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I’m working on – or rather, not working on because I’m blogging – a paper about parking policy.  In it I intend to talk a little bit about Columbus’ proposed zoning ordinance changes regarding required off-street parking, which is exciting.  I also pulled a couple images from Google Earth for illustrative purpose, specifically one which shows how much of downtown Columbus is now parking lots.

From what I understand, Columbus underwent a great deal of urban renewal in the 50s and 60s, hence why most of the buildings are not that old and/or became surface parking lots.  The result is that the center of Columbus, the capital of Ohio, one of the largest states in the Union, has a handful of skyscrapers surrounded by a bunch of parking lots.

You can’t really tell this from looking at the skyline from a distance on the ground, but it’s pretty visible in this Google aerial image (had to use the Flight Simulator to get a bird’s eye angle).  Disclaimer:  the 3D buildings, produced by the Planning Department, may not be a complete inventory of all the buildings downtown, so this image may be somewhat misleading in that it does not show all the buildings at their proper height.  Nevertheless, the images of parked cars on so many of the properties makes it pretty clear that it’s almost all parking lot once you go a few streets east (bottom-right) of the river.  I annotated the map with some key landmarks and an approximate outline of all the parking lots I could see (red lines):

Downtown Columbus: Parking Galore (Source: Google Earth, 2010)

And I checked the approximate area of downtown Columbus – the section pictured is roughly a square mile (maybe more to the north and south).  Think how much fits in a square mile in New York.  Or Chicago.  The Loop, strictly speaking (within and immediately surrounding the El tracks), pretty much fits in less than a square mile.

Well, at least Columbus has plenty of parking.

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While I’ve already violated my rule to not spend any money today (not to excess, at least!), I successfully spent the afternoon transit-free.  After a couple errands, I headed down Milwaukee Ave. to the Loop (according to Google Maps, at least 2.2 miles from Wicker Park).  On my to-do list were the Rookery Building, the Monadnock Building, picking up a couple books from the library, and another jaunt up the Nichols Bridge at the Art Institute.

My camera was gracious enough to keep the battery alive for the whole afternoon, and I came across some interesting stuff.  After a lovely mini-tour of Oak Park earlier this week, I’m starting to think about another one of downtown… judiciously avoiding most of the touristy stuff in favor of more interesting sites.

Interesting shadows of an old fire escape

Interesting shadows of an old fire escape

I finally saw the Rookery Building – definitely worth a visit!

Lobby of the Rookery Building

Lobby of the Rookery Building

The Nichols Bridge, the spatial liaison between Millennium Park and the AI’s Modern Wing, might be one of my new favorite things.  I really wish they would leave it open at night, I’m sure it’s a beautiful view of the city.

A visual reminder that Chicago was built on the railroads...

A visual reminder that Chicago was built on the railroads...

… And a bonus:  I found an old rail bridge.  Very cool.

Looking up at the old rail bridge

Looking up at the old rail bridge

All in all, a lovely afternoon.  I’ll miss this city.