In major cities around the world, lavish hotel lobby bars are often top destinations. Maybe you’ve ordered a broody, author-esque cocktail in the library like lobby of NYC’s Marlton, sipped a Sazerac at the Carousel bar in Nola’s Hotel Monteleone, or dreamt of times long past at Amsterdam’s Pulitzer bar on the Keizersgracht… One thing you’ve probably never done is headed out to a Columbus hotel bar for an evening drink. Because you live here, right?

Recently, boutique hotels like The Joseph have added world-class dining to their ground floors, but you’re still heading to a Cameron Mitchell establishment to enjoy what The Guild House has to offer. And the new announcement of a Moxy hotel coming to the former Haiku location has many excited. But the opening of the AC Hotel in Dublin’s new Bridge Park has us convinced that locals will head to this destination even without a room booked.

The new Bridge Park development in Dublin will soon be home to Columbus’ most cosmopolitan hotel.

For those who aren’t familiar, Bridge Park is Dublin’s ambitious development project at the new roundabout on Riverside and 161. The $300 million project lead by Crawford Hoying is bringing familiar destinations like The Avenue, Cap City & PINS to Dublin and attracting brands like AC Hotels to Columbus for the first time.

The AC Hotel is the first of this brand in Columbus and joins the ranks of their other properties in Seattle, Denver, Miami and cities around the world. The Spanish-inspired hotel provides the kind of craft cocktails and experiences that will attract not just travelers to Columbus but local residents as well.


The lobby bar, flooded with late-afternoon light, accented with smooth tile, suede, and leather, dotted with succulents and fiddle leaf figs, evokes a strong Mediterranean feel. This effect is driven home by expert service and a tapas inspired menu.


The rooftop lounge, VASO, offers panoramic views of historic downtown Dublin and the Scioto river. While rooftop lounges in Chicago or New York are famous for the cityscapes they provide, VASO offers lush treetops as far as the eye can see. Guests can enjoy these views from a number of cabanas while drinking the hotel’s signature cocktails. Altogether, the AC offers an experience entirely new to the city.

If you haven’t been to Bridge Park yet, you’ll likely be drawn there soon for an event at The Exchange, Cameron Mitchell’s new event space, or a happy hour at the new PINS location… But the AC Hotel bar is what will keep you coming back.

And it opens today.

One decade ago the Washington Township Fire Department approached Matt Wenning, a world record holding powerlifter based here in Columbus, to see if he could help reduce injury rates amongst their firefighters. Today, Wenning is helping the department save $250,000 per year in health insurance expenses.

But how?

Simple. He helps the firefighters get stronger.

Born and raised in Muncie, Indiana, Wenning was introduced to powerlifting at an early age. After being hit by a car at the age of 6, he spent the better part of two years in a wheelchair and then in a full-leg cast. Once he was cleared for exercise, his legs were too weak and stiff to join his friends for football and other team sports. So he started strength training.

With the help of a few national caliber powerlifters who happened to train at his local YMCA, Wenning made leaps and bounds on his strength throughout middle school and high school. By the time he was 17, he was attending national and world class meets.

In 2004 Wenning went pro in powerlifting, and shortly thereafter, at the age of 26, he began to set world records. In 2006, a few military officials saw Wenning featured in a magazine. He then received a phone call from a special unit in Fort Benning, Georgia– the unit invited him to come down to their base to teach them about strength training. The unit liked what he brought to the table and soon saw declining injury rates amongst their personnel. Wenning has been doing contract work with the military since then.

Wenning at his gym, Ludus Magnus, in Franklinton.

Around the same time, Wenning relocated to Columbus to train at the world-renowned, invite-only powerlifting gym, Westside Barbell. Before long, Wenning’s work with the military gained notoriety amongst the local fire departments. The first department to approach Wenning was Washington Township in Dublin. Over the past ten years, he has been collecting both the strength and insurance data for the department. Notably, as the firefighters’ strength numbers have gone up, Washington Township’s insurance expenses have gone down. When Wenning began to coach and program workouts for their 135 firefighters, the average deadlift was under 200 pounds. Today, the average deadlift has doubled to just under 400 pounds, and the department is spending $250,000 less on insurance costs.

