August 11, 2008 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Columbusohiomovingfilter: Direct me to the best research portals in order to find the perfect place in Columbus (where I have never been and will not visit before the move) sight unseen. I would also gratefully welcome your advice about living in Columbus--details inside.

After ten years in the Pacific Northwest, my partner and 16-month-old son are moving to Columbus, OH in September. My partner is accepting a fellowship in a PhD he has always wanted (OSU) and I am leaving college administration behind (finally) to pursue some of my most dear passions. So our morale is high even though this is perhaps one of the craziest times in our history stress-wise (selling our home, preparing for a cross-country move with a baby, moving someplace we've never been).

We do not want to buy, we're putting aside the proceeds from the sale of our home towards a "forever home" once my partner's done with his program. He was connected with an assistant in his new program to help with questions and transition issues, but it has become clear that the assistant's criteria for a place to live are just radically different from ours, so we've hit a dead end. I've been connecting with landlords via craigslist, the Dispatch, the OSU off-campus housing site, and random links via neighborhood websites, but I feel I am to the point where the research has become cerebral and meaningless and feel a bit paralyzed to choose one random apartment over another.

We want an apartment, townhome, or duplex in a neighborhood near campus but not in a heavy undergrad/greek area. We'd like the neighborhood to be fun to walk in and walkable to amenities like parks, coffee, and shops. We'd like the kind of building that has character (wood floors, etc.) but is well-maintained. We'd like to stick around the 700/month area. I get that the Short North neighborhoods (Italian and Victorian Village for example) are worth exploring, but I just haven't been very efficient at it. I search according to my criteria on craigslist, for example, get a set of places that seem promising, and then get little or no response from landlords to help me make a decision.

We do have to do this sight unseen and without ever visiting Columbus, and our hope is to find something we're happy enough with to stick with without moving again during our tenure there. Where and how do I research and make productive contact with landlords for this search? What neighborhoods should I be exploring and what is a good way to get a feel for them block by block? Are there good rental agencies I should make contact with that folks have had good experiences with? Is it realistic that we could find a neighborhood to keep car use/commuting to a minimum with our criteria? What should I be doing to get my research/home search to an effective place where I am signing a lease within a few weeks?

And again, I'd love it if this became a Columbusfilter as well. We know nothing about the area and suspect this will be a big change from our sea-beaten, forest-tangled rock that we currently inhabit in the rural Pacific NW. So off-topic Columbus commentary and responses welcome.
posted by rumposinc to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You might look in the Brewery District. I moved out of Columbus six years ago, but my parents and brother are still there, and that's where my brother's looking -- he said there are some very cool apartments in redone buildings there, and it seems they've been building up grocery stores and other such amenities in the area to attract people.

Short North/Victorian Village could be cool. I don't know exactly what the vibe is in German Village these days, but I always thought that area was neat.

Unfortunately Columbus really isn't meant for people without cars. The COTA bus system exists, but isn't that useful, from what I understand. Growing up, I only ever knew one non-college-student adult who didn't have a car, and she was considered eccentric/strange and was always bumming rides off people -- not like here in Boston, where it's pretty standard for people to not own a car. You can probably get the basic necessities walkable, but realistically I'm going to bet you'll need a car more often than not. It does look like there are a handful of Zipcars in the Campus area, so maybe that'll help.

My favorite coffee = Cup O Joe. My favorite Japanese food = Restaurant Hama at Easton Town Center (about a fifteen minute drive out of the city). Totally go to an Ohio State football game -- it's an experience.
posted by olinerd at 5:00 PM on August 11, 2008

The German Village is nice, there are restaurants, bars, and whatnot around, but your partner would have to drive to campus. Not that it's very far.

Clintonville isn't too bad if you're on a budget. My sister lived there when she first moved to Columbus as a poor student. It was OK, aside from the parking, but there wasn't much around where she lived, although there was a park close by and a McDonald's just down the street. She ended up not going to OSU after all, but stayed in Columbus.

I don't think it's realistic to expect not to use a car in Columbus, but it is possible to live somewhere where you can walk to many things and the drive to work and the other places you need to go is short.
posted by wierdo at 5:01 PM on August 11, 2008

Google maps has "street view" in Columbus, which is decent for getting a block-by-block feel of neighborhoods.

If it's the same as it was when I was at OSU twenty years ago, Clintonville is a nice neighborhood for affordability, character, and easy access to OSU. Lots of professor and grad types there, and very little of the undergrad mayhem you want to avoid. I don't imagine it's all that different now, but I'm sure someone will be along to correct me if need be.
posted by Balonious Assault at 5:02 PM on August 11, 2008

I've lived in Ohio my entire life (the first eighteen in Censornati and the rest in Cleveland/Akron). I have spent countless weekends in Columbus and on campus for concerts, shows and visiting friends.

The Wexner Center for the Arts is your friend. Just last month I drove down a few times to see some fantastic prints of Kubrick films, for example. If you like retail and suburban mall shopping, there is plenty of that.

