Colum­bus rides wave of change

OHIO Tap into the youth­ful vibe in state’s cap­i­tal

The Dallas Morning News - - TRAVEL - By KATHER­INE RODEGHIER Spe­cial Con­trib­u­tor

You might think of Colum­bus, Ohio, as just an­other bor­ing seat of state gov­ern­ment in fly­over coun­try, as un­in­ter­est­ing and flat as its Capi­tol with­out a dome. You would be wrong. Colum­bus has be­come a hip­ster hang­out, young and vi­brant with a siz­able pop­u­la­tion of mil­len­ni­als, tons of fun bars, restau­rants, craft brew­eries and cof­fee roast­ers, a bur­geon­ing arts scene, a huge fash­ion and de­sign in­dus­try, and ex­pand­ing acres of green space for bik­ing, run­ning or just soak­ing up the sun.

Colum­bus ranked high­est in the Mid­west for vis­i­tor sat­is­fac­tion in a 2016 J.D. Power study, and, in 2015, Time mag­a­zine ranked Colum­bus third on its list of “Best Cities for Mil­len­ni­als,” who make up about 26 per­cent of its pop­u­la­tion.

Ohio State Univer­sity adds to the youth­ful buzz, giv­ing Colum­bus one of the high­est per capita stu­dent pop­u­la­tions in the U.S. Plenty of those stu­dents stay af­ter grad­u­a­tion to take ad­van­tage of job op­por­tu­ni­ties and an af­ford­able cost of liv­ing.

They’re hooked on the city’s friendly, low-key life­style that earns Colum­bus its rep­u­ta­tion as “Big­gest Small Town in Amer­ica,” though its pop­u­la­tion tops 800,000.

Vis­i­tors find plenty of ways to soak up the city’s new en­ergy. In the evening, head to the Arena District built around down­town’s

Na­tion­wide Arena where the NHL’s Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets play. You’ll be awash in a young crowd fre­quent­ing bars and pubs.

Browse the stalls in the North Mar­ket, a his­toric down­town food hall with 35 mer­chants sell­ing flow­ers, fish, pro­duce, beer and wine, and the city’s own Jeni’s Splen­did Ice Creams and Des­ti­na­tion Donuts.

Order a take­out meal from one of the food ven­dors or join a long line at wildly pop­u­lar Hot Chicken Takeover, the Nashville-style fried chicken and soul food restau­rant on the mar­ket’s sec­ond floor.

River changes course

Per­haps the big­gest change in Colum­bus has been re­de­vel­op­ment along the Scioto River.

Once a brown, sludgy wa­ter­way, the $80 mil­lion Scioto Mile project re­stored the river to its nat­u­ral flow through down­town Colum­bus. Thir­tythree acres of re­claimed green space were added to the Scioto Mile com­pris­ing parks, foun­tains, a per­form­ing arts pavil­ion, and walk­ing and bike paths. No bike? No prob­lem. Check one out from the CoGo Bike Share sta­tions scat­tered around the city.

Chang­ing the course of the river also changed the course of his­tory in the city’s Franklin­ton neigh­bor­hood, a low­ly­ing area once sub­ject to re­peated floods. De­vel­op­ers couldn’t get in­surance to re­build so the neigh­bor­hood lan­guished with a hodge­podge of run-down ware­houses and fac­to­ries. A flood wall com­pleted by the Army Corps of Engi­neers in 2004 now pro­tects the area and, as of­ten hap­pens in newly gen­tri­fy­ing neigh­bor­hoods, artists were among the first to move in.

An old build­ing at 400 W. Rich St. be­came a war­ren of 140 artist stu­dios. They open the doors to the public on the sec­ond Fri­day of each month when their Hand­made Mar­ket stocks one-of-a-kind finds.

Next door, Strong­wa­ter Food and Spir­its op­er­ates a bar and restau­rant in what once was a drink­ing-foun­tain fac­tory. Land-Grant Brew­ing Co. opened in an old el­e­va­tor fac­tory. The tap­room serves beer brewed on-site. Ed­i­bles are sup­plied by a ro­tat­ing sched­ule of food trucks.

Arts and fash­ion

Franklin­ton is the sort of evolv­ing artist en­clave that the city’s Short North Arts District once was. This for­mer den of pros­ti­tutes and drug deal­ers has be­come a well-es­tab­lished neigh­bor­hood of gal­leries, bou­tiques, busy bars and trendy din­ing spots.

During Gallery Hop, on the first Satur­day of the month, gal­leries and shops stay open late and street per­form­ers add to a fes­ti­val at­mos­phere.

