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The work of architects has an impact on our lives every day. But how does that work get done? This week, we’re talking architecture and development with the principal of architecture and design firm JBAD, Jonathan Barnes. We discussed how architecture firms work, the importance of relationships, the issues that should be kept in mind as Columbus continues to grow, and whether we’re doing a good job of addressing those issues.
- Bridge Park
- Columbus Area Commissions
- Rapid Five
- Urban Land Institute
- Scioto Mile
- Downtown Columbus
The Confluence Cast is sponsored by The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission featuring stories about local and regional partners that envision and embrace innovative directions in economic prosperity, transportation, sustainability and an inclusive Central Ohio. MORPC’s transformative programming, innovative services and public policy initiatives are designed to promote and support the vitality and growth in the region.
Tim Fulton 00:13
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. This week we are talking architecture and development in Columbus with the principle of architecture and design firm j bad. Jonathan Barnes. We discussed how architecture firms work, how projects come into fruition, the importance of relationships and a diversity of experience choosing who to work with the unique aspects of the Columbus real estate market, the issues that should be kept in mind as Columbus continues to grow, and whether we’re doing a good job of addressing those issues. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast comm also, the confluence cast is on Patreon. Find out how to support this podcast on our website the confluence cast calm [email protected] slash Confluence. The Confluence cast is sponsored this week by the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission, or more, Percy, featuring stories about local and regional partners that envision and embrace the innovative directions in economic prosperity, transportation, sustainability, and an inclusive central Ohio. Morrissey’s transformative programming innovative services and public policy initiatives are designed to promote and support the vitality and growth in the region. For more information, please visit more pcy.org. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here virtually with Jonathan Barnes, the owner of JBA D architecture and design firm in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Barnes, how are you sir? I’m good. Thank you. First of all, tell me about j bad and yourself and your work?
Jonathan Barnes 02:17
Well, there’s a lot to say there. But we’ve been here in Columbus for you know, the years just keep racking up 20 I think eight now. So I started the firm. When I returned to Columbus, where I’m from. In the early 90s, I was coming back from working in Italy for about three years. Move back to Columbus decided to do that as opposed to Chicago where I came from on my way out of the country and taught for a little bit and then started the sort of the firm sort of the practice. back then.
Tim Fulton 02:59
Where’d you grow up?
Jonathan Barnes 03:00
I grew up here in Columbus, where your high school, Upper Arlington, Arlington, a very cozy suburb, your Golden Bear. That’s right.
Tim Fulton 03:10
That’s good. I you know, we just want the context. Yep, that’s it. And tell me about sort of the specialty of the firm and what what you guys do?
Jonathan Barnes 03:20
Well, you know, we’ve done a lot over the years. And we’ve specialized in sort of different areas at different times, sort of depending on our interest, our expertise and the market. The you know, real estate market, I suppose, I would say really for a good part of the history of the firm we’ve specialized in, I would say mixed use residential, as a short term. So to most people, that means apartments, but it also means office, it also means retail, and all sorts of things, but mostly it’s urban urban infill projects, a lot of apartments and condos, but a pretty broad base beyond that, too. So you know, banks in schools and office and art galleries and all sorts of things. Got it, but but they all have something in common, I would say for the most part, to a large degree, their urban in one way or another.
Tim Fulton 04:27
And I am familiar with a couple of different business models of things. I am not very familiar with architecture firms and sort of how that I know that you design buildings. I don’t have a familiarity with Do you tend to work with other firms, other architecture firms on individual projects, or how, how the acquisition of a project happens if you could walk me through basically First of all, how do you get on a project? Like what from from the get go? A piece of land becomes available? Someone owns it? What happens? Like, do they have an idea of what they want there and you are sought out?
Jonathan Barnes 05:14
One answer to that is it works in all different ways, which is one of the reasons why I’m an architect. Okay, and it’s never the same. Any particular day or week is things come come up in all different ways for all different reasons. And you have to be pretty nimble about sort of how you how you sort of manage that. Right? So the first part of your question, mate, which maybe I’ll come back to is about working with other firms. Yes, we do partner. And that’s a smart thing to do, when it’s when it’s a good fit. We’re working on a project, it’s a partnership right now with the Boston firm. But I would say the answer to that question really, is, has to do with the project type. Because like, so, there’s public sector and private sector, for instance, you know, public sector, as you imagine universities, you know, libraries, government, etc. Private sector is kind of everything else. It’s private developers, its property owners, people who don’t have experience that want to do a project of some sort. But it’s, they they happen in all sorts of different ways. So sometimes they, they, they are generated by the purchase of a property and somebody has a property. And now what do I do with it? Sometimes they, somebody might have an idea for a project, or even sort of a track record, let’s do this again. But they don’t have a property. Okay. So they’re looking for a place for it?
