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Input for corridor wanted

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People who live and work in and around the State Street Corridor want more collaboration with the city as planning to revitalize the East Columbus area continues.

Members of the State Street Area Association want to create a “standing-room-only” crowd at the 6 p.m. Monday meeting of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, said Dascal Bunch, Columbus City Council president, who represents East Columbus and is a member of the association.

“We want to make sure that the Columbus Redevelopment Commission understands that there are a lot of people who want to see this happen,” Bunch said.

The redevelopment commission plans to discuss the scope and cost estimates for the first phase of the plan to revitalize the corridor.

Julie Bills, an East Columbus resident who was slated as president during the group’s Thursday meeting, said many of the association’s members — along with other area residents and business owners — plan to attend the meeting.

She said the intent is to show the redevelopment commission that they support revitalization of the corridor, specifically as it is presented in the plan that was recently adopted as part of the city’s comprehensive plan.

Association members don’t want to see the plan pushed to the wayside, said Julie Aton, the group’s treasurer. That’s happened in the past, she said, and the group doesn’t want it to happen again.

During a city council discussion of the plan’s first phase Tuesday night, Aton asked that the city allow the association to collaborate and give input on any planning and development. The association can help ensure progress on the plan, she said.

A group of stakeholders being involved in the process was one of many suggestions from a consultant that put together the State Street plan, Aton said.

The State Street Corridor Plan was developed by the Lakota Group, a Chicago-based design and planning group.

Group members want to help, Bunch said, but they need to be allowed to participate in meetings so they can know what’s going on in order to do so. As the city starts discussing scope and cost, he said, it needs to make sure that the right people are involved in the conversation.

Bunch expressed personal frustration during the council’s discussion Tuesday, saying that key stakeholders in the project are being pushed out of the planning process, a move that would hurt, not help, redevelopment in the area.

His comments came after Mayor Kristen Brown presented preliminary plans from United Consulting, an Indianapolis-based engineering firm that the city would tap for work on the project, and said there would be a meeting between the consultant, the city engineer and the planning department on Wednesday.

A committee of State Street residents and business owners, along with the city engineer and planning department, already had met with the engineering firm, Bunch said, and now it seems as if the city is taking over and pushing those stakeholders out.

But Brown, who is also president of the redevelopment commission, called Bunch’s criticism “ill-founded.” She said she simply had asked United Consulting to accelerate the process, since the city needs to determine whether it can coordinate part of the project with the work that the Indiana Department of Transportation is doing on State Street.

She said the Wednesday meeting was for the city engineer to verify the accuracy of the scope of the consultant’s plans and cost estimates.

There won’t be any deviation from the State Street Revitalization plan, which stakeholders helped to create, she said.

And the group members are welcome to participate in Monday night’s discussion, she said, as the city wants to make the process “as open as possible and very encouraging of dialogue and participation.”

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