Auto dealer Chris Haydocy is quick to acknowledge that a casino and urban campground for long-distance bicyclists would be unconventional cornerstones for redevelopment of Columbus’ west side.
But the president of Haydocy Automotive on West Broad Street and leader of a group trying to revitalize that area said the Hollywood Casino Columbus and a possible hub along the Ohio-to-Erie bike trail south of the $400 million casino could help lift the west side’s image and attract businesses.
“They are polar opposites but will tell a really good success story for the west side” said Haydocy, president of the Weston Vision Inc. redevelopment group. “We want to be identified by two big iconic things – this urban campground and Hollywood Casino Columbus.”
The bicycle hub, which could include camping facilities for those traveling the 300-mile trail being built between Cincinnati and Cleveland, still is under discussion. The casino became a reality in October, when it opened off Georgesville Road, creating 2,000 jobs and inspiring businesses, including Haydocy Automotive, to invest in remodeling or expanding their buildings.
West side boosters are awaiting other major investments in the area by the private sector, including what Columbus developer Larry Ruben plans to do with his company’s nearly vacant Westland Mall. Ruben, principal of Plaza Properties Inc., could not be reached for comment.
“There is a whole lot of work going on behind the curtains that I’m not able to talk about,” Haydocy said. “There are still a lot of opportunities out here.”
‘Brilliantly subtle’ icon?
As for the bike hub and trail, the city is planning to build a 3.6-mile piece of the Ohio-to-Erie trail along the Camp Chase railroad from Sullivant Road south of the casino to an area near Rhodes Park along I-70. It will connect with about 11.5 miles of the trail, including a bridge to be built over I-270, being completed in western Franklin County by Metro Parks.
Haydocy expects the rails-to-trails project to bring home buyers and renters wanting to be close to the bikeway. It also would provide recreation for west siders and help rebrand the area as a green and healthy community that can attract entrepreneurs.
“It’s an unconventional way to revitalization,” he said, “but we absolutely believe it’s the right way.”
County Economic Development Director Jim Schimmer said an urban campground along the Ohio-to-Erie trial could be a “brilliantly subtle” icon for the area.
“It can be something that nobody else has,” he said. “It could become a source of community pride.”