Southside Residents Look for Improvements

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When it comes to neighborhoods in Columbus, the South Side often is forgotten. Now neighbors and city planners are trying to change that. They are studying the areas needs and formulating a development plan for the future. Neighbors and city leaders will discuss the plan at a meeting tonight.

When you hear there’s a new Art Gallery opening, you might automatically think “Short North.” But for one of the city’s newest galleries, think south as in the South Side of Columbus. Studio 1000 opened a few weeks ago at the Corner of Parsons and Reinhard Avenues. It sits across from a rental storage building with a beautiful mural on the side.

“See what that mural drew? Look at this. Is that not gorgeous? That should be in the short north.”

Allen Carrel and Ken Williams proudly brag about the new gallery and other improvements in the tiny neighborhood called Ganther’s Place. They’ve spent the last 7 years cleaning up their street. Now Carrel aims his attention on business owners on Parsons.

“You’ve got to shine it up. You’ve got to make it look presentable if you want people to move here. People aren’t going to move for trash, they’re going to move for something that’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye. We all know that,” Carrel said.

Carrel wants the Parsons Avenue Merchants Association to be more aggressive in working with business owners to spruce up the avenue. Coordinator of the Association, Jeff Knoll says he has heard the complaints.

“Parsons has gotten a bad rap. People have said it’s unsafe. If it’s derogatory they’ve said it about Parsons Avenue. I’ve been here around 15 years and I haven’t had a problem myself,” said Knoll.

Knoll owns Graphic Touch on Parsons. The building is old and shows its age. Boxes and furniture clutter the inside adorned with damaged tin ceiling tiles. Knoll says the corner at Livingston with a new CVS Pharmacy is a step in the right direction. But, he understands progress isn’t easy.

“It’s very frustrating because it’s slow. There are of course good reasons for it. All business people and governments have been feeling the pinch of the economic downturn and many other things that have taken place over the past few years, Knoll said.

The South Side was one of Columbus’ early neighborhoods in the 1800′s and the center of manufacturing. Factories attracted a streetcar line, houses, churches and stores. Then the Great Depression in the 1930′s started a decline in the industrial era and Parsons Avenue.

There’s still a vacant lot owned by the city of Columbus where the old Schottenstein’s store once stood. Several other businesses are boarded up. Thrift stores, restaurants, and a grocery store are open. So is the South Side Cycle and Mower Shop in the one thousand block of Parsons Avenue.

“I should know your name. Rod Williams, I come every year. You do a great job.”

The store has been in business since the 1930′s. The building with its creaky hardwood floors appears to be original. Current owner, Chuck McElroy bought it 6 years ago. McElroy says he has loyal customers who drive from the suburbs to drop off their lawn mower for repair. He wants to see more improvements on his part of the street.

“It’s never made it this far. I think the improvements are going, they’re stopping well before they get to Whittier and they’re heading east,” said McElroy.

McElroy says for long lasting changes a greater police presence is needed. “Every business down through here you can go talk to them. Every one of them has been broke into. People’s walked in when they’re stealing stuff. There’s not a business down through here that has not had a crime problem,”McElroy said. Resident Ken Williams says improvements can’t wait and everyone has to do their part.

“If we don’t develop Parsons Avenue it will be hard turning this whole entire south side around. We need to attract businesses. We need business owners to upgrade their properties,” Williams stressed.

A new plant pride effort this spring will bring huge pots filled with flowers and hope to Parsons Avenue.