Back to Campus: The new High Street

Joel Oliphint
Photo by Rob Hardin

Ever since Campus Partners, the redevelopment arm of Ohio State, began spearheading an overhaul of North High Street near the heart of OSU, critics have lobbed complaints about the “whitewashing” of campus, which really isn't fair. It's more beige.

The onslaught of tan and brown begins at Lane Avenue and High Street with Wilson Place, a Hometeam Properties “luxury” apartment complex with Starbucks, Chipotle and other first-floor retail. “Free burritos” and “Free coffee” stickers on the windows entice students to inquire within. Noodles, White Castle and an Amazon store sit adjacent on High Street (directly across from several huge, new-ish Ohio State dorms). “Campus living doesn't get much more luxurious than this,” the Wilson Place website boasts.

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“Luxury student housing” actually starts a bit north of Lane with the View on Pavey Square project at High and Northwood Avenue, which is still under construction. Giant swaths of purple gypsum board currently loom over the six historic buildings the Old North community rallied to save.

Also north of Lane, in the spot previously occupied by the Scarlet and Grey Cafe at High and West Norwich Avenue, you'll find Threes Above High, a new bar from the people behind Too's Spirits Under High, which was booted from its previous location just south of 16th Avenue last fall. Other beloved student watering holes faced similar fates. Chumley's was forced out of its spot between 16th and 17th avenues but found a new location several blocks south at High and 9th Avenue. The O Patio and Pub at East 15th Avenue is gone, relocating to West Lane Avenue this fall and rebranding as the O on Lane Woodfired Pizza.

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Within the last couple of years, a bevy of other onetime campus establishments disappeared from the now-scooter-laden stretch of High Street from Lane Avenue down to South Campus Gateway: Used Kids Records (now further north on Summit Street), Evolved Body Art (next to the new Used Kids), Bernie's Bagels & Distillery (RIP), Johnny Go's House of Music, Charleys and more. And it's been 10 years (!) since the departure of Larry's, which is now a Moe's Southwest Grill; next to Moe's is the brand-new Barbacoa Mexican Fusion & Bar (previously Rippers) where, on a recent stroll down High, an employee shouted $4 margarita specials at passersby.

At Woodruff Avenue is the View on High, another “luxury living” apartment complex with first-floor retail (Wendy's, FedEx, GNC). The Wellington, a giant tan-on-bottom/brick-on-top Edwards Communities apartment complex anchored by a first-floor Target and Chick-fil-A, sits at 17th Avenue and High, burying any trace of Bernie's.

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Farther south are more new apartment complexes and rotating storefronts at the Gateway University District (Campus Partners' initial foray into the borification of High Street), with forthcoming additions like Abercrombie & Fitch, Good Night John Boy and Elia Athenian Grill. The Ugly Tuna Saloona recently departed Gateway and plans to reopen elsewhere.

A few remnants of old campus are still intact on High Street, notably Buckeye Donuts, which remains refreshingly unchanged. Same goes for the Library Bar just north of Lane. And the Newport Music Hall still hosts rock shows year-round in a historic building that began its life as a movie theater in 1923.

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The grittiest spot, however, is the giant hole in the ground across from the Wexner Center. Expect to see some luxurious, gleaming beige in its place soon.