There are very few individuals who can lay claim to envisioning a robust, mixed use community amidst a forgotten and worn out stretch of North High Street and tenaciously transforming it over a period of 30 years, long before others saw any inkling of the Short North Arts District’s potential.
Sanborn “Sandy” Wood not only saw it, he championed it, drawing upon the traditional brick and mortar tools of a developer while simultaneously working to nurture a sense of community where none previously existed.
“We worked with the neighbors from the bottom and started building the community up and that made it strong because neighbors had a real stake in making their community a better place to live,” said Wood founder of The Wood Companies, a real estate and development firm.
Today, the Short North is touted by the likes of the New York Times travel section and National Geographic as a one-of-a-kind destination with an eclectic blend of storekeepers, restaurateurs, artisans and craftspeople. It is home to both young and old, Millennials and Baby Boomers.
“The Wood Companies have been part of the story of the Short North since the very beginning,” notes Betsy Pandora, executive director of The Short North Alliance. “If it weren’t for Sandy, his vision, his leadership and community building, it would not be what it is today.”
From the start, preservation was an essential ethos for the Wood Companies. In fact, the company was one of the first to use the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit in the Short North, recalls Judy William, historic preservation consultant.
They are credited with saving some of the area’s most iconic structures. Take a walk down North High Street and that dedication to preserving the character and history of the area is readily apparent in the many iconic structures that Sandy and his son Mark redeveloped while preserving their historic nature.
The restaurant North Star anchors a three-story mixed use development spanning 120 feet of North High Street. A former car dealership at High Street and Hubbard Avenue is home to Tigertree, Homage and the Hubbard Grille. The Diplomat at the southwest corner of High Street and Buttles Avenue has been transformed from dingy offices to restaurants, retail and apartments with luxury finishes. The classically restored building at the northeast corner of High Street and Lincoln is home to Jeni’s Ice Cream as well as upscale boutiques, Rowe and Ladybird. Further south, the Carriage House building houses some of the area’s most popular galleries, stores and restaurants.
More recently, the company has restored the Dennison, a former hotel on Dennison Avenue just north of Goodale Park, into luxury apartments and built an adjoining building, the Sanborn, that looks as if it has been there for a century. By using lasting materials like stone and brick, the building evokes a sense of history and timelessness, a hallmark of the Wood Companies, says, David Vottero, director of architectural design at Schooley Caldwell.
Wood’s company is also credited with bringing public art to Columbus and working to sustain a thriving local arts community. In fact, Wood was instrumental in founding the Short North’s signature event, the Gallery Hop, which draws thousands of people from across the region on the first Saturday of each month.
Wood received a BS in Industrial Management from the University of Kansas in Lawrence in 1960 and an MBA in finance and marketing from Northwestern University in Chicago in 1964.
He and his wife Barbara moved to Columbus in 1964 when he accepted a position with Huntington National Bank where he stayed until 1971. He became executive vice president of American Bancorporation in 1971, served as President of Citizens Savings and Loan, and later served as senior vice president and secretary of Park Federal Savings and Loan until 1982. In 1982, he founded The Wood Companies. He retired in 2007.
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