The West Broad Corridor improvements originally slated for 2009 in Prairie Township have been pushed back to 2012 due to statewide budget constraints.
This delay hasn’t stopped township officials, however, from continuing to plan for the project.
“I commend Prairie Township for being proactive and trying to better their area and trying to actively go after what it is they want to see happen,” said Michael Arcari of M. Arcari Associates at a public meeting held June 25.
The original project, which includes “safety-based” updates such as medians, driveway approaches and sidewalks, as well as storm sewer updates and road resurfacing, will be funded by the most part through a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). These improvements are slated to include the area of West Broad from Wilson to Rome-Hilliard roads.
Prairie Township hopes to piggyback their West Broad Streetscape Plan onto the ODOT project.
Finding the funds
“There are a lot of exciting things going on in the West Broad Street Corridor,” said Prairie Township Administrator Tracy Hatmaker, mentioning the expansion of Doctor’s Hospital and the possible renovations to Westland Mall. “But there’s not adequate funding for these improvements that need to be done.”
One method being considered to collect some of the funds needed for this project, as well as others in the area, is a Joint Economic Development District (JEDD).
Using this method, an unincorporated township partners with a larger municipality, in this case, Columbus, as a way to help promote economic development.
Currently, anyone who is living outside of the township, but works within the borders, pays income tax to their home municipality.
“Prairie Township sees none of that,” said Prairie Township trustee Nicole Schlosser, adding that large employers such as Doctor’s Hospital have employees from all over central Ohio.
“A JEDD would help to funnel some of that money back through the township,” she added.
A JEDD can only be established through a unanimous vote of the trustees. A JEDD board consists of representatives from the township, city, local businesses and employees of the area.
The JEDD board can vote to impose an income tax levy on businesses in the district, which would be paid by business owners and employees at all businesses involved in the JEDD. That income tax could not exceed the income tax of Columbus.
JEDDs work with businesses, not residential property owners, and only businesses that opt-in can participate. This means that no one is forced into a JEDD.
What’s in it for businesses?
As a way to make JEDD participation more appealing for businesses within the district, a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) is also being considered.
A CRA provides an incentive for business owners looking to build new facilities or renovate existing ones. Through this incentive, tax abatements are given for improvements to real estate.
Abatements are given on a case-by-case basis, but average 50-77 percent for up to 10 years.
The township is exploring the possibility of creating a CRA in conjunction with a JEDD to help promote investment in the West Broad Street Corridor.
Arcari added, “This is super location. It’s a location that many communities would die for, but some things need to happen so that the township can make the most of it.”
“Everybody’s jockeying for money in a state that have money. If a community wants something, you have to step up to the plate and support it any way that you can,” added Arcari.
Their are three existing scenarios for the streetscape plan, all of which consist of trees and shrubbery.
Scenario A is the most basic plan. It calls for eight-foot sidewalks abutting the curb, which would be paid for by ODOT. Also included in the plan are several streetscape items that would not be covered through the grant. These items include street furniture (benches, bush shelters, bike racks and trash cans), tree grates, street lights, shrubs in the median and traffic lights with mast arms. Scenario A totals $4.25 million.
Scenario B is the same as Scenario A, but assumes that ODOT will not pick up the tab for the sidewalks, as no plans through the department have been finalized. The total for this scenario is $9.9 million.
In Scenario B-1, trees are planted between the sidewalk and the street to provide separation for pedestrians and vehicles. The construction of this scenario does cost more than the other options, but the total cost of $4.25 million is the same as Scenario A due to the elimination of the cost of tree grates.
“These are all enhancements meant to improve the image and add an identity to the corridor,” said Arcari.
The best laid plans
Not everyone is happy with ODOT’s plans for the Westside.
Several residents on hand at the meeting spoke out against the departments proposed reduction of curb cuts, saying that several businesses in the area will suffer from the lack of access.
According to John McGory, another Arcari Associates representative, ODOT’s plans are not final, but, “There will be reductions.”
Other residents feel that less curb cuts may be called for, as higher gas prices are causing residents to seek modes of transportation other than vehicles.
“I think the West Broad Street Corridor was designed for automobiles, and I think the dirt paths and people standing around show that we’ve moved beyond the days of automobiles only,” said Hatmaker.
McGory encouraged residents to join together and work with ODOT to achieve their common goal.
“It’s important that the community comes together and tells ODOT – don’t let ODOT tell you,” he said.