In this first installment of our new Member of the Month feature, get to know Jonathan Barnes, an original member of ULI Columbus and currently the District Council’s Chair for Mission Advancement.
The Columbus native is founder and Principal of Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design, a renowned architectural firm integrating technical expertise and creative design solutions in a multi-disciplinary approach. Barnes’ illustrious career began in 1986 in Chicago, as an architect with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. He moved to Milan, Italy in 1990 to work with the famous Italian architect and designer, Michele De Lucchi, before returning to Columbus in 1993 to launch Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design. Barnes was recently named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Jonathan Barnes, Principal, Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design
Resides: Upper Arlington
Family: 2 children, one at Ohio State University and one in high school
Favorite restaurant: Lindey’s (I’ve been going there since it opened) and Service Bar at Middle West Spirits.
Favorite book: The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan F.P. Rose (a prominent ULI member)
If I could meet one person: Leonardo da Vinci (Just to see if he would understand my Italian)
Favorite thing about Columbus: To see all the cool new businesses opening up. Mostly bars and restaurants and shops. But in the most unlikely places, making or selling the most unlikely things – even if it’s a really great cocktail. I love taking advantage of that and not having to do it. Because I’ve been there, I was that young person trying to break into new things. Now it’s great just to read about, oh, there’s a cool new coffee shop over here. And I’m completely impressed with the whole generation and the way they make things happen without asking first.
How long have you been a ULI Columbus member?
Barnes: Actually since day one. I was one of the folks that showed up to the very first meeting in 2007, when a group of people got together just with the idea of forming a chapter. And then it took some time – a year or so after that – before we became an actual chapter.
What would you say to somebody who is considering becoming a member?
Barnes: If you’re thinking about being involved, I would say you’re on the right track. There are a lot of different reasons to join. If you’re doing it just for networking, that works. If you’re doing it to find out what’s going on, what are the real estate trends and what kind of things should you be paying attention to, that works. If you’re going to have access to the workshops online and other kind of research resources online, that works. So everybody can find their way to get what they want out of it. You can just join and go to all the great programming we do and go home and say, that was fun. That’s great. You can tell us what you think from time to time. You can join one of our committees or groups for the time that you’re able to be involved, and then step away. That’s the one thing I stress to everybody: I don’t want anyone to do more than they think they can do, because that means they won’t be doing it for long. And I want people to be involved for a long time, contribute and be happy about it. Anything that people can contribute, the better. Because the more ideas we have, the more comfortable we are that we’re paying attention to the things that matter to everybody, and it’s not just a small group of people that think they know everything. I would say give it a try. Once you’re involved, the door is open and the kind of things that you’re exposed to are really, I think, enlightening.
What has Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design gained from ULI over the years?
Barnes: I would say it’s been tremendous, for me and for my practice. It’s definitely a give-and-take. People join in the way that I’ve joined, in order to give back. But also to learn and benefit, not only from the kind of knowledge and expertise that you find at ULI but from the connections. It’s both. And I’ve benefited from the things I’ve learned, from their research efforts and from people that I’ve met. And I’ve applied that to my own practice, and to my own understanding and education around urban development.
Do you recall a specific example of a time that you benefited from a piece of data or a connection you made through ULI?
Barnes: Sure. I have an architecture practice that’s primarily urban, we do a lot of mixed-use projects. And it’s important to have an understanding of the markets that you’re serving, whether it’s residential, or office, or something else. And it’s always kind of a moving target. So the question is always out there, from our clients primarily, what do we do? What kind of residential, what kind of apartments, what kind of amenities in the projects, what demographic should we be going after? What’s coming? Because you don’t build for today, you build for whenever you’re finished and then years after. So that’s one of the big questions or guesses, rather, for any of our projects and any of our clients: What’s coming? And I’ve felt very comfortable with what I know from ULI, and the kind of information I’m able to get from ULI, about what to expect. On a national scale but also locally. What’s coming? Who should we be building for? And it’s a great resource for that, and lots of other things.
What do you do as Chair for Mission Advancement?
Barnes: I’ve been in that position here locally for about four years and I’ve also been the national co-chair for all the Chairs for Mission Advancement for about the last three years. My role with the District Council is to be a liaison between the local District Council and national. So I’m a liaison between the content and thinking that happens in Washington – letting people here know what they’re thinking about, what they see as trends, what they’re paying attention to – at the same time I’m telling national the things that matter to Columbus. What they study, what they pay attention to, has a lot to do with what we are concerned with and paying attention to here.
What excites you about Columbus?
Barnes: I’ve been practicing in Columbus for almost 25 years and I’ve never seen this kind of activity, and this kind of excitement, and this kind of growth. Growth by itself is exciting, but when you see the kind of effects it has – as in long-term effects, how it’s going to change the city for decades and decades to come – it’s wonderful to be present and be a part of that, and to contribute.