The kitchen window pane was rotting. The front door sealed poorly. And crumbling gravel prevented her wheelchair from reaching and lifting easily on to the COTA bus when it pulled up next to her home.
But all that and more has been replaced and upgraded for Fannie Lynch thanks to Homeport’s revitalization initiative in Milo-Grogan.
“All of it looks good to me. It is a different place,” said Lynch, a Milo-Grogan resident since 1966.
In 2017 and 2018, Homeport built 33 new affordable rent-to-purchase homes in the once thriving working class community being improved thanks to many community partners and investors -- public, private and non-profit.
In conjunction with the new real estate development, Homeport made a commitment to work with the Milo-Grogan community to make sure residents in older homes would not feel threatened -- that they too would benefit from the area’s resurgence and be able to age in place.
Seventeen Milo-Grogan homes saw a total of $170,000 in major repairs in 2018 thanks to funds provided by Fifth Third Bank in work contracted through the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and Habitat for Humanity MidOhio.
Milo-Grogan Area Commission Chair Charles Thompkins said neighboring homeowners are gratified that improvements have gone beyond new construction.
“They have come to me and said, ‘Thanks,’” Thompkins said. “They were so happy to receive improvements. It means a lot. Not only did you replace peoples’ windows and concrete, you upped their faith and belief in the system. At first, they didn’t believe.”
The Milo-Grogan home improvements have been clustered on Gibbard, Starr, Second and Third Avenues. Homeowners have seen repairs or replacement of roofs, handrails, gutters, sidewalks, fences, windows, front and screen doors, wheelchair ramps and parking pads.
Two years ago, Linnell Perry, Fannie Lynch’s daughter, moved back to the house she grew up in after her mother suffered a stroke. She learned of home repair funds while attending a coffee social run by Melissa Thompkins, a Milo-Grogan Area Commissioner and Charles Thompkins wife. With help from Sharon Tanyhill, a recently appointed area commissioner, Perry said she was able to effectively communicate the needs of her mother’s 1922 built home.
The wooden front door was replaced with a steel door that seals and looks better. Crumbling concrete was replaced at the steps leading up to the front door. A basement window was replaced. And the kitchen window her mother likes looking out was replaced, too, she said.
“It was a single pane and the wood around it was rotten,” Perry said.
Fannie Lynch said the house was the one in which she and her late husband Roy raised their Linnell after moving from Jenkinjones, W.Va. It was also the house her daughter was married in.
Lynch was thrilled when her daughter came home from the meeting run by Melissa Thompkins at the Milo-Grogan Community Center.
“Linnell said something about the (repair and replacement) program. Maybe I could get it fixed up,” Lynch said.
One of the most important changes was the concrete pad that was added next to her home, replacing the gravel she struggled to maneuver through when the COTA bus came to her home.
“For me now, since I am in a wheel chair, it is very, very, very important. I can go out the back now, down a ramp to the COTA bus that comes to pick me up. Before, when the driver put the lift down, the wheels on my wheelchair would get caught in the gravel. The driver now can raise me up with the lift. It is much more accessible. It helps me better than you would know,” Lynch said.
Linnell Perry, her daughter, agreed.
“We really appreciate what Homeport did, getting the money to make the improvements. I don’t think my mother could have gotten all that done.”
More home upgrade work in Milo-Grogan is expected in 2019 thanks to a recent $100,000 award from the Richard H. and Ann Shafer Fund at The Columbus Foundation, and a $25,000 grant from NiSource Charitable Foundation.
It is possible $30,000 remaining from the original grant provided by Fifth Third Bank could bring additional repairs.
Improvements have not been limited to residential areas in Milo-Grogan in the revitalization initiative. Five locally owned area businesses in 2018 saw improved signage, roof repairs and painting thanks to a $30,000 grant from Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing. OCCH is also administering the funds from Fifth Third Bank.