Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Uptown Westerville is a Place for News Stories

Uptown Westerville in the news in ThisWeek Westerville!

Local leaders planning to continue Uptown growth

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 2:07 PM
ThisWeek Staff Writer

Uptown Westerville has undergone a transformation in recent years as new retailers bring in an eclectic mix of businesses.

To capture Uptown's new feel, local leaders said they are working to change Uptown's reputation as an antiques-store haven and to bring more foot traffic to Westerville's historic district.

"We're still somewhat of a hidden treasure here," said Kriss Rogers, owner of Outside Envy and president of the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association (WUMA).

Some of that work to spread the word about Uptown business already has begun, as the Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau teams up with the WUMA each summer on events such as the Fourth Friday Celebrations, which offer themed parties in Uptown's streets once a month.

Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau executive director Jeff Hartnell said when he took over his role three years ago, events thrown by the group brought in fewer than 1,000 people.

Now, they bring in more than 6,000, but Hartnell said there is more work to be done to attract more and more traffic.

"I'm going to stay here until there are 10,000 people down here every Fourth Friday," he said.

The monthly summertime events, along with seasonal events organized in Uptown, may not attract the most dollars to Uptown businesses, Rogers said, but they do play an important role in giving people a chance to see what Uptown has to offer.

"That's just a big invitation to get people up here," she said. "We don't expect to do a lot of business those nights, but it's a chance for us to showcase our businesses."

Going forward, WUMA and the Visitors and Convention Bureau plan to continue to partner together and, along with the city and other interested Westerville groups, to continue to create marketing strategies and more opportunities for residents to come and explore Uptown.

Hartnell said he believes the partnerships being developed in Westerville are what will fuel an increased awareness about Uptown.

"It's the first time in years that these groups have been pulled together," he said.

Other initiatives to increase awareness about Uptown include a push by WUMA and its member merchants to educate and encourage people to shop locally owned businesses.

Since Rogers took over as WUMA president in July, the group has focused on publicizing the 3/50 project, which encourages people to think about three local merchants they would be sad to see close and to commit to spending $50 at a locally owned, independent business each month.

She said she believes the effort has brought positive results for businesses, and merchants plan to continue to raise awareness.

"I think the talking that we've done has paid off," she said.

A future city project also could have a positive impact on business and traffic in Uptown Westerville, Westerville City Councilwoman Diane Fosselman said.

For more than a year, the city has been working on plans to update the South State Street corridor.

Design standards have been upgraded for the area of State Street south of Uptown, and the city plans to reconstruct the intersection of South State Street and Huber Village Boulevard and to work with the Ohio Department of Transportation on a planned overhaul of the intersection of I-270 and Westerville Road.

Those upgrades should encourage more visitors to Uptown, Fosselman said, because they will give visitors to Westerville entering north from I-270 a positive impression of the city.

"What we're going to work on there is the entryway to the community," Fosselman said. "That's what sets the first impression to the community."

Click here to read Jennifer Nesbitt's story online.

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