Urban Wayfinding & Understanding How Place Impacts Us with Jim Sweeney

Jim Sweeney became Executive Director of the Franklinton Development Association Community Development Corporation in 2002. While in that role for 14 years, Jim led the effort to revitalize Franklinton through the creation of over 150 affordable housing units, various community-building activities including founding the Franklinton arts district, and aggressive neighborhood advocacies on all levels. 

Jim moved Franklinton, AKA “the bottoms,” to the center of the discussion about central Ohio development. He built consensus around the revitalization of east Franklinton as an arts destination, an initiative that gained the support of city hall and now has begun the path to reality.

The fifth in line of five kids, Jim grew up fast to keep up with his siblings. What caught his attention as a kid was building – he’d find himself in the woods, taking pieces of lumber out of people’s yards and building forts. This fascination with building wouldn’t return until later in his life when he turned his attention to his old neighborhood and what could happen there with some conscious revitalization.

Jim grew up in two worlds: The suburban lifestyle of Columbus and the dense city life of Brooklyn. He knew the benefits of both, and he became deeply attuned to the strengths of each place – more importantly, how he could utilize those strengths in urban planning. This conversation begs us to take a look at forgotten spaces and how we can truly have the best of both worlds.

What Brett asks:

  • [01:48] Can you tell us about your life growing up?
  • [10:22] What kind of person were you in grade school?
  • [20:16] What was it like going to college in Athens?
  • [28:22] What was it about city planning that got you interested?
  • [32:08] How did your studies start to shape you moving forward?
  • [36:44] What inspired you to build and plan your own neighborhood?
  • [42:24] Where did your vision for Franklinton come from? What was the beginning of that?
  • [55:12] How are things in Franklinton and where are they going in the future?


Lesson for intentional living:  1-2 important lessons from Brett’s POV

  • Places are constantly changing and evolving. Ideally, those places would continue to allow those who were there before to thrive while also letting in new life. The best places need a variety of people, incomes, backgrounds, and perspectives. With conscious effort and mindful neighborhood planning, any place can become a haven for all.