The Diamond Designers: How to Think Like a City Planner; City DNA

  1. 2207-209 Neil Avenue

The Neil Avenue lot was 34 feet wide and 73 feet long with a front setback of 12’ 6” inches and a side setback measuring 1’ 6”. We estimated the lot coverage to be 85%, since the house took up a majority of the lot to the side and the back, with more space in the front. We measured the sidewalk width to be 6’, and the right of way to be 85’ 4”.

There is a parking lot behind the house, however we believe this parking lot is for residents of Harrison Apartments, so it is likely residents of the Neil Avenue property park on the street. The alley to the side of the house is most likely very loud and busy because of the likely traffic to and from the parking lot. There are also dumpsters in the alley, either for the neighboring bar or for the apartments, contributing to the alley making the property a less desirable place to live.

This is a residential property surrounded by a few commercial buildings, and the Harrison Apartments. We believe the area was planned properly, and the surrounding restaurant and gas station are compatible with the neighborhood. The busy Lane Avenue is blocked by the Harrison Apartments, which could potentially block a little of the noise coming from that area. Living at 2207-2209 Neil Avenue is beneficial because it is close to campus, restaurants and the highway, but the alley and being close to a busy street could be a drawback for the residents.

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  1. Norwich Avenue

Norwich Avenue appears to be a quieter, and calmer neighborhood compared to Neil Avenue. The larger front and side setbacks, allowing for larger yards, contribute to this change in character. Additionally, the one way street reduces traffic which allows for a quieter neighborhood. The neighborhood seems to be moderately well lit at night, judging by the amount of street lights, which we estimated to be 125’ apart. The telephone and cable wires are above ground, which is most likely due to the age of the area. This neighborhood may have been developed before underground wiring became more popular.


  1. Norwich Avenue’s Streets and Sidewalks

The sidewalks on Norwich Avenue are narrower than those on Neil, measuring only 4’ wide. These sidewalks feel narrower than the standard, so two people passing each other is possible but not ideal. The street is 24’ wide, which allows for street parking on both sides and enough room for a car to comfortably pass through. However, the slightly more narrow street helps slow traffic through the neighborhood, since you do have to be aware of the parked cars. We think the on street parking in this case is effective since the street is wide enough for it, however there are many surrounding neighborhoods that utilize street parking that would probably benefit from driveways instead.


  1. Setbacks on Norwich Avenue

On Norwich Avenue, the front setback averages somewhere between 8’ to 10’, and the side setbacks average around 6’, depending on the specific property. Compared to properties on Neil Avenue, properties of Norwich have relatively large side setbacks, which creates more space in between homes, but the front setbacks are smaller, allowing less of a front yard.


  1. 128-134 W. Norwich Avenue

The entire group felt that the footprint and setback of 128-134 W. Norwich Avenue do not fit well within the neighborhood. The parking lot in the front of this building makes the front setback larger than the rest of the buildings on the street and makes the street seem disconnected. The rest of the street has relatively equal setbacks, but this apartment complex breaks up the street and seems out of place.


6. Williams Street and Alley

The parking configuration on Williams Street and in the alley is neither practical or easy to use and additionally takes away from the aesthetic of the neighborhood from the street (see comments on 1281-134 W. Norwich). The cars parked along the building are parked in a different direction than those parked across the street and behind the building, which could lead to cars being hit more easily. It makes the parking spaces difficult to navigate, and not easily accessible. Additionally, the lot behind the building is arranged so cars can be parked in by other cars if the lot is filled. To address this issue we feel that the parking lot in front of 128-134 W. Norwich Avenue should be eliminated, that building should be moved toward the street, and the space to the rear of the building should be laid out as a standard parking lot, and if necessary additional parking spaces could be added on one side of the alley only.

