By Amanda Ensinger
Residents from the westside got the chance to discuss economic development in their community and improvements they would like to see in the region during a recent stakeholder engagement event.
On April 29, the Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Department held a community meeting at Haydocy where they asked residents projects and improvements they would like to see on the westside.
“Within our department, we are starting to plan for economic development on the westside and we want to ensure whatever economic development we do reflects the community and is resident-focused,” said T. Alex Beres, assistant director of the Franklin County Economic Development and Planning. “In order to do this, we need to hear from you guys. We will use what we talk about tonight to continue more conversations and hopefully generate activity in the region.”
During the stakeholder engagement conversation, residents were broken up into groups of six and discussed locations, businesses and meeting spots they like on the westside and things they don’t like. Among the items that residents liked included Carl Frye Park, Westland Area Library, Doctor’s Hospital, Prairie Township Community Center, Camp Chase Trail, Prairie Township Fire Station and Hollywood Casino.
Some of the items in the region that residents didn’t like included the high crime in the region, businesses around the Hollywood Casino, and crime ridden apartment complexes and nuisance properties.
“There is real potential in parts of the westside, but they need to be developed,” said Dan Fagan, meeting attendee. “For example, if the Westland Mall gets developed the other side of the street has huge potential.”
One of the big conversations during the meeting was the recent report that the Sears portion of Westland Mall has been purchased by LGR Weston, leaving the mall now open to redevelopment.
“We all know the news last week has gotten everyone excited about the westside,” said James Schimmer, director of the Franklin County Economic Development and Planning.
“However, this won’t be the focus of the meeting tonight. We want to talk about the entire westside, not just Westland Mall.”
However, the mall still dominated the conversation. When residents were asked to prioritize what they want to see improved in the westside, the mall was the top item discussed by all groups.
“We need a multi-jurisdictional approach to repairing the Westland Mall,” said Betty Jaynes, westside resident. “We need the city and county to come to the table.”
However, some residents were skeptical they would not see any benefits of the mall being developed.
“Once something good happens at Westland Mall it will be annexed into the city,” said Nancy Day-Achauer, westside resident and member of the Westland Area Commission.
“Westside residents have been conditioned to not want more than we already have because we live on the westside,” added Janet Cahill, westside resident. “We have not been treated equal and we should be.”
Other improvement priorities residents discussed during the meeting included having a sit-down restaurant with a patio on the westside, having playgrounds, addressing the homeless issue, having more attractions for young people and reducing the cost of water service in the region.
Residents also suggested some ways to address these issues, including adding a police substation, having tax incentives for businesses, working with other jurisdictions and creating a master development plan.
Organizers will now take these ideas and go back to drawing board with next steps for development for the westside.