Tim Fulton 06:49
And when did you get assist in that process? Like the acquisition of the property?
Jonathan Barnes 06:54
Yes, we assist in, let’s say, analyzing and assessing properties, sites or projects. We do that all the time. But I think something that’s somewhat unique about us is that we often initiate that process. So you know, we’ve been I’ve been around enough that, you know, in this context, right in this environment, that I’m pretty familiar with the neighborhoods, and the potential properties, whether they’re on the market or market, or more likely not on the real estate market, or off market. And the kind of potential for development, right, given one one property versus another. So I all the time, I see opportunity. And I tried to, let’s say, put a team together. So I’ll say, Well, here’s an opportunity for this kind of a project on this site. And this is, let’s say, a developer that I think would be well suited for that. So I reach out to them and or several of them and say, hey, look, I think this, this is a good project, this could go this could work here. You know, are you are you interested, that happens in this place, pretty pretty often.
Tim Fulton 08:07
And so let’s walk through as we continue, because there’s like, you could talk about somebody wanting to build a house, you could talk about a university wanting to build a new center. But let’s let’s walk through that process from a, you drive by or hear about a property becoming available. And you are sort of building the team and bringing them together from this point forward in the conversation, just so that we are sort of remain on the same page. Right? So how would you hear about it? First of all, would it be just driving by or see or hearing about, oh, this property is becoming available?
Jonathan Barnes 08:48
Yes. And that’s gonna be interesting to a lot of my questions. It’s like, it’s, it’s everything. So okay. I want to own qualify this part of the conversation, to say that, you know, it had that happens sometimes, but very often developers who are experienced and have property know exactly that what they want, you know, okay, we have established relationships. And we know we work together on multiple projects. I don’t want to sound like like, no,
Tim Fulton 09:12
yeah, absolutely. I’m not a puppeteer. I’m an opportunist. So they know what they want. They basically say we’ve got this property, we’re going to extend Bridge Park or something like that. And they say, We want a mixed use development. How do you how do they pick you? Well,
Jonathan Barnes 09:35
that’s really, in our experience that’s really about relationships, right? And relationships and, you know, reputation and all that. So, you know, we’ve been doing this long enough that people that do this sort of thing, I guess, this sort of thing being let’s say this kind of mixed use residential type of project, although look, we’ve done a lot of other things that that people have come to us for
Tim Fulton 10:00
I totally understand you’re trying not to pigeonhole yourself here, like,
Jonathan Barnes 10:04
Well, I mean, it’s, I would also say that that is that sort of thing, having a broader for a project base and experience, benefits all of our projects. So, you know, we, we did a bag for the first time. And, you know, we brought all of our experience for all of our projects to that. And it turned out I think, really, really well. So we know we’d look for first time projects, but it’s, it’s more about the opportunity, and not about the sort of specifics or project type. But you’re asking about sort of how we are selected for, let’s say, the, you know, certain projects. And I would say it’s not even just one type, but it’s, it’s, it’s about reputation and relationships. So I, you know, I know a lot of people a lot of people know me and or know of me, and they know our work. I like to think that in our practice, it took from my perspective, it took us about 10 years to sort of get to the place where we had enough work that people knew about us, and were coming to us, okay, and that changed the equation quite a bit. I mean, and now that happens quite often, people know us or find out about us, whether it’s me, or the practice, or just the work. And they come to us looking for either the same a similar kind of project type, or let’s say, modern architecture, because that’s something that we do really well. And that’s what we’re kind of known for. So we people show up because they know us, or they know me in one way or another often so. So that way in that in that in that way to where we are for pre selected because Okay, they know we can do this. And so let’s talk about it, you know, we take a few steps, and then we put a proposal together and it works or doesn’t work. And you know, it happens or doesn’t.
Tim Fulton 11:49
Okay, it feels very similar to an agency model, right? Like you’re only there for it’s one it’s per project, and you are a piece of the pie to get it done. The funny thing is, is you’re literally the I don’t think this is a metaphor, the architect of the whole thing.
Jonathan Barnes 12:09
Right? Big a little late, right? Well, yeah, I mean, I mean, that depends a bit on your perspective, too. I mean, you know, again, if it’s a project that, you know, that, you know, I’m trying to put together, then I guess, you know, that’s, that’s more accurate. But I mean, look, we are part of a team, and you know, you need a team, and you need a lot of people to make these things work. So, you know, I would say certainly, we’re an important part, but you know, look, buildings get built without architects all the time. Different kinds of buildings. But that’s, that’s, that’s true. But certainly, we are, I would say, an important part of this sort of greater team, you know, developer, there’s a contractor, you know, there are lawyers, you know, zoning attorneys, etc. There are lots of consultants. And then there are, you know, agencies because we’re in Columbus, so everything that’s reviewed, right, and building departments and utility companies, and it’s a pretty crowded room.
