City Razes Vacant Apartment Complex in Near East Revitalization Effort

SEAN CASEYDaily Reporter Staff Writer 04/26/2005

The city of Columbus’ push to revitalize urban neighborhoods continued yesterday with the demolition of a long-abandoned apartment complex on the Near East side. City and community leaders cheered as a backhoe pierced the top floor of the Whitney Young Apartments at 761 Mount Vernon Ave. and began pulling the brick walls to the ground. The city began tearing down the structure Monday to make room for residential and commercial redevelopment intended to improve the quality of life and economic opportunities in the neighborhood. The project serves as part of a widespread effort to rejuvenate Columbus’ Near East side through the creation of new, clean and safe housing, and it complements the citywide initiative of urban revitalization. “After a generation of neglect, it is now time to begin a new generation of investment, with new housing and commercial activity,” said Mayor Michael Coleman before giving the go-ahead to fire up the demolition machinery. The Columbus Urban League led the development of the multi-building, 54-unit apartment complex in 1971 to provide affordable housing to area residents. After years of neglect by property owners, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development foreclosed on the property and sold it to the city of Columbus for $100 in 2004. The last tenants vacated the premises last year. According to Donna Hunter, administrator of the city’s land-management office, once the complex is razed, the city will combine the property with two adjoining lots already held in the municipal land bank to form one parcel that Columbus will designate for redevelopment, with an emphasis on residential construction. “Homeownership will be what we see out of this,” she said. The city will issue a request for qualifications to developers on Unconverted Image May 19, Hunter said. When HUD sold the property to the city, the purchase agreement included conditions concerning development restrictions for the parcel. Hunter said the city currently is negotiating these restrictions with the agency. Regardless of the details governing the redevelopment of the land, Kathleen Bailey, president of the Near East Area Commission said the demolition of the apartments fosters a sense of hope in the neighborhood. “This is a very great day for the Near East side,” Bailey said. “This is a second chance for us.” She added that previous efforts to pump new blood into the area through spot redevelopment projects have fallen flat, but the revitalization of the Whitney Young site holds much greater promise because it is buoyed by a series of similar initiatives in motion across the neighborhood. The Near East Area is bounded by Interstate 670 on the north, Alum Creek on the east, and I-70 and I-71 on the south and west, respectively.

The redevelopment of the Whitney Young Apartment site is a part of an overall plan to revitalize the area that has been put together by residents, businesses and the city of Columbus, which updated its master plan for the Near East side earlier this year. Other investments in the neighborhood include the Gateway Project at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Long Street, the $3 million investment by St. Paul Church for a new wellness center, renovations to the Lincoln Theater, and a series of commercial and residential investments. Additionally, collaborators Stenson Powell Development and Homeport, a division of the Columbus Housing Partnership, have launched a homeownership program in the King-Lincoln District, the neighborhood surrounding the Lincoln Theater and the King Arts Complex on East Broad Street. Stenson Powell Partner Kim Powell said the pair plan to develop a total of 32 new and rehabilitated residences on 21st and Long Unconverted Image streets. Powell said this new community called NoBo, meaning North of Broad Street, has five houses in the ground, with construction beginning on another three in the next few weeks. She said four buyers already have purchased homes in the area, the first of which expects to move into the new residence this week. A model home center for the NoBo community will open in mid-May, she said. “We are trying to jumpstart the neighborhood,” Powell said, adding that the city is boosting this effort by offering a 15-year tax-abatement program to the area. Ultimately, the NoBo project intends to increase vested interest in the Near East through homeownership, while revitalizing one of the city’s most vibrant and historic downtown communities, the group said. If you have questions or comments for The Daily Reporter regarding this story please contact editor@sourcenews.com Copyright 2005 The Daily Reporter