Editorial: A ‘cowtown’ no more, but what will Columbus become?


A recent editorial by the Columbus Dispatch:

The latest data out of the U.S. Census Bureau backs up what anyone paying attention has long known: Columbus is a galaxy away from the “cowtown” it was when famed Peruna “cure-all” tonic peddler Samuel Hartman established what was once the largest farm in the nation in 1890 south of what is now I-270 along South High Street.

The issue is not what we were.

The issue is if we will fully embrace who we have become and whether we can maintain and spread prosperity to those not benefitting from it.

Those are the multibillion questions the capital city must address as it continues its growth.

And researchers forecast it will grow.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, a central Ohio planning agency, projects that the 15-county area will grow to 3 million residents by 2050.

Right now, central Ohio – the home of one of the youngest and most-educated populations in the nation – has five of Ohio’s six fastest growing counties.

The census estimated 235,600 more residents lived here in 2020 than in 2010, accounting for about 90% of the state’s total growth.

Columbus’ population has exploded to 905,748 — up 15% from the 787,033 in 2010. It is the nation’s 14th biggest city and is the giant among Ohio’s 3 C’s. …

There are big challenges ahead. and far too many do not benefit from Columbus’ relatively good fortune.

Housing

You do not have to be looking for a place to live to know the housing market is on fire in central Ohio. The flames are not expected to be extinguished anytime soon.

The projected growth will be a curse if the demand for housing — both affordable and not-so-affordable — is not met with supply.

We have the people, but not the places to put them.

Last year saw an 11,864 increase in new homes and apartments, but that fell short of the 14,000 to 21,000 residences a 2018 report says the region would need to add every year to keep up with demand through 2050.

In July, houses in the Columbus area, Denver, Nashville and Rochester, New York, sold at the fastest pace in the nation, according to Realtor.com.

The houses up for grabs are often financially out of reach. …

Racial justice

Racial inequality in healthcare, education, policing, and other areas was thrust into the limelight due to the coronavirus pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and high-profile killings of black people by police here.

Tackling these issues is the right and just thing to do. Finding solutions will also help shore up the community’s future.

The Columbus area is becoming more diverse.

Between 2010 and 2020, Franklin County’s Black population grew by 21.3% to just under 300,000 residents while the county’s white population dipped by 0.4%, to 802,685, according to the census. The county’s Asian population jumped by 64.6% to more than 74,000 and the Hispanic or Latino population grew 63.6% to 91,182. …

Transportation

How Columbus will get around in the future is something that must be addressed today.

Transportation and infrastructure are among the many growing pains city and civic leaders must face.

Columbus drivers lost an average of 71 hours stuck in rush-hour congestion in 2018, an increase of 6% from 2017, according to a report from Inrix Research.

The pandemic “upended short and long transportation trends,” according to RIX 2020 Global Traffic Scorecard.

As a result, Columbus area motorists only lost an average eight hours to congestion last year. It was a decrease of 78% compared to 2019.

There has long been a push for light rail and other improvements to public transportation, including a bus rapid transit line to link Downtown Columbus with the Northwest Side.

The planned system is part of LinkUS Mobility Corridors Initiative which in part builds on the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s Insight 2050 Corridor Concepts study.

The challenges are many, but the solutions are out there.

Columbus has come a long way since the days where it could legitimately be called a cowtown.

It has a long way to go.

Luckily, we have the character and drive to do it, but it won’t be easy.

— Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 22