News that the owner of the former Dolly Madison plant wants to sell the property on North National Road has some people waxing nostalgic and others looking forward.
We view it as a glass-half-full development rather than seeing a glass that’s half empty.
It is sad that the plant, which operated from 1960 to 2012 and whose business roots date to 1948, likely won’t operate as a bakery again. Flowers Foods, a Georgia-based bread and snack maker, saw to that by saying it won’t sell the property to a competitor.
But the harsh reality is that the plant has been shuttered for exactly 16 months. It closed Nov. 16, 2012, when Hostess Brands Inc. filed a motion in bankruptcy court to cease operations across the country. That decision followed nearly a year of financial and labor problems, and cost more than 200 local employees their jobs. Eventually, Flowers bought $355 million in assets from Hostess, including 20 bakeries and 36 depots.
The Columbus bakery didn’t fit Flowers’ plans. So putting the property up for sale provides new life for it and has the potential to be good economic news for the community.
This is the perfect opportunity for the Columbus Economic Development Board, the mayor, the city’s business development and planning coordinator and Columbus City Council to work together to attract a buyer through marketing and making incentives available.
Prospective buyers will be enticed by the property’s 11.5 acres and 940 feet of frontage along a major thoroughfare, National Road/U.S. 31, not the 54-year-old plant currently standing there. The location is in a corridor of commercial and retail stores. Local real estate agents see the property as a prime spot for multiuse development. However, tax abatements might be necessary to entice a buyer.
Fortunately, zoning should not be an obstacle. The site is already zoned for industrial use, and because of the surrounding commercial and retail properties it could easily be rezoned for that purpose.
The property already has garnered some interest locally. As word of its availability spreads, interest surely will increase as well.
Whether future use of the property involves an industrial plant, restaurants or retail stores, any of those uses could serve the city and its people as well as or better than before. Just the prospect of new jobs being created should kick-start excitement throughout the community. This is a time of new beginnings, and one we suggest everyone embrace.