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  1. Northwood Avenue and Williams Street

At one point in the neighborhood, we believe that the brick walls lining the street served as a neighborhood divider, to mark the change from one neighborhood to another. However, now these neighborhoods all seem to blend together and serve primarily as off-campus student housing, so the walls don’t make any contribution to the layout and overall design of the area. The brick is dirty and some have moss growing, so it doesn’t seem appropriate that they are still standing as a decoration. We feel it is especially inappropriate for the building at the corner of Northwood and Williams Street, which is run down and not very well kept at this point.


  1. Measurements of Northwood Avenue

Northwood Avenue’s streets measured at about 22’ , which is slightly narrower than Norwich, but not considerably. Cars can still drive in between parked cars on both sides with considerable room to spare. The sidewalk on the north side of Northwood Avenue is wider than the sidewalks on the south side, allowing for a more comfortable passing distance. This difference is due to the lack of grass area on the north side, which exists on the south side likely as a way to cover underground utilities without the use of pavement.  We think the one way street system is good for a college campus since it can slow traffic, and make it so you only have to look one way in the area where people cross the street. However, a downside to the one way street system would be difficulty in navigation; you have to know the streets well in order to easily get where you need to be. For visitors to the campus area, the first time driving around can be tricky as they try to figure out which streets they can travel down.


  1. Setbacks on Northwood Avenue

Using Google Earth, we estimated the front setback to be about 8’ and the side setback to be about 6’. We consider this to be a nice street, since all the houses have a nice yard and most seem to be well kept. It is the same as Norwich in many ways, especially the one way street, the calmer neighborhood feel, and the house styles.


  1. 2244 Neil Avenue

Currently, this building serves as a property management office. It is possible that when it was originally built it served as a supermarket, which would have made it an appropriately located commercial building in the residential area. Now, in the middle of a college campus with several other amenities around, the commercial building is a little out of place. The need for a store close by is not as prevalent with High Street only a few minutes walk east. It could be remodeled into a residential building, possible a small house or apartment building. It’s official zoning designation was most likely for a supermarket, a store or a small sit down eating place back when it was originally built. Again, it would be more convenient back then when High Street may not have been as commercialized.



  1. 174 W. Lane Avenue (Tommy’s Pizza)

The parking lot paved to the sidewalk is a bad practice. On a campus where people are walking while texting, or not paying attention in general to their surroundings, a subtle change from walkway to road is dangerous. With two busy streets intersecting right by this, it is unsafe.


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New Kids on the Block

                  The first property we looked at on Neil Avenue (2207-209), was a standard lot size of 40ft by 100ft, predominant in the area. The parking in the back of the house was planned well, since the house is on a busy street and a driveway wouldn’t be efficient or space savvy. The location of this house is beneficial due to the proximity to campus and the fact that the resident is most likely a student. However, it is right next to a bar, a large parking lot, and tall building under construction, so the surrounding area would be busy and loud at all times of the day. The grab-bag of residential, parking and commercial spaces makes the area feel unorganized and messy.

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Personally, I can see the appeal of living here as a student since it is located so close to campus, however the construction, parking and bar are enough for me to see the other housing options somewhere else.

The houses on Norwich get progressively cleaner as you walk down the street away from Neil/Lane intersection. The lighting on the street could be better, since there are only lights on one side and spaced far apart. The setbacks, roads and sidewalks were all almost standard size and worked effectively.


128-134 Norwich Ave has a larger set back and footprint, since there is parking in the front of the building. This may be functional, but it doesn’t look good within regards to the rest of the Avenue.


The one-way streets in the area work well because it allows for more street parking, with narrower street


The parking around Williams Street and the Unnamed Alley is very efficient because you can fit a large number of vehicles in a small space, so it is very functional. Although, it is not ideal because you can easily get blocked in, and there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver cars around.


A good idea was the red brick wall near Northwood Avenue and Williams Street. This serves as a sound barrier by muffling the noise from passing cars. This is important since there are many residences with basement apartments and it can be loud with cars driving right past their windows. It also looks nice and gives the feeling that the university campus boundary is near.


