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Local Leaders Encourage Return To Downtown As Pandemic Recedes

Mayor Ginther speaking at the Columbus Commons
Nick Evans
/
WOSU
Mayor Ginther speaking at the Columbus Commons

With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, local leaders are encouraging people to return downtown to shop, eat, visit a museum or take in a concert.

At the Columbus Commons Thursday, Mayor Andrew Ginther had a simple message.

“It’s time to get back to work back to the office, back to our restaurants, back to events back to concerts, back to downtown,” Ginther said.

He said what happens downtown affects every other part of the city.

“Income tax revenue captured in downtown pays for cops and firefighters in Northland, public health workers on the Hilltop and recreation and park staff on the Southside,” Ginther said. “Everybody has a vested interest in downtown's success."

Elvin Cooper standing in front of the Queen's Table food truck.
Nick Evans
Elvin Cooper standing in front of the Queen's Table food truck.

Elvin Cooper runs Queen’s Table, one of the food trucks lining the grassy lawn at the Columbus Commons' weekly Food Truck Food Court. He said he's seen some encouraging signs as the city continues opening back up, but admitted they’ve got a ways to go.

“It’s just gradual. It’s been gradual, gradual, gradual,” Cooper said. “The last couple months have picked up. Not back to normal, but it’s picking up.”

Cooper added it could be next year before business fully returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Traci Lukemire standing in front of her Donna's Delicious Dozen food truck.
Nick Evans
Traci Lukemire standing in front of her Donna's Delicious Dozen food truck.

Meanwhile, Traci Lukemire has come through the pandemic fairly well. She's the owner of the donut shop Donna’s Delicious Dozen — Donna is her grandma, she explained with a grin.

She opened her storefront just north of Morse Road right before the pandemic started.

“Just celebrate[d] our two year anniversary. I opened right before the pandemic hit, and we grew,” she said in half-disbelief.

“Yeah, we were one of the blessed ones—that’s how I got my truck,” she added, pointing back at the food truck serving a steady stream of donuts.

According to a May survey from the Capital Crossroads special improvement district, about two-thirds of employees will be back in offices by the fourth quarter of this year. But the survey’s authors offer two major caveats for those figures. Despite sending the survey to more than 400 employers, they got responses from about 80. They also caution that the survey went out before COVID restrictions lifted.

District leadership plans to send the survey around again in August.