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Small businesses wary of High Street changes

As High Street construction brings more national chains, coffee shop owners say local businesses have a role to play in maintaining OSU’s history. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Social Media Editor

As construction continues on North High Street, national chains and companies are eyeing locations throughout the off-campus area. However, some local businesses are wary of the changes, worried they might squeeze out fellow Columbus originals.

Mike Heslop, owner of local coffee shop Kafe Kerouac — which is not in the way of any immediate development, such as the 15th and High redevelopment project — says the business has a role to play in maintaining OSU’s history.

“I think locally owned businesses are the thing that gives a neighborhood its vibe and essence,” Heslop said. “When you take that away, you lose that and you go to generic-ness.”

Heslop said he had a dream of adding character to campus when he first opened the cafe near the corner of East Northwood Avenue and High Street in 2004.

“After I graduated in 2000, I thought that the campus was losing its independent coffee bar spaces, in a general sense,” Heslop said. “I saw a void and thought it needed filled.”

Kafe Kerouac sells coffee and alcohol along with records, books and comics — some of which are written and illustrated by local artists.

“We cater a lot to local literature, comedy, music and everything else,” Heslop said.

Heslop said he worries new buildings will lead to higher rents, which might make it difficult for small businesses in the area.

“Do you really want a campus full of Applebee’s and a lack of identity?” Hislop said.

Erin Prosser — director of community development at Campus Partners, which is spearheading the 15th and High redevelopment plan — noted that OSU is only in charge of construction projects on High Street between East 14th and East 16th avenues.

Developments outside of OSU’s control include The Wilson and Wellington buildings. The Wilson building is under construction on the corner of High Street and East Lane Avenue, and plans to hold a White Castle, Chipotle, Starbucks and CoreLife Eatery. The Wellington building, under construction on High Street between East 16th and East 17th avenues, is slated to host a Target and Chick-fil-A.

“Before they tear this stuff down, they should preserve some of the businesses that have been here a long time.” — Jimmy Barouxis, owner, Buckeye Donuts

In the meantime, Campus Partners is reaching out to students and community members for feedback on the potential tenants in between East 14th and East 16th avenues.

“We are in a listening phase, we are collecting that information now and hopefully early 2018 we will have some information on what we found as we communicated with those students and the neighboring community,” Prosser said.

Coleen Thompson, a fourth-year in evolution and ecology who frequents Kafe Kerouac, said she prefers going to locally owned businesses that are involved with the community and contribute to Columbus’ character.

“It shows Columbus’ spirit in small places like (Kafe Kerouac) that are specific to this area,” Thompson said.

Down the street, Buckeye Donuts — also out of the way of any immediate development — has been in the same spot on the corner of East 18th Avenue and High Street since opening in 1969.

It is now operated by Jimmy Barouxis, whose grandfather and father started the shop 48 years ago. Barouxis said he believes Buckeye Donuts is essential to the campus area because of its history.

“Most coffee shops anymore have separate seating, like Starbucks, they don’t have counters like that,” Barouxis said of the restaurant’s diner-like set up. “They have separate seating so people are more private and into their own thing, into their laptops.”

Barouxis said he hopes there will be an effort to preserve small businesses on High Street that contribute to the character of campus.

Construction is underway at The Wellington. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Social Media Editor

“Before they tear this stuff down, they should preserve some of the businesses that have been here a long time,” Barouxis said, noting the bar Too’s Spirits Under High. “They should try to incorporate some of those places.”

Anne Lemieux, a fourth-year in Spanish and speech and hearing science, said she found that locally owned businesses such as Buckeye Donuts create a bigger impression than big chain restaurants.

“When I talk to people who only visited from out of town once or twice, that is the place they remember,” Lemieux said. “Not the McDonald’s or Wendy’s down the street.”

Barouxis, who attended college in the 90s, said he notices past classmates who visit High Street already don’t recognize High Street.

“All those (alumni) come back and the places that they’re looking for and that they went to are gone and they come see me because this is all that’s left on the strip,” Barouxis said.


  1. This is the power of technology and start-up which is booming now.

  2. Money talks and all OSU cares about now is money. The gateway businesses keep failing BC rent is high and they therefore charge higher prices for food and beer. ITS COLLEGE!!!! The bars are supposed to be cheap, and have character! They are ruining campus

  3. Wow what a surprise. Get rid of the “character” of High Street along campus by gradually tearing everything down and then plop what looks like another Eastgate Mall. BORING… thanks a lot Campus Partners with another schmuck of a move.

  4. Should I love the change! With this big move there will be a lot of unfair changes in life!

  5. The voters in this area and state have driven the business over the people state of government. Be aware of your choices. You brought this on yourselves. Money not life….Yay.

  6. thrice graduate and staff-OSU

    Campus has not had real character in nearly 30 years-due to market driven forces and the neglect and indifference of the city of Columbus. City government has long taken Ohio State for granted and have given so little back to the community in the past 40 odd years I have been on campus, The east side of High Street was once a vibrant, bustling, albeit-slightly run down stretch of properties that contained a multitude of mom and pop shops, 4 bookstores not named Barnes and Noble., scores of bars and eateries, places to buy clothing, shoes, 4 drug-stores, 2 movie theaters, pet shops, ice cream stores, boutiques to buy jewelry, cards, candles, etc. OSU students haven’t had a neighborhood with character for a very very very long time. To see what a campus looks like with character-one can go to OU in Athens to see what it kind of looks like or go on a Big Ten tour with stops in Ann Arbor, Madison and State College to name just a few -to see what a campus community should be like..

    Our off campus strives to be more like a Lennox -West- with nothing distinctive about it- and a continued call for students to take their bodies a few miles south and entertain themselves in the overpriced and overhyped ShoNoVickytal (Short North, Victorian Village, Italian Village) area of the city-not exactly the off campus environment they deserve.

