The Columbus Dispatch

Short North’s Sandy Wood dies

- Jim Weiker

Sanborn “Sandy” Wood, a pioneer in the developmen­t of the Short North, died Thursday at age 84.

Dubbed the “godfather of the Short North Arts District” by the city of Columbus, Wood started developing property in the area in the early 1980s and remained active long after the Short North became the city’s primary nightlife destinatio­n.

“Sandy was the founder, the catalyst, and the visionary behind the rebirth of the Short North neighborho­od in Columbus,” said Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance.

“Someone walking down High Street today might not appreciate or have awareness of how one person’s vision has shaped a city. And we have Sandy Wood to credit for that.”

A native of St. Louis, Wood moved to Columbus in 1962 to take a job with Huntington Bank. Twenty years later, he founded the Wood Companies. The company, run by his sons, Mark and John, remains one of the largest developers and landlords in the neighborho­od.

Doing much of the work himself, Wood tackled his first project, a former school, at 1st and Harrison avenues, in 1982, when the neighborho­od was dominated by neglected or empty buildings.

“It was deserted, it was boarded up, there were a few really terrible living quarters.,” Wood recalled in a 2019 Dispatch interview.

“In fact, at Lincoln and High (the company’s first High Street renovation), the sewage (was) dumped into the first floor from the second. It was awful. I went to collect rent after I first bought the property. A woman came to the door with a butcher knife in her panties and bra, scared the hell out of me. It was drugs and prostituti­on, really bad.”

Wood saw opportunit­y in the Short North, but in the early years, it wasn’t easy.

“I was naive,” he recalled. “I had visited on vacation Portland, Maine, where they had redevelope­d the shoreline of downtown Portland, manufactur­ing buildings that had been converted into shops and apartments. That kind of gave me the idea. I don’t know if I’d do it again or not, because it really almost killed me in the early ‘90s. But I thought it would be nice, and we could make something of it like they had in Portland.”

Wood gradually accumulate­d properties and filled the redevelope­d buildings with what became the staple of the Short North — restaurant­s, art galleries and residences — before his company turned to developing new buildings. The company’s projects include the 711 N. High St. office building, Hubbard Park Place residentia­l building; the mixed-use Brunner Building; and a proposed

residentia­l and retail building at West Hubbard and North High streets that would be the area’s tallest.

“He was a true pioneer, coming into the neighborho­od,” his son, Mark, recalled in 2020, when his father was inducted into the Columbus Hall of Fame.

Wood served on the Short North Alliance, the Short North Special Improvemen­t District, the Fort Hayes Metropolit­an Education Center Advisory Board and other bodies. He officially retired in 2007, but remained a champion of the Short North.

“He was a visionary, a mentor, a friend to many,” Pandora said. “My greatest wish for Columbus is that we can all carry Sandy’s spirit of visionary, community-driven, and aspiration­al legacy-leaving leadership forward now and into the future.”

Funeral arrangemen­ts have not been announced. @Jimweiker

 ?? ADAM CAIRNS ?? Sandy Wood, a pioneer in the developmen­t of the Short North, in front of one of the first buildings he bought and renovated.
ADAM CAIRNS Sandy Wood, a pioneer in the developmen­t of the Short North, in front of one of the first buildings he bought and renovated.

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