An interesting article about the problems with City Center, the new residents moving downtown, and what the future may hold for retail in downtown Columbus.
It seems a peculiar contradiction: At a time when unprecedented numbers of relatively affluent people are setting up residence in downtown Columbus, retail stores in the central business district are fading and fleeing and folding. Or are long gone.
City Center, once the crown jewel of downtown retail, is but a shadow of itself, more meeting space and charter school than merchandising and charge-card shopping.
“We believe that retail is among the most nimble of industries, and that it follows people,” offered Michael S. Brown, press secretary to Mayor Michael B. Coleman. “Thus our focus on bringing people back to downtown as a priority of the business plan. In just three years, we’ve seen the construction or development of 4,000 housing units, and are bringing more than 2,300 jobs downtown. This is a great start and we believe, as the population density and jobs increase, retail will stabilize and grow again.
“That said, we don’t necessarily see downtown ever being a retail giant around City Center as it was many years ago.”
That’s a conclusion with which Christopher D. Boring agrees wholeheartedly.
For downtown dwellers, places such as dry cleaning establishments, coffee shops and a full-service grocery store are much more important than the kind of spending opportunities represented by a thriving mall, according to Wilkos.
If having a shopping mall within walking distance is a major reason for deciding where to live, Wilkos pointed out, then hundreds would have taken up residence in downtown Columbus when City Center opened in 1989, and that certainly didn’t happen.
However, he added, if the rate of growth in downtown housing continues over the next decade, that’s almost bound to bring about some rebirth of retail trade.
As longtime downtown resident Michael Wilkos put it, City Center was “downtown in location, not in spirit.”
Boring predicted, however, that perhaps some mixed-use development of offices and retail may yet keep City Center alive.