The Short North is a neighborhood in Columbus stretches from downtown to just south of Ohio State’s campus along High Street. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Former Managing Editor for Design

One of the top neighborhoods in America is a bus ride away from campus, according to the American Planning Association.

The Short North Arts District was one of four neighborhoods named to the APA’s annual Great Places in America list Sept. 25. The organization selected 13 new places to be honored, with great neighborhoods, public spaces and streets as the subcategories, according to its website.

Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance, said the prestigious designation was made possible by a number of people who have contributed to the modern revitalization of the neighborhood.

“We all knew locally how great of a place the Short North is, but it means a lot for us to say that in America, it’s a great place,” Pandora said.

The APA has been nominating great places since 2007, honoring areas that “have a great quality of character, exemplify good planning, bringing the community together,” Roberta Rewers, communications manager for the APA, said. Rewers said the Short North fits the bill.

“The strong community engagement, the planning efforts to bring the revitalization, and it’s a great example of planning being a long-term process,” Rewers said. “Short North is definitely an example of the community coming together and realizing and thinking about what they want their community to be like in the future.”

Places are nominated through an online form and then chosen by a committee, Rewers said. A task force of members from across the country then comes together to make the final selections.

“They dive deeper into the location because we’re not looking just for the pretty places. We’re looking for places that really kind of use planning as a way to address any challenges the community might be having or looking at their future to see what they want to be like,” Rewers said.

Pandora said the honor is a celebration of 40 years of hard work. According to the APA’s website, the Short North was a crime-ridden neighborhood in the 1970s, desperate for change.

German Village served as a source of inspiration for the Short North, Pandora said. The south Columbus neighborhood appeared on the APA’s Great Places list in 2011, according to its website.

“Neighborhoods like German Village were really some of the first to champion historic preservation,” Pandora said. “Historic preservation has been a component part of the story of the Short North’s revitalization.”

Pandora said early visionaries of the Short North’s success — Sandy Wood, owner of the Wood Company; John Allen, owner of the Short North Tavern; and the late Greg Carr, former co-owner of the tavern with Allen — also took inspiration from German Village, contributing to the rise of the Short North by restoring old commercial buildings on High Street.

“A lot of their ability to do that, be successful doing that, was because great pioneers in places like German Village paved the way for those tools to be available to us,” Pandora said.

While the Short North’s impact on nearby communities has already been evident in its reinvestments in public transportation, housing development and small business activity, Pandora said she thinks this honor will only continue to inspire growth.

“I think the Short North will continue to be a leader and an innovator for the region, and certainly other cities can follow our lead,” she said.