Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"Bexley's neglected areas need urgent attention, councilman Ben Kessler says" by John Matuszak..

The future of Bexley depends on revitalizing some of its long-neglected areas - including North Cassady and Livingston avenues - City Councilman Ben Kessler believes.

On Aug. 4, Kessler chaired a meeting of the new Bexley Land Use Strategy Commission to gather public input about future uses for these areas, as well as Main Street and Alum Creek.

Kessler maintains that this effort could have a greater impact on the city than previous development efforts because it addresses sections that have been allowed to deteriorate.

While all of the targeted areas are important, Kessler said the one that needs the most urgent attention is Livingston Avenue.

This is largely due to the presence of the Mayfield Apartments, which has become Bexley's high-crime area, according to police Chief Larry Rinehart.

In the past 12 months, officers have received 271 calls for service to Mayfield Road, which Rinehart said is "unacceptable for one street."

More troubling is that most of these calls are for serious crimes, such as burglaries, domestic violence and reports of gunshots, requiring at least two officers to respond, the chief said. A homicide recently occurred in the area, and gang signs have been spotted.

These problems contrast with the potential for commercial development along Livingston, with its access to I-70 and the city's highest volume of vehicle traffic, at 28,600 drivers a day, the planners noted. The success of the community garden near Mayfield has created more interaction between Bexley residents and shown the potential for change.

With the urban blight arrested, residents envisioned an express motel in the area to accommodate and attract visitors.

One of the obstacles to revitalization is that Bexley only controls the north side of Livingston, Kessler said. Columbus is in the process of adopting its own land use plan for Livingston, from Alum Creek to Brice Road.

The far end of North Cassady Avenue is another area with problems and potential. A gas station and a floral shop stand vacant, near such established businesses as Bexley Natural Market and a new coffee shop. The thoroughfare provides access to I-670 and serves as the city's northern gateway.

That gateway could be improved, residents suggested, to provide a clearer demarcation that people are entering Bexley.

Delmar Avenue has seen its share of police attention, including a SWAT team emergency last year. Planners are hoping that the construction of a new police station will deter crime and draw more positive attention to the area.

While Main Street has benefited from a surge of new development in the last five years, including the $24 million Gateway project, there is still room for improvement, participants said, particularly on the eastern end.

Residents see the area as less unified than the rest of Main Street, and they would like it to be more pedestrian-friendly. Desired businesses for the area include a book store and a grocery.

The plan being formulated isn't all bricks and mortar. It's also focused on the waterways and green spaces of Alum Creek.

The 2.5-mile stretch of the creek at Bexley's western border passes three parks - Schneider, Wolfe and Jeffrey - as well as other open spaces and a bike trail. With the dams now removed, residents see the possibility of canoeing and kayaking, along with scenic overlooks and more trails.

The next steps in the planning process include a report based on the public comments, to be published on he city's web site. The commission will then draft strategies for future action, with more public meetings before a plan is presented to city council for adoption.


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Design is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. John Matuszak.

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