The Middle of Somewhere
by Natalia Naman Temesgen
originally published in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, July 12, 2014
It’s July and the United States is in the middle of the peak home buying season. As I drive around town, I notice “For Sale” signs sprouting like dandelions and consider what might attract someone to any one property or neighborhood in Columbus. In my group of friends, many reside or are currently hunting in the 31906 ZIP code, the seemingly trendy Midtown neighborhood.
What is it about Midtown that has caused it to trend? Those I know who live there are, in many cases, are newly married with one or no children. They’re young professionals and entrepreneurs working mainly in the Midtown or downtown Columbus.
They’re social creatures with close access to the park, museum and lots of nightlife. Much of their personal and professional life happens in or near Midtown. So maybe it’s just a matter of convenience.
But besides Midtown’s central geography, there seems to be other factors to its appeal. One may be the affordability factor. Columbus is a city that genuinely does have a wide swath of “starter homes.” Lawrence Yun of the National Association of Realtors says that starter homes are usually priced around 30 percent below the local market’s median. Midtown not only offers many homes priced in the starter range, but it also has many others priced in and well above the market median. This affords the neighborhood a sort of obligatory diversity, at least in the socioeconomic realm.
Perhaps that diversity adds to the appeal, too.
I said above that the residents of Midtown that I know are professionals. Many grew up in local, white-collar families. Privileged flight in Columbus has historically taken a distinct northerly direction. If the sons and daughters of Columbus have returned from another city to begin their careers and families here, they may feel moved to drift further down the map and etch out a unique identity in a different part of town. Midtown still has an air of distinction. It was, after all, once the premiere destination for wealthy Columbusites — but nearly two centuries later it’s no longer on the city limits. It’s right in the middle of … well, somewhere.
What is that somewhere? MidTown Inc. seems to be successful in not only building community (their mission statement goes into much greater detail), but also branding the neighborhood. Plus, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s recurring championing of Midtown doesn’t hurt. There is an energy and buzz about it that must have an impact on the prospective homebuyer. It really does tout itself as the place to be.
As for me, I love Midtown for what it has to offer. Between trips to the Columbus Library, Columbus Museum and Lakebottom Park, my daughter and I are frequent visitors to the neighborhood. It’s encouraging to see an older part of town undergo a sort of renaissance, since most new development in Columbus tends to compound itself in North Columbus and downtown.
— Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent correspondent. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cafeaulazy.