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Some State Street improvements in fast lane

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A new surface for State Street, from west of the State Street Bridge to Mapleton Street, will be among improvements residents can expect to see in southeast Columbus in the near future.

The State Street Corridor Plan is a 2015 project of the Indiana Department of Transportation, but the Columbus City Council member representing the district said a number of improvements are already in the pipeline.

“You are going to be seeing a bunch of changes here in the next year,” Councilman Dascal Bunch, who serves as council president, said during a presentation of the plan’s final draft Monday night at City Hall.

Since the city already owns the land where three gateway parks are proposed along State Street, those green spaces near Stadler Drive, Indiana Avenue and Marr Road likely will be developed within the next few years, said Justin Weidl, a designer and planner with the Chicago-based Lakota Group, which developed the plan.

Bunch and Weidl said that both residents and private investors, who have been involved in the plan for more than a year, are eager to move ahead quickly.

“Since we’ve refined our ideas and made sure they were fully vetted by the community, we’ve already got strong public support for a lot of what we are proposing,” Weidl said.

One supporter is the owner of Tipton Lakes Family Dentistry.

Dr. Christopher Bartels, who opened a second practice near State Street and Indiana Avenue just last weekend, said he has purchased two adjacent lots east of his new location for investment purposes.

What’s next

Columbus City Council President Dascal Bunch and other city officials are in the initial stages of forming a State Street business association. They hope such an organization would help facilitate proposed changes and renovations, as well as provide guidance to potential new investors.

While he is still considering options for those parcels, the owner of the recently opened Affordable Dental Care facility said the State Street corridor provides a lot of opportunity for retailers in an under-served area.

“It would be good for any business to open here because right now there’s not much competition,” Bartels said. “I would think that if any new entrepreneur or business owner is willing to clean up their property and make it look nice, they are going to get business.”

Since lower land prices and reasonable rents appear to make State Street a good business investment, other projects appear to be advancing quickly, Weidl said.

For example, discussions are underway with Dorel Juvenile Group to seek its assistance in corridor beautification.

Among other developments:

Negotiations have begun to move the Mariah Foods store to a higher-profile location along State Street, Bunch said.

While Casey’s General Store has just opened at State and Gladstone, a new Subway sandwich shop will be constructed across the street, according to city-county planner Jeff Bergman.

Columbus businesswoman Julie Aton has already found investors motivated to establish food outlets and small manufacturing facilities on the southeast side near Repp Drive, Bunch said.

Meanwhile, the Thrive Alliance organization has expressed strong interest in helping to develop townhouses along Hollowell Street, just across from Columbus East High School, Bunch said. In fact, requests for proposals will likely be made within a year, Bergman said.

While some investors appear receptive to State Street revitalization, Bunch said he expects obstacles from the state Department of Transportation on proposed traffic changes.

One proposal includes closing off the western block of McKinley Avenue, diverting McKinley’s traffic flow to Pence Calla Street and installing a traffic signal where Pence Calla intersects with State Street.

“INDOT is a group that’s hard to work with, and they are on their own time frame,” said Bunch, who said traffic signals along State Street also are being sought for Indiana Avenue and Cherry Street.

However, Bergman said INDOT has been a part of the renovation process, and he anticipates the department will prove to be a good partner with the city as revitalization efforts move forward.

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