South Side Business Owners Hope For Best As Mayor Plans Revival

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Jones' Appliances has been an operating business on Parsons Avenue on the South Side for 40 years. Area business owners hope Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman's new plan to revive the area will be successful.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)
Jones' Appliances has been an operating business on Parsons Avenue on the South Side for 40 years. Area business owners hope Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman's new plan to revive the area will be successful.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)

In his annual state of the city address, Mayor Michael Coleman put a priority on revitalizing the city’s south side. But as WOSU reports, the mayor’s plan drew skepticism from some business owners along Parsons Avenue.

There’s a rich history on Columbus’ South Side. It was home to some of the city’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.

“The whole complexion of Parsons changed,” Borst said.

If anyone has witnessed the community’s decline it has been Marc Borst. Borst has been around the neighborhood his whole life. He owns 1125 Parsons Avenue. It’s a modest concrete block structure with a mechanic’s garage in the back. Borst’s grandfather built it about 90 years ago.

“He had a truck body building business back in the ‘30s and ‘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. He’s ready to retire. And the building might become like some of the others on Parsons: empty.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to mine right now. I was hoping whoever bought my screen printing business would’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.

“Friends of mine used to say well you know there’s a lot of money to be made on Parsons Avenue. And there was. And there still is!”

That’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 Children’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.

“I think once they’re built and they’re occupied in that area, people will take a chance,” Borst said.

Across the street from Borst’s business is Jones’ Appliances. It’s been in Michael Diles family for 40 years – not always as an appliance store. While Diles said he’s hopeful the mayor’s plan will draw more people to the community, he’s not sure what the answer is for businesses in the area that he says have long been overlooked by city leaders.

“They did a lot of work up in the Short North. And we’re not that far from downtown. You could almost throw a rock and hit downtown, and I’m surprised they haven’t did anything. They’ve started. They put in new sidewalks. Children’s Hospital is doing a lot of business down there. But that’s down there. It’s not doing anything for anything past Whittier [Avenue],” Diles said.

Most business owners say the mayor’s plan is a start. They just hope to still be around to see if it succeeds.

Comments
  • Keith Morris

    “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. ”

    In lieu of “Parsons Avenue” plug in just about any other major commercial street in that sentence: W. Broad Street, E. Main, E. Livingston, Cleveland, etc. Olde Towne East best shows how very slow neighborhood revitalization is when you fix up the homes and forget about the storefronts. After more than *two decades* of revitalization, which is around the same time the Short North started seeing improvements, E. Main is no N. High, not even close. Meanwhile, you can drive a short distance to Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood which flourished over the past decade and offers more than Olde Towne East’s two blocks of Parsons and the few spots on Oak St. Much more.

    The contrast between the two paths taken by the Short North (commercial focus) and Olde Towne East (residential focus) should have made clear long ago that investments in a struggling neighborhood’s storefronts are a must: no one would have bought a Victorian or Italianate home next to a stagnant, crime-filled corridor and the Short North is the clear exception to the rule when it comes to your average Columbus urban commercial street. After all, when was the last time you made it a point to go to E. Main, aside from Bexley, that is?

    This omission in revitalization dollars explains in large part why quite a few Columbusites leave Columbus and Ohio in general: it’s the most vibrant city in the state, yet all Columbus is content to offer is High St and for some “young professionals” like myself who don’t see any other urban area poised to offer anywhere near as much, well, we’ll just move to other cities that offer two or three times more vibrant areas than Columbus precisely because they *do* invest in numerous commercial areas and I’m not even talking about NYC, Chicago or San Fran, but other more similarly sized cities like Denver, Portland, and Minneapolis which at the same time offer vastly superior amenities like good public transit and comprehensive bike infrastructure. Waiting for Coleman and the city in general to “get it” has proven to be a test of one’s patience and mine, like others, ran out.

    No one is going to choose to patronize Parsons and spend money there because of a health and wellness center or an expanded hospital. Hal & Al’s and Plank’s alone do more to make Parsons a vibrant place than the former; attracting more entrepreneurs to open more of these local destinations is will make the corridor desirable. The Hilltop got a family health and wellness center on W. Broad in late 2009: not *one* new desirable business has opened in the dense little “downtown area” since then. It’s still dominated by liquor stores , barber shops, and empty storefronts, so there’s really no reason to expect more on Parsons after theirs is built: not this year or in years to come. Keep neglecting Columbus’ commercial streets and they’ll continue to look that way.

  • Keith Morris

    “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. ”

    In lieu of “Parsons Avenue” plug in just about any other major commercial street in that sentence: W. Broad Street, E. Main, E. Livingston, Cleveland, etc. Olde Towne East best shows how very slow neighborhood revitalization is when you fix up the homes and forget about the storefronts. After more than *two decades* of revitalization, which is around the same time the Short North started seeing improvements, E. Main is no N. High, not even close. Meanwhile, you can drive a short distance to Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood which flourished over the past decade and offers more than Olde Towne East’s two blocks of Parsons and the few spots on Oak St. Much more.

    The contrast between the two paths taken by the Short North (commercial focus) and Olde Towne East (residential focus) should have made clear long ago that investments in a struggling neighborhood’s storefronts are a must: no one would have bought a Victorian or Italianate home next to a stagnant, crime-filled corridor and the Short North is the clear exception to the rule when it comes to your average Columbus urban commercial street. After all, when was the last time you made it a point to go to E. Main, aside from Bexley, that is?

    This omission in revitalization dollars explains in large part why quite a few Columbusites leave Columbus and Ohio in general: it’s the most vibrant city in the state, yet all Columbus is content to offer is High St and for some “young professionals” like myself who don’t see any other urban area poised to offer anywhere near as much, well, we’ll just move to other cities that offer two or three times more vibrant areas than Columbus precisely because they *do* invest in numerous commercial areas and I’m not even talking about NYC, Chicago or San Fran, but other more similarly sized cities like Denver, Portland, and Minneapolis which at the same time offer vastly superior amenities like good public transit and comprehensive bike infrastructure. Waiting for Coleman and the city in general to “get it” has proven to be a test of one’s patience and mine, like others, ran out.

    No one is going to choose to patronize Parsons and spend money there because of a health and wellness center or an expanded hospital. Hal & Al’s and Plank’s alone do more to make Parsons a vibrant place than the former; attracting more entrepreneurs to open more of these local destinations is will make the corridor desirable. The Hilltop got a family health and wellness center on W. Broad in late 2009: not *one* new desirable business has opened in the dense little “downtown area” since then. It’s still dominated by liquor stores , barber shops, and empty storefronts, so there’s really no reason to expect more on Parsons after theirs is built: not this year or in years to come. Keep neglecting Columbus’ commercial streets and they’ll continue to look that way.