Columbus Foundation officials have expressed a willingness to entertain a grant request that would pay for a business plan to develop a nonprofit mall serving the Northland area, according to Joyce Bourgault, chairwoman of the Northland Alliance.
Bourgault provided the update last week at the Northland Nonprofit Summit, held in the Haimerl Center on Morse Road.
"We feel like we've made a lot of progress," she said.
If the grant to develop a business plan is eventually approved -- and the application is due this week -- Bourgault said Tamar Mott Forrest, who guided a survey project in the area's Beaumont neighborhood, would be hired to create the document.
In a fact sheet distributed at the Northland Community Council's annual picnic and during the summit session, Bourgault indicated that the goal for the "one-stop shop" is to locate it within walking distance of the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services. She specifically mentioned the Morse Road corridor at both gatherings.
Parties signed on so far to be part of "The Mall," as it's being called are the Helping Hands Health and Wellness Center free clinic, of which Bourgault is executive director; an extension of the Charitable Pharmacy of downtown Columbus; the outreach services of a consortium of 10 churches in the neighborhood; the Economic and Community Development Institute; Action Ohio; Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services, World Relief Columbus; and US Together.
Some of these merely want office space in the nonprofit center while others would move their entire agency in the building, according to Bourgault.
"The hang-up that we're experiencing right now is, how much is this going to cost?" said the Rev. Gregory Herndon of Epworth United Methodist Church.
By the same token, Herndon said it might be beneficial if food pantries, clothing distribution programs and other outreach efforts of churches could find a home in a single location.
"It makes a great deal of sense," he said.
"I think the time has come where we take what we have to the people," said the Rev. Kwesi Gyimah of the Columbus African Seventh-Day Adventist Church. "We would achieve more when we do that."
A single location would help simplify transportation issues for people seeking to access social services, according to Bourgault.
"It's going to be very comprehensive," she predicted.
In addition to offering assistance to those in need, she said a nonprofit mall could provide training for people to start their own businesses and perhaps would also incorporate a restaurant operation for clients and the general public.
"We want to have a space where people can come in and sit down and take time to share," Bourgault said.