If Prairie Township officials get their way, the slowly diminishing section of West Broad Street running from I-270 to Rome-Hilliard Road will soon be a lot busier.
A meeting was held at the Prairie Township Senior Center on Aug. 21 to discuss the township’s West Broad Street Economic Development Initiative.
Recently, Prairie Township retained Vogt Williams Bowen (VWB) Research to study this area and compile data and market research they hope will be useful in trying to revitalize this once-flourishing Westland thoroughfare. This data was then used by VWB to create a physical planning and economic development options for this section of the West Broad Street Corridor.
Researchers looked at everything from vacant land and property to current state-wide and national market conditions. They surveyed every parcel of land on the Prairie Township section of the West Broad Corridor, including those not facing Broad Street, but in close proximity.
Presenter Nancy Patzer, from VWB, noted that Prairie Township, unlike Columbus, is not expected to grow much in population between now and 2011.
“This area is pretty much built out,” said Patzer.
Before deciding what types of new businesses should be brought into the area, it is important to first gain a complete understanding of what is already there.
Patzer also noted that Prairie Township draws visitors to the area from “pretty far to the south and west.”
She deducted that some of the area’s draw that was created by Westland Mall still exists. This, however, is being quickly diminished as nearby cities such as Hilliard and Grove City continue to expand and build.
According to Patzer, an overwhelming portion of the visitors to the township are there to utilize medical services.
“They take advantage of some retail while they are here,” she added.
VWB researchers also revealed that 50 percent of the businesses on the West Broad Corridor are service based industries, including education, medical, social and business services.
“This is not unusual since both Columbus and Franklin County are service-based communities,” said Patzer.
The runner-up was retail trade, taking up just over 31 percent of the area business.
There were 223 establishments in the area surveyed for this study. Only ten of those establishments are zoned for residential use. Of the 213 non-residential establishments, it was found that 30 percent are owner-occupied, compared to 13 percent on East Broad Street.
The largest employer on the corridor by far is OhioHealth – Doctor’s Hospital West, with 1,150 employees. There was a large difference between the hospital and the second place employer, Westland High School, with 169 employees.
Information on area businesses was also collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This information reveals that the total estimated yearly wages paid out by Prairie Township businesses is an estimated $117 million.
Patzer was quick to fill the audience in on one thing they already knew.
“The study area was negatively impacted by the decline of Westland Mall,” she said.
She also noted the national trends towards open-air shopping.
“Nationally, there are no enclosed malls being developed anywhere,” she said.
The vacancy rate of retail spaces across the West Broad Corridor was found to be 12.8 percent. This is high compared to 9.3 percent on East Broad Street and 7.2 percent nationally.
One interesting fact Patzer brought up was the survival of the neighborhood-level retail, particularly in the New Rome area.
“The impact doesn’t seem to be there,” she said.
She added that this is probably due to the fact that those business are supported by a smaller market area, meaning the people who live there are staying there to shop.
“They will weather the storm through all of this,” she said.
On average, over 10,000 drive through the West Broad Corridor every day. This is a very disappointing number to Prairie Township officials, especially since East Broad Street draws over 23,000.
Patzer attributed the high traffic counts on East Broad to larger employers and higher residential growth.
“The traffic just isn’t going through here, therefore, they aren’t stopping to shop,” Patzer said.
“There are high traffic counts on this section of I-270, but there are fewer cars getting off. What can we do to make them get off here?” she added.
Retail on West Broad Street is dying.
Studies found that retailers on West Broad Street are capturing a declining share of dollars. They found that only 7,600 square feet of new retail could be supported between now and 2011.
Recommendations for this additional retail include ethnic and neighborhood grocery stores, discount stores, dollar stores and health and beauty businesses.
“Retail is not really doing it in the corridor,” said Patzer.
VWB concluded that the best use for much of the open space of West Broad Street would be office use, particularly medical offices.
This is largely because Doctor’s West is considered to be the strength in the area, especially as they continue to plan expansions. Currently, medical and related office users take up over 64 percent of the area’s office space.
Patzer noted that large medical businesses such as Doctor’s West tend to bring many smaller businesses in the same field into the area.
She recommended that vacant and underutilized retail spaces in the area be redeveloped to provide additional professional office space, sighting empty store fronts in Lincoln Village Plaza and Westland Plaza as key examples.
She added that additional office space will increase the daytime population of Prairie Township, which will increase area retail spending.