So why does being strong reduce injury rates? According to Wenning, it’s because society is getting heavier. In the 1960s, the fitness tests for fire departments were created with dummies based on the average weight of an American male at the time, 165 lbs.

“Shit, that’s a small girl now,” Wenning remarks. And he’s kind of right. The average American today weighs about 30 pounds more than they did half a century ago, which also means that what the average male used to weigh is now what the average female weighs.  

“Today, 300 pound people are everywhere,” Matt says, he himself weighing in around 300 pounds. “That’s a big problem when you’re dealing with an average strength [firefighter] with a deadlift under 200 pounds.”

So the problem is quite simple: injuries can occur when firefighters aren’t strong enough to do their job. It follows then that the solution is quite simple too: firefighters need to be stronger. And Wenning’s data supports this. He assures me that he is one of the first people in the country to have long-term data of this kind that suggests that getting stronger decreases injury rates in the special forces. Because of the rarity of this data, Wenning has been invited to speak about his work all around the globe.

“A lot of people don’t know that we’re doing some groundbreaking work here in central Ohio,” Wenning notes.

He is now in charge of 500 firefighters’ strength training programs across Columbus and continues to help these local departments lower their injury rates and health expenses. Wenning also advises for the Seattle and Los Angeles Fire Departments, as well as a few sports teams including the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers.

So what is it about his coaching that makes him so successful?

He practices what he preaches. Wenning’s methodology is based on the style of training that has allowed him to last 25 years in a sport that a lot of people burn out of in just a few years. The key component to his training philosophy is an understanding of compression versus traction (or decompression) movements. Since most everything a firefighter does in their daily life is compressive, Wenning selects mostly traction-based movements to get them stronger. For instance, instead of barbell squats which compress the spine, Wenning has the firefighters use a belt squat machine, which pulls you down by the hips.

“So I basically take the philosophy that has let me last 25 years in powerlifting, and apply it at a lower level to the fire departments, and it creates this perfect scenario,” Wenning says with a smile.

When he isn’t coaching firefighters and military personnel, Wenning is coaching powerlifters and serious recreational lifters at his gym, Ludus Magnus, in Franklinton. Since a significant portion of his time is dedicated to working with special forces, his gym member base consists of people who can train around his irregular schedule. Ludus Magnus doesn’t even have a sign on the door– Wenning likes to remain off the beaten path. His gym is not the right fit for your average commercial gym client. Walk in on a normal day and you’ll probably encounter blaring music, lots of grunting, and the occasional bloody nose.

You come to this place and it’s time to work. It’s a strenuous environment,” Wenning explains. “I find that human growth is not comfortable– it’s painful, whether it be lifting or jobs or anything else. And I try to live my life that way. I used to travel two and a half hours every weekend to lift at Westside where I was the weakest guy at the time. That’s what made me what I am today. If I was just comfortable with being the strongest guy at the Lifetime Fitness or YMCA, how strong are you really?”

I am going to save you the disappointment and multi-year waiting period of angst and false hope. The hyperloop from Pittsburgh to Chicago isn’t going to happen.

I wish it was, but it’s not going to.

Here in the ‘mid east’ rust belt we like to remind ourselves of the  good old days of the auto industry.  We spent so many years protecting it by building roads, bridges, parking lots and other infrastructure that is pretty inefficient.

Trains? Nope. Hyperloops? Sounds too fast for us.  Maybe I’m wrong, hopefully I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

When I look at the list of proposed hyperloop locations (below), what I see is a bunch of much more highly-populated places that will take precedent.  Maybe I’m cynical, but it also looks like there is a strategic coverage of  places around the world to create buzz.  

