September 11, 2012 10:22:06 AM
Realtors call it curb appeal, and they will tell you that without it, selling a property is a difficult task.
Curb appeal is essentially the attractiveness of the exterior of a property.
In this sense, much of the Highway 45 corridor of Columbus has very low curb appeal.
The city will soon take its first, careful steps toward doing something about it.
It's a long overdue effort, and when you consider the sheer scope of the problem, it's easy to see why. We are not talking about a few city blocks, an area small enough to be manageable. Instead, we are talking in terms of miles, with dozens upon dozens of businesses, some old, some new. The Highway 45 we know today never followed much of a plan; it just sort of happened. The result is a hodgepodge of styles, signage and landscaping. To make matters worse, empty, dated buildings and vacant parking lots are sprinkled along the 2.7 miles between Magnolia Bowl and Bluecutt Road.
Some tasks seem almost too big to comprehend. So, while everyone agrees that "something should be done," no one has taken the necessary steps to actually start.
The time for starting appears to have arrived.
It begins with a vision. The city plans to hire a firm to create a variety of artist renderings of what the corridor could someday be. It will be the first step in what is likely to be a long and expensive journey.
Ultimately, the city hopes to update its ordinances on signage and landscaping and "cut-ins'' (the number of entry/exits into businesses from the highway). Ideally, the city will eventually be in a position to bury the power lines, another aesthetic improvement that will run in the millions of dollars.
In fact, just about everything that is needed to improve the corridor carries a price-tag, one the city cannot -- and should not -- bear alone.
Mindful of that financial burden, it will be important that the city work with business owners along the corridor to make improvements that enhance the area without forcing businesses to look elsewhere.
In this respect, the relationship between city officials and business owners must be collaborative. The city should be sensitive to the costs to businesses that will accompany the changes in the ordinances. Likewise, business owners must realize the extra money they may be required to spend is an investment in their businesses.
The shared commitment may not produce immediate dividends, but the time has long since passed for action.
Conveniently, Columbus has a perfect example of a revival of a formerly blighted area. It's true that a handful of private individuals largely drove the revival of downtown. Let's not forget, though, that the allowance of second floor apartments by the city council and generous state tax credits made the costly renovations of the 100-year-old buildings financially justifiable.
It's time for the city and our businesses along the Highway 45 corridor to work together to produce something that is vital to their shared interests.
Curb appeal is not just window dressing.
It is critical to our future.