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South Side Business Owners Hope For Best As Mayor Plans Revival
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In his annual state of the city address, Mayor Michael Coleman put a priority on revitalizing the cityâ€™s south side. But as WOSU reports, the mayorâ€™s plan drew skepticism from some business owners along Parsons Avenue.
Thereâ€™s a rich history on Columbusâ€™ South Side. It was home to some of the cityâ€™s immigrants; German Village is right next door. The area grew into a blue collar, industrial neighborhood where lawns were neatly kempt, and mom and pop really did own the lunch counter down the street.
But time has passed. Businesses and neighbors left.
â€œThe whole complexion of Parsons changed,” Borst said.
If anyone has witnessed the communityâ€™s decline it has been Marc Borst. Borst has been around the neighborhood his whole life. He owns 1125 Parsons Avenue. Itâ€™s a modest concrete block structure with a mechanicâ€™s garage in the back. Borstâ€™s grandfather built it about 90 years ago.
â€œHe had a truck body building business back in the â€˜30s and â€˜40s. And my dad had a truck and auto repair business in this building and I took it over in 1980s,” he said.
The building now houses a screen printing company. But Borst just sold the business. Heâ€™s ready to retire. And the building might become like some of the others on Parsons: empty.
â€œI donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going to happen to mine right now. I was hoping whoever bought my screen printing business wouldâ€™ve wanted to stay on the avenue. But he decided to move it,” Borst said.
Nevertheless, Borst, who leads the Parsons Avenue Merchants Association, is passionate about the revival of the neighborhood.
â€œFriends of mine used to say well you know thereâ€™s a lot of money to be made on Parsons Avenue. And there was. And there still is!”
Thatâ€™s why Borst was pleased to hear Mayor Michael Coleman announce a plan to try to breathe some new life into the area.
Part of the initiative includes a new health and wellness center at the old Schottenstein site and an adjacent senior citizens apartment building. The initiative also calls for rehabbing old homes and building new ones. And a there are plans for a new job training and child care center.
But there was no mention of the store fronts along Parsons Avenue. And there is some question whether the plan will spark a community revitalization.
Borst expects the Childrenâ€™s Hospital expansion to create extra business for retailers and restaurants on the north end of Parsons, and he hopes the proposed health center and apartment building on the south end will do the same for its merchants. But Borst said he thinks potential business owners are in a wait and see mode right now.
â€œI think once theyâ€™re built and theyâ€™re occupied in that area, people will take a chance,” Borst said.
Across the street from Borstâ€™s business is Jonesâ€™ Appliances. Itâ€™s been in Michael Diles family for 40 years â€“ not always as an appliance store. While Diles said heâ€™s hopeful the mayorâ€™s plan will draw more people to the community, heâ€™s not sure what the answer is for businesses in the area that he says have long been overlooked by city leaders.
â€œThey did a lot of work up in the Short North. And weâ€™re not that far from downtown. You could almost throw a rock and hit downtown, and Iâ€™m surprised they havenâ€™t did anything. Theyâ€™ve started. They put in new sidewalks. Childrenâ€™s Hospital is doing a lot of business down there. But thatâ€™s down there. Itâ€™s not doing anything for anything past Whittier [Avenue],” Diles said.
Most business owners say the mayorâ€™s plan is a start. They just hope to still be around to see if it succeeds.