Recommendations made for Westside redevelopment
A new look and approach to Westland Mall, Great Western Shopping Plaza and the area surrounding the casino site could spark economic redevelopment, said a nationally recognized retail consultant.
Earlier this year the consulting firm, Robert Charles Lesser & Co. (RCLCO), was commissioned by the Central Ohio Community Improvement Corporation (COCIC) to conduct market analysis and create a redevelopment strategy for the West Broad Street corridor.
The study area’s boundaries were east of the I-270 overpass, west of Wilson Road, south to Sullivant Avenue and just north of West Broad Street.
RCLCO completed its study and presented its recommendations Oct. 12 at the Haydocy Automotive Showroom. According to COCIC Executive Director Joel Teaford, it is the end of the beginning and the Westside now has a road map to redevelopment.
According to Shyam Kannan, principal at RCLCO, they reached out to more than 1,100 business owners, residents and local government officials to attain their hopes and concerns for the study area.
Feedback from local stakeholders list stable jobs, less vacant buildings, reduced neighborhood blight, pedestrian oriented projects and improved property values as important issues moving forward.
Additionally, residents are wary about crime increasing near the casino. Resident Geoffrey Phillips said he is concerned criminal elements could be pushed into the Hilltop and Highland West neighborhoods, located east of the study area.
“The casino site itself is a relative unknown,” Kannan said. He added that the issue of crime is a topic that should be discussed when an implementation phase begins.
The market study showed an unmet spending power going into the millions is leaking out of the Westside and to other areas. Kannan attributed this to residents having few places to spend their money.
Kannan said they encountered misconceptions about study area, including perceptions of a weak housing market, a poor area to invest in jobs and that West Broad Street cannot attract new businesses.
According to the study, 25 percent of homes are selling at upper price, there are currently around 3,200 non-retail jobs in the area and West Broad Street is a small business incubator.
“These are places an entrepreneur can get their feet wet and learn the tools of the trade,” Kannan said.
Hollywood Casino, the complete streets project and the Central Ohio Greenways Project were named forces that will spark redevelopment on West Broad Street, Kannan said.
After examining Penn National casinos across the U.S., the largest industry growths were shown to be full service restaurants, automotive services, hobby stores, general retail and non-profit organizations.
“We can build on these store types, if indeed they are demanded,” Kannan said. “Right now we have a scattered configuration pattern with no real heart or soul.”
A market forecast stated the study area has 250,000 square feet of market ready space available.
RCLCO recommended five investment areas, including retail reinvestments down West Broad Street. These recommendations were shown as conceptual renderings of what could be possible if implemented.
Westland Mall is being recommended to be redeveloped as a regional destination retail space.
“In a way, this site is crucial to reimagining and rebranding the Westside,” Kannan said. “It can’t just be another mall, not just another shopping center.”
The strip of commercial buildings, including the Westside Flea Market is suggested as casino driven retail space. What now is the Great Western Shopping Plaza was rendered to be transformed into townhomes and the apartments south of Westland Mall were illustrated as a spot for redeveloped apartments or possibly a future hotel location.
Kannan said the four corners of West Broad Street and Georgesville Road are crucial to a successful redevelopment. RCLCO estimates state if its recommendations were implemented, hundreds of jobs and tens of millions in commercial revenue could be brought to the Westside.
“This area has tremendous potential,” Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks said. “We want to see the growth you saw tonight come into reality.”