South Hamilton Road on the East Side will start seeing new sidewalks and turn lanes going up over the next two years.
Community leaders hope the $20 million investment, approved recently by Columbus City Council, will spur new business investment and help transform Eastland Mall.
“You bring in infrastructure, you bring in lights, it literally brings new hope to the people that live there and the businesses that are established already,” says Quay Barnes, head of the Mid-East Area Commission.
Barnes has been part of an effort to get the city’s attention. She says the city’s current agenda is to focus on building up downtown and its nearby neighborhoods.
“We’re not a priority. We know that,” Barnes says. “It’s just that we don’t accept that. So have they moved fast enough? Not to our liking, but this is at least a first step that we hope will be more of a commitment to the East Side.”
WOSU spoke with Barnes in 2017 about her hope to bring new development to Hamilton Road. Over the last few years, Barnes says crime has remained stable in the area.
Barnes says several businesses have moved in near Eastland Mall, like Saraga International Grocery, and she expects more to follow.
“We’re very, very diverse in the East Side in terms of not only race, but cultural and other aspects,” Barnes says. “And this grocery store will serve that population.”
Barnes says she hopes city officials will negotiate a plan with the owner of Eastland Mall to transform the area. Eastland Mall itself is making a push now to recruit more local businesses and other vendors to fill its many vacancies.
“The mall itself is viable,” Barnes says. “There are a lot of empty spaces in it. But there are what I call small entrepreneurial niches in there, where people have started small businesses.”
The road improvement project will extend on South Hamilton Road between I-70 and Refugee Road. City officials say construction will start in April and finish in May 2022.
“We need to have something where the city is making an effort to tell businesses that, 'Hey, this is an area that’s located near the airport, located near highways, it’s on a main corridor, it connects to some of our suburbs,'” says Barnes. “This is a good place to invest.”