be a cool event,” said organizer Mike Gallicchio. “It should be a good little party.”

Gallicchio, who pulled the event together with Chas Kaplan, said he saw similar events in food truck havens like Los Angeles and Miami and figured it was time for a large-scale gathering in Columbus.

Admission is free and a portion of sales will go toward the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. There also will be beer. The tentative list of trucks and carts:

• Families Mobile Kitchen

• Leslie Crepes

• 3 Babes and a Baker

• Munch Box

• Earth Crust

• Yellow Boy Polish Boys

• Short North Bagel Deli

• Cheesy Truck

• Veggilicious

• Spinellis Deli

• Paddy Wagon

• Rad Dog

• Patty Cake

• Jeni’s Ice Cream

• Mojo TaGo

• Dave’s Dogs & More

• Mikey’s Late Nite Slice

• The Pickled Swine

• Lotsa Lobsta

• Juniors Tacos

New York Times: U.S. May Back Refinance Plan for Mortgages

U.S. May Back Refinance Plan for Mortgages

The Obama administration is considering further actions to strengthen the housing market, but the bar is high: plans must help a broad swath of homeowners, stimulate the economy and cost next to nothing.

One proposal would allow millions of homeowners with government-backed mortgages to refinance them at today’s lower interest rates, about 4 percent, according to two people briefed on the administration’s discussions who asked not to be identified because they were not allowed to talk about the information.

A wave of refinancing could be a strong stimulus to the economy, because it would lower consumers’ mortgage bills right away and allow them to spend elsewhere. But such a sweeping change could face opposition from the regulator who oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and from investors in government-backed mortgage bonds.

Administration officials said on Wednesday that they were weighing a range of proposals, including changes to its previous refinancing programs to increase the number of homeowners taking part. They are also working on a home rental program that would try to shore up housing prices by preventing hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes from flooding the market. That program is further along — the administration requested ideas for execution from the private sector earlier this month.

But refinancing could have far greater breadth, saving homeowners, by one estimate, $85 billion a year. Despite record low interest rates, many homeowners have been unable to refinance their loans either because they owe more than their houses are now worth or because their credit is tarnished.

Exactly how a refinancing plan might work is still under discussion. It is unclear, for example, whether people who are delinquent on their mortgages would be eligible or whether lenders would administer it. Federal officials have consistently overestimated the number of households that would be helped by their various housing assistance programs.

A working group of housing experts across several federal agencies could recommend one or both proposals, or come up with new ones. Or it might decide to do nothing.

Investors may suspect a plan is in the works. Fannie and Freddie mortgage bonds had been trading well above their face value because so few people were refinancing, keeping returns on the bonds high. But those bond prices dropped sharply this week.

Administration discussions about housing proposals have taken on added urgency this summer because the housing market is continuing to deteriorate. On Wednesday, the government said that prices of homes with government-backed mortgages fell 5.9 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the biggest decline since 2009. More than one in five homeowners with mortgages owe more than their homes are worth. Some analysts are now predicting waves of foreclosures and a continuing slide in home prices.

There is not much time to help the market before the 2012 election, and given Congressional resistance to other types of stimulus, housing may be the only economic fix in reach. Federal programs to assist homeowners have been regarded as ineffective so far, and they are complex.

“We are looking at trying to encourage more participation in all of the programs, including those that help with refinancing,” said Phyllis Caldwell, who oversees housing policy at the Treasury Department.

Some economists say that with housing prices and interest rates at affordable levels, only fear is keeping consumers out of the market. Frank E. Nothaft, the chief economist at Freddie Mac, said the federal action could instill confidence.

“It almost seems to me you want to have some type of announcement or policy, program or something from the federal government that provides that clear signal that we are here supporting the housing market and this is indeed a good time to really consider buying,” Mr. Nothaft said.

The refinancing idea has been around since at least 2008, but proponents say the recent drop in interest rates to below 4 percent may breathe new life into the plan.

“This is the best stimulus out there because it doesn’t increase the deficit, it accomplishes monetary policy, and it reduces defaults in housing,” said Christopher J. Mayer, an economist at the Columbia Business School. “So I think this is low-hanging fruit.” Mr. Mayer and a colleague, Glenn Hubbard, who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, proposed an early version of the plan.

