The report a group of Ohio State University students prepared after doing a site study proposal for the Northland area is entitled "A Time for Change."

The report a group of Ohio State University students prepared after doing a site study proposal for the Northland area is entitled "A Time for Change."

But in the opinion of one Northland Community Council official, much of the document advises local leaders to carry on many things that are already being undertaken.

"It bolstered and encouraged us in our efforts," graphics task force coordinator William Logan said.

"The university people did an excellent job in defining the issues and coming to the kinds of conclusions for us," he added. "The report is limited, as it was intended, to focus on the short-, mid- and long-term goals, and the majority of those elements we are working on and pursuing."

The subtitle of the report by students of Jack L. Nasar, professor of city and regional planning at OSU, is "Redefining Identity for Northland." NCC president Dave Paul said that, too, is in keeping with ongoing endeavors of local community leaders.

"It was a well-designed study, or maybe the beginnings of a well-designed study," Paul said last week. "It was kind of a preview of what might come."

In fact, he said, the work done by Nasar's students, as well as their willingness to continue working with community members on image improvement and other aspects of the study, might provide the needed impetus for updating the Northland Community Plan. It's nearly a dozen years old, Paul said, and was based on some assumptions that haven't stood the test of time, including the continued existence of the Northland Mall.

"Maybe it needs a refresher," he said of the community plan.

Originally, students in Professor Nasar's Service Learning Studio intended to look into the issue of "predatory" advertising signs posted illegally in the public rights of way. The idea was to give NCC officials firepower for demanding tougher ordinances from Columbus City Council.

Over time, as the project team of Kyle Begley, Joshua Botts, David Froust, Ryan Friedberg, Max Gardner, Gregory Gordos, Lusa Kabasele, Tony Kremer, Cody Price, Rastko Ruzic, Adam Shroyer and Yu-Ran Yang delved into the issue, the study came to embrace much more than illegally posted signs.

"From our research involving demographics, community surveys and meetings with the Northland Community Council, we identified three broad and inter-linked goals for the future of Northland," the report states.

Those goals are to:

reduce crime and fear of crime.

enhance identity ad visual quality.

enhance sense of community.

The document goes on to recommend actions for achieving these goals. (See related story on this page.)

That predatory signs are a detriment to the community, in the view of residents, was one of the report's conclusions that Logan found most encouraging.

"The first item I no doubt would focus on, because of my responsibility for graphics, was the conclusion that report reached which supported our work as a graphic task force," he said. "Essentially, now we've got a documented report that provides backup for what we perceived as the original justification for forming the task force."

Among conclusions in the report that were heartening for Paul were that the Northland area's neighborhood groups, such as civic associations and Block Watches, along with increasing pockets of ethnic diversity are perceived as community strengths.

"Certainly, I thought those were interesting observations," he said.

Both Paul and Logan said they are intrigued by the aspects of the report that dealt with more clearly defining what is meant by the term "Northland."

"In my travels, the majority of people do not yet understand where Northland is located geographically," Logan said. "Certainly, notification by - they refer to it as portal entrances, and I might use a simpler term of signage - and that signage could say, 'We welcome you to Northland.' I think that would provide a much stronger identify for not only who we are but where we are.'

"On a much larger basis, it would certainly enhance the overall issue of image," he said.

For Paul, the identity issues raised by the study buttress something he's been thinking about for a time, which is that the NCC's boundaries should perhaps be contracted. Such a project, which Paul said would have to be undertaken by whoever succeeds him in office - he's vowed he's in his final term - would allow the council to focus on the "traditional" Northland of the older communities inside Interstate 270.

Council members would then "mentor" the newer subdivisions and developments no longer within its territory to form either area commissions or community councils, Paul said.

More clearly defining what constitutes Northland geographically might also help address perceptions regarding crime, in Logan's opinion. News reports might typically state that this shooting or that robbery or some other act of violence occurred in North Columbus.

"Well, where is that?" Logan asked. "We recognize the classic news premise of 'if it bleeds it leads' but it's then up to the community to counter that, to point out all the positives that are occurring in the area - in essence, to purposely promote the area and counter to some degree the negative. It takes one negative report to wipe out 20 positive demonstrations of what's going on. That's just the reality."