Three women with three different goals want to unite their ideas into a single effort that might help breathe new life into the Continent.

* Northland Community Council President Alicia Ward believes strongly that the neighborhood needs and deserves its own community center.

* The chairwoman of the Northland Alliance, Jenny Lin, continues to champion the longstanding idea of creating a "nonprofit mall" where organizations could have office space and those in need of social services would be spared the time, trouble and expense of traveling throughout Columbus.

* Alice Foeller, NCC secretary and the owner of a website development company, thinks a "business collaborative" in the moribund shopping center near Interstate 71 and East Dublin-Granville Road could tap into the entrepreneurs among the immigrant refugee populations in the area.

The three neighborhood leaders, operating under the Northland Collective banner, provided some insight into their hopes and dreams at the NCC's Sept. 5 meeting.

According to their PowerPoint presentation, the Northland Collective "brings together groups working on business development, public health, poverty and building community bonds."

In her segment, Foeller said the Continent offers the possibility that Columbus could develop something along the lines of such existing international business incubators as the West Side Bazaar in Buffalo, New York, the International Marketplace in Indianapolis and the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis.

"If any place should have one, it's Columbus," Foeller said. "We have no shortage of vendors and restaurants. They're just not in one place."

While the apartments at the Continent, once a thriving "lifestyle center" with shops, offices and restaurants, are full, the same is not true of the storefronts, Ward told NCC representatives.

"It's vacant, for the most part," she said. "It's a great place for us to get started. We have room to grow there."

Ward envisions a community center at the Continent as a place where people from the vastly diverse population of the neighborhood could come together for events and to have classes given by artisans or cooks demonstrating dishes from their native lands.

"You get to know people you might not normally hang with," Ward said.

Lin, who reminded her audience that the mission of the Northland Alliance is to enhance and improve the neighborhoods that make up that section of Columbus, said the area has a number of assets going for it, including its wealth of ethnic eateries, the North YMCA, Woodward Park, a low cost of living and "extensive networks of groups and organizations."

"It can't work separately," Foeller said of the triple objectives she, Lin and Ward have for Northland Collective.

So far, Foeller added, in presentations the local leaders have made throughout the city, tentative support has been offered by officials with Experience Columbus, Ashland University, Economic Community Development Institute, the Northland Area Business Association and Columbus City Council.

The next step, she said, is to find investors, seek grants, recruit businesses and get volunteers.

"I think this is a good idea," Devonshire Civic Association representative Daniel Scott said.

"You've got to start somewhere."

At Ward's request, those present voted unanimously to add the NCC to the list of supporters for the Northland Collective's concept.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1