The idea is appealing because it would not necessarily require Congressional action. It also would not tap any of the $45.6 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Funds that was set aside to help struggling homeowners. Only $22.9 billion of that pool has been spent or pledged so far, and fewer than 1.7 million loans have been modified under federal programs. But Andrea Risotto, a Treasury spokeswoman, said whatever was left would be used to reduce the federal deficit.

A mass refinancing plan would spread the benefits of the Federal Reserve’s most important economic policy response, low interest rates, to more people. As of July, an estimated $2.4 trillion in mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie carried interest rates of 4.5 percent or higher.

The two prevailing ideas, lowering rates on mortgages and converting houses owned by government entities like Freddie and Fannie into rentals and other uses, have somewhat different pockets of support. Investment firms would like to participate in the rental program, especially if the government lends them money to participate. For the most part, banks prefer the refinancing plan. There are many high-ranking proponents of the refinancing plan. Joseph Tracy, a senior adviser to the chairman of the New York Federal Reserve, has circulated a presentation in support of the plan. And Richard B. Berner, who recently joined the Treasury Department as counselor to Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, argued in favor of a blanket refinancing in his previous job as chief United States economist for Morgan Stanley. The proponents say the plan carries little risk because the mortgages are already guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They also say it makes those loans less likely to go into default and ultimately foreclosure.

But the plan has some drawbacks. Some officials fear that promoting mass refinancings today could spook investors and make borrowing more expensive, for both homeowners and the federal government, in the future.

The government has already encouraged some refinancing through the Federal Housing Administration and through Fannie and Freddie, but participation is limited. For example, the Home Affordable Refinance Program excludes homeowners who owe more than 125 percent of the value of their house. To spur more refinancing, the government may decide to encourage Fannie and Freddie to lift such restrictions.

But government officials cautioned that Fannie and Freddie do not do the administration’s bidding, even though they are essentially owned by taxpayers. Edward J. DeMarco, who oversees the companies as acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, has voiced concerns about any plan that might cost the companies money, according to the two people briefed on the discussions. “F.H.F.A. remains open to all ideas that provide needed assistance to borrowers” while minimizing the cost to taxpayers, Mr. DeMarco said in a written statement.

A broader criticism of a refinancing expansion is that it would not do enough to address the two main drivers of foreclosures: homes worth less than their mortgages, and a sudden loss of income, like unemployment. American homeowners currently owe some $700 billion more than their homes are worth.

Columbus Dispatch: Residences likely west of Arena District

Residences likely west of Arena District

Nationwide Realty plans would nix new Crew stadium

By Marla Matzer Rose

The Columbus Dispatch Thursday August 25, 2011 6:40 AM

Nationwide Realty Investors is planning to expand to the west of the Arena District now that the $1 billion-plus development is almost completed, based on the original master plan for the area.

New development, however, is likely to take on a slightly different look, with a greater emphasis on residential buildings and offices that are less-densely packed than the core Arena District.

The first evidence of this is the $10 million office building that Nationwide unveiled to the Downtown Commission this week, which will be built at 425 Nationwide Blvd., west of Neil Avenue.

“As we move west of Neil, I think you’ll see densities diminish,” said Brian Ellis, president of Nationwide Realty Investors. “There are nearly 2 million square feet of office space in the master-planned Arena District, all with (garage rather than surface) parking.

“I don’t think this (west of Neil) area can sustain that density at this time. I think it will be predominantly residential.”

On Tuesday, Nationwide closed on the purchase of 25 acres it agreed to acquire from Penn National Gaming as part of a deal tied to Penn agreeing to move its planned Columbus casino to the West Side. The purchase could put an end to the much-discussed idea in recent years of putting a new stadium for the Columbus Crew soccer team on that site.

“Our plans for that area are residential. Anything else is speculation,” said Tina Guegold, vice president of marketing for Nationwide Realty Investors.

All told, Nationwide owns about 35 acres just west of the Arena District, including 3.6 acres of land next to the Buggyworks condo project and Huntington Park. Nationwide acquired that land from Buggyworks developer Kyle Katz in June. The 75-acre Arena District, built on the site of the former Ohio Penitentiary over the past dozen years, originally had Neil Avenue as its western boundary, although some related development — such as the LC Pavilion — has occurred outside of that.

Nationwide hopes to complete its office building at 425 Nationwide Blvd. by October 2012. It will be set back farther from the street and have more landscaping than most buildings in the Arena District. The time frame for further development in the area is less clear, with Ellis simply saying that he expects the area to fill out during the next decade.

