Recently there has been discussion of whether architectural review should be expanded in the University District. Currently architectural review only covers High Street and a portion of the core student area. Weinland Park and the north campus area are not under the purview of the University Area Review Board.

There are a number of different kinds of review boards in Columbus. Some, like the University Area Review Board operate on the aesthetic taste of the board members. Others, like Victorian Village, have guidelines based in historic preservation. Traveling from one neighborhood to the other one can see the advantages and disadvantages of each board.

The upper portion of Weinland Park has a number of examples of why maybe pushing the board toward guidelines might be a good idea. Granted, some of these buildings may have been built before the review board was instituted and some of the renovations may have not have been approved. Indeed, this is why the area needs architectural review.

Let’s look at some of the architectural wonders of the University area in northern Weinland Park.

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It probably used to be a double  but the addition of the exterior stairway to the second floor looked sketchy – so let’s hide it and maybe no one will notice. If there is any spot in the University District that screams for a mural this is it. Your local blogger would like to suggest something of recent topical interest such as the Mayan calendar.

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Adding extra dormers – even a completely different kind seems to be acceptable. This house had two shed dormers cobbled on the sides of the roof.

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It was just an American Foursquare house (left) until they turned into an odd chalet style disregarding the fact that the is no ski slope for a good 60 miles. The porches travel that fine line between amenity and infrastructure for student rioting. For better or worse the party deck no longer passes muster aesthetically although as we will see it has formally entered the design canon. The building on the right has taken many the worst points of converting a house to an apartment building and included them in a new structure.

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This architectural wonder has the shed dormer (front) shoved against the original gable dormer in the rear and wrapped around the chimney. Notable for its disregard for symmetry and weirdly sized window.

It used to be that attics were just used for storage – seasonal items or keeping grandma’s body until the ground softened in the spring. Now, campus landlords put students in them. The big difference? Grandma didn’t need a parking space.

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The new builds of the University District are equally fascinating. This house, built in 1991, uses all the remodeling techniques previous landlords used to modify an American Foursquare into campus housing. It formalizes the elements and creates a new vernacular style. The house has the chalet party deck, exaggerated dormers used to make the attic into usable living space and moves the stairways to the exterior for more interior space yet retains the basic American Foursquare shape. The foundation is higher than historic buildings to provide basement ingress/egress through the basement windows. Then, in a bid to legitimize the whole concoction, the architect threw in a Palladian fanlight window in the front dormer that was extended over the second floor porch. If this type of window was good enough for the Founding Fathers then…Anyway when you see it think “freedom.”  The fifty year waiting period for the National Register can’t end soon enough for this high-style campus rental.

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Many other new builds adopted the technique of cobbling a facade onto their essentially “it’s a box”  apartment building perhaps thinking no one would notice that the lawns had disappeared

Being snarky, this apartment building can best described as Trailer Park Revival, so popular that the residents have to park in the front yard or it may be part of the style. This is one for the architectural historians to sort out.

However, this building was built in 2000 so the fairly odd Modernist play is a little retro. One must wonder why this didn’t get shut down at the review board level. Especially if parking was going to be a problem.

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Obviously concerned that the building would be read as a box the architect tacked on this weird gambrel style faux roof that attempts to lend the warm fuzzy feeling that only Dutch Colonial Revival can produce. But rather than piss away the clients hard earned money on extending it the length of the building you get about three feet of it instead. You get the idea and that’s the important part.

So, is the aesthetic board better than having a guidelines oriented board? The architecture is more varied but that seems to be a mixed blessing.  One really can’t imagine these buildings being built in the Short North in the last thirty years. But that’s the difference between the boards. The remodeled homes and recent architecture of the University area were designed with the pocketbook of the absentee landlord in mind regardless of what it did to the residential quality of life in the neighborhood. The most important thing was the landlord’s profit not livability. And not a single large University District rental property owner actually lives in the University District. The guidelines oriented boards in Italian Village and Victorian Village produced neighborhoods that take residents  and their quality of life into account. Now the big question is which version would Weinland Park get in the future?

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