A walk or drive through Uptown these days reveals many empty storefronts, once filled by small businesses.

A walk or drive through Uptown these days reveals many empty storefronts, once filled by small businesses.

There's one at the corner of College Avenue and State Street, where the Blue Turtle tea and spice shop sat until recently. A space on North State Street long housed DJ's Feed Store, and across the street is one of the most recent closings - the children's boutique Hey Diddle Diddle, which was located in Uptown for 12 years.

"Now we have quite a few empty spaces (in Uptown), and it makes you go 'hmmmm,'" said Renee Kropat, owner of Uptown's Gallery 202.

The good news, said Kriss Rogers, owner of Outside Envy and president of the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association, is that almost all the vacant spaces have projects planned for them.

"There are things going on behind the scenes in all those locations," Rogers said. "I've been here five years, and every once in a while, we go through those periods where some stores will move out and some new ones will move in."

The owners of Jimmy V's and the Westerville Grill are planning to open a deli in the former feed store location. A new business plans to move into the former Blue Turtle space, and investors are looking to rehab a vacant building just north of Graeter's at the northwest corner of College Avenue and State Street.

Kropat herself has filled two vacant slots, creating The Art Loft, an art space for adults at 11 1/2 N. State St., and studio and gallery space in the former That's So Sweet candy shop at 13 E. College Ave.

The move from a central location to two separate location marks an expansion for Gallery 202, with adult classes being offered at the Art Loft and "Creative Minds" classes and classes for people with disabilities offered at the East College location.

"We expanded because a number of people wanted to use the space, and the classes were competing with each other" in the former location at 38 N. State St., Kropat said.

Despite the recent turnover in Uptown, city officials remain confident that the business district is strong, Westerville economic development administrator Jason Bechtold said.

"From the city's perspective, the Uptown area continues to show resiliency in this economy," he said.

The city is continuing its commitment to Uptown through programs such as the Uptown Fašade Improvement Program, which will launch later this spring. It provides grants to Uptown business and property owners looking to invest in the historic Uptown buildings.

The city also soon will start an Uptown planning process to address any problems in Uptown, such as parking, that may cause concern for the area.

"It's a comprehensive look at the Uptown. It's bringing all the various stakeholders to the table - merchants, property owners, various other key stakeholders that are affected by the Uptown," Bechtold said. "If it's vacancy or parking or encouraging reinvestment in these historic buildings, what are the key concerns as we move forward so that Uptown can continue its vibrancy now and in the future?"

Stores in Uptown continue to be supported by a community that's interested in shopping locally and supporting small businesses, Rogers said.

"That kind of support from the community makes Westerville such a great place to do business," she said.

The businesses that have closed did so for a variety of reasons, she added.

"The stores that are set up to really do business are doing really well right now," Rogers said. "This is just a transitional period for Uptown. It's not just people with a good business plan; some people have left for personal reasons. There are lots of reasons people move in and out."

Rogers said she searched central Ohio for the perfect place to open her business five years ago and found Uptown Westerville to be ideal because of the traffic and the support for the business district.

"I still feel the way I did five years ago when I thought, 'I have to find a place in Uptown to open my business,'" Rodgers said. "I just thought, 'This is the place,' and I still feel that way."