Nationwide recently completed its nearby Flats on Vine apartments, which are almost fully leased.

In a different matter, the Downtown Commission has approved temporary banners to rebrand the Hyatt on Capitol Square as a Sheraton. The signs are set to go up by the end of this month and come down by Oct. 1, when permanent signs should be installed.

The property’s new owner, Florida-based Driftwood Hospitality, has not yet announced details of its planned renovation of the 27-year-old, 400-room property.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Friday Screen on the Green: "Rear Window" at Goodale Park

The Facebook Event is here

Friday 8-11pm

Join us for a free showing of "Rear Window" on a 30-foot screen in the park's softball diamond (southwest corner). The movie begins at sundown and will be preceded by a half hour of classic cartoons. Filmed in 1954, "Rear Window" was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and stars James Stewart and Grace Kelly. It's based on the 1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder" and has been regarded as one of Hitchcock's best films.

Local food carts will sell refreshments, as organized by The SBB. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs, and flashlights. There are no rain dates.

Screen on the Green is presented by the Short North Civic Association with additional funding from the Gateway Film Center, Short North Foundation, and ComFest. Eartha Limited donated its services to make these events waste-less

Home sales in Central Ohio jump 23% in July

From the Columbus Board of Realtors:

Home sales in central Ohio increased significantly last month compared to July of 2010. According to the Columbus Board of REALTORS®, 1,865 homes sold in July of 2011 – a 23.3 percent increase over the 1,513 homes which sold during the same month last year.

Additionally, the number of residential homes scheduled to close was up almost 50 percent, from 1,705 last year to 2,553 last month (July 2011).

“We’ve seen a marked increase in activity this summer,” says Rick Benjamin, 2011 President of the Columbus Board of REALTORS®. “Although the economy continues to be unpredictable, buyers are getting tired of waiting for better news and deciding to take advantage of the inventory, prices and low interest rates.”

The median sale price of a home sold in July was $141,359, which is 5.9 percent higher than the median home sale price during the same month one year ago.

Although, for most areas, there are fewer listings today versus last year, the cities of Powell,Shawnee Hills, New Albany, Pataskala, Hilliard and Pickerington saw increases in the number of homes for sale. The same goes for the school districts of West Jefferson, New Albany Plain, Circleville, and Newark.

For the entire central Ohio area, there were 3,027 homes listed for sale during the month of July bringing the total inventory of available homes for sale to 15,702. The median price of a home on the market today is $144,900.

“We’re fortunate to have a very affordable market,” adds Benjamin. “Today’s buyer can find a rich variety of homes for sale in every price range.”

Click here to view the July sortable housing market report by area.

Click here to view the entire central Ohio Local Market Update.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: 3rd Street bridge into Downtown to close until November

The story is here

A state resurfacing project will close the 3rd Street bridge, limiting traffic from two of three directions into Downtown starting Monday.

The exit ramp from eastbound I-670 to 3rd Street will close as will the entrance from Summit Street to the 3rd Street bridge. The ramp from westbound I-670 to 3rd Street will remain open, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

An alternate route into Dowtown from eastbound I-670 is to take the 4th Street exit, turn right onto Goodale Boulevard and then left onto High Street. From Summit, turn right onto 1st or 2nd streets and then left onto High.

The project is scheduled to end Nov. 1.

CNN: Buying is cheaper than renting in most U.S. cities

The story is here

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Home prices have taken such a beating and demand for rental units has increased so much that it's now cheaper to buy a two-bedroom home than to rent one in most major U.S. cities.

According to real estate web site Trulia, buying was cheaper than renting in 74% of the country's 50 largest cities in July. In just 12% of the cities, including New York, Seattle and San Francisco, renting was cheaper. In the remaining 14% of cities, renting was less expensive but close to the cost of buying.

In addition to a continuing decline in home prices, rock-bottom interest rates have added a lot of weight to the buy side of the scale. The overnight average rate for a 30-year fixed was just 4.19% on Monday, according to A 15-year fixed averaged just 3.43%.

Add in the tax perks of home ownership and for those who can afford it (and who can actually qualify for a loan), it certainly is a buyer's market.

"It's a personal decision, of course. But if you have a steady job and you are planning to stay for seven years or more and have enough cash to put 20% down and enough left over for seven or eight months of expenses, you're better off buying in most places," said Daisy Kong, a spokeswoman for Trulia.