The setbacks on Northwood are larger than the previous streets, approximately 30ft. This gives the feel of a nicer, more expensive street because the houses seem less dense.


The old building at 2244 Neil Avenue looks like it was originally used as a general store. They would sell groceries and some house items, and the outline that looks like it was once a garage, could’ve been used for deliveries.


Tommy’s Pizza on Lane is quite strange. The owner must care more about people picking up/taking out pizza then the dining experience. This can be inferred by the large parking lot that is used for visiting vehicles. They could’ve easily built a beautiful patio, but instead they paved it over. The lack of a sidewalk can be confusing to drivers and pedestrians as the boundaries are not clear.


Planned Neighborhood: City DNA: How to Think Like a Planner


2207-2209 Neil Avenue is a duplex. They park on the street outside of their home. To the left of the duplex there is a service alley. The alley acts as a convenient roadway for service vehicles, connecting to the backs of the retail stores located on the Lane Avenue front. While the duplex is conveniently close to Ohio State Campus, it is loud and chaotic. The alley acts as an imaginary border between the end of commercial land use to the south of the duplex and the beginning of the residential zone north of Lane. Due west of 2207-22009 lies the Harrison Apartment complex, a looming structural tower which hits residents immediate peripheral vision. The duplex has a lot width of 32 feet, a lot length of 75 feet, a side setback of 56 inches, a front setback of approximately 15 feet, and has an 80% lot coverage. The sidewalk is 6 feet wide and the right of way is probably 13 feet wide. The duplex is conveniently located to all of the commercial amenities that Lane Avenue has to offer, and is as close to campus property as you can get without being on campus property. However, the location of the parking lot and the service alley adjoining the property would cause it to be loud at odd hours of the day, and would allow for a high volume of traffic flow. The lot is not private, and not a conventionally residential, as it is the border between the neighborhoods behind Lane.



Up Neil Ave. and to the right, a more conventional definition of residential property is observed. Norwich Avenue is a one-way street, 30ft wide, allowing for parking on both sides of the road while allowing ample traffic passage down the middle. The homes along the street are 10-12ft from the right of way, and the side setback between homes is varied between 3-6ft. The street only features light posts every 50 yards, and all utilities are located underground. While the street is dimly lit at night, the character of this area differs greatly between the Neil Avenue property. While only a stone’s throw away, Norwich Ave. gives off the impression of being a quiet, and private residential street, that, while a little crowded, contrasts with the hullabaloo of Neil and Lane Avenue.

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A block north of Norwich Ave. lies another one-way residential street, Northwood Ave. Northwood Avenue is 30ft wide with a 57in wide sidewalk to the south side and an 82in sidewalk on the north side of the avenue. The north side sidewalk is newer, without as many cracks and uneven meetings as the south sidewalk. The houses on Northwood have a 15-20ft set back from the right of way, with a 1.5ft side setback. Northwood doesn’t vary much from Norwich, aside from the fact that Northwood has more apartments on the street compared to houses, as opposed to Norwich. The southeast corner of Northwood features an interesting planning phenomena of low-lying brick walls. The walls give an illusion of privacy, extending the feeling of ownership of the properties behind the walls, up until the right of way line, evocative of a front porch.

Perpendicular to both Norwich and Northwood is Williams Street, which breaks continuity at an apparently unnamed alley. Facing the alley is a large, square apartment building, which, architecturally does not fit with the surrounding buildings. More interesting is the fact that this apartment building features parking on the front (alley), back (Norwich side), and side of the building. The parking to the side lines up directly to the front door of the apartment, which seems unnecessary. The rest of the alley is almost a parking lot, but significantly more chaotic than the average strip mall lot. The spots are long and can fit three cars back-to-back, but do not take traffic flow into consideration, meaning that if you are the first car at the front of the spot, you are stuck behind an apartment building and the cars blocking you in until everyone vacates the lot. There is no feasible way to fix this parking-alley without disrupting the flow of traffic from High Street to Neil Avenue, other than remove some spots from the lot and create a more traditional parking lot set-up.