Tim Fulton 13:09
Yeah. And so let’s say the person with the money and the property there, I assume the ultimate decision maker, but then you guys are there from the get go and saying, here’s our proposal for what we think something should look like. And I want you to step in and say that’s wrong. If I am at any point, and you send the proposal includes maybe a rough sketch of here’s what we think this is going to look like, here’s the square footage that we think this is going to end up being this is obviously all contingent on, you know, the the zoning issues that you talked about, and whether utility lines can get there. And the cost of materials, I think is something interesting right now. And here’s the dream, you deliver the dream, and you say, this is what we think it’s going to cost. In total. Are you able to estimate that from the get go?
Jonathan Barnes 14:04
Yeah, to some degree. So these projects? Well, certainly our projects tend to be pretty complicated. So okay, it’s a very kind of incremental process. Meaning when you start, and by start, I mean, I have a call or I have a conversation with somebody about a project, right? Very kind of it’s, it’s very much kind of in its infancy, it’s an idea and a and a piece of property, right? There is so much that we don’t know, even though we’ve, we think we might know, okay, it could look like this, or it could be this big or it could look you know, it can be configured in a certain way. There’s so much that we don’t know. So you tend to sort of go at that incrementally, right? It’s not like you start it’s not like a start and a finish and you sort of like, know the direction you’re going you start initially with concepts, and no what we often call like fit diagrams, for instance. It’s like okay, you Here’s a site it wants, they’re looking for some sort of an apartment project, okay? What, what’s, what’s appropriate? What’s going to fit on this site? And then come is all the things that you start that you bring in to that. So it’s about, it’s about what it’s so many things that you have to consider the market, you think about the market and what what what’s a, what are unit types that work are working well in a particular area. Right. So a unit type, let’s say, downtown near the river front is going to be way different than a unit in, you know, Milo Grogan, Marion village, franklinton, wherever. So you, you know, we think about the market, we consider to the site, what can fit. So we start, we have an idea about like, okay, here are the kind of apartments that can work on in this neighborhood. And on this site, now, let’s see how what fits on this site. And then that has to do with all sorts of things, zoning, for sure. It has to do with certain building standards, like we have ideas about a particular kind of unit and the size of it, and how they, how you can multiply them how they fit on a site has a lot. It was this is Columbus, so it still has a lot to do with parking. Okay, that that drives, a lot of it drives that
Tim Fulton 16:20
approval issue. Right.
Jonathan Barnes 16:23
can be can be okay, in most places, except for downtown.
Tim Fulton 16:27
Okay. Why is that?
Jonathan Barnes 16:29
Well, because downtown has no parking requirements. Guy everywhere else pretty much does. Columbus city wide, except for downtown has a way of in that world has a I would say for the most part still has a requirement for 1.5 cards per unit as an apartment,
Tim Fulton 16:50
a person that’s going to like the area commission meetings to sort of like make the argument for here’s why we need this variance or, hey, we actually don’t need a variance. But here’s the plan and we need your approval.
Jonathan Barnes 17:03
Yeah, it’s usually us, and oftentimes a zoning attorney. And by the way, there are exceptions, there are what are called overlays for the zoning code where there there are other standards, the short North has an overlay where it’s a one per one space per unit requirement. So the little bit lower. And but then it’s even different than that, because you can go below that if you pay the city certain amount of money, per missing space, right. So all that is it’s about appropriate zoning rules in certain areas to encourage appropriate development. And including the the sort of right sized parking solution, right from one particular neighborhood or another.
Tim Fulton 17:51
And I want to do my best to sort of keep it as surface level as possible, because I imagine this could be an entire series and I yeah, there’s our game for having having you back. We’ll have the parking episode.
Jonathan Barnes 18:05
That will be a whole like Netflix series.
Tim Fulton 18:09
Walk me through. So let’s say you get it approved. You’ve gotten that was really quick, by the way, but go ahead. Okay, that’s fair. That’s I got approved in about three minutes. That was awesome. So you’ve got it approved from let’s say, the area commission, then when are you putting the team together? That’s actually building it.
Jonathan Barnes 18:32
So good question. So the trick there is to get far enough. So we were you know, we work with, in that case, mostly private clients. So we want to be careful about how we spend their money, their redevelopment, money, right, all that sort of extra money they’re spending before they get any kind of return, or even know that they have a project.
