COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City Council is pushing for growth in the downtown area.

It just approved more than half a million dollars to help attract business with a focus on expanding diversity and bringing downtown alive.

For the better part of a year, city council has worked on making this plan a reality. Now the next step is getting businesses to apply.

“We’re focusing on some key things that really affect people, not capital projects, but how can we make downtown the place that people really want to be, bring that energy,” President of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation Amy Taylor said.

The program is called the Downtown Ground Floor Growth Initiative and its goal is to do just that: fill up the vacant spots along the Gay Street area.

“This is really targeting a specific for businesses that are in a growth stage or are ready for brick and mortar because we want to make sure that they are successful,” Columbus City Councilmember Nick Bankston said.

The plan is to put out an application that will bring more women-owned and minority-owned businesses into the spaces.

“We’re going to take some of the new or empty storefronts, and work with tenants that are small women- or small minority-owned businesses, to really give them that leg up, that assistance that they need to come and be part of the downtown retail environment,” Taylor said.

The money will be used to cover part of lease payments, improve spaces and provide support for the businesses that do move in.

“At the heart of our city is our downtown, and we know that it’s going to look different with offices changing and work from garage, work from home, our downtown is going to look different, it’s going to have more residents, it’s going to have more people living here,” Bankston said. “And because of that, we know that it’s going to have a resurgence.”

Applications will be live in November. The goal is to match retailers to the spaces by the end of the year and get them moved in around spring 2024.