Top buyer's markets

Las Vegas offered the most compelling buy-side math, Trulia's survey found.

Prices there have plunged more than 59% from their August 2006 peak, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index.

The median price of a two-bedroom, two-bath condo or townhouse is about $60,000, according to Trulia, a ratio of only six times the median annual rent of a similar rental apartment, which is $9,700.

Monthly mortgage payments on a median-priced Vegas condo would come to only $256 on a 30-year, 5% interest loan. Even factoring in property taxes and common charges of roughly $300 a month, the monthly amount is still much lower than the $810 in monthly rent they would pay on a similar place.

Detroit, according to Trulia, is another metro area where buying is better. The median price for a condo or townhouse is about seven times annual rent. Home prices in Mesa, Ariz. and Fresno, Calif. also clock in at seven times rent.

Arlington, Texas, Sacramento, Calif., Phoenix and Jacksonville, Fla. all had buy-rent ratios of eight, Trulia said.

Top renter's markets

Even though rents average $2,980 a month in New York (the highest of any of the 50 markets), it's still the best city for renters, according to Trulia's survey.

Paying for the same kind of two-bedroom Manhattan apartment would cost 36 times as much, nearly $1.3 million.

Big money towns

One surprising place where renting is cheaper is Ft. Worth, Texas; buying exceeds renting costs by 32 times. Part of the reason is there are relatively few condos in the city and they tend to be upscale and costly. That, combined with low rents of about $9,500 a year, make renting cheaper.

Omaha, Neb., where buying is 27 times annual rents, Seattle and San Francisco, which both clock in with purchase prices that are 24 times rents, and Kansas City, at 22 times rents, are other places where renting makes financial sense.

Should you rent or buy?

The buy-rent calculation is just one part of the decision-making process. Other factors include:

  • How long you plan to stay. If you're not keeping the home for several years, transactional costs of buying and selling (e.g; commissions, closing costs) can wipe out any buying edge.
  • Whether you have cash for closing. It's not easy to find banks willing to lend more than 80% of the cost of a home. That means buyers have to come up with 20% down, plus closing costs. On a $200,000 home, that's $40,000.
  • Whether you can cover all the homeownership costs. It's not just the mortgage: There are property taxes, insurance, heat, utilities and regular maintenance.
  • Whether you can claim the tax advantages of homeownership. Mortgage interest is deductible and can shave a lot off tax bills but this benefit accrues mostly to high income earners with substantial mortgage payments. Many borrowers claim the standard deduction on their taxes and so derive no savings from the deduction.

Even where it's cheaper to rent, it doesn't necessarily mean renters will come out ahead, according to Ken Johnson, a real estate professor at Florida International University and co-author of a new study on whether it's better to buy or rent.

"Paying off a mortgage is a kind of forced savings," he said. Each check homeowners write lowers the balance they owe and increases the value of their property holdings. That, unlike cash in a bank account, is not easy to tap.

Where the jobs are

Homeowners have to go through a lengthy and costly process to access it by taking out a home equity loan or a cash-out refinance -- actions they tend not to take unless there's a specific need.

Depending on where they live, renters may save on monthly expenses but, unlike the forced savings of mortgage payments, they won't have anything to show for their monthly payments in the way of savings.

Ultimately, however, the decision whether to buy or rent depends on each person's situation and their plans for the future.

While buying a home may be an attractively cheap option these days, many mortgage holders have found out the hard way that the joys of homeownership can turn sour should the unexpected strike. To top of page Founder Uses Agent to Sell Home Founder Uses Agent to Sell Home

The founder of a popular for-sale by owner Web site used a real estate broker to help sell his 2,000-square-foot, two-bedroom New York apartment after it lingered on the market for six months. Colby Sambrotto, the founder and former chief operating officer of, tried to sell the property himself by listing it online and through classified ads, but after six months of it sitting on the market, he sought the help of a real estate broker.

Broker Jesse Buckler told Sambrotto the condo was priced too low and wasn’t attracting the right buyer for the condo.

"At first he wouldn't let me increase the price," Buckler said. "I told him I know what I am doing—the market is picking up."

The condo soon attracted multiple offers and ended up closing recently for $150,000 more than the original asking price.

