Conducted by Michael Golden and Marisa Searle
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your organization?
BR: My name is Brianne DeRolph and I’m a partner in a company called Sidestreet Development who has just purchased several parcels over on Parsons Avenue, just about a block and a half south of where The Crest is currently located. I’m working with two other partners, Killian McIlroy and Blake Compton, and we’re spearheading the initiative to redevelop these buildings.
Can you tell me how your organization came together?
Killian McIlroy and I have had a design company together for several years now, specializing in commercial design, branding, things like that. We worked together for years prior to that at agencies so we’ve had a company for quite some time. I knew Blake because he actually did the construction on my house over in the Brewery District. We stayed in touch and worked together on projects together. The three of us came together for this one not only because we though it made sense to develop a team that had both design sensibilities and building capabilities, but because all three of us are really passionate about breathing life back into existing things. So what we’re doing is not new construction; it’s taking old buildings and rehabbing them and revitalizing an area. That is something all three of us are really interested in, so it seemed like the right fit for this sort of project. Hopefully we’ll go on to do more of this in the city.
What draws you to or what brought you to Parsons Avenue?
I have been a South Side resident ever since I moved to Columbus for college, so I spent a lot of years living in German Village, renting there and I have a place in the Brewery District now, so I have always really liked the South Side of Columbus. That’s kind of where I feel the most at home and that’s where I spend most of my time. I actually used to live right on Thurman and Parsons, so I think I was drawn to the area because it’s familiar to me. Also because Parsons used to be a real main artery of Columbus, it was a really thriving area with interesting history that over time has been forgotten or gone by the wayside. Now to see that Parsons is being revitalized is really exciting, so we thought that was a perfect opportunity for us to get involved in rebuilding something that has a really interesting past. So that’s why we’re there. We really fell in love with the buildings that we ended up purchasing once we saw them. It was a larger project than we were intending to do, but we all sort of fell in love with the layout. All of the buildings are tied together by this outdoor space shaped like a “L”, which is a great opportunity to create like this lively common area between different businesses. I think that’s what really sold us on the property, the unique layout of this specific plot.
You talked a little earlier about the old Parsons, what are your favorite memories of Parsons?
I don’t personally remember things from back then, but I have been reading a lot and I have my favorites that have been on Parsons for a long time like Plank’s Pizza. It has been one of my favorite spots to go. We looked up some of the history in terms of what a melting pot Parsons Avenue was. There actually used to be a general store where it was a requirement to have to speak six different languages. They had a huge bluegrass movement in the area, as a lot of people from West Virginia were coming up for work and they were bringing music, so I think all of that was what drew us to the area. It’s got a pretty cool character.
What do you like most about the Parsons Avenue community?
I think it’s really diverse, so it’s a different culture because you have different people from different walks of life; financially, individually, stylistically, so everything. There’s a lot of different people on Parsons, I like that. I don’t think we’ve ever been interested in being in part of the city that’s already been developed and has become successful. We want to be part of something that’s accessible to everyone that lives there, so I think that sense of community gets stronger in places that needs to band together to improve their area. Not unlike Olde Towne East – that is another great example where I think there’s a certain kind of pride that comes with being in those areas that we really respect. I think that’s one thing we really like about being here.
Can you talk a little bit more about your mission, or the values of your organization, can you describe its primary impact to the Parsons community?
Our overall mission is to revitalize older things, so I think it’s something that all of us have always had a passion for. Whether it be vintage found pieces, refinishing furniture, or rehabbing old buildings; I think all of us are really drawn to doing that. We’re a young company, but I’m hoping our mission over time will be to find other areas and other properties that are poised with this same sort of scenario; this slightly dilapidated, but really cool character and in need of some love. We’ll turn them around and make them into something cool without eliminating the character that already exists. We want to build on what’s already there, so I’m hoping that our company continues on that road and keeps finding really interesting places to turn into something new.
So what would you say your organization’s vision is for Parsons.
You know, for Parsons I think it’s a really exciting time. There’s a ton of stuff going on it’s not just us by any means. The hospital is really involved over here and we’ve got the road changes that are coming soon, so I think it’s going to be really interesting over the next five years to see what happens with Parsons. I’m really hoping that it becomes an area that is a lot more active, lively, that has a lot of people that want be there and want to experience things on Parsons, but that also doesn’t lose its neighborhood charm. If you look at the Short North, you see that the people that really built that end up migrating out of there once it gets too expensive and becomes more difficult to afford. I really hope that Parsons stays something that’s an affordable area of town but also a really cool one to hang out in. There’s a lot of really great stuff going in. I just went to the new branch of the library the other day for the first time and it’s awesome. Common Grounds will be across the street from them, so there’s a lot of cool things going in there and hopefully that will just grow and people will actually come from up north to go south, rather than the other way around.
There’s a lot of positive change is happening in Parsons Avenue, so if you had one word to describe what you hope to see from the future or your feelings about the community, what word would that be?
One word? That’s a really hard one. I might have to think about that. I mean there are certain word that come to mind like revival or resurrection, because I don’t think it’s developing something new it’s something that has already existed and we’re trying to bring back. I think that that applies to both the neighborhood and then also specifically to what we do, which is revitalizing old properties, so I guess that’s what would come to mind right now.
Are there any businesses on Parsons or on the South Side that you think people should know about?
I think the common ones that people probably already know about, The Crest and Plank’s, are staples over here. Tatoheads Public House is there and it has some pretty awesome vegan food if you’re into that. I am a huge fan of Grandma’s Pizza which is at Parsons and Thurman. They have some of the most enthusiastic pizza makers I’ve ever met and they’re pizza’s delicious, so if you haven’t tried Grandma’s, I think that’s a good place to go. Also, right across from us is a place called Aetna Integrated Services and they management support for businesses; everything from janitorial to parking lots. We’re working on renting some parking spaces from them and not only have they been incredible to work with and very supportive of what’s happening on Parsons, but they also have a giant bank of solar panels on the rooftop of their building and they have an amazing community garden right behind them, which I would have had no idea about had I not been running around the neighborhood trying to find solutions for parking. That’s pretty cool and people should know that.
So my last question is if you have anything else you’d like to say, or anything about Parsons that we haven’t talked about.
You know, I think right now we’re just really excited to be involved. We’ve gone to a lot of the civic association meetings, we’ve been starting to talk to the city about our project, and it’s all been really inspiring because I think people want to see the change and are supportive of that. We’re just excited to be a part of it.