Columbus gets her arches back
Well, I had the pleasure of attending a rather unusual party last night. As you might have heard, Columbus used to be famous for its lighted metal arches over High Street. (According to the legend, Columbus was known as Arch City into the fifties.) These arches were downtown and probably made a walk through the city rather attractive, and I think they must have nicely complemented the linearity of what was a great shopping and business street. The arches were taken down, and I don’t know why.
Now Downtown has declined, but my neighborhood has been resurgent for twenty years. Local business leaders and politicians have talked forever about getting new arches on High Street in the Short North to bring back that cool landscape and feel. Last night, they finally put one up.
I was annoyed on my walk home to find that the street was being closed. How many construction projects must I endure? This counts as the sixth in a year and a half, with that disastrous fiber-optic project as the worst. I went upstairs and made some dinner. I kept looking out the window, though, and realized that the first arch was going to go up right outside my building. Then my buddy Marc called and we talked about it. Eventually, he wheedled me into agreeing to meet him so we could watch it go up.
I noticed the mayor out on the street holding champagne glasses, so I decided it was a good time to uncork a nice Australian red, which I dumped into a couple of plastic cups. (If the mayor can violate the open-container law, so can I, right?) Then I headed downstairs to stand in the street like everybody else.
“Everyone” was there. By everyone, I mean a good chunk of the local shop owners, city politicians, and urban design/planner types. Dorothy Teater was there, and she chatted amiably with Mayor Coleman. (I was one of the six people who voted for Dot when she was up for mayor in ’99. I’ve always felt sorry for her since she had to be county commissioner with Arlene Shoemaker for so long.) I recognized the Rigsby’s owner, the guy who owns my building, some of my mom’s clients, a real estate agent, and a lot of others, and I got to meet some new people who I’m sure I’ll never remember. There were also a lot of construction workers, contractor/suits, Rigsby’s diners, local residents, and half-drunk yahoos from the Short North Tavern.
It was cool. The thing looks more round than I expected. The arches have to be tall enough for semis and buses to pass under, even at the curbside lanes. (Let’s hope they’re big enough for trains, too, eh?) I figured it would look like some jungle-gym crossbar, but it was elegant. The “light bulbs” are actually unbreakable plastic knobs that let light out via fiber optics. They say they can do any colors except red, amber, and green, since these are the traffic light colors. So for Independence Day we can have purple, white, and blue!
The mayor cried “photo op!” and gathered round a lot of workers and contractor types for photos and videos. Then he said, “Let’s have the city people up here!”, by which he meant City government workers but which the half-drunk yahoos interpreted as themselves. Coleman made a toast to “the future of Columbus, which is exemplified by the dynamism of this neighborhood!” OK, Mr. Mayor, you never were a great speechifier, but you got a lot of “woos” and applause. (“Take it to the next level!”) Then a crane lifted the arch slowly into position. Then the mayor stared at it for a while and then announced “I’ll be back in ten minutes!” and ambled off in the direction of the Tavern. He never came back. I toyed with the idea of being the first civilian to pass under the arch but, fearing further pedestrian challenges to the police, decided to content myself with being one of the first.
The rest of the evening I spent finishing the wine and complaining with all of the Short North Democrats about tomorrow’s election. It made me feel good to live in a real community, which has civic leaders, business boosters, and a lot of residents.
It was a little anticlimactic actually, since they never turned the first arch on. I thought it would be awesome to see it snapped into position and then illuminated, but that didn’t happen. In fact, Marc said he noticed later they’d taken it back down. No matter. This morning two were up and they looked great.