City wrapping up work in the Short North just in time for holiday haul

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - One of the most iconic neighborhoods in the City of Columbus, the Short North, has seen a lot of change over the last year.

The most obvious change for visitors so far has come in the form of new businesses and orange barrels popping up like wildflowers.

But the city tells 10TV some of the latest changes in the Short North were much needed and they are just about complete.

The improvements made to the High Street Corridor, from the Columbus Convention Center to the south end of the University District, have mainly impacted pedestrian safety.

Now, those improvements are wrapping up, just in time for a major shopping haul, according to the Columbus Department of Public Service.

The completion comes as a relief to area businesses and residents.

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“We’re very excited that the construction season is wrapping up here for 2018, just in time for the holidays,” said Betsy Pandora, executive director for the Short North Alliance. “You know, folks that maybe haven’t had an opportunity to come down to the Short North in a while, we’re really excited to see them back.”

Getting to this point has been a long road for the businesses and construction crews alike.

“Our sidewalks were buckling and there were really a lot of lighting and safety issues, so community members came together over a number of years to provide feedback to the city on things that could make for the neighborhood to be safer and to help beautify the neighborhood and the city began making those investments last year and continued that this year in the Short North,” Pandora said.

In an effort to improve safety and walkability in the neighborhood, the city repaved and widened the sidewalks.

Crews extended curbs, protecting parked cars and helping pedestrians cross the street in less time, and the city also laid out brighter crosswalk markings and planted trees that would not block the lighting.

“A lot of the major work is done,” said James Young, with the City of Columbus department of public service. “So now it’s going to be more rolling work, like planting shrubs or grasses or what not and taking down the rest of the overhead wiring.”

But the work hasn't been without challenges.

“We’ve lost at least 20 days to rain this year so it’s been a real challenge to get all the work done and get it ready for winter,” Young said.

The area felt it, according to Pandora.

“This has been an a-typical year and I think it’s been challenging for people to weather that much construction,” she said.

Ninety percent of the business community in the Short North is locally owned or headquartered, while 75 percent are extremely small, Pandora said. That fact alone can make things challenging when major construction digs in.

“We really had to do a lot of education to the city as to how they could create a supportive environment for small businesses to exist with that level of construction,” Pandora said.

While area goers may still see roadblocks, the city’s work is just about through, according to Young.

“There’s still private work going on in the area and that’s been one of the struggles with the projects,” Young said.

Much of what people see now is work commissioned by the businesses and building owners themselves.

At this time, the city is prepping for the next phase of the High Street Streetscape, from 2nd Ave to 9th Ave in January.

But the improvements made thus far give Short North advocates hope for an even brighter future.

“We really want to see everybody come back down and support small businesses for the holiday season. Construction like that is challenging and people certainly need support now,” Pandora said.

Pandora also told 10TV that the district is running a shopping incentive through the month of December.

Shoppers can pick up a sticker at participating businesses in the Short North. After collecting five, they can redeem a $50 parking meter gift card at Le Meridian, the Joseph Hotel.