West Side Leaders Excited About Casino and Future Green Development
Since opening nearly five months ago, much of the media discussion of the Hollywood Casino in Columbus has centered on the number of people coming through the door and what kind of experience they are having once they do. A group of planners, business leaders and other interested parties gathered at an event on Thursday night to tackle the issue from another angle – how has the casino impacted the neighborhood outside its doors, and what does the future hold for the area?
Chris Haydocy, President of Haydocy Automotive, sees the casino as the catalyst for what he hopes is a west side rebirth. Because of that “400 million dollar investment in our backyard”, things are starting to happen now, he said. As one example, he cites an ODOT plan for streetscape improvements along Broad Street; work is now beginning on the project two years ahead of schedule. Haydocy says the project was fast-tracked because he and others were able to persuade 27 property owners along the corridor to donate portions of their land within the right-of-way.
He also spoke excitedly of plans for a greenway through the neighborhood – the Camp Chase rail trail is scheduled to be completed by 2014, and students from a Landscape Architecture class at OSU have suggested some innovative ideas for parks and green-space along its length.
Former Franklin County Commissioner Dewey Stokes shared Haydocy’s excitement about the greenway and agreed with his assessment on the importance of the casino; “it’s an opportunity; we simply have to take advantage of it.”
Thursday night’s event, hosted by the Urban Land Institute of Columbus, also featured remarks by Columbus Planning Administrator Vince Papsidero and Franklin County Director of Economic Development and Planning James Schimmer. They provided an overview of the planning work that has been done over the course of the last two years and emphasized the opportunity that the private sector now has to take the next steps in developing the area. Papisdero also outlined a number of economic incentives for the neighborhood that are now under consideration by the city.