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Breaking apart from the residential zoning of the area are two properties. 2244 Neil Avenue was once originally a corner grocery store in 1919. Currently, the lot is a mixed use building, an apartment on top and a real estate agency on the ground front. It not necessarily an appropriate use of the building today from a planning stand point, but it is extremely convenient, especially if the real estate agency company owns the properties in the surrounding area. Essentially, the lot could be used for a grocery store again, but there is no immediate need for it. 174 W Lane Avenue is a Tommy’s Pizza Place today. The parking lot of this establishment is paved right to the sidewalk. It seems dangerous, and like a cop out, there is no curb, no sidewalk, and no break for pedestrians.

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Residents at 2207-2209 Neil Avenue have on-street parking as well as one or two lots behind the house; it wasn’t entirely clear whether the second lot belonged to this property or another, but all together the lot was 130 ft deep and 32 ft in width. This property seemed to have ample parking, especially since the lot coverage was approximately 65% of the total lot, which also accounted for a 15 ft front setback and 3.5 ft side setback. The right-of-way is around 62 ft, including the 6 ft sidewalk. The alley primary inflicts more negatives on the tenants due to loud noise from students leaving the bar and having unfamiliar traffic so close to your home. This is definitely a residential property, the surrounding land uses are both residential and commercial. It is compatible with the property because there are college attractions for the tenants. The benefits of living at 2207-2209 are its location, as it is fairly close to several academic buildings and attractions that support the college lifestyle (i.e. the football stadium and tailgating festivities). The drawbacks are lack of privacy and noise due to the large amount of traffic in front of the property and to the side (and also those attractions mentioned above could serve as a drawback in certain circumstances). Some team members thought that due to its location and appearance, it probably was very affordable and that would make it appealing to live there; however other team members felt the noise and traffic issues make it an undesirable place to live.



On Norwich Avenue there is only lighting on one side of the street, which we believe should be sufficient. The street lights are approximately 60ft apart. The electric and television cable both appear to be above ground, probably due to the limited amount of right-of-way footage. The character of Norwich is more communal based, smaller and compacted. It feels campus-y and affordable. This is due to the small setback, upwards-built tall buildings, compacted parking and ample lot coverage.



We think the Norwich Avenue width permits a good traffic flow because there is sufficient space at approximately 30ft. Street parking did not appear to be problematic at this time of day, we felt due to the ample width of the street itself.  We did note that it was city permit street parking so this fact combined with several off-street parking lots make on-street parking in this location suitable and a good idea. The sidewalks appear to be less than “standard” measuring at only 3.8ft in width. This width is not conducive to two people being able to comfortably walk next to each other or pass one another.



The average front setbacks on Norwich Avenue were approximately 10 ft with an average of 10.5 ft. side setbacks. In comparison, Northwood’s setbacks, both front and side, are larger by about 5 feet each.



The footprint and setback of 128-134 W Norwich Avenue is very efficient. It leaves a clustered footprint, but has a unique parking structure. This property flows with the area design and it’s a benefit for the apartments to have two parking areas per apartment.


The parking configuration of Williams St and unnamed alley is not practical for the driver because they can easily get blocked in. It does ease street parking and it’s helpful that the parking spaces correspond and are labeled per apartment. There are some good examples of more efficient way of parking as shown on the picture on the right. We think that planning resident area like this should be really about balance between space efficiency and convenience of residents.



The red brick walls on Northwood Avenue near Williams Street seem to serve largely as markers for the apartment complexes. It is possible to view it as a safety measure in that it would provide protection from any vehicles that might veer off the road at this intersection of street/alley.  However, although decorative, overall it is not necessarily a good, functional design for this area.



