Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

An Ohio Sprawl Leader Begins to Recognize Its Mistakes

Dublin, a wealthy suburb of Columbus, Ohio, was a regional pioneer in job sprawl in the 1990s. Built on former corn fields, this city of 42,000 had barely 5,000 residents in 1980. The suburb was an early and prolific builder of suburban-style office parks, and it was extremely successful at luring big employers. Companies like Wendy's International, Cardinal Health, and Nationwide Insurance bring in 74 percent of the city's revenue and keep tax rates low for its mostly affluent residents. In a reversal of the "bedroom community" notion, the city hosts some 60,000 workers. And it's success inspired other central Ohio suburbs, like Westerville and New Albany, to establish employment centers -- low-density, suburban downtowns -- around the city's outerbelt.

false

And Dublin isn't letting up. In a local magazine article on the coup, a Dublin development official noted that the suburb's commercial areas are only 60 percent built out. Earlier this year, the city refused to sign a regional agreement -- signed by 11 other communities -- not to "poach" employers away from other cities using tax incentives.

But even Dublin, sprawl promoter that it is, is starting to recognize its weaknesses, namely that top talent doesn't necessarily want to work in soul-crushing corporate office parks anymore. Kaid Benfield at the Natural Resources Defense Council's Switchboard blog compliments the town today on its "retrofitting" efforts, beginning with the addition of sidewalks through parking lots -- a revelation pulled from a Xing Columbus post we linked to yesterday:

It seems such a modest concept, really, and one that should have been standard practice long ago: put articulated pedestrian walkways to and within large suburban parking lots. This can get shoppers, workers and visitors more safely to and from their cars, and also facilitate the occasional pedestrian walking through the cars to get to a supermarket or shop more conveniently.

But, really, this could also be deceptively sophisticated. Take a closer look at the markings on the satellite image provided by [Xing Columbus' John] Wirtz [above], and where they are placed. Intentionally or not, they are consistent with the beginnings of a street grid, potentially the first step in delineating the location of new streets and parcels, marking places for a more walkable system of blocks when the supersized parking lot is eventually redeveloped for something else. The walkways start to lay the foundation for a place with more connectivity and walkability.

It could be a coincidence, but I’m betting not, that this is being done in Dublin, Ohio, an affluent suburb outside of Columbus that has committed to one of the most ambitious suburban retrofits anywhere. As I described in some detail two years ago, Dublin wants to become a more diverse, lively, and walkable community that can attract the best young workers to its several high-tech industries. Throughout the Bridge Street corridor, the closet thing Dublin has had to a main drag, the city is forging ahead with plans for better defined, walkable streets; compact and varied home choices to appeal to millennials and empty-nest baby boomers; new arts, entertainment, and shopping; and an upgraded park system. In short, Dublin hopes to move from a 20th-century suburb to one that can flourish in the 21st century.

Dublin development officials, as cynical as I find many of their policies, are no dummies. If they are ahead of the curve on this matter, perhaps they will inspire other communities to begin remaking their landscape again, the way they did a generation ago in a much different way.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Economics of Place blog tells communities "be yourself, only better." Bike Portland reports that after the DA came back with no criminal charges against the truck driver who killed a young woman cyclist, advocates have fresh safety demands for the city. And Baltimore Spokes draws inspiration from Pittsburgh's "crosswalk vigilantes."

Correction: Nationwide Insurance recently moved 1,400 jobs from Dublin to Columbus. The original article had it reversed.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Wednesday’s Headlines Are in a Good Place

How should we react to public indifference about the danger cars pose to society? Perhaps a sitcom has something to teach us.

July 24, 2024

Opinion: Is Kamala Harris ‘The Climate President We’ve Been Waiting For’?

Kamala Harris fought hard for a better transportation plan in the San Diego region despite big political risks. If elected president, will she do the same for the country?

July 24, 2024

America is Setting Micromobility Records — But That Boom Could Go Bust Without Public Funding

Shared bike and scooter trips soared 20 percent in a single year. So why are so many U.S. systems shutting down — and what will it take to keep the revolution rolling?

July 24, 2024

Get on the bus! Advocates Urge Mayor Johnson to Save Chicago Greyhound Terminal

According to the letter, rehabbing the station would cost less that $40M, a small fraction of the price tag of many other local transportation projects.

July 23, 2024

Tuesday’s Headlines Are Running Hard

More political news: Today's top stories delve into Kamala Harris' record on climate change and Republicans' plans for the Trump administration if he returns to power.

July 23, 2024
See all posts