Frustration Grows at Lack of Progress on Westland Mall Site
Frustration is growing on the West Side as the another year passes with no movement on the Westland Mall site.
Although it looked like demolition of the mall was imminent last December — when Franklin Township officials cited the property’s owner for a series of code violations — those issues were resolved a short time later and the mall has continued to sit empty.
Plaza Properties, under the name Weston Town Centre LLC, controls about 60 acres of the 80-plus acre site. Sears controls the remaining acreage and continues to operate its store on the site.
“At the county we believe that there’s definitely an opportunity to redevelop this site,” says Jim Schimmer, Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Director. “It just has to be looked at in a holistic way, and we haven’t been able to get there with this particular owner.”
Schimmer adds that the county “kicked the tires” with a logistics company that expressed interest in the site, but nothing came of the discussions.
“This is a key piece of property, but it’s controlled by the private sector,” he says, “and since the county is not in the position to purchase it and do something with it, it ends up to being the owner’s issue. We have tried over the years to be helpful, by doing a market analysis and studying possibilities for reuse, but there’s never been a formalized plan (from Plaza Properties).”
Plaza Properties — which which owns property all over the metro area, including some prominent historic buildings Downtown — did not respond to a request for comment on its plans for the mall site.
Chris Haydocy, owner of the Haydocy car dealerships on West Broad, calls the redevelopment of the mall the “final piece of the puzzle” for the area.
He ticks off a number of wins for the neighborhood since the Hollywood Casino opened just over four years ago — streetscape improvements to West Broad, the renovation of the troubled Lincoln Park West apartment complex off of Georgesville Road (now called Havenwood Townhomes), improvements in the commercial vacancy rate, the opening of the Camp Chase Trail, and the development of a new park and trailhead (Wilson Road Park, scheduled to open in May).
“This is a gateway into Columbus on West Broad, and it’s quite frustrating, every day, seeing no action on it,” Haydocy says, citing a recently-announced mixed-use development on the opposite side of town — at Hamilton Road and East Broad — as a model for how the Westland site could be developed.
“As for the property owner itself, I do not know where they stand,” he says, adding that he checks in frequently with Plaza Properties but that it’s “pretty obvious there has not been any progress.”
Haydocy thinks that tax abatements — similar to those currently available to developers downtown and in certain other neighborhoods, including the Short North — should be considered as an incentive to develop the site. He also would like to see Franklin Township take a more active role in maintaining and promoting the corridor.
“The casino has done their part, ODOT came to the table for the street improvements, the City of Columbus helped with the park and trail hub, and there are 35 small businesses up and down Broad working every day,” he says, “but the 800 pound gorilla is Westland Mall… it’s now hurting the economics up and down the corridor, and it’s hampering our growth.”