Businesses say casino area needs a hotel

on Monday, 14 January 2013.

The casino solidified people’s investment strategies

Retailers near Hollywood Casino Columbus say they need more than afternoon or evening gamblers to boost their businesses.

“We need some hotels over there,” said Dayna Sokol, who invested $600,000 to spruce up the Tee Jaye’s Country Place Restaurant on W. Broad Street across from the casino.

“You come to the casino, there’s nowhere to stay,” said Sokol, Tee Jaye’s president.

Greg Simpson, the manager of the Radio Shack near the casino entrance off W. Broad, said a hotel could help keep visitors in the area.

“They are going     g to be in the area in the morning or after hours,” he said. “If they did good, they might come over and buy a TV.”

The customers Simpson has seen since October are all from the area, he said. “It’s all still local traffic.”

A hotel is planned for the casino site, said Bob Tenenbaum, the spokesman for Penn National, which opened the casino in October, but there is no timetable for that.

Although it might be too early to determine visitor trends, some area officials and retailers are eager for the spinoff development to occur.

“I’m disappointed areas like Westland (Mall) haven’t shown any improvement yet,” said Judy Andrews of the Hilltop Business Association.

James Schimmer, Franklin County’s economic-development director, said increased development in the area could trigger someone to build a hotel, which he called a key to revitalization.

“More people stick around with a hotel,” Schimmer said. “Get that area to be a destination as opposed to a three-hour visit.”

There are some bright spots. Sokol said her dinner shift is busier and that she has added 10 positions since the casino opened. And Chris Haydocy of Haydocy Buick GMC on W. Broad said business in his service department is up 20 percent since October.

Some recent signs of development near W. Broad Street and Georgesville Road:

• The plans by U-Haul to spend $3.5 million to transform the former Meijer store on Georgesville into a rental and self-storage facility.

• An indoor skate park, Flow, moving into a vacant Circuit City store on W. Broad.

• The purchase of the West Broad Plaza shopping center at Broad and Georgesville by Hollywood Retail Ventures for $3.2 million, a deal that closed on Dec. 18.

The new owner said he had planned to invest in the area before the casino.

“We thought the West Side was on an uptick,” said Tom Heilman, a principal in Hollywood Retail Ventures.Heilman, who also owns the Lincoln Village Shopping Center on the other side of I-270, said he plans to spend $500,000 to fix up West Broad Plaza and hopes to attract some of the 2,000 casino workers to its businesses.

“We just think that corner is going to be dynamic,” Heilman said. The casino, he said, is the “icing on the cake.”

The U-Haul project has nothing to do with the casino and more to do with its location near I-70 and I-270, said David Pollock, a principal planner with U-Haul.

Others making improvements, such as Bobby Layman Chevrolet, had planned them whether the casino opened or not. Schimmer called those improvements “organic growth.”

“What the casino has done is solidified people’s investment strategies moving forward,” he said.

One disappointment, Schimmer said, was the announcement of two planned outlet malls in Delaware County. He said that hurts chances for improving retail near the casino.

Still, development plans, market studies and the $11.1 million state project to improve and beautify W. Broad Street between I-270 and Wilson Road are good signs, he said.

“We seem to have a grander vision out there than the private sector is willing to support — for now,” Schimmer said. “This is still a difficult neighborhood. People have adopted a wait-and-see attitude.”

Simpson, the Radio Shack manager, hopes to profit from that casino business someday.

“Right now, we don’t have that foot traffic,” he said. “They look around the neighborhood, there’s nothing there. They climb in the car and go home.”

There is more vehicle traffic in the area with the casino.

A traffic count on Georgesville Road near the casino on Oct. 25, a Thursday, found 21,300 vehicles over a 24-hour period, according to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. That compares with 18,000 during a weekday in 2010.

The casino has been averaging close to 10,000 people a day since it opened on Oct. 8, spokesman Tenenbaum said. The Columbus Dispatch Sunday January 13, 2013