The “Downtown is Open” campaign seeks to return to restaurants and events

Elle McMaster works and shops in Columbus. She owns the Copper & Ash Salon on South 3rd and Main Streets, and on Tuesday she was perusing the Pearl Market on East Gay Street, shopping for produce and coffee.

McMaster, a resident of Olde Towne East, is optimistic about the future of the downtown area after more than a year of uncertainty with empty office buildings and restaurants closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said her business had grown 50% since May as mandates were lifted as her business was fueled by hotels, weddings and other events.

“I have high hopes,” she said.

To this end, the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District is spending $ 50,000 on digital advertising, in addition to social media, window stickers, buttons and banners, to attract and keep people downtown.

Remind those who work from home of downtown amenities

The website features a video showing the skyline, the fountains of Bicentennial Park which will reopen on August 2, the Scioto Mile, Wolf’s Ridge Brewing and an artist painting.

It also features “Downtown Columbus is open for lunch breaks” and “Downtown Columbus is open for walks in the park”.

Related to this, has sections on cafes, murals and parks, as well as other features.

Last week, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and former Mayor Michael B. Coleman, who now chairs the board of directors of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, held a rally at Columbus Commons to boost business and events in the downtown when workers return.

Marc Conte, acting executive director of the Special Improvement District, said his group’s campaign is to remind people of the amenities of downtown, as many continue to work from home and officials don’t know how many will be. back for good.

“I don’t think we know that until the end of 2022,” Conte said. Last week, Conte estimated that about half of downtown’s 90,000 workers returned this summer.

Crime problems Downtown can also drive people away

Conte acknowledged that leaders need to convince people that the city center is safe, especially after high-profile incidents such as the May 22 shooting at Bicentennial Park that claimed the life of 16-year-old Olivia Kurtz and injured five others.

“Part of the problem is we’ve seen an increase in crime across town,” Conte said. “We are doubling our partnerships, our partnership with the police, the relationship we have with private security. Strengthen collaboration where we can in order to anticipate any problem.”

The neighborhood promotes events such as the Picnic with the Pops and Fitness Classes at Columbus Commons, the Moonlight and Sunlight Markets on Gay Street, and the CAPA Summer Film Series at the Ohio Theater.

Jami Goldstein, vice president of marketing, communications and events for the Greater Columbus Arts Council, said his group plans to launch a Columbus Makes Art passport in August that will involve more than 60 organizations and events in September and October that will include discounts and prizes. .

Peral Market employees, left to right, Drew B. Hall, Sam Sharkey and Catie Beach prepare to raise a mural banner painted by local artist Freddie Crocheron at the Pearl Market on Tuesday.

“It’s to encourage people to think about local community and arts organizations that give so much to our souls,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein said arts and culture groups were among the groups hardest hit during the pandemic, which forced layoffs as performances were canceled and venues closed.

Trying to renew the city center

Returning to the Pearl Market, Chris Rutter hoped business would pick up as workers slowly returned downtown. Rutter drove over an hour selling green beans, tomatoes, zucchini and onions that he and his wife, Tasha, grow near Roseville, south of Zanesville.

Chris Rutter, of Pappy's Plants in Roseville, Ohio, packs green beans while selling produce at the Pearl Market Tuesday.

This is his third year at the Pearl Market. The first year was “busy, busy, busy,” Rutter said. Last year, not so much, with the pandemic and the Downtown protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“This year it is slowly going up,” he said. “I’m starting to see more dresses and suits,” referring to downtown office workers. he hopes things will get back to normal by the end of the summer.

Omar Kaddour owns the Aroma restaurant at 72 Lynn St. The Mediterranean and European restaurant opened in a vacant restaurant space just two weeks ago. Kaddour said he had worked in the restaurant business for 12 years and that Kaddour’s dream was to open his own restaurant.

Despite the uncertainty of downtown, he thinks he made the right decision to open there at that time. Business continues to improve every day, he said.

“I am 100% confident,” said Kaddour.

A sign greets customers at the pearl market on Tuesday.

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