Tim Fulton 18:51
So I actually skipped over the entire design phase, because that’s ahead of bringing it to the permitting process to talk about sort of pre build contract with the person with the money in the property. I’m not necessarily concerned about the scale of the money but concerned about like, how do you bill? Is it do you come to them with a proposal and you say, I think it’s gonna cost this amount of money. And this gets you this amount of hours of design work, for example, is the attorney hired by you? And basically that money filters through you? How much does your accountant have to do?
Jonathan Barnes 19:31
Generally, no, no, the you know, there are consultants that we carried that we are, they kind of come to us typically zoning attorneys or forbid direct hire by the owner. Oftentimes, or rather, maybe sometimes depending on civil engineer is another one that the owner may hire directly. Also, like a geotechnical person that sort of figures out, you know, you know, what’s below ground. You know, they’re hired by the The owner, but to get to your real question, again, it’s very incremental because we, you know, we understand that developers have only a certain amount of cash that they want to spend on a project before they have a project, right? And really are often before they even own a property. Right. So we’ll take the design, what we would call it a conceptual design, to a point far enough ahead, or schematic design, those are some terms that are so cut somewhat overlapping, or enough that we know enough about the building to do a few things to inform the owners pro forma. And that’s the sort of financial analysis. So they know like, does this work, I’m going to spend this much this is my return this works, it doesn’t work. So that we haven’t, we take it far enough, also, so that we can present it to a commission. So we know, they know, they know what it’s what it’s conceptually going to look like. So they can sort of given an initial thumbs up or down, and so that we can get an understanding of the sort of size and complexity of the project. So we can, we can get a quick a first read on the potential cost. Okay. Right. So it’s about approvals, and cost. And really just like a description of this project and an initial stage, that’s kind of the first step, right, we do enough to get those kind of things answered.
Tim Fulton 21:23
So let’s say from your perspective, the project ends there. Yes, you got approval, but the the money turns out wasn’t there, or they couldn’t get financing or something like that happens, which I imagine happens a lot. How much? If it had continued? How much of your total contract would have been fulfilled? Like, is that half? Is that a third? Is that 80%?
Jonathan Barnes 21:47
No, I mean, that first step is very limited. Okay, intentionally. So it’s a first pass kind of concept, again, enough to kind of understand those kind of those kind of things and get get certain questions and answered, at least initially, so that you can figure out if it’s a go or no, go, and then your point was, was was accurate, that, you know, with that information, including an initial sort of cost estimate, the owner and the developer, right is going to is going to start to look for financing. So that’s, that’s debt and equity. Right? It’s a lender, and it’s an investor. And, you know, if that looks promising, okay, we’ll and you know, approvals look like they’re gonna happen, etc, then, you know, we’re off to like the rest of the project. But that first piece is a very, very small percentage of the whole project.
Tim Fulton 22:41
Okay. And both in terms of you getting paid and the work that you’re doing, correct. Okay, right. So let’s say it does move forward, what’s next,
Jonathan Barnes 22:50
then, if we haven’t already, we get the proposal together for the remaining services, and in which everything else and all the consultants and then, you know, we’re often running and it’s, again, it’s more sort of incremental work, you know, we do a certain amount of work, and then we’ll go back to a commission for another meeting, etc, we’ll go go to maybe a contractor or several contractors that we’re considering for updated pricing. Right,
Tim Fulton 23:18
and Are you hiring them?
Jonathan Barnes 23:20
No, typically, the the contractor is hired by the owner. Okay. But, you know, we’ll we’re usually asked to make suggestions about, you know, contractors that are good fit, right, so, you know, three to 234, contractors, you know, show up into a bar in the running, and we’re kind of working with them at this preliminary stage, and they are doing cost estimates, or possibly, they’ve already been selected. I mean, I’m a big fan of bringing a team on early, and identifying that team, including the contractor, because, you know, if they’re a good contractor, you want to be concerned more about the relationship than the numbers, okay? Okay. Because if you select a contractor based just based on numbers, that may not work out the way you want to. Because you just you just want somebody that knows what they’re doing can do a good job, you can, you can control the owner can control the numbers going forward. I always like to tell all of our clients, like they’re in control of that, you know, we’ll tell them what, and the contractor will tell them, okay, what you’re looking at doing, what you want to do is likely going to cost this much. But if you want to call on it once cost less or more, you’re in control of that. I mean, it’s, it makes a difference, right? If you want to cost less then it’s got to be either smaller in size or lower in quality or different in some way. But we’re in control.
Tim Fulton 24:48
And are we at construction at this point in terms of the process?