On Northwood Avenue the south side sidewalk is 5ft, while the north side sidewalk is 6ft and in better condition. The street is 30ft in width, similarly to Norwich, but it felt smaller. Even though one way streets can be a hassle to navigate, especially in an area that one’s not familiar with we felt it is the best option as this one way street relieves congestion and makes street parking easier.



The average front setback on Northwood is approximately 20ft and the sides are 6ft. Overall it’s a nice street because it’s efficient, but still residential and has an appropriate amount of grass for the area.



The structure at 2244 Neil Avenue, with it’s current use (real estate office), does not seem appropriate for it’s placement. At first glance, we entertained various ideas of its origin (one team member thought it possibly could have been an auto repair based on the appearance), but we were given a brief history by its tenant and discovered that its original use was as the local grocery store and that the owners/operators had their living quarters above the store itself. We collectively agreed that in the current time and based on its surroundings, it could effectively serve as a small apartment building (3 or 4 separate apartments) today and the thick walls (11 inches of brick per the tenant) could help with insulation. It could be mixed zoning, commercial or residential.


Explore Nation: How to Think Like a Planner| City DNA

1. 2207-209 NEIL AVENUE

Measuring data: 

Lot width: 32 ft; Lot length: 80 ft; Front setback: 14 ft; Side setback: 4.5ft

Approximate lot coverage: 85%

Sidewalk width: 6ft ; (Probable) Right-of-way: 70ft (16 ft property*2, 11ft street lane*4)DSCF1590

  • Residents park vehicles in street and behind property
  • Alley most likely decreases resident’s happiness
  • Parking lot, gravel, garbage
  • Property’s land use is residential
  • Surrounding are commercial and residential. It seems compatible with the residents, as they seemed to enjoy drinking and loud music as the commercial areas are a bar and gas station. This immediate area, however, does not seem planned.
  • Yes, it makes the area seem darker and less neighborhood-like.
  • The benefits are that you are close to campus and restaurants. However, the neighborhood seems like a place typically for parties and does not seem to be appropriate for studying.DSCF1588

2. Norwich Avenue

  • The street would probably have decent lighting, but there are only lights on the north side of the street. However, the trees are all on the south side of the street, making it very dark on that side; the lighting would probably be low to medium level. The street lights seem about 100ft apart.
  • There are power lines in the right-of-way, most likely because it is a low density neighborhood that does not require them to be buried, typically because of cost efficiency and contact with other, higher utilities, such as water or sewage.
  • Yes, the character changes; it becomes quieter and there is a lower volume of traffic. It seems more peaceful and less hectic. The one way streets and less available access to main avenues make it inconvenient for partiers and others to access the street, aside from those that are residents. 

3.  Measure Norwich avenue’s Street Width and Sidewalks

  • The street width makes it difficult to drive fast. If the street were wider, there would be more induced demand and more traffic would come through, making it more dangerous. It would make the street less walkable and more for cars (Columbus’ walk score is only 47).
  • The on-street parking seems to be effective, and on-street parking is a good idea for pedestrians because it creates a barrier between moving traffic and the sidewalk, making it a safer walk. 
  • The sidewalks to be a standard size and two, average-sized people are able to pass each other.

4. Estimate the average front and side setbacks of structures on Norwich.


  • Frontage: 16ft
  • Side: 7.5ft
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5.  128-134 W Norwich Avenue (NE corner of Norwich and Williams)

  • The footprint and setback of the building on this property makes the neighborhood feel less walkable and more car oriented, especially with the parking lot in the front yard.

