Through Great Places in America, APA recognizes unique and authentic characteristics found in three essential components of all communities – streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces. APA Great Places offer better choices for where and how people work and live and are defined by many things including planning, architectural styles, accessibility and community involvement.
“With its historic brick streets, beautiful architecture and fine restaurants, German Village has always been one of our great neighborhoods and a signature tourist attraction,” Mayor Michael B. Coleman said. “It is to the credit of the neighborhood leaders, businesses, and residents that German Village has received this well-deserved honor.”
German Village a Top 10 Great Neighborhood for 2011
APA singled out German Village, one of the nation’s earliest and most successfully revitalized neighborhoods, for the air of authenticity that derives from its sensitively restored and carefully maintained working-class structures, integration of commercial uses into residential streetscapes, and the sense of civic pride that pervades the district. Most notable is its preservation of some 1,600 structures, making German Village one of the largest, privately funded historic district in the U.S.
Since APA began Great Places in America in 2007, 50 neighborhoods, 50 streets and 40 public spaces have been designated in 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“German Village’s success is due, in part, to its ability to strike that intricate balance between contemporary function and historic integrity,” said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. “The energy in here comes both from the mix of uses one sees and the sense of camaraderie one feels walking these cobblestone streets. This modest neighborhood is defined not by any one iconic structure but by the way in which its unpretentious brick buildings and the spaces between them work together, creating a sense of place that is genuine.”
Just six blocks south of the Ohio State Capitol, unpretentious, renovated houses and shotgun cottages stand shoulder to shoulder. Small, meticulously maintained front yards meet brick sidewalks lined cultivated village planters. The neighborhood is distinguished by its extensive use of brick for buildings, streets, sidewalks and alleyways. The masonry exudes a similar patina. Unique limestone stoops, wrought-iron fences and ubiquitous window boxes enhance the streetscape.
Eye-catching displays and the aroma of culinary delights emanate from shops and small businesses. German Village is home to some of Central Ohio’s most celebrated restaurants and one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. The visitor’s center at the German Village Society Meeting Haus welcomes some 10,000 tourists annually.
Immigrants flocked here beginning in 1830. By 1850, half of all new construction in Columbus was in German Village. Social and political changes sent the neighborhood into decline. World War I stirred anti-German sentiment and, in 1917, the U.S. Congress shut down beer breweries, the source of employment for many village residents. Six years later the city zoned the area for manufacturing and commercial use, hastening residential deterioration. Suburban development following World War II fueled an exodus, made worse by the city’s demolition of a third of the neighborhood in the 1950s to make way for I-70.
Intent on reversing the village’s downward spiral, Frank Fetch defied common wisdom and purchased a house in the village with the goal of rebuilding the entire neighborhood. He founded the German Village Society in 1960 and his efforts led to the establishment of a local architectural review panel as well as local and national historic district designations.
Today, preservation is a priority. Numerous events continue to build camaraderie and raise funds for neighborhood improvements. A plan, now under development, will revitalize Third Street and create a village green.
The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities.APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people’s lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Ill.