About two dozen people turned out last week to offer their opinions on what the Northland stretch of the Morse Road corridor has going for it and what they would like to see gone from it.
Initially, Northland Alliance Chairwoman Joyce Bourgault was disappointed at the turnout for the Neighborhood Design Workshop conducted by the Ohio State University City and Regional Planning Program's Community Design Studio Team.
The gathering took place from 9 to 11:30 a.m. March 19 at the Haimerl Center.
Later that day, however, Bourgault said that Jesus J. Lara, an associate at the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture, and his students assured her the participation level was on a par with similar projects undertaken in neighborhoods such as Weinland Park, Linden Village and the West Side of Columbus.
"We were a little disappointed because there were fewer people who came than we expected, but we had a really good representation of the neighborhood," Bourgault said. "We had a pretty good cross-section."
The Neighborhood Design project is an outgrowth of a series of gatherings Bourgault has convened under the auspices of the Northland Alliance for nonprofit organizations involved in the neighborhood. She said many nonprofit agency officials, instead of attending last week's workshop themselves, urged clients to go, as they know firsthand about living conditions in the corridor being studied.
In addition to the suggestions and ideas offered by workshop participants, Bourgault said some of Lara's students went to the Gillie Senior Center and others to the North YMCA, where they got people to fill out surveys.
"We need to get your input as part of the process," Lara said during his opening remarks.
Lara also announced at the outset that funding had been received from the Columbus Foundation and United Way of Central Ohio to enable the findings of the project to be published in book form, which has been done with previous studies.
"The book is a really good way to document the process," he said as attendees broke up into small groups to share ideas and concerns. "It's not only good for the students, but also the community."
Among those participating in the "Think, Pair and Share" opening exercise for the workshop was William Logan, a member of the Northland Community Council development committee and coordinator of the Northland Area Code Task Force.
"It's another of an ongoing effort to redevelop the area, make improvements," he said. "We're here to stay, and we plan on improving the community."
"Actually, it went really well," Lara said the day after the workshop. "The group of people who were there was very vocal."
Participants at the workshop and in the surveys expressed concerns about safety, housing and commerce, he said.
"That's going to help us start to prioritize," Lara added. "We have enough content."
Lara and his students will use the information gathered in surveys and during the workshop to begin developing a "vision" for the Morse Road corridor, he said in opening the session. Once that's completed, another gathering will be held in several weeks to share that with community residents and further hone what it is they want to see for the area, he stated.
That next session has tentatively been scheduled for April 9, probably in the evening, according to Lara.
The students will eventually produce the report as a document that can be shared with neighborhood residents and perhaps used as a future tool to help shape development, Bourgault said.
"Once we get past that, we looked at what they suggested and we then go to the city, to different organizations, and say, 'This is what the people want to see,' and hopefully, get a plan of action," she added.