Momentum Building in Historic Old Oaks Neighborhood

Brent Warren Brent Warren Momentum Building in Historic Old Oaks NeighborhoodPhoto by Walker Evans.
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While the campus of Nationwide Children’s Hospital continues to expand – with two new six-story buildings currently under construction – redevelopment on a much smaller scale just a few blocks to the east has residents and city officials optimistic about the potential turnaround of a historic neighborhood.

The Old Oaks Historic District (bordered by I-70 to the north, Livingston Avenue to the south, and Ohio Avenue and Kimball Place to west and east) is starting to attract interest from both investors and individuals, including people who are renting in places like German Village but can’t afford to buy there.

Lucy Wolfe, a local realtor who is active in the area, counts nine sales in Old Oaks since last March, with prices for single family homes creeping north of $200,000 for the first time.

“Old Oaks is doing great in residential sales,” she said, adding that one of her clients, LSE Investors, brought renewed attention to the area with the rehab of a house on Wilson Avenue in 2014. “They were the catalyst that started the whole trend.”

Wolfe said she’s aware of three other investors currently rehabbing properties in the neighborhood.

Cynthia Rickman of the city’s Development Department confirmed that the district, which was established in 1988, has recently seen a noticeable uptick in renovation activity. As in other historic districts around the city, any exterior work done to a building must first receive a certificate of appropriateness from the city’s Historic Preservation Office.

“HPO staff has seen an increased interest and activity level in the area” she said, with 38 projects approved in 2015. Rickman added that the projects cover a range of renovation-related work, “including roofing repairs, restoration of box gutter systems, painting and landscaping, new garages and home additions.”

The overall vacancy rate in the neighborhood has also dropped, from about a third of the 300-plus buildings in the district in 2012, to around 12% vacant now, according to the city.

Randy Black, the city’s Historic Preservation Officer, offered some context on the area at a neighborhood meeting last year; “Old Oaks has an energy similar to what German Village and Victorian Village went through,” he said.

Wolfe hopes that the neighborhood can capitalize on that energy and build on it, especially when it comes to the Livingston Avenue commercial corridor. She said that LSE Investors, which is headed by local resident Tom Lang, has tentative plans to open a neighborhood tavern in the former Resch’s Bakery building at 1029 East Livingston.

“Parsons is getting attention but I think Livingston will be another new up and coming area,” she said.

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