Jonathan Barnes 24:52
No, not at all. So again, very, very commendable. I mean, we have different phases leading up to a construction start, but you know, basically Look at it, like we’re just adding layers of information. So as we move through the design process, where, you know, we’re considering other things, you know, construction details, and, you know, code interpretation, but the big thing,
Tim Fulton 25:17
I like the way you phrase that,
Jonathan Barnes 25:19
yeah. And as we go through, you know, we’re just adding more, more information on our drawings, getting more accurate pricing, etc, etc, all that includes the owner, and there’s a dialogue going on all the time. Oh, AC is what we call our meetings owner, architect, contractor. That’s happening that’s happening all the time. So lots of lots of communication and lots of development, lots of decisions. And we get to the point where, okay, the drawings are far enough along that we will submit for a building permit off, it goes to city, typically in our schedules for most of our projects, other than maybe really small ones in the city of Columbus, we have on our spreadsheet for our schedules a two month bar, it’s this long, and it’s on every schedule, because that’s generally what we a lot for a building plan review to get a permit. Okay. Right. So, you know, after that when we get the permit, then again, now we’re really off and running contractor mobilizes on site, and things start happening. Got it
Tim Fulton 26:29
for real. And then you I imagine remain involved in the process, even though you’ve handed over the the design and basically the instruction manual for how to put this building that you’ve designed together, you’ve already made choices about the materials and and the costs associated for the owner. You remain involved through that construction process?
Jonathan Barnes 26:52
Yes, yes, for a number of reasons. I mean, essentially, we’re representing the owner, throughout the construction process. So things always change to some degree. In some ways, things always change,
Tim Fulton 27:05
and ample of that.
Jonathan Barnes 27:07
I can give you 400 examples, but give me a farming one. Well, they fall into different categories, by the way, that shows up in the construction cost estimate. Okay, there’s like there’s an owner’s contingency. So contingency is like a pot of money that you set aside to use if you can, when you need to owners contingency is like I decided I want another I want a bigger fitness room or we want to add this or that or change material. Okay, so that comes out of the owners contingency contractors contingency is if they might have missed something in the in their estimating, like they missed something on the design contingency is if the for design changes somewhat. So anyway, changes happened during construction. And we’re involved throughout construction to help manage that. We’re also there to help answer questions for the contractor. So I mean, go really technical with all that there’s something called an RFI request for information. We get those all the time. It’s like, Did you mean this or that? So we answer those kinds of questions. Basically, they
Tim Fulton 28:14
say the these instructions aren’t clear to me, or I don’t think these instructions are right. And I just want further clarity.
Jonathan Barnes 28:23
Yeah, click confirmation, that sort of thing. Right. Okay, that quick. And then there’s the two bad words in construction change order. Sometimes that happens. Okay, well, we won’t avoid that. That’s like, oops, that’s a miss. So that has to be added to the construction cost. Right. So we try to avoid that. But anyway, we’re involved in the process to help sort of manage all those things.
Tim Fulton 28:49
Okay. And then any sort of incremental steps after sort of, you know, all the door handles are getting put on the windows are done, the utility hookups happening, when do you walk away?
Jonathan Barnes 29:04
Well, kind of in a place called, we called steps, substantial completion. Okay. Right. That’s kind of when the contractors released, you know, liens or lease and everything. It’s like, okay, we’re pretty much there. We just have some sort of touch up some punch list items, sense of the call on etc. And so we’re, you know, we’re there till pretty much the end, I mean, let’s say occupancy, for apartment project. And then, you know, there’s project close out and things need to be addressed afterwards. And, you know, look, we’re also always available after our projects for finishes, quote, and there are things that come up later, you know, a tenant says, Hey, what about this or something gets kind of, you know, something doesn’t work out the way it’s planned in terms of how it functions. You know, we end up visiting, you know, we work for the, we’ll work with an owner to revisit things as needed. setosa there was a lot in here. I mean, it’s just,
Tim Fulton 29:58
I mean, we’ve done 30 minutes. Just now and I were in my head a third of the way through. And I if we have time, I do want to schedule another conversation with you. exhausting just talking about it, isn’t it? Well, I imagine for you, it’s a little bit you’re, you’re talking about your day to day. And so it’s like, this is not that exciting. Can’t be you do work in
Jonathan Barnes 30:21
primarily Columbus, is that right? fair to say? No, not just Columbus. But but but primarily. Yeah. Got it.
Tim Fulton 30:27
Got it. Talk about what you see as unique in terms of housing and development in Columbus. What should people know? If you’re in Indianapolis, and somebody knows, and there’s an architect there? And they’re like, so what’s Columbus? Like? How do you describe that housing development market here?
