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Pandora Tackles Parking, Shopping and Other Short North Issues

Walker Evans Walker Evans Pandora Tackles Parking, Shopping and Other Short North Issues
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WE: It sounds like there are new parking solutions either just added or on the way soon. The new Hub garage is open. Have you heard any feedback on that so far?

BP: Oh yeah. We’ve seen people using it, and we really appreciate that project coming online. It’s a great amenity to now have. What’s really been great is the formation of the Short North Parking Workgroup — which the city created at the beginning of this year to deal with some of these issues of parking in the neighborhood. Having a dedicated group of folks from diverse backgrounds representing different constituencies is already resulting in really good ideas.

We removed peak parking restrictions on Fourth and Summit. That was an idea that came out of that workgroup and the city was immediately responsive to it. It’s those kinds of creative conversations and making sure that everyone is thinking creatively about the issues in the neighborhood that I think are getting the best results.

WE: Looking at the Short North as a whole, the Southern end is very well developed with new Cameron Mitchell restaurants and new boutique hotels going in. A lot of newer businesses are blazing the trail further north where the district is still a little more rough around the edges. How do you see the two ends of the district continuing to evolve?

BP: There’s a couple of things going on. First and foremost, we have an amazingly well-engaged group of stakeholders in the northern end of the district. They’ve come together and kind of formed a unique identity, even within the district and are calling it the Short North Garden District. I cannot stress enough how instrumental and meaningful The Garden Theater has been in the continued success of the northern end of The Short North. They are a wonderful anchor and have convened some fabulous conversations about creating a unique experience at this end as you tend to have unique experiences at the southern tip of the district. That’s great and having that energy makes a difference in terms of people understanding and knowing the level of retailers that are here and continue to move in.

What we see as also being helpful is an increase in development throughout all parts of the district. It feels like toward the southern end we saw a real concentration of new development projects and we’re starting to see new development come on line towards the northern end. The Fireproof Building redevelopment is now under construction and that will kind of connect a little bit of a gap.

Thinking outside of The Short North, our friends at Campus Partners and the University District certainly have a lot of initiatives going on south of the Gateway, so you’ll start to see these open seams close in between our districts.

Having the COGO Bike Share and other things like that also help to move people up to the northern end of the district.

WE: Is there any concern at the SNA about the expansion of Short North retailers to Easton Town Center? We’ve recently seen Homage, Jeni’s, Bink Davies, Northstar Cafe and Le Chocoholique open new stores there. Does that give regional shoppers less of a reason to visit the  Short North if you can get similar shopping experiences at Easton, plus a whole lot more with upscale national chains?

BP: I think what we’ve seen is that the Short North does an incredible job of incubating small retail businesses. All of the businesses you just named got their start in a large way in the Short North. We are so proud of them and their success and that we can help them grow in a great way.

The experience shoppers are going to have in the Short North is not the same as the experience they are going to have at Easton – or anywhere else in the country. The Short North has a culture, it has an identity, it has a feel. It has an engagement of the arts and it has the spirit of Columbus in a very distinct way. Our job at the SNA is to communicate that to people. We do that through promotions and we do that through experiential events like Gallery Hop. There may always be a constituency that is just going to prefer to go to Easton, and that’s fine. Some people are also always going to have a strong preference for the Short North too.

WE: So there’s no worries about dropoff in visitors and shopping traffic?

BP: You know, we’re always conscious about all kinds of things, but I think we do a pretty good job of making the compelling case of why you should come to the Short North.

WE: Is there anything else big that you’re working on right now?

BP: Highball! It’s larger and more spectacular, and really almost more of a cultural event this year than it’s ever been in the past. We have two days, October 25th and 26th and a real strong focus on Day of the Dead and our Latino community partnerships this year. It really is a cultural event that is not to be missed.

Something else that we’re working on with our public art committee is a public art plan for the district. I think that over the next year you’ll see even more enlightening of the public space in the district to really honor and recognize local artists and regional artists and new creativity that we have in this community.

It’s all a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun.

More information can be found online at www.shortnorth.org/short-north-alliance.

Photos by Logan Miller for ColumbusUnderground.com.

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