The Columbus Dispatch
Short North’s Sandy Wood dies
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. email@example.com @Jimweiker