If perception is reality, the reality is harsh: Living Downtown just isn't worth it.

If perception is reality, the reality is harsh: Living Downtown just isn't worth it.

The What Columbus Needs survey respondents coughed up a combination of factors keeping Downtown from becoming a bustling residential hub, chief among them the belief that the area lacks attractive, affordable housing options for young professionals.

One respondent put it plainly: "The housing Downtown is too [expensive] for the young adult that just got a new job or just got out of college."

Columbus Urban Ventures Coordinator Mike Brown said help is on the way.

Before the Arena District began the revitalization process in 2000, the Downtown housing market was dead, Brown said. But as housing built momentum throughout the decade, developers began to see dollar signs at the prospect of high-end luxury condos.

"The housing market was just different at the time," Brown said. "They were trying to maximize their profits."

That boom went bust along with the rest of the economy, and now Columbus is saddled with seemingly limitless square footage of empty condo space. But affordable options do exist Downtown, Brown said - and more are coming soon.

He noted the less expensive units in Downtown's southeast quadrant near CCAD, the project under construction at River South and the Edwards Companies' Neighborhood Launch development near the Gay Street corridor.

Even if a fuller spectrum of options is on its way, that's only one part of the equation. Many survey respondents complained that Downtown is missing the amenities necessary for a legitimate urban-living experience - nightclubs, drugstores and neighborhood markets open late and within walking distance.

"Build some kind of grocery store between German Village and Victorian Village," advised one respondent. "It doesn't have to be a big one, just something central."

The city's position is that residents come first, and retail follows. "We need to just increase that density of people," Brown said.

Some dispute the city's take on the complicated chicken-and-egg process of neighborhood development. Kacey Campbell, project coordinator for the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, thinks enough of a residential base already exists Downtown that developers should be responding with more amenities now.

Consider the grocery store question. Brown and others have argued that grocery options abound just outside Downtown, but Campbell thinks driving to the Brewery District or Victorian Village defeats the purpose of Downtown living.

"The reason people live in a downtown is so that they have things within walking distance or within multimodal transportation options," Campbell said. "I do think that a specialty small grocery shop would be supported by the residents Downtown."

Brown and Campbell agree that Gay Street's business, retail and residential combination exemplifies Downtown moving in the right direction.

"These things take time," Brown said.

Do you think Downtown housing is affordable and attractive for young adults?

32% yes

68% no

What could be done to improve Downtown housing options?

"More businesses (groceries, restaurants, gyms, coffee shops) that cater to locals for longer hours - i.e., after 5 p.m."

"Renovated older buildings - rather than shiny new condos - that are rented at low rates."

"A supermarket within walking distance."