Jonathan Barnes 30:49
Yeah, and that would be another hour conversation, probably. And I think, you know, there’s a lot about Columbus that people don’t know, okay, who aren’t familiar, but you know, you, you know, gosh, I follow a lot of news outlets, and online, this or that, and, you know, you see these things all the time, it’s like the top 10 this or that, you know, Columbus is appearing and more and more on those kind of lists as an active housing market in a lot of ways, if, you know, you know, that the price is it could be availability, it could be construction, you know, all those things, there’s a lot happening here. And people are paying attention across the country, or even in the world. I mean, we had somebody from South Africa, sort of take an interest in Columbus, about a year and a half ago. So it’s a, it’s a pretty robust market for a number of reasons. So I would tell people that, you know, it’s worth paying attention to, because there’s a lot of activity, and therefore a lot of opportunity, if you care, to participate. And there’s a lot of really interesting development. I mean, this isn’t the sort of, you know, 90s, where, you know, a lot of the development was single family houses, you know, in far flung suburbs. It’s a very different market now. And it comes and with that, comes a lot of complexities and sort of challenges. When things are more about, you know, infill development, look, doing an apartment project, and maybe Grandview, people would necessarily think of that as Reuben because they think it has to be downtown. But a lot of those projects are pretty urban in their nature. So there’s a lot of interesting development and housing market happening here right now. And also, I would say, a lot of, I think, interesting thinking and approaches to housing in terms of how do you create, I would say responsible density. How do you create affordability? A big, big issue? How do you? How do you promote, sort of, you know, healthy neighborhoods, and robust transportation, and all those sort of things, because these projects aren’t sort of done in a, in a vacuum, they deal with so much more than the build the building and the property. And, you know, you really need to be aware of that. And so it’s either intentional or unintentional, those sort of connections and effects, right, better to be intentional about it, and do things that support more development that helps neighborhoods, right, right, that tries to avoid gentrification that tries to avoid displacement that tries to avoid, you know, inappropriate development, although that’s a very much of a subjective term. But you know, you have to be aware of the context really. Yeah, doing that. Yeah, that’s a big word context is has to do with a lot of things.
Tim Fulton 33:49
From a philosophical standpoint, I imagine from what I’m hearing, you agree that density is important and good. And that there’s a responsibility to make sure that the context for a project fits everything around it.
Jonathan Barnes 34:06
Correct? Yes. Both of those.
Tim Fulton 34:08
Okay. Are we doing a good job?
Jonathan Barnes 34:12
We’re trying, not yet at all. Not good enough at all. I mean, I kind of follow it like this. Look, it’s evident to me and, you know, people have lots of opinions about this sort of thing. But, you know, the fact is, and it is a fact Columbus is growing, that’s not something that’s on a handle, you can turn on or off. I mean, there are things that affect that, but, you know, most of it has to do with you know, a lot of things that are out of anybody’s control. I mean, zoning has tries to control it, you know, job market, you know, has a lot to do with it, but anyway, it is happening. So my point is Columbus is growing. And by that I mean, you know, people are moving here, a lot of people are moving here, businesses are forming, etc. So the city has to accommodate that it does come That in one way or another, right? It’s just a matter of how and how well, part of accommodating that well is to plan for it and recognize that that growth is happening more in urban environments. Why? Because that’s, that’s a preference. Right? Right.
Tim Fulton 35:18
It’s weird that I want to live,
Jonathan Barnes 35:20
right in the 90s, it was different. I mean, you know, you can’t really change that, you can create more or less opportunity. And there’s an effect to that. But that’s, that’s where people are looking to move and to open offices and things like that. So it’s growing, it’s Columbus is growing, and it’s growing in a way that has a focus in urban areas, then the only way to really accommodate that well is to understand that you need to accept a certain amount of density, right. And the only the only the real sort of problem with that, for a lot of people is just simply that it’s different. It’s changed, right? So I’m in this neighborhood, I’m using my neighborhood looking like this. Right? It’s different. So let’s stop it. You know, that’s, I mean, I don’t want to oversimplify, but it’s the change
Tim Fulton 36:09
the development. Speaking of Arlington, specifically, I think about that apartment develop, I think it’s apartments, just north of the shops on lane. And how, you know, I’m a member of that Facebook group, even though I’ve never lived in that neighborhood. And there was a lot of pushback. And it wasn’t about lowering property values or anything like that. It was really just this is different. And this is an Arlington, and this is what we want. But what what it was doing was adding density.