You might visit bou­tiques car­ry­ing the work of Colum­bus de­sign­ers. The city ranks as the third-largest fash­ion cen­ter in the na­tion, af­ter New York and Los An­ge­les. Among the fash­ion brands head­quar­tered in Colum­bus are DSW, Elo­quii and Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret.

Art and fash­ion are found in more places than in gal­leries and on mod­els. The Colum­bus Mu­seum of Art opened a 50,000-square-foot wing last fall to ex­hibit 400 mod­ernist works, and the Hil­ton Colum­bus Down­town has a $1 mil­lion col­lec­tion with more than 200 works. You’ll see the work of Colum­bus de­signer Liz Bour­geois, on the staff of the new Ho­tel LeVeque. Her eclec­tic mix of vin­tage and hip pay homage to the LeVeque Tower’s col­or­ful his­tory.

Drink up

No vis­i­tor to Ohio’s cap­i­tal city goes thirsty thanks to the Colum­bus Ale Trail, Colum­bus Cof­fee Ex­pe­ri­ence, two craft dis­til­leries and a mead­ery.

Mil­len­ni­als help fuel the suc­cess of the city’s cof­fee shops, 21 of them on the Colum­bus Cof­fee Trail. Pick up a card at any of them, order a drink and have it stamped. Af­ter four vis­its you qual­ify for a free T-shirt.

The Roo­sevelt Cof­fee­house opened down­town in April 2015 and quickly made a name for it­self, not only for its spe­cialty cof­fees but for its com­mit­ment to so­cial jus­tice. Half of the tip jar goes to causes, such as dig­ging wells in Africa and fight­ing child traf­fick­ing. “We make cof­fee to save lives,” says founder Kenny Sipes, a for­mer youth pas­tor, and his pa­trons are all in.

In 2015, a young cou­ple — she a for­mer ed­i­tor and baker in New York, he a cof­fee ex­pert — trans­formed an old garage pur­chased on Craigslist into Fox in the Snow Cafe. It soon be­came the in spot for cof­fee, from-scratch pas­tries and break­fast items, in­clud­ing an egg sand­wich or­dered by as many as 300 pa­trons on a busy Satur­day morn­ing.

Colum­bus has climbed aboard the craft beer band­wagon in a big way. More than half of the city’s 28 brew­eries opened in the past five years. Pick up a copy of the Colum­bus Ale Trail book­let at the first brew­ery you visit, get it stamped af­ter pur­chase, and you’ll earn a com­mem­o­ra­tive pint glass af­ter par­tak­ing of brew at four es­tab­lish­ments.

El­e­va­tor Brew­ing Co. has a brew­ery and tap­room in an old grain el­e­va­tor and a restau­rant nearby. Down the street, Wolf ’s Ridge Brew­ing Co. serves up craft beer and cock­tails along with ex­ec­u­tive chef Seth Las­sak’s in­no­va­tive creations, such as duck con­fit tacos.

The art of brew­ing goes back to an­cient times, but the world’s old­est fer­mented bev­er­age is mead, says Justin DeVil­biss, mead maker at Broth­ers Drake Mead­ery & Bar, which is housed in an old auto garage. It of­fers tours and tast­ings on week­ends that ex­plain how mead is pro­duced like wine but with honey in­stead of grapes.

Wa­ter­shed Dis­tillery also of­fer tours and tast­ings of some of its vodka, gin and bour­bon. Co-own­ers Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo, cho­sen as CEOs of the Year by Colum­bus CEO mag­a­zine, named their busi­ness af­ter what Lehman de­scribes as a “wa­ter­shed mo­ment” when they made a life-al­ter­ing de­ci­sion to leave the cor­po­rate world.

And what did these young CEOs do be­fore turn­ing to mak­ing spir­its? Rigo sold toi­lets, Lehman sold phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal drugs to pig farm­ers.

Sounds like a change worthy of a few strong drinks.

Kather­ine Rodeghier/Spe­cial Con­trib­u­tor

The re­de­vel­op­ment of the river­front in Colum­bus, Ohio, has added acres of green space down­town.

Pho­tos by Kather­ine Rodeghier/Spe­cial Con­trib­u­tor

A 50,000-square-foot wing spe­cial­iz­ing in mod­ernist works opened last fall at the Colum­bus Art Mu­seum.

Vis­i­tors min­gle with lo­cals to shop or grab lunch at the North Mar­ket food hall.

Greg Lehman, co-owner of Wa­ter­shed Dis­tillery, gave up a job in the cor­po­rate world to make spir­its in the Grand­view neigh­bor­hood.

Lo­cal honey is the sig­na­ture in­gre­di­ent used by mead maker Justin DeVil­biss at Broth­ers Drake Mead­ery & Bar.

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