Also, Ohio is home to the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra and the midwest's most beautiful art museum.

Some fun facts about Columbus: there are three Ikeas within 2-3 hours driving time (Detroit, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh) and it is the only Ohio city still experiencing growth. Cleveland lost about 5,000 people between 2006-07; Columbus gained the same amount.
posted by vkxmai at 5:07 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Columbus is pretty flat, so bicycling is an option; you should be okay with a shared car.
posted by theora55 at 5:34 PM on August 11, 2008

Best answer: I live right in Victorian Village, and I love it here. Rents have gone up, though, so you're probably not going to find a nice two-bedroom (half-double or flat ) for less than 800, plus utilities. If you do, it's either A. Going to go at lighting speed or B. Be in one of the semi-shady pockets of crime to be found in all the neighborhoods.

About apartment searching in Columbus - MANY of the landlords don't advertise, except with signs out in front of the place. What I did when I moved back from overseas was to simply sublet a place, then I had a bit more breathing room to find the right permanent rental. My own landlords (C&W Investment) have been pretty good. I've also heard good things about Dunkel. (MeMail me if you want bad landlord info, I don't want to get accused of libel here. :) ) If I can help by checking out a potential place in VV and emailing you photos, just let me know - that's what my Dad did for me before I moved back, and it worked out well.

Other Areas

Clintonville - Lots more stuff there now, plenty of shops/stores/antiques etc...
Brewery District - All the new places are kind of high end, from what I've seen on Craigslist.
German Village - Fine, but parking is awful. Not sure about the grocery situation, either.
Italian Village - Starting to change, but still close to some dodgy areas. Far better than what it was 5 years ago, though.
Short North - Cool place to be, but can be loud, especially on Gallery Hop night.

As for the car - I have an office downtown, and most of the stuff I need (groceries, music, art, etc...) is all within walking/biking distance. From my house to downtown is only 2 miles, no big deal. I only need to use the car for visiting clients in the suburbs (Westerville, Gahanna, etc...), and that's not every day.

I could probably go on and on about Columbus, but:

Favorite Art Gallery : Lindsay Gallery
Favorite Indian Food : Sher-e-Punjab
Favorite Thing to Do On Sunday Afternoon: Get a Matcha Chocolata at Bubbles in the North Market
Favorite Source of Info : Walker Evans' Columbus Underground

Like I mentioned - memail me if you need anything - I'd be glad to help, and welcome to Columbus!
posted by Liosliath at 6:33 PM on August 11, 2008

When I was in Columbus, I lived in Clintonville. I liked it a lot, among other reasons because it's within easy bicycling distance of the most interesting parts of High St. (and the Wexner Center, and the Park of Roses, and the food co-op, and a library branch, etc.)

These couple questions might be worth looking at.
posted by box at 6:41 PM on August 11, 2008

I moved to Columbus last summer and found my Clintonville rental home through Metro Rentals.
posted by kittydelsol at 6:51 PM on August 11, 2008

My favorite site for investigating places to live: City-Data.com.
posted by lubujackson at 7:27 PM on August 11, 2008

Congratulations. You're moving into the country's best public library system. I've lived in New York. I've lived in Chicago. I'm living in Miami. I grew up in Columbus. Years later, I still miss the awesomeness that is the Columbus Metropolitan Library System. There are loads of books and the most friendly, helpful librarians I ever met who turned me onto many, many great books.

Not to mention, Columbus has great book stores. There's the fantastic Book Loft in German Village. It's an old house converted into a bookstore, with dozens of little rooms full of specialty books. There's multiple Half Price Books locations, which are chain stores, but you don't realize how wonderful they are until you move to a place without a great used book store.

Also, as previously mentioned, the Wexner Center, the North Market, and the Park of Roses are all worth checking out.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 8:48 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I lived in Columbus in the burbs for 6 years, and my sister has apartment hopped through three or four rentals in and around campus.

My sense is that if you're narrowly trying to find lots of stuff within good walking distance along with your stated price point, you may have trouble finding something satisfactory. Being more flexible on eithero ne of those variables should help immensely. I suspect that flexibility on how much you REALLY want within walking distance will probably be the determining factor. True walking distance near campus is full of students. Walking distance to the "neat" stuff on High Street in the Short North is pretty pricey. My sister had a cheap apartment on the far end of the Short North and there were...issues.

If you exclude campus and the crawling-with-students area, there are large residential swaths of some of the neighborhoods mentioned above for which it might be tough to find a lot within easy walking distance (although your definition of "walking distance" may be different from mine).

There is some very nice construction around the Arena District and the Brewery District, but I suspect it's not within your price point.

