Thursday, May 20, 2010

Columbus Alive!: The Crack House

original article found at:

Sensory Overload: The Crack House

I intended to review a concert at the Crack House in this column, but the show didn't happen because the basement was boarded up. In fact, the DIY arts and music space probably won't ever host another event, as the longstanding CCAD-area structure is set for demolition as soon as possible.

The building, one of two structures on the quarter-acre site at 56 N. Grant Ave., has stood for about 100 years, according to resident Jonathan Gibby. It used to be a hotel - perhaps a brothel, Gibby speculated - and Ernest Hemingway is rumored to have stayed there.

For the last 30 years, it's functioned as a fine artists' residency and an underground music venue, hosting bands from around the country and the world.

"It's a really big part of life down here," Gibby said.

But it's also kind of a dump.

"Really, dilapidated is probably the best word," said Paul Ghidotti, executive vice president of the Daimler Group, who closed on the property May 11.

Daimler plans to knock down the buildings and redevelop the site as a seven-story student apartment housing project with a gallery space on the ground level. The goal is to have it open for the 2011-12 school year, but Ghidotti said Daimler is allowing residents to finish out their leases before they proceed with demolition, so the project might not be ready by next fall if people choose to stay put.

Most of the residents had accepted buyouts and found other living arrangements, but as of last week's postponed show dates, a few were holding out, hoping to maintain the Crack House's idyllic bohemian lifestyle a little longer.

Gibby is not looking forward to giving up his ultra-cheap $290 rent, which helped him afford CCAD tuition when he was enrolled. And he doesn't want to see the campus lose a unique presence in favor of a facility he fears will be bland and sterile.

"There's nothing like this building anywhere on campus. Most of their stuff is very day-care," Gibby said. "This is - I mean, it's not really 'adult,' but it's at least a different scene."

By now, the holdouts are making a fuss less to save their hangout and more to ensure it's remembered as one of the earliest DIY spaces in Columbus - a location that was hosting music and art shows years before longstanding spots like Skylab and the Legion of Doom.

"At this point it's pretty much lost," said Tony Hoyt, who has been attending events at the Crack House for almost a decade. "This is more of a commemoration."

Ghidotti said Daimler is planning to include a design element from the current structure in the lobby of the new apartment building as a way to honor the building's history.

written by: Chris DeVille

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