  7. Jill Gordon, BA 1985

    I am an out of state alum (BA Communication 1985) and parent of a current first year, class of 2020 Buckeye. We just had breakfast at Buckeye Donuts the first week of April. I could not agree more, that too much destruction of the character and unique vibe is being lost. Even though Campus Partners is not part of OSU, they have the word “Partners” in their name. University administration (Drake) and the Trustees (Wexners) should encourage renovation and preservation, not removal of old privately owned off campus structures. There is an article in the Columbus ‘BIZjournal’ publication from October of 2016, mentioning Campus Partners’ plan to demolish the whispering wall, http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/news/2016/10/19/ohio-state-plans-to-knock-down-the-whispering-wall.html . I urge the current student body, through USG leadership, to oppose the removal of the whispering wall, and encourage renovation and preservation. The wall’s location at the Wex arts plaza makes it a perfect canvas for chalk art. How about preserving it to advertise the Wex exhibits? Or have student organizations advertise their clubs on the wall during Welcome week? The whispering wall should never be blank. It can be a living breathing social media installation! On my visit, I heard numerous students say that they felt like they were losing a connection to the university their family members before them had known and loved. They actually value the connection to the past. Please Campus Partners, step up, and live up, to the name you have chosen to use to do business.

  8. The fact is the off campus Lane/ High Street area is a hodgepodge of visual eyesores and a tacky planning disgrace in comparison to the best and most beautiful college towns like Madison, Westwood, Happy Valley, Austin, Charlottesville.,Cambridge, and yes Ann Arbor.
    This hurts the image nationally of Ohio State and quality of life of OSU of off campus life in general. It’s embarrassing for a great university with an attractive campus like Ohio State.
    It can be fixed easily but it takes vision and leadership from OSu and the city of Columbus.
    We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just study and mimick the plans of the most successful college towns that already exist, including Short North.
    Whether we have more mom and pop or not, the entire Lane/ High Street area first needs a an attractive architecturally unifoed master plan and infrastructure to upgrade its physical image.

    The quality of universities college towns is a big reason those universities are so popular. The city of Columbus and OSU have an opportunity to rebuild and recreate the overall infrastructure beginning with projects adding tree lined, cast iron lit, bannered and sting lit brick sidewalks ala Short North, Georgetown, Chapel Hill, Westwood, Cambridge, even Madison to tie the area together attractively and historically. They need to create more open landscaped outdoor spaces and setbacks off the street for cafes, restaurants, and even common squares that form temporary stages meeting areas for events etc..,
    If a lot of existing Buildings are to be torn down, the opportunity to rebuild an attractive off campus ” pedestrian village” in its place represents the solution, and will make the off campus area competitive with the best college towns in America. Also, Giving mom and pops who have been in the area longest, first dibbs on the spaces they want would be another popular step to avoid sterilizing the area with chains.
    The succesful college town models are out there, we just need to study and replicate them in Columbus.

    • Jill Gordon, BA 1985

      Hi Peter, you make some good points about other campuses, and the Short North, which is the perfect example of renovation and restoration. Buckeye Donuts is not fancy, but it is authentic! So many of the properties on campus fronting High have had additions to their beautiful old facades. Whatever property Campus Partners has on High St., it would be great to remove just the additions from the 70’s, 80’s and so on.

      My daughter did say Campus Partners had a rep asking students about restaurant preferences for the Wellington site, and for that they should be applauded.

      Everyone already knows that when there is demolition and rebuild, the rent is higher than the mom and pops paid previously, they can’t afford it and they close or leave. Goodbye funky vibe and character.

      One article I read stated the design goal of removing the whispering wall which is OSU CAMPUS property, is to give a line of sight from 15th street several blocks east of High, to the Thompson library. The library is a distant vision if you are standing on the plaza right in front of the Wex. It would barely be visible from the corner of Pearl and 15th, let alone even farther east on 15th. Also suggested was having motorists to be able to see the Oval and library as they drive by. Whether or not this is true, if you are driving, even at only 25 MPH, you don’t have time to take in a scenic view, and your eyes should be on the road.

      Orientation happens all summer, and many in state alumni parents are on campus with their students. Would Campus Partners be willing to actively propose demolition on site in front of the wall during orientation? Welcome Week in the fall would be a great opportunity for Campus Partners to step up, and BE TRANSPARENT about wanting to demolish University owned property, by actually setting up at the wall and stating its history. Welcome week has is a student involvement fair. Would Campus Partners approach the Office of Student Life to request a tent or space to inform students they want the University to agree to demolition of University property to benefit Campus Partners as separate for profit business?

      I wonder.

  9. Whttps://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/e3/65/fc/e365fc7a8f06507acff24132eedd5667.jpg
    Thanks Jill,
    I agree that tearing down the wall would be a great start.
    I think sending renderings of the most quaint beautiful college villages including Boulder, Ithica, Cambridge, Georgetown, Ann ARBOR, State college, etc would be the next step.
    (I have a lot of photos and renderings but I don’t know how to show them in this comment section…. sorry, unless,you have a suggestion?)

    The key is sending photos of these much more attractive and successful nationally top,off campus environments to convince the powers at OSU and Columbus they have the unique opportunity to transform an unattractive unwelcoming ugly Hight/Lane Street off campus strip to an architecturally uniform and beautiful quaint historic pedestrian scaled off campus village.
    The second key is political. It requires the lobbying power or connections to get a “Historical Lane / High Street restoration” master plan from drawing room to reality while still keeping local businesses involved.
    It is going to be hard, but I think will be possible to achieve if enough people get together and demand changes!

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