A group originally created as a business association to shepherd the new State Street Corridor Plan into reality has grown into something bigger.
The State Street Area Association has more than 30 members representing a broad cross-section of the community, organizer Julie Aton said.
A mission statement is still being developed, but the new alliance of small businesses, large industries, commuters, city officials and both longtime and recent residents plans to work for the betterment of people who live, work and play in the State Street area, she said.
The State Street Area Association plans to use a multiprong approach commonly used for the development of downtown areas, Community Development Director Carl Malysz said.
Those prongs — organization and membership, promotion, design and restructuring — will be used to achieve the group’s long-term objectives, Malysz said.
However, a more urgent task for the new group is to help persuade the state Department of Transportation to come on board with the city’s proposed revitalization efforts, Columbus City Council President Dascal Bunch said.
For association members, this is especially important because state highway officials are planning extensive work on State Street scheduled to begin next April, said Bunch, who represents southeast Columbus on the City Council.
Association member and dentist Dr. Christopher Bartels said the group understands State Street is a state road, but wants to make sure that new designs for State Street will be incorporated into INDOT’s plan, he said.
Proposals in the State Street Corridor Plan outlined by Bunch that require INDOT cooperation include:
Establishing a bicycle and pedestrian trail along State Street, from Indiana Avenue to the State Street Bridge.
Closing the western block of McKinley Avenue and rerouting traffic along Pence Calla.
Reconfiguring the intersection of Second, Third, and State streets, as well as Central Avenue, to make it more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.
After organizing and prioritizing these and other ideas, the group will give them to Columbus City Engineer Beth Fizel, who will use the services
of a professional company to
incorporate those concepts into a workable design, Bunch said.
It will be Fizel who will present and advocate those designs to INDOT, Bunch said.
“The earlier we communicate and work with them, the better,” Fizel said. “With this approach, I think INDOT will be more cooperative than not.”
Opinions on why efforts in past years to create a State Street alliance have not succeeded vary from person to person, Bunch said.
“I don’t know how much input business owners and residents had in the past, but they have it now,” Bunch said.
Another factor generating excitement in the newly formed association is the growing emergence of Dorel Juvenile Group as a major player in State Street revitalization efforts, Bunch and Aton said.
“Dorel has really stepped up,” Bunch said. “They are really interested in helping out.”
“(Dorel) has offered assistance in anything they can do,” Aton said. “Several of their employees are very active in our organization.”
In recent years, Dorel had contributed mostly to children’s charities, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, according to 27-year employee and association member Nita Sullivan.
“But this is different. This is where we live,” Sullivan said. “State Street is something we want to look nice when we bring in job candidates or executives from out of town.”
In addition, several of the 800-plus Dorel employees prefer to live close to the plant, with many bicycling back and forth to work every day, Sullivan said.
Bartels, who recently purchased and renovated three investment properties near State Street and Indiana Avenue, said excitement for State Street is also building up among local and out-of-state investors.
“They see it as a great opportunity to get in at the ground level without too much investment,” the owner of the new Affordable Dental Care facility said. “Being a state road with heavy traffic and large industry, it has everything a private investor wants in a location.”
When revitalization efforts are added with plans for a new Bartholomew County Annex building and the work being done on Indiana Avenue this year, Bartels sees State Street as “the kind of home run capable of attracting even big-time investors.”
The city of Columbus sees the State Street revitalization efforts as a way to address the community’s housing crunch, Mayor Kristen Brown said.
Private investment is being sought for townhouses and apartments near the CSA Fodrea school campus, as well as affordable and senior housing in areas near the county annex.
With affordable properties and underutilized buildings, State Street revitalization provides the most cost-efficient means of addressing growing housing needs and providing services to both existing and future residents, City-County Planner Jeff Bergman said.
“When you look at how it’s all coming together, I just think the timing is right,” Bunch said.