Big red arrows lead way to The Village, Uptown or Lakebottom

This red arrow points west to The Village on 13th Street in Columbus. It’s part of MidTown Inc. plan to connect the area with Uptown.
This red arrow points west to The Village on 13th Street in Columbus. It’s part of MidTown Inc. plan to connect the area with Uptown.

It makes no difference whether you are traveling east or west on 13th Street in Columbus, you’ve probably seen four giant red arrows between 18th Avenue and Warren Williams Road pointing toward Uptown or Lakebottom Park from one direction or the other.

That was the goal of MidTown Inc. as part of its Minimum Grid Mobility Plan, but this week’s focus is aimed at answering two big questions from residents posting more than 100 comments on the Columbus Concerned Citizen Forum: whether the four structures qualify as art, and will the project require any public money?

Well, the answer is yes to the first question, according to Anne R. King, executive director of MidTown Inc., a charitable, nonprofit organization. The answer to the latter is no public money is used in the project. Grant money came from the Knight Fund at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley Inc.

The project dates to 2014, when the Knight Foundation sought the best idea to make cities more successful. MidTown proposed an idea to create a minimum grid to better connect people and places in MidTown and Uptown. It became one of 32 national winners of the first Knight Cities Challenge. The grants were possible in 26 cities, including Columbus, where Knight-Ridder newspapers were published before the chain was sold in 2006.

It took almost 10 months of public meetings, forums, surveys, interviews and other studies to come up with the plan that’s taking shape on 13th Street. The plan connects pedestrians, bicycle riders and cars on a street that’s been converted from four lanes to three with two bike lanes.

“This is just adding light, fun and attention to a connection that works for people and cars,” King said. “That has been part of the fun in this.”

Lakebottom Park and The Village on 13th were identified as two of the community’s favorite places. The arrows are interactive art, drawing attention to the area and inviting people to a public space. Yes, you can sit on the arrows placed along the walking trail.

The arrows were designed by Will Barnes, an architect and board member with the organization. Construction was completed on March 31. They are made of marine-grade plywood and painted to help them withstand wet weather.

King said more features are coming on the arrows. Locations will be placed on the structures to identify The Village, Lakebottom and Uptown, fewer that two miles away.

Some comments on the project have reached King, though she missed many on the forum’s website. People are finding the area is a much calmer place even for drivers on the street. “It’s been a seamless transition and everything we hoped for,” King said. “Different modes of transportation can coexist comfortably.”

If you live in a metropolitan city like Columbus, it can’t hurt to recognize a connection in a neighborhood with another one nearby. That’s what kept me from getting lost when I was in college in Los Angeles. I was told that you’ll end up at the ocean by going too far west. Too far north, you’ll end up in Hollywood or Malibu.

If you cross the Chattahoochee River, you will end up in what Mayor Eddie Lowe calls “positively” Phenix City. So watch those arrows.