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~~The Morse Road business corridor is more parking lots than people-friendly.
A study undertaken by a group of Ohio State University students that offers suggestions for further enhancing the stretch of road between Interstates 71 and 270 was the main topic of last week's Northland Area Business Association quarterly luncheon meeting.
The corridor, once devastated by the closure of what was the Northland Mall, has seen millions of dollars' worth of improvements since, funded by the city and a special improvement district. However, the zoning hasn't kept up with modern times, it's not amenable to pedestrians and is lacking in green space, according to Brian Kinninger.
He was one of nine students working under the direction of Associate Professor Jesus L. Lara of the Knowlton School of Architecture at OSU, who conducted the "Strategic Visioning of the Morse Road Corridor." The project, similar to ones conducted by a Regional Program Planning Design Studio Team in Weinland Park, Linden Village and the West Side, was done under the auspices of the Northland Alliance.
The Morse Road corridor has a lot going for it, Kinninger told his NABA audience last week. It is both highly diverse and densely packed with businesses, he said. With just under 90 establishments for each square mile, it has a higher density than is seen in much of New York City, Kinninger added.
But it also has approximately 4.5 percent of the area devoted to green space, falling below the nationally accepted modern standard of at least 5 percent, Kinninger said. And then there are those vast seas of parking lots, fed by a series of access roads, that push the businesses and office buildings well back from the street itself.
The main recommendations the students came up with, after conducting surveys and holding a series of workshops in the winter and spring, involve the creation of three "hubs" along the corridor, Kinninger said during his presentation.
A community hub, near the site of what was once the shopping mall, would provide space for "pop-up" shopping opportunities for local businesses as well as a location for residents to access social services, he said.
The intersection with Cleveland Avenue would serve as a gateway hub, while the third one near the Alum Creek bike trail would serve as a recreational focal point, Kinninger indicated.
All three, he said, would help serve as "nodes of development."
The design studio team also suggested repurposing the access roads as multiuse paths, with new businesses and even residential buildings going up directly next to Morse Road.
During the question-and-answer period that followed his presentation, Kinninger was asked how likely it was that these visions would become reality.
"That's up to the business community," he said. "We can propose all we want, but if there's no capital or investment in the area, it's just a plan."
The goal of NABA and the Northland Alliance is to take these concepts well beyond just the planning phase, NABA president Dave Cooper said.
"There is some strong interest in some of the projects," added Northland Alliance Chairwoman Joyce Bourgault.
A design committee is being formed to explore ways of implementing some of the recommendations, according to Cooper, who invited attendees to consider signing on.
"The idea is to get as many people on the committee as possible, within reason, who represent the assets of the community," he said.
"It will take involving the city, the county," Bourgault said. "We're really interested in seeing this progress."