Jonathan Barnes 36:43
Yeah, yeah, that was one of the things but it’s also creating a more, let’s say, vibrant, mixed use area, which is a good thing. I mean, so now, you know, people will have more restaurants to go to, they’ll have a place for somebody to stay in a hotel. Right? etc, etc, instead of going somewhere else, right. So there certainly benefits from that. But yes, it’s about change in and of itself. But the fact is, I think what’s lost every neighborhood, every city changes, it’s just the way it happens, right? I mean, sometimes, sometimes cities will be come less dense. And that’s typically a bad thing that Detroit went through that for a long period. But for the most part, I mean, you know, a lot of cities, you’ll see growth, you know, it either in, you know, in a steep curb or not so steep curb, and you know, Arlington, for instance, lane Avenue, I mean, I don’t think anyone’s complaining that, you know, you know, back in the 40s, this was just a neighborhood with some like, you know, horse farms, because it was
Tim Fulton 37:42
right, I know, when the moaning that right, was just adjustment to that change.
Jonathan Barnes 37:48
Right. And that, you know, maybe some people would think that’s an unfair sort of perspective or criticism. But the reality is that he changed all the time they have and they will, and it’s, rather than sort of fight it and say, you know, well, we just don’t want that change, I think the smarter way is to, is to accept it and, and be more in control of how it happens. I, you know, and to get a little bit more kind of further into that sort of that whole argument, I think the groups that spend a lot of time and effort, and sometimes money fighting, these developments would be better off. If they tried to control them more, I think they don’t undertake. Now, they may say, Well, that’s what we’re trying to do. But the fact is, I mean, if they say, Look, you’re a developer, you’re going to do a project. And it has to happen in certain ways. You’re not going to do it for free, because, you know, most houses we live in and offices we work in, made some made money for somebody. That’s right. Sorry, sorry. But if you work with a developer in a realistic way, then it can really be a win win. If you’re unrealistic in your expectations, you know, it may be a win lose, or even a lose lose. But I think groups can have more control over how their neighborhoods develop, if they take more realistic approach. And ask for things in exchange, like, okay, we’ll let that be five storeys, but we want at least a little bit of a park that’s public.
Tim Fulton 39:31
Okay. Like we want to green space,
Jonathan Barnes 39:33
right, or whatever that is, right. I mean, I think there’s much more sort of potential for a constructive dialogue. And I kind of give and take if you approach it that way. But if it’s just like, you know, we say no, and that’s all we have to say. Then you either gonna win or lose. Well, let
Tim Fulton 39:55
me challenge you a little bit from the perspective of anonymous developer but a city and community interested person, it has to be a two way dialogue. Right. And if there is a known group that is going to be vocal in opposition, isn’t there some onus on the developer to give outreach from from the get go?
Jonathan Barnes 40:21
To engage? Absolutely. We Okay, we we encourage that all the time, you know, it usually never worked. It’s just for, like, try to get a project through without any kind of, you know, Outreach at all right. Okay, have to listen, you have to at least listen. Now, what you do what you do with that dialogue? You know, it depends a lot on what that dialogue is. And that’s, and that’s why I’m encouraging for neighborhood groups to really have an open dialogue. And not just sort of a, you know, you know, a one word No,
Tim Fulton 40:55
I mean, nimbyism is the term like, you just don’t, you can’t just say no, I don’t want that in my backyard.
Jonathan Barnes 41:04
Well, you can’t I just don’t think in the end, you’re gonna get the best outcome.
Tim Fulton 41:07
Right? What does Columbus need more of?
Jonathan Barnes 41:13
Well, in no particular order, but it is we need more affordable housing. And I don’t think people realize, you know, affordable housing effects, or the lack thereof affects everybody. You know, it’s not like, Look, my neighbors just fine. So put that over there. You know, it affects everybody, because it makes more businesses more viable, which makes the economy more viable, which makes a lot of people happier. And, you know, you can go into, like, what’s the value of equity? And, you know, that’s another several our discussion, but right, affordable housing is more important to more people than most people think. So we definitely need to find ways to do that. We need more mixed use environments, okay, are associated with I’ll say, sort of a more of a nerdy term transit corridors. So we need more, we need more dense development and more mixed use development in places where people move around town, right? Because you want to concentrate those on, on access, places that have access to transportation, and I don’t mean just cars, right? That’s a healthy city, a healthy city has more sort of variety of uses and buildings, in places that are accessible to transportation, because that’s a smarter way for a lot of people to live, there’s a lot of ways to do it, you can still live in the suburb in your big house perfectly fine. But I think we need to accommodate more people and more, you know, retail, and offices and entertainment, and whatever it is, in places that are accessible to transit options. That’s really
Tim Fulton 43:04
what are the things that are standing in the way of, first of all, affordable housing, and then the follow up is going to be better transit corridors? Well, and maybe that’s the conversations that aren’t happening, or the funding, or I don’t want to place blame, obviously, but what’s not what’s not happening that to get us what we need?