  • US Dallas-Laredo-Houston (Texas)
  • US Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo (Colorado)
  • US Miami-Orlando (Florida)
  • India Bengaluru-Chennai
  • India Mumbai-Chennai
  • UK Edinburgh-London
  • UK Glasgow-Liverpool
  • Mexico Mexico City-Guadalajara
  • Canada Toronto-Montreal

I hope this serves as a reverse jinx and we end up with the hyperloop.  If not, we’ll keep hoping for some more transportation dreams.


MORPC plans are here for reference.

Photo Credit to Front Office News

Three years ago a strange request popped into my inbox.

“Hi Ami, I hope this email finds you well…”

A friend of mine had a friend working for The Atlantic and looking for a connection on the ground in Columbus, OH. She was assisting Deb and James Fallows, the husband and wife reporting team, with their planning for the American Futures series. For this series they hopped in their Cessna and flew from city to city to see how the revival of recession-leveled communities was going.  In Deb’s own words…  

“We have been traveling around the country for over a year, visiting smaller towns, and now some larger cities that have interesting stories to tell of revival and reinvention. We are looking into visiting Columbus in the very near future, and your name came to us via a grapevine…

At this time in 2014, like everyone else, I was lapping up city-fed messages about the exciting future of Franklinton. So naturally, when Deb Fallows emailed me I was full of links to help connect her with the people doing the doing in Franklinton.

Deb and I spoke on the phone as well as meeting in person. She was utterly lovely; grateful for my help and courteous of my time. She asked insightful questions, shared that she had a 93-year-old mother, and revealed that she was originally from Vermillion, OH.  While my ambitions of having our fledgling coffee truck side-hustle featured in the national press didn’t pan out, I was able to connect her with lots of people making big moves in this city…. specifically in Franklinton.

The American Futures project aimed to present “Portraits of change and resilience in American communities.” And when the Columbus feature came out, it definitely captured that spirit of change… but it was named “Gentrification ‘without the negative’ in Columbus, Ohio.”  Damn. Even then I thought… that can’t be the whole picture.

Part of the problem with the discussion of Franklinton is the fundamental assumption, based on misunderstanding, that there’s just nobody over there. That it’s a blank slate for the city and developers and therefore a win-win for everyone. If there’s nobody there, then there is nobody to push out. Even the comments on The Atlantic’s video at that time revealed that some residents were uncomfortable with that idea. One person, identifying himself as a resident in the comment section, said: “While I love the art warehouse (& the coffee), someone needs to explain to Mr. Sweeney that there are in fact […] people living in Franklinton, and for some of us, to varying degrees, gentrification will be painful. The blanket comment “the existing population is gone already” is an attempt justifying a corporate takeover of a neighborhood […]”

Another commenter brings up the lack of resident representation this way: “The video says that there is literally no one in that area but also said there’s about a 25% home vacancy rate. So, doesn’t that mean that 75% of the homes do have people living in them? Just because there’s a few boarded up houses doesn’t mean no one lives there. Anyways, the video looked really nice, and I’m not against artists making art in old buildings, I’m just concerned about the title and intent. It would have been a good idea to actually talk to long-term residents from the neighborhood about their opinion of gentrification, and whether or not this space is actually helping create opportunities for local folks.”

Yes, much of East Franklinton (the area near COSI, 400 W Rich, etc.) was uninhabited and ripe for takeover. But that’s not the whole neighborhood. 

Three years later, with much of the ground broken on those promised development projects, we wondered what the picture looks like now. What about the people who live there?

Our incredible partners at Loose Films stepped up to challenge.  They took our curiosity, a few connections, and lots of elbow grease and got to work on a piece that I think rivals The Atlantic’s in both presentation of perspective and artistic sensibility.

We don’t purport to have answers for what will happen in Franklinton, but we can definitely ask visionaries for their best advice on how to do this right. We can learn lessons from other cities. We can talk to the people who live and work there now. And the ones who will come later.

The end isn’t written, but the beginning definitely is. And it is important for the long-term success of any neighborhood—or city for that matter—to remember where they came from as they continue to grow and change.