29 March 2007

Columbus - downtown kids article

The Columbus Dispatch : City kids

Still, as their daughter prepares to enter first grade, the Maniaces, including father Jim, are contemplating a move to Bexley.

"This building is wonderful, but it's not set up for families," said Mrs. Maniace, who noted that Alison sleeps in a converted den.

The couple would like to stay Downtown, in housing better-suited to families.

"We're looking to see what is out there," she said.

With more than 4,300 Downtown-area units constructed or planned since 2002, the choices would seem to be plentiful.

Yet the lofts and multistory condos that make up many new projects cater mostly to empty nesters and childless professional couples.

"Buyers have one thing in common: no kids," said Marc Conte, director of research and information for the Downtown Development Resource Center.

Perceptions of high crime rates and substandard public schools make the Downtown market a tough sell to families, according to developers.

The impressions about crime and schools don't match the realities, parents and developers said.

Stacey Blasko, who lives in Victorian Village with her husband and three children younger than 7, heads Midtown Parents and Kids, a play group that provides support and companionship for more than two dozen families.

"Our kids are the only ones their ages on our block, so it's hard to find playmates for them," she said. "If we lived in Bexley, we would probably have a half-dozen families on our block.

"Our goal is to help people stay in urban neighborhoods. We would have been much less likely to stay without friends who were also parents going through our same issues."

Play-group members Antony Shuttleworth and Janet Aski live with their 4-year-old son, Julian, near a bar in Victorian Village.

"The noise sometimes wakes him up at night and exposes him to behaviors and language we'd rather not have him see or hear," Shuttleworth said.

"Otherwise, we like it here and see it as a child-friendly place."

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