Living in the University District: Pros and Cons

I’m not from Columbus originally,  but I have pretty good knowledge of the city and surrounding area from the eight months I lived here during an internship. So even though I love the Short North and my former neighborhood of German Village, and I have friends living in Grandview and Clintonville, I picked an apartment in the University District.

I call my part of town “north campus” when I describe it to my classmates, but technically it’s “University District 1,” or to be less Hunger Games about it, “Old North Columbus.”

Talking to my fellow MBA students at Fisher, I’ve found that most of them either live at Fisher Commons, the apartment complex specifically for Fisher students, or in nearby neighborhoods and suburbs like Grandview, Victorian Village or Easton. A few also live in the University District (“UD”), but it’s not many.

Obviously living in the UD is not for everyone. For instance, those with partners and families might be better suited to the quieter suburban areas rather than the thick undergraduate culture near campus. And those who need a yard for pets won’t find many options where I live and could opt for more green space in a different part of town. I would never try to convince people who are happily living in a different part of town that they should move closer to campus, but I still love my apartment and enjoy my neighborhood. So now that I’ve been living here for about a month and a half, I came up with a handy list the benefits and drawbacks of living in the University District to help future students decide if living near campus would work for you.

PROS!

  1. Travel time– After dealing with rush hour traffic for the last two years as I drove 30 minutes to and from work, I didn’t want to spend another two years driving 20-30 minutes into campus every day. That’s time in the morning that I could use for an extra half hour of sleep, and I always need more sleep. Plus, the frustration of sitting in traffic is now replaced with exercise and fresh air as I ride my bike or walk the 5 blocks to Fisher. When one of my teammates was 15 minutes late to Marketing class last week, he told me that it took him nearly an hour to drive in from Easton that morning because of all the traffic. “How long does it take you to get here?” he asked me. “About six or seven minutes,” I said. He shook his head in disbelief.
  2. Travel cost– I drive a relatively fuel-efficient car, but as I learned from my previous commute, even at 27 mpg I was using 3/4 of my tank on just my commute. It was almost 300 miles a week! Add in the milage on my already 100,000+ car and the pricey parking passes and I knew I’d be saving a lot of cash living close enough to walk or ride my bike.
  3. Rent prices– Before I’d officially decided to live near campus, I researched apartments all over town and found that most of them were outside my price range. Yes, Victorian Village and The Short North are awesome areas with nice places to live, but $900 a month for a 1-bedroom was breaking the bank for me. I don’t plan on having a job for my first semester and possibly first year of my MBA, so I’m probably on a tighter budget than most. Knowing that I could live for cheaper while being closer to school made living in the University District especially attractive.
  4. Restaurant and bar options– As you’ll see below, I’m cheating a little and including this as a pro and con, since there are good and bad aspects. One of the good parts of living in such a student-concentrated area is the huge number of food and drink options within walking or biking distance. Not just all the college staples like McDonalds, Cane’s, Jimmy Johns and Pita Pit, but awesome authentic ethnic choices for Indian, Korean, Greek, Chinese and Mexican cuisine. One of my favorite restaurants in the whole city, Taj Mahal, is four blocks from my apartment, which is wonderful and dangerous at the same time. This is also true for bars. There are dozens of sports bars to choose from, if that’s your thing, but there are also cool dive bars and even some more upscale options nearby as well.

CONS!

  1. Inconsiderate neighbors– The University District is populated with mostly undergraduate students, so most of my neighbors are younger and in a different phase of their lives than I am. Five years ago, I might not have minded the loud music at 2 a.m. (I might have even been the one playing it), but now that I’m older and taking school more seriously, noise disruptions can be derailing when I’m trying to study more and get to bed earlier. Like the noise pollution, many residents in the UD don’t seem concerned with littering. It’s not uncommon to see empty beer cans strewn on the grass in front of nearby houses, though trash pickup does come through for regular clean-ups. Personally, I’ve made peace with the fact that living in this area means dealing with these issues, and I go to the library when my neighbors are loud and watch where I step to avoid trash. But if these sound like deal-breakers to you, then living near campus probably isn’t a good idea.
  2. Intense apartment hunting required– If you start looking at apartments near campus and think, “Wow, all these places are dumps,” you’re not wrong. To use some concepts from my Economics class, because the demand for housing near campus is higher than the supply, the landlords have market power and therefore have little incentive to keep their properties in good condition because they’ll find renters no matter what. I looked at hundreds of places online and only  eight or nine places were worth seeing in person. Of those, only one was somewhere I would actually want to live; the others were dirty, had appliances older than I am and generally suffered from a lack of care and upkeep. So when I found that one apartment I wanted, I scooped it up immediately. Not only has my apartment been recently renovated with new carpet and fixtures, it has air conditioning, a dishwasher, a disposal and an in-unit washer and dryer. For less than $600/month, it’s a steal. Apartments like this aren’t the norm in the UD, but they are out there if you have the time and resources to hunt for them.
  3. Parking– I’m lucky enough to have  a parking lot directly behind my apartment for residents-only, but in general, parking near campus can be a hassle and a hazard. Driving down the narrow one-way streets, you’ll see cars crammed into every possible spot, and trying to turn onto a busy street is nearly impossible when a line of vehicles is parked directly in your line of vision. Even more unnerving is the number of cars with scratches and dings. I don’t know if the marks were inflicted as a result of being parked in such a high-traffic area, but it’s enough to make me worry. There are also lots of parking rules, like street-sweeping days and permit-only areas that need to be followed if you don’t want a big towing ticket.
  4. Restaurant and bar options– Like I said above, the number of options for food and drink is huge near campus, but the downside is that they’re typically very busy and most of the customers are the population of undergraduate students. If I want to get away from the throngs of people and accompanying noise, it usually means going to a different part of town which have chiller crowds. If it’s just my boyfriend and me getting a quick drink on a weeknight, we’ll pick a campus bar. However, if I had friends visiting for a weekend and wanted to show them a good time, I would definitely take them somewhere like The Short North where we’d have a better chance at getting a table to ourselves and having an audible conversation.

I could probably keep digging for more pros and cons, but I think this is a good starter, and I’d be happy to address specific questions or issues in the comments. Overall, I think that if your primary needs are space and quiet, living in the University District is probably not for you. However, for those looking for convenience and lower costs, the UD can offer some good housing options if you put in the effort to look for them. Even with the negatives I listed above, I love where I live and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.


5 Responses to “Living in the University District: Pros and Cons”


  1. 1 Rob September 18, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Taj Mahal rocks! The saag paneer there is fantastic. That on white jasmine rice? Getoutoftown – it’s good …

  2. 2 Meryl Swiatek September 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    It’s so good! When I was an undergrad at OU down in Athens, I always tried to make a stop at Taj Mahal when I came through Columbus. Now I’m so close!

  3. 3 Anna E. September 19, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I’m sad to say that I’ve realized if you’re street parking often, it kind of equals scratches and dings on the front and back of your car. There’s a particularly offensive volvo station wagon on my block that bumps INTO your car to know it’s pulled up far enough, and I’ve got bolt marks from their license plate in my trunk to prove it.

    I’ve been trying to park in my parking lot spot more, but I have the about the furthest spot from my door, and it’s tough when you’re lugging groceries in.

    Great blog post Meryl!

  4. 4 Britney September 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Your review of the campus area sounds kind of bitchy.

  5. 5 Meryl Swiatek September 30, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I’m sorry it came off that way. As I said in the post, I really love where I live and I wouldn’t want to live in any other part of town. There are some challenges to living in the campus area as a grad student, but there are also good aspects I tried to highlight. I’m sure the same is true for any part of town.

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