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Population increase hasn’t translated into retail growth

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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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.


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14 Responses to Population increase hasn’t translated into retail growth

  1. ddavis December 29, 2006 2:44 pm at 2:44 pm

    But with so many stores already gone from City Center, what stores are the new residents expected to patronize? The “everything under a buck” stores that now inhabit spaces of former clothing retailers?

  2. Walker Evans
    Walker December 29, 2006 2:57 pm at 2:57 pm

    I think new downtown residents are expected to continue to travel for their shopping at the moment until their numbers can increase. The City Center will be completely shut down before it gets any better, so I don’t see any new real stores moving in there before then.

    There is plenty of other downtown retail space that can be utilized that isn’t part of the city center. I can see stores like the American Apparel in the Short North setting up in other areas downtown. That store isn’t a part of a larger retail center. It’s an island, but it’s a destination because you can’t find it anywhere else.

    How about an H&M on Gay Street? I could see that happening and doing well. 8)

  3. Brewmaster
    Brewmaster December 29, 2006 4:03 pm at 4:03 pm

    I’ll speak for myself here…

    Walkability to things like work, grocery stores, restaurants, bars, banks, shipping stores, delis, coffee shops, dry cleaners, doctors offices, parks, movie theaters, and sporting events is the best thing about living downtown. That said, I don’t want to be able to walk to a big box retailer because they are inherently unwalkable. Think about how many people drive from one big box to another within the SAME plaza. They’d break up the urban atmosphere if they all moved downtown. I understand that there are “urban” versions of walmarts, targets, etc… but I feel like we’d be selling out if one moved in.

    Also, For as much as I go to Target, Best Buy, Lowe’s, etc… I don’t mind jumping in the car and driving 5-10 minutes.

  4. Brewmaster
    Brewmaster January 1, 2007 11:54 am at 11:54 am

    Also let’s have a reality check here.

    There have been about 1,500 housing units completed since 2002. That amounts to around 2,500 new residents.

    There are about 750,000 people living in the Columbus Metro area and we’ve got two sucessful malls (Easton and Polaris), and one semi-sucessful mall (Tuttle).

    I don’t think anyone in thier right mind would think that a couple thousand residents is enough to resuscitate a massive mall on life support.

    Can we support a few stand alone retailers? Perhaps. But those 2,500 new residents are still relatively spread out. We’ve got to get our density up before we can expect clothing stores to be popping up downtown.

  5. Walker Evans
    Walker January 1, 2007 7:40 pm at 7:40 pm

    I agree that downtown needs some more population density before we’ll see more commercial development, but shopping centers aren’t limited to regions. Not everyone that shops at Polaris lives within 5 miles of it. Not everyone that shops at Easton lives within 5 miles of it. So not everyone that would shop downtown needs to reside downtown. Hell, even in the heyday of the City Center we had hardly anyone else living downtown then. People travelled downtown for the City Center because it was a destination.

  6. Brewmaster
    Brewmaster January 2, 2007 9:42 am at 9:42 am

    I hate building retail without population growth though. It just comes at the expense of existing retail. If you build something sucessful downtown, you’ll probably turn Tuttle into a ghost town, then need to spend millions bulldozing and redeveloping it.

  7. honavery January 2, 2007 10:00 am at 10:00 am

    Is Tuttle on the demise? I hardly ever go there, but the last time I was there on a Sunday afternoon in November it was packed. Like really packed.

  8. Walker Evans
    Walker January 2, 2007 10:02 am at 10:02 am

    That’s why the focus of City Center shouldn’t be on retail alone. The same sort of thing goes for other venues. If there was a new movie theater built downtown at the City Center (which I wouldn’t advocate) it would come at the expense of the Arena Grand, The AMC Lennox and the Drexel Gateway theaters. If there were a new nightlife district at the City Center it would come at the expense of the Park Street nightlife area. If there were a new hotel complex at the City Center, it would come at the expense of the other downtown hotels.

    If the focus is on a mixed-use development though it should have enough variety to be appealing without being too much of a detriment to other similar locals.

  9. Paul
    Paul January 2, 2007 9:48 pm at 9:48 pm

    I don’t think Tuttle is on its way out. I still go there once every month or so.

  10. Roland
    Roland January 2, 2007 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm

    With all the office space in the Tuttle area, there’s a lot of lunchtime shoppers. There’s also lots of housing being developed behind the mall and even more office space coming over by the Hilliard side.

    I think Tuttle Mall will only see an increase in traffic for a few years to come.

  11. Walker Evans
    Walker January 3, 2007 10:00 am at 10:00 am

    Paul wrote I don’t think Tuttle is on its way out. I still go there once every month or so.


    I guess this means it’s time for me to change my avatar, eh?


  12. 20thousandinmypocket January 3, 2007 10:19 am at 10:19 am

    i dont believe polaris is that successful. i mean they still have 1 big box retail space that isnt leased, i know for a fact the great indoors on a national level is not really performing, and also from what i have heard the saks in columbus is doing very poorly. i truthfully would not be surprised if both saks and great indoors were to shut their doors over the next 5 years. with lampert at the head of sears i really wouldnt not be surprised if he were to shut down the rest of the great indoors that are still around, or sell them to a pe firm or something. saks who knows if they can fix some of brad martin’s foulups. i heard something about getting rid of excess baggage in the conference call in nov for saks, but as i didnt listen to it i cant say what it was in reference to. all im saying is dont be surprised if neither of these stores survive.

  13. Paul
    Paul January 3, 2007 10:22 am at 10:22 am

    Walker wrote
    Paul wrote I don’t think Tuttle is on its way out. I still go there once every month or so.


    I guess this means it’s time for me to change my avatar, eh?


    Nooo! Why would you do that?

    It’s merely a humble homage…

  14. jcsbarber January 3, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am

    Paul wrote
    Walker wrote
    Paul wrote I don’t think Tuttle is on its way out. I still go there once every month or so.


    I guess this means it’s time for me to change my avatar, eh?


    Nooo! Why would you do that?

    It’s merely a humble homage…

    LOL…that’s hilarious. Good stuff, Paul.

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