Milo-Grogan Event Delivers Vision, Memories

Chris Hune, Homeport Board chair, center, leads participants in ground-breaking ceremony at Milo-Grogan. 

Chris Hune, Homeport Board chair, center, leads participants in ground-breaking ceremony at Milo-Grogan. 

Groundbreaking Celebrates Revitalization Initiative

A ground-breaking ceremony for the revitalization of Milo-Grogan not only stirred the neighborhood’s earth but memories with it.

The once proud working class community was undercut – and divided – with the construction of Interstate 71 in the 1960s, resulting in the demolition of an estimated 400 businesses and homes.

“Individuals and families were adversely affected. Manufacturing jobs were lost. People moved. As time wore on, other homes became vacant, abandoned and demolished,” Homeport President and CEO Bruce Luecke told 100-plus attendees of a special program on Nov. 29.

But Homeport -- with a consortium of financial partners, government, community organizations and Milo-Grogan residents – has begun the process of returning the community to better days, having begun construction of 33 new homes in the community north of Downtown.

Owners of an estimated 25 existing homes will also have access to fund that will enable their properties to be modernized and made energy efficient.

Local businesses will also be able to tap a special grant intended to help businesses improve their buildings, from plugging leaky roofs to creating better signage.

The city of Columbus has provided a tax abatement for the community to entice greater investment and improvements.

All the partners joined Homeport in a special ceremony at a tent across the street from the Milo-Grogan Community Center on Second Avenue.

Participants included three former residents of Milo-Grogan who looked fondly back on the neighborhood that was home to alley games, good natured fun and learning experiences.

Former Milo-Grogan residents left to right Jim Cleamons, Robert Barksdale and Jordan Miller.

Former Milo-Grogan residents left to right Jim Cleamons, Robert Barksdale and Jordan Miller.

“This neighborhood means a lot to me. I know every street and probably walked every one,” said Jordan Miller, Fifth Third Bank President for Central Ohio.

Fifth Third and Huntington banks have committed heavily to the revitalization initiative.

Milo-Grogan Area Commissioner Robert Barksdale, who has worked several years on seeing the revitalization come about, said there needs to be a commitment whose mantra could best be summarized as, “celebrate youth, celebrate life, celebrate Milo.”

Barksdale recalled the days of the Cleveland Avenue Boys Club providing wood shop learning, including the reshaping of bowling pins into lamps. Barksdale said the class was taught by Jordan Miller’s father. “He taught us how to work with our hands and work with each other.”

One of the Milo-Grogan “street kids” on-hand for the program was 10-time NBA player and coach champion Jim Cleamons, who won a state championship in basketball at Linden McKinley and was a star player for Ohio State.

Cleamons, visiting from Los Angeles, recalled not having the 50 cents quarterly fee to be a member of the Boys Club, but enjoyed the fun of playing sports with neighbor kids in alleys and that the overall experience taught him the importance of family life, faith and trust.

Cleamons urged partners and residents to keep at the words they used in the program.

“Commitment. Cause. Concern. Those are words that need to be put in action,” he said.