West Side investors in town for research

Out-of-town companies are spending millions of dollars to buy and redevelop tired commercial areas on the city’s West Side.

This is no quick fix, said Richard Birdoff, president and a principal at New York-based RD Management. He said he and his company are in for the long run.

Birdoff is in town Tuesday to talk to community leaders about plans for his Great Western Commerce Center at Wilson Road and Valleyview Drive. Birdoff, whose company is spending more than $2 million to renovate the center, said he wants to “learn a little bit from people on the West Side.”

RD Management bought the property in 2013 for $7.1 million and has tried to diversify the mix of tenants there.

So far, the Franklin County Opportunity Center — a neighborhood service center operated by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services — the Great Western Academy charter school, Restaurant Depot and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore occupy space there.

About 20 percent of the space is vacant, Birdoff said. Owners are trying to find a tenant for the vacant Kroger store.

This year, Maryland-based America’s Realty and its partner, ARCJ Capital, bought the Great Western Shopping Center, which is just south of the commerce center, for $4 million.

America’s Realty specializes in turning around distressed retail properties. Great Western had a 72 percent occupancy rate.

Birdoff’s company has done a good job of reaching out to the community and keeping residents and business leaders informed on its progress, said Lane Newcome, the chairman of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission. “We’re looking forward to what they’re having to offer.”

Chris Haydocy, the West Side auto dealer and champion of developing that side of town, said both purchases indicate that people are taking notice of what’s going on in the area.

That includes the Romney Group’s purchase of the Havenwood Townhome Community across from the Hollywood Casino Columbus on Georgesville Road. The Utah-based company has spent about $10 million and plans to spend an additional $5 million to $7 million on what is now an 820-unit complex, after dozens of units were demolished.

Haydocy, president of Weston Vision, the West Side’s economic-development group, said the casino, which opened in 2012, provided a crucial boost to the struggling area.

“Five years ago, there was no investment coming in,” Haydocy said.

Birdoff said “nongambling” investments, such as his company’s, bode well for the area.