Source: “DIY Guru Gets Broker Help,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 3, 2011)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Columbus Dispatch: Goodale Park fountain project may be on hold

(ERIC ALBRECHT dispatch)

Soon to spout

J.T. Whitney of Columbus Art Memorial Inc., left, helps sculptor Malcolm Cochran cover the elephants on a fountain under construction at Goodale Park. Cochran, an art professor at Ohio State University, hopes to have the multitiered granite fountain finished this month.

This is the progress as of mid May. I took this photo

The story is here

City may refill pond before construction work is complete

By Doug Caruso

The Columbus Dispatch

Columbus is considering refilling the Goodale Park pond with water this week even though a project to install a sculpture and fountain at its center remains unfinished.

The project, paid for by donations gathered by the Friends of Goodale Park, was supposed to be done in June, said Columbus Recreation and Parks Director Alan McKnight. Meanwhile, he said, the city has rented the park’s gazebo to wedding parties that are threatening to back out if the backdrop for their big day remains a construction site.

“It’s a tough situation,” McKnight said. “But there have been a half a dozen deadlines that have come and gone. I’m going to have some pretty unhappy people if there’s not water in that pond.”

Last week, the contractor, Columbus Art Memorial, and the artist who designed the fountain, Malcolm Cochran, attached bronze elephant sculptures to the fountain. Cochran said then that he hoped to finish the project by the end of the month.

McKnight said he broke the news to the leaders of Friends of Goodale Park on Friday that the city plans to refill the pond and put the fountain project on hold. They were unhappy, he said, so he agreed to meet with them again on Monday morning before making a final decision.

He said he appreciates what the Friends of Goodale Park are doing and wants to continue working with them. But he said the contractor’s delays have put everyone in a bad situation.

McKnight said the city has had to refund the $400 two-hour rental fee to several wedding parties. Others took a partial refund and agreed to go ahead using a cloth backdrop to block the view of the construction site.

The Dispatch left messages seeking comment with Cochran, Columbus Art Memorial and Friends of Goodale Park President Jason Kentner yesterday afternoon.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Business First: Personal income growth in Columbus region outpaces most of state

Date: Tuesday, August 9, 2011, 3:03pm EDT - Last Modified: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 9:17am EDT

Total income among Central Ohioans grew only a shade faster than the national average in 2010 but outpaced most other cities in the state, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The data, released Tuesday and analyzed by Columbus Business First online affiliate Business Journals, show the total personal income in the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area hit $70.6 billion last year, up 3.1 percent from $68.5 billion in 2009. Total personal income is defined as the income received by all people from all sources in a given year, ranging from employment wages to Social Security and welfare payments.

Among 366 metropolitan areas nationwide, income grew an average of 2.9 percent after falling nearly 2 percent the year before. Business Journals in a searchable online database features data on all metros in the U.S.

Columbus’ personal income is topped by two other Ohio metros: Cincinnati and Cleveland, both touting nearly $85 billion in income. The city’s growth rate, however, was topped only by the Youngstown and Sandusky areas.

Check out the database for more details.

Columbus Named a “Best Fall Trip” of 2011 by National Geographic

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Columbus: An Open Look (Video from the Columbus Foundation)

A Tribute to Our Community

Diversity. Community engagement. Creative culture. Entrepreneurs. Business support for new ideas and people who have them. That’s cool, that’s Columbus. Open for business, Open for your life.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Columbus Neighborhoods: A site you should visit

You can watch the videos below. As more are introduced, I will post them


About Columbus Neighborhoods

Welcome to! We invite you to browse these pages and celebrate the different neighborhoods that collectively make up Columbus, Ohio. We ask in return that you join us in telling the story of central Ohio by sharing your cherished photographs, your favorite video clips, your most amusing or poignant audio clips, or your memories and thoughts around your own particular neighborhood. Thanks for coming along for the fun—your contributions will make this site richer and the celebration of our community more powerful.

Short North
Olde Towne East
University District
German Village

blog it

Inspired by WOSU's six-documentary series, Columbus Neighborhoods, WOSU and The Columbus Metropolitan Library built this site to offer our neighbors an opportunity to share what's great about their own neighborhoods. The Ohio State University Medical Center, State Auto, AEP Ohio, and Bailey Cavalieri LLC heard about what we were doing (as did Bob and Missy Weiler, Tad and Nancy Jeffrey, Barbara Fergus, the James W. Overstreet Fund of The Columbus Foundation plus a variety of other supporters), and they graciously offered to support these projects because they too believe in the power of community.