Eastside Columbus residents had the opportunity to make out the city’s 200th birthday wish list, which included improved business districts and street repairs, as part of the Bicentennial Commission’s neighborhood summit Feb. 19 at Eastmoor High School.
Five neighborhood meetings are being held as a follow up to the city-wide Citizens’ Summit, in preparation for placing a bond issue on the November ballot for civic improvements to be completed by the city’s bicentennial in 2012.
"If we want to be a great city, we have to have great neighborhoods because great neighborhoods are the building blocks to a great city," said Jamie Greene, with ACP Visioning and Planning.
The Dream It Do It Vision 2012 program seeks to create a community-driven process by engaging a wide spectrum of citizens.
"It is important to talk about what we’d like to see," said Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks. "We are all Franklin County."
The eastside residents took part in group discussions about their priorities, and were also given an imaginary allowance of three $100 bills to spend on their top categories of potential improvements.
The groups reviewed a list of ten characteristics of great neighborhoods and were asked to add to the qualities. Residents then brainstormed ideas to help obtain those qualities through capital improvements and marked specific locations on a map to correspond to the areas in need.
Gayle Worthington, leader of the Peacekeepers block watch and a resident of Eastmoor, noted that strong business leadership was a top priority for the group with which she participated.
Another resident of Eastmoor, Gary Williams, found that overall safety consistently surfaced in discussion, as well as general infrastructure concerns regarding sidewalks and streetlights.
Earlene Ellis, a resident of Berwin East, cited community pride and transportation as topics of discussion within her group. Participants also pushed for relocated bus stops on the side of the street rather than at an intersection to avoid accidents.
In anticipation of the summit, the Eastmoor Civic Association sent out a survey to 1,200 households within its boundaries between Gould and James roads, asking them to rank eight neighborhood improvements in order of importance.
Improvements to the Main and Broad business districts were ranked number one.
"The appearance of these two streets in the Columbus section between Bexley and Whitehall does not compare favorably with neighbors to the west and east," Civic Association President Herb Talabere wrote in the organization’s report.
The organization warned that failure to restore this area could lead to an exodus of desirable businesses and an escalation of crime.
Street repaving was listed as the second priority, followed by new equipment for Columbus police. The association members also recommended boundary markers to define the neighborhood.
Once the residents reconvened, group leaders presented the results. Similar ideas and priorities surfaced within each discussion. In order to create great neighborhoods, residents would also like to see:
•Curb, sidewalk, and street maintenance and repairs;
•An increase in streetlights and decorative streetlights;
•Improvements and increased use of parks and green space;
•Greater police presence in neighborhoods;
•The expansion or creation of recycling programs;
•Repaired storm sewers;
•Cultural events in all areas;
•A trolley from the airport to downtown Columbus;
•Business improvement and use of vacant retail spaces and lots;
•More activities for children after school
Capital Improvements Allowance
Finally, residents allocated their imaginary allowances in the form of paper bills in their choice of eight containers, representing different capital improvements. The results showed three top interests.
Most of the residents spent their allowance on streets and highways, which accrued $3,400. The next highest category, safety and health, received $2,400, and parks and recreation amassed $2,200 of imaginary cash, reflecting clear priorities.
Electric received $700, storm sewers received $500, and refuse, sanitation, and water all received $100, respectively.
After the results from the five community meetings are collected, the information will be entered into a database and circulated to the 2012 Bicentennial Commission for review and comment.
The 2012 Bicentennial Commission is comprised of 250 members and divided into 13 focus groups intended to consider the public’s ideas related to the topic. Led by Co-Chairs Bishop Timothy Clarke, Dr. Gordon Gee, and Abigail Wexner, the commission will make a final decision on recommended capital improvement projects in order to create the Blueprint for the Bicentennial.
A concluding event will be held in May to present the commission’s final recommendations and report, as well as to celebrate the conclusion of the 2012 process.
The report will serve as the basis for the 2008 bicentennial bond package, which will appear on the November ballot.