Alice Foeller has fond memories of the Continent, the early-1970s, European-themed retail and residential development off Busch Boulevard in the Northland area that, in its prime, was what Easton Town Center is today.

Alice Foeller has fond memories of the Continent, the early-1970s, European-themed retail and residential development off Busch Boulevard in the Northland area that, in its prime, was what Easton Town Center is today.

"My first date was at the Continent," Foeller said.

The Columbus Dispatch, in a 2007 story about much of the site being offered at a sheriff's sale, called the Continent "central Ohio's original lifestyle center, a combination of shops, offices and apartments ... perhaps best known in the 1980s for the French Market, a food emporium."

Now Foeller, the Northland Community Council secretary, is hoping the less-than-vibrant shopping center will provide the first office for her website-development business.

Foeller, NCC President Alicia Ward and Jenny Lin, who heads the Northland Alliance, hope other small businesses renting space at the Continent will provide the first spark for a rejuvenation.

"The potential is really great," Foeller said in revealing the ambitious project at the June 12 meeting of the Northland Area Business Association.

Plans the three community leaders are exploring for the Continent include other small businesses such as Foeller's; a "business accelerator for new Americans;" a community of artists; restaurant incubator space complete with a licensed commercial kitchen; and an area where home-based business owners or representatives of nonprofits can meet with clients.

"We feel like we've got a lot of those talents in the community," Lin said.

"NCC's very interested in revitalizing the (state Route) 161 area in general and especially around the Continent," Ward said June 13. "With the absence of Giant Eagle and Bob Evans and a couple of the hotels closing down, we're seeing the potential for something bigger to happen there. We're kind of excited to get this potential group of businesses moving into the Continent area to make that kind of a hub for nonprofits and for businesses that are starting up to have storefronts there."

The Giant Eagle store at 1000 E. Dublin-Granville Road, just south of the Continent, closed in March 2017. A fire gutted the Bob Evans restaurant in the 900 block of East Dublin-Granville Road on March 10.

The goal for the trio, Foeller said, is by August to "have something up and running" in terms of businesses and nonprofit organizations taking up office space in the Continent.

"We have some bigger, more fun dreams," she said.

These include a location for events, which Foeller termed a "secondary convention center."

"We're at the point where we'd like to get people on board with it," she said.

A committee is being formed to help guide the effort.

"We just want to start something up," Lin said.

Dave Cooper, president of the business association, said the plan being put forth for the Continent is "exciting."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1