COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–“You are invited to come back to Downtown Columbus!” declared former mayor Michael Coleman Thursday afternoon from a podium set up near the carousel at Columbus Commons.
City leaders, downtown businesses, and office users were a few of the groups represented as the city launched a campaign to attract faces new and old to the heart of the city.
“A lot of the income tax revenue we get from downtown, people working downtown helps fund basic city services in neighborhoods throughout the city whether its cops, firefighters, public health officials,” said Mayor Andrew Ginther.
“Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood. Everybody owns a piece of the rock and has a stake in the success of the downtown community,” said Coleman, who now serves as a board chair for the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation. “It’s our living room, it’s the place where we work. It’s the place where we entertain. It’s a part of who we are as a city. And when our downtown thrives, so does our city and our community.”
The downtown core has been an area of extreme focus for many developers, businesses, and city leaders for decades. Coleman explained they want to see the area return to its pre-pandemic heights and go even further.
“Bringing back downtown better and that means thinking about new amenities, new focus, new employers. All kinds of things we can build on,” Coleman said. “The building block has been set. The foundation has been set and now we have to build upon the foundation that’s been set for some time now.”
A recent study conducted of downtown businesses by the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District found that the number of employees working in offices in May was estimated at 34% of pre-pandemic levels. Over the summer months, that number is expected to increase to approximately 68%, with many employers returning to the office just last week on July 6th.
Fifth Third Bank employees returned to the office in Mid-May.
“For us to be able to be together and to collaborate is really how we continue to grow and drive those relationships,” said Francie Henry, Regional President of Fifth Third Bank. “We’ve missed each other from a cultural standpoint, our employees have missed one another. We’ve missed seeing our clients. So to be able to be back and together has really been a big help as we service our customers and we continue to do what’s right for our city.”
Henry said employees have already started gathering again downtown, supporting the businesses that have struggled during the pandemic.
“They’re buying coffee, they’re going to lunch, they’re getting their haircuts. I actually just got my nails done last week here downtown and I think all of the businesses result appreciate it and they need our help and support,” Henry said.
Business owners said they appreciate the help and encourage more people to discover downtown.
“We’re so proud to be a part of Columbus and we’re so proud to be the fabric that connects people together in the heart of the city but we can’t do it without you,” said Julie Wilkes, owner of Seven Studios.
Starting today (July 15th), Mayor Ginther says there will already be an increased presence in downtown areas like Bicentennial Park, Columbus Commons, and along the Scioto Mile.
“There will be additional safety and security folks here to make sure everybody feels welcome back and safe as they come downtown,” Ginther said.
That increased security presence will be active from 4 pm to midnight daily.
Ginther also announced that the Scioto Mile Fountain would start operating again daily on August 2 through Labor Day.
During the fountains operating hours, an increased security presence will be focused on the fountain area as well.
“They’ll be unarmed, much like the security personnel that you see around the parks,” Ginther said.