Jonathan Barnes 43:28
Well, it’s I mean, it’s, I mean, you have to say it kind of includes or even starts with planning, because that’s what that’s what sort of initiate change, but that’s starting to happen to me, I’ll make a plug for rapid five, which is a initiative that you ally, and others are sponsoring, that will start to change things and a lot of neighborhoods that really need to be changed in some really good ways. Those are the kinds of niches initiatives and that’s the kind of thinking that we need to make these things really happen. So it has to do with with kind of zoning ordinances in the end, and that comes from good planning, but it’s also a lot of it is just sort of, I don’t want to seem pedantic, but, you know, like, educating people. Just like, here’s what you could have, right? If you support these kinds of things, this is what you get, you can have, you know, your kids, when they graduate from OSU, they can live in a place like this, and they can walk a block and a half to a park bikeway that’s on a park that’s along a river and they can bike downtown for a concert or whatever. I mean, it literally comes down to creating changes that people actually can value and, and, and really take advantage of, if you embrace that kind of thinking in those kind of changes. Certainly doesn’t happen overnight. But you know, you have to start somewhere. And you know, the more that kind of thinking and the more that acceptance and understanding and that kind of development in that kind of way, in another, you know, five 810 20 years is gonna make a lot of a big difference.
Tim Fulton 45:08
And I normally ask these questions in the reverse order. But what is Columbus doing a good job at?
Jonathan Barnes 45:15
Well, a lot of things. I mean, I’m always very, I used to be surprised, I’m not surprised anymore, I’m just happy that there are a lot of, there are a lot of sort of, you know, I’ll just say kind of younger generations, right, that are, you know, moving here and there getting jobs, and they’re living here. And they’re, you know, buying and going to places that, you know, that, that, that make kind of cool neighborhoods and all that, that are more of those people doing really cool things. I mean, you know, startups and restaurants and people that make stuff and all that. And it’s happening in a really, and it has been in a really kind of important way. Now, for some time, I mean, people that move here now, like, you know, somebody in their 30s moved here for their job, they would say short north, that’s cool, you know, each fragment, and that’s cool. But they don’t know, like what it took for us to get here. Right? So kudos to all those people that just like, they didn’t wait to, you know, to get financing to get a bank loan to open up a shop to do this. They just did it. Right. That has happened in you know, hundreds, if not 1000s of ways in Columbus that have made this a better city. So we’re doing the kind of grassroots stuff really well, I think, and you can see how that’s happening. So that’s, uh, it’s because of that, that places like, East franklinton is what it is, right? Uh huh. You know, it’s the people, you know, at the, at the 400, you know, building over there. And all those were businesses that are in development, now. It’s coming, that came from sort of a grassroots kind of interest and toward development. And in that way, anyway, we’re doing that that stuff really, really well. And the other things we’re doing well is we are finally, thank you to Columbus, rewriting our, like, 1959 zoning code that served Columbus Well, for a couple of decades, and then not. So that’s, that’s big. That’s a big deal. And you know, zoning code, like, you know, a lot of people yawn about that. But in the end, that’s going to make things, I think, better for us. So
Tim Fulton 47:27
well, it’s what allows things to happen.
Jonathan Barnes 47:30
In an easier in a more, I would say, easier way. But in a better way to write, you can make sort of projects happen, that don’t fit the zoning code with a lot, a lot of effort. And we’ve been doing that for a long time. But it slows everything down. And I will tell you, that people that come here from other cities, where things are happening at a, at a pace that’s more suitable for a growing city like Columbus, right? They sort of just shake their heads, like, Are you kidding me? It’s like, you people have a variance for everything. That’s not the way to do it.
Tim Fulton 48:05
Right? One, and it allows for things to get stopped up.
Jonathan Barnes 48:10
Sure, exactly. So it’s not about you know, it’s not about getting around anything. It’s just about accepting what things how things really should happen, and making it that process just less cumbersome. People still have a voice and they need a voice in, in these developments in these projects in their own neighborhoods. They need a voice and they will have a voice. But there’s just a lot of the noise, I think needs to and should sort of come out of it.
Tim Fulton 48:37
Yeah. Well, and hopefully it makes things easier and more equitable as well. Exactly. It should. It should. Mr. Barnes, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you very much. It was fun. Thank you for listening to Confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast comm please Rate, Subscribe, share this episode of the confluence cast with your friends, family, contacts, enemies, your favorite architect. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast calm. Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson. Our producer is Philip Cogley. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.