6. Williams street and Unnamed Alley

  • The parking configuration is not functional. The parking spots are on rough pavement that needs to be redone, and the lines are too long and not efficient. The lines should be shorter, and there should be ways for people to get in and out of their parking spaces without parking typical suburban-home style.
  • 6. 2 CARS

7.  Northwood avenue and Williams Street

  • The wall seems to act as a barrier between the front yard and the street life, making the neighborhood feel closed off on the south side of the street. Interactions with neighbors would be less likely to happen
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8.  Northwood Avenue Measurements

  • The width of Northwood Avenue is approximately the same as Norwich Avenue, 32ft. The direction of the street happens to run opposite but still parallel to Norwich.
  • The sidewalk on the south side of the street is only 4.5 ft compared to 5.5 ft on the north side of the street. The north sidewalk also seems to be in newer and better condition, perhaps because it is more travelled in comparison to the side of the street with the walls.
  • It is a good idea for the street to be one-way because it helps make sure traffic is able to flow through the short distances between the main avenues, Neil and High, and makes the volume of the traffic lower. It also provides more parallel parking, which helps to create a barrier between the street and the pedestrian as parking is allowed on both streets. Because the street doesn’t have painted lines, drivers subconsciously feel that they should drive slower, and trees on the street help (which are statistically shown to slow traffic down). Cons, however, are that it makes a drive in the neighborhood more difficult if you are thinking from a car-vantage point.

9. Estimate the average front setback of structures on Northwood

  • Approximately 25ft setback, 8ft side length.

10. 2244 Neil Avenue

  • It appears to have boarded up former garage doors, typical of a firehouse that would help keep the neighborhood safe. It is now a real estate office that should either be reutilized as a sort of grocery store or bodega, or demolished to make room for low/medium density housing. It is probably zoned as a low density commercial zone or office.

11. 174 W.Lane Avenue (Tommy’s Pizza)

  • It’s a very bad practice; it’s impractical, makes it difficult to walk through that area if there are cars parked near the sidewalk, and makes it difficult to see where the street ends and the lot begins.11


The Chaire of Pierre: How to Think Like a Planner| City DNA

2207-209 Neil Ave


  • This property has good access and parking close to campus due to the large parking lot to the rear and the street access from the one-way alley.
  • The parking lot to the rear was expansive and seems to be a large waste of space, a parking garage would reduce the space needed for the same amount of parking and would allow for more efficient use of land with such great location.
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  • The side setback from the alley was 4-5 ft. which seems too close.


Norwich Avenue

  • The sidewalk was 4 ft. wide which was too narrow for our liking. Only two people can fit and it is not very comfortable.
  • There is not a lot of bright street lighting, and the street lights were only on one side of the street.neil ave
  • The street felt very narrow even though it was a one-way. It was close in measurement to Northwood in width of street and right of way but the front setback of the houses at around 10-15 ft. causes a feeling of claustrophobia.
  • The corner property on Williams St. and Norwich Ave. had a very large front setback which made it look completely out of place. There is a front parking lot and it is an apartment building, both of those characteristics are also out of place compared to the residential house look of the rest of Norwich.


Williams Street Alley


  • The alley has a dual use of an alley and a parking area, the parking and alley are not efficiently organized and varies from property to property, and the boundaries of the alley need to be crisper and more defined.
  • The north half of Williams St. alley had street parking on one side of the alley making it tough for cars and pedestrians to navigate.5


Northwood Avenue

  • The setbacks of the houses were 20-30 ft. on Northwood which made the street feel a lot wider than Norwich even though the measurements of the road were pretty close.
  • The sidewalks were different widths (4.5 ft. South/ 7 ft. North side) but both had good quality. They were nicer to walk on with the larger setbacks. The buildings on Northwood and Norwich are similar but because of the wider side walks and setbacks, Northwood was a lot more pleasant.IMG_26021
  • The brick wall on the south side of Northwood confused us in its use. It seemed to be in front of apartment buildings and have no purpose other than appearance or protection.7a


Neil Avenue

  • This commercial building looked very out of place in the residential area it is in, it may have fit in while it was built a long time ago, but now it sticks out. It looks like an old post office, and is now used as an office building for a real estate company so at least it is being used for something useful.building
  • Tommy’s Pizza- the parking is beneficial for the business but there is no set entrance or exit which makes it dangerous for pedestrians. It is also ugly.