Also, incidentally, because of the subprime meltdown (Ohio is ground zero for that), you can get a very nice rental house in the burbs for a little bit more than your target rent -- we're talking 3-4 bedroom, built within the last 10 years. Heck, now's a great time to be buying foreclosures or near-foreclosures -- there are tons of houses sitting on the market Campus and near-campus are isolated from those effects, but if you go further out....
posted by QuantumMeruit at 9:03 PM on August 11, 2008

Best answer: I live in Columbus, between Clintonville and the OSU campus. I'm a little closer to campus than I would like, but would definitely recommend Clintonville as a nice yet relatively affordable area. Grandview is also a good area, although you would need to ride a bike or drive to campus. Victorian Village is also very nice and close to OSU.

A friend of mine actually just moved out of an affordable townhouse in Grandview that's walking distance to a lot of shops and restaurants. Send me a mefi mail if you might be interested and I can give you more info. Also, if you're considering a specific place and want more detail on the exact location, condition of the building, or whatever, I would be more than happy to help!
posted by thejanna at 5:02 AM on August 12, 2008

Response by poster: Wow--you've all been so generous and helpful. Liosliath, especially, for your offer of time and specific help, I really may take you up on it. thejanna, as well. You both have mefimail.

The suggestion about what to do in Columbus are really great, and I really appreciate finding out about the public library system and the arts links.

Thank you so much!
posted by rumposinc at 7:32 AM on August 12, 2008

Sorry, late to the party. Long-time Columbus resident here. Lots of good advice so far...especially the Clintoville recommendation. Just wanted to mention that you might also consider searching a little further north up the High St. corridor to Worthington to give you some more options. (I think Worthington is a great neighborhood with many of the things you are looking for.) It's not "near" campus, but it's a straight shot down 315/High St. Also, keep the Olentangy Bike Path/Trail in mind when looking at commuting options.

My family and I lived in these townhomes for two years (03-05) and can say they are definitely worth a look if you are interested in something a little farther north. We really enjoyed our time living there. Feel free to e-mail/Memail me with any questions at all. I think Columbus is a great place to live, although I find many of the residents have an "inferiority complex" about living here that is completely unjustified.
posted by Otis at 8:49 AM on August 12, 2008

I've lived here for about 3 years now and I can definitely say your car dependence is relative to where you need to go and where you live. The buses are pretty slow to get you anywhere and I think bikes cant use sidewalks and there are no bike lanes so it can be dicey sometimes. I would say Columbus is not the most friendly for people who are car averse.

All the areas people have recommended above are nice. I live right between worthington and north clintonville and its a great area in terms of stores, proximity to highways, etc. German and Victorian village have probably the neatest places to live, but as others mentioned good stuff tends to get snapped up fast in most desirable areas.

I moved here from Michigan and didn't anticipate liking the city as much as I do. There is lots and lots to do and see here but it takes a bit of digging because the city is pretty splayed out.

Let me know if you are looking for anything specific and I can try to make recommendations.
posted by zennoshinjou at 9:00 AM on August 13, 2008

Hope your rental search went well! I just purchased a forclosed-on house for renting out and am in the process of fixing it up. It's a cool time to be in real estate around Columbus right now.

On another note, if you're interested in getting to know other mefites around the area, I'm hosting a meetup coming up in October! Hope to see you there!
posted by lohmannn at 7:30 PM on September 18, 2008

Somehow I missed this question at the time, but I thought I could give you some additional info, since I am one of the freaks who rides the bus to work and occasionally other places. (I and my partner do own a car, and I think doing without it for non-commuting would drive me crazy.)

The bad news: The buses in Columbus don't work like they do in cities with real public transportation. They are no good at getting you around the city to do things like shop or go to shows. (In part this is because COTA seems to be really badly managed, and in part it's due to the decentralized nature of the city.) The only place it's actually easy to get to is downtown, since the vast majority of the bus lines pass through it. Often if you want to go crosstown (and are lucky enough that your destination is near a bus line), you will have to go downtown, transfer, and then go back uptown. This is very much a driving town. Of the few hundred people I have worked with here, I can think of six who rode the bus. I am pretty sure this is an accurate number because when someone finds out I ride the bus to work, they usually mention everyone else they know who does so.

The good news: A large number of the shops, restaurants, etc, as well as OSU, are on High Street, which is served by the #2, the best of the bus lines in the city for frequency and convenience, so if you live on or near High Street, getting to campus on the bus will be very easy for your partner. The buses in Columbus are unusually clean (actually, this is true of Columbus in general) and most of the bus drivers are friendly and helpful in figuring out how to get places. The formerly useless COTA site has made huge strides in the past year (a few months ago they finally linked it up with Google maps), though I still would not trust its real-time bus locations. The recent gas price hike has been increasing ridership for the first time in years, and I have already noticed some service improvements as a result.

Please memail me if you have any specific bus questions. I personally hate hate hate that nervous will-this-work uncertainty dealing with new bus routes or systems completley on my own and would be thrilled to help save other people from it.
posted by fidelity at 8:34 PM on September 26, 2008

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