I live downtown. I work downtown. And I play downtown.
You could say I am more vested in downtown Columbus than I am in my 401(k).
When you see newspaper headlines that question the safety of downtown, it causes concern.
And it should.
Sunday: “5 Local Soldiers Charged in Brutal Beating.”
Monday: “Shooting on Broadway Injures 4.”
A senseless beating and a shooting -- not a good weekend.
Before jumping to a spin-doctor defense or the unfounded conclusion that downtown is a lawless throwback to Phenix City, circa 1950, there is one thing you need to know about the place branded “Uptown.”
It has a seriously split personality.
During the day and early evening hours, it is one thing. A week ago, sitting at a table in the 1000 block of Broadway, it was easy to enjoy a Saturday afternoon. There were people on bikes — motorcycles and bicycles. People were in Brother’s General Store buying ice cream. Ride On bikes was moving product. There were downtown birthday parties and college students and their parents walking the sidewalk.
It was family-friendly and laid back. It was a picture postcard.
But weekend nights — and Thursday starts the weekend for those of you so old that you thought it started on Friday — you can feel the change starting about 9:30.
At first, it’s subtle. Those who show up for dinner and a performance at the Springer or the RiverCenter give way to a younger, more excitable group.
The energy has more of an edge. After midnight, that edge sharpens by the half hour — just like any bar district in any town.
Take a look at the two incidents that happened over the weekend. About 2:30 Saturday morning, police say four soldiers jumped a former soldier, beating him severely and putting him in the hospital. Sunday morning just before 3, four men were hit by gunfire in front of Mario’s, a Broadway restaurant that stays open late, and two of them were seriously injured. A Phenix City man was arrested and charged with four counts of aggravated assault.
You ever heard the saying, “Nothing good happens after midnight?”
In both cases those accused of the assaults knew the victims. It does not appear random.
But here is the rub.
More people are living down here. And many of those folks are students. And more activity is coming with the Chattahoochee River whitewater course.
A while back I met an artist erecting a sculpture in the Broadway median and asked his impression of downtown.
“It looks like it’s dressed up for something that hasn’t happened yet,” he said.
That was profound. No doubt, it is dressed up.
Now we have to make sure it is for a grand ball and not a funeral.