For most students, their four — or so — years living in the University District flies by. One year (or two) in the dorms; maybe a year in an apartment before moving into a house. If you’re lucky and find a place you enjoy, you might stay there for a second year. Or perhaps you will find a better spot, one less decayed, with roommates who take out the trash and leave their dirty dishes in the sink for no more than two days.
Your time is filled with class and more class; work and more work; parties and trips to bars, and more parties and more trips to bars.
Then you (hopefully) graduate, and it’s over. You move out of the University District. If you stay in Columbus, perhaps you go to Clintonville, Grandview or a nearby suburb.
That’s not the trajectory every current University District resident takes or has taken, though. Not Ed and Dianne Efsic. Not Pasquale Grado, and many others.
Grado and the Efsics are what you’d call long-term University District residents, not students who call the neighborhood home temporarily. For Grado, it hasn’t been four years — try more than four decades. For the Efsics, it’s been almost the same, only there was a dozen-year hiatus while Ed Efsic worked in Houston and New Jersey.
The point is, the University District is home to more than just students, even if constant construction near High Street and house parties on Indianola Avenue brand the area as “student housing.” So in this Spring Housing edition, The Lantern wanted to tell some of their stories — why they came and why they’ve stayed.
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“Where am I?” Pasquale Grado asked as he sat with a friend in a car, passing the rural landscape on their way from the Columbus airport to Ohio State’s campus.
It was early in the summer of 1966, and Grado had come to Ohio State for his freshman orientation. Columbus wasn’t quite the shiny, up-and-coming city it is now — the LeVeque Tower was its only real skyscraper — which caught the Brooklyn, New York, native off guard.
But when Grado moved to the University District, it started to feel a little more like home. Since the start of fall quarter in 1966, it has been just that.
No matter where his exact residence, the University District has continued to draw Grado in, and he’s spent years working to help it flourish.
Grado now lives on West Duncan Street, just north of Hudson Street, and has since 1997. Before that, he hopped around the city for a little more than two years. Before that, he lived for nearly 24 years at 1764 N. High St., in a third-floor apartment in the brick buildings between Apollo’s and Bullwinkles. It was dorm living before that, two years in East Baker Hall and three in Steeb — before it merged with Smith residence hall.
What Grado loved was that “you never had to leave High Street for anything,” which was “the way I grew up and what was ingrained in me as a child” in his old neighborhood in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. You could walk to buy groceries, clothes and home improvement items. There were families with kids who walked to school. It didn’t feel like an area of town reserved only for college students.
Indeed, the area’s fabric has since changed, but in that time, Grado has been involved with organizations that sought to keep the neighborhood prosperous, or to redevelop it into the kind of place he fell in love with.
From co-founding the University Community Business Association to serving as a representative on the University Area Commission to holding a seat on the University Area Review Board, Grado has spent decades working on improving the neighborhood. He also taught architecture at Ohio State for 15 years.
That service includes work on the recent Campus Partners redevelopment projects, which Grado thinks will help bring back people of all ages and make the district “like a real town” again.
“My nature is service,” he said. “I feel like that’s why I was put on the earth — to serve my community.”
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Ed and Dianne Efsic are comfortable. And — in their minds — when you’re comfortable, why leave?
The Efsics moved to the University District in 1967 from Champaign, Illinois, when Ed was hired by Battelle to work as an engineer. They looked at places closer to Battelle, but settled on a home on Indianola Avenue, near the top of Frambes Avenue and overlooking Iuka Ravine.
With the exception of a dozen-year hiatus in Houston and New Jersey, they’ve been there ever since. While they were gone, their children lived in the home, then after a short period of vacancy, they rented it out.
“When we came back in 1995, [the area] was completely different,” Ed said. “The character of the neighborhood has changed substantially … but it’s still good.”
The nearby homes had previously been occupied by university employees, with Frambes Avenue in particular housing mostly professors. When they returned, landlords had begun to acquire the properties.
The children walking to the elementary school on East 16th Avenue were no longer occupying the sidewalks, though Dianne said she’s seen a few start to return.
Despite the changes around it, what made their home a good fit in 1967 makes it a good fit in 2018: it’s close to what Ed and Dianne need.
Then, it was close to Battelle, so close Ed thought he could ride his bike to work — though he never did. Now, even if there’s more noise, Ed said “the things senior citizens need are close,” like high-quality medical care at Ohio State and Ohio Health hospitals.
“We could walk to the movies if we wanted to,” Dianne said. “And [UDF] is down the corner if you run out of milk.”
Ed and Dianne remain active in the community. On Wednesdays, Dianne, a skilled artist, teaches painting and drawing at the Martin Janis Community Senior Center. She also serves as the executive director of Northwood ARTSpace, a nonprofit gallery located at 2231 N. High St.
With the most recent changes underway, Ed and Dianne worry that the new, high-rise buildings might turn High Street into a “tunnel.” But they also know, perhaps better than most, that nothing remains the same, so they welcome some of the new development.
So, for now at least, there’s no reason to leave.
“I like my house. I know how many steps to come down,” Dianne said.
“This is where I’m content,” Ed added. “Everything is comfortable here.”