Ohio Urban Infill Project Improves Quality of Life in Neglected Neighborhood

Any project that involves urban infill — taking an existing landscape and changing it — will be a large task to undertake. When you layer a zoning process, a demolition in a dense neighborhood, and a coordinated effort to fit into the neighborhood, development can become complicated.

However, due to the relative lack of development in the south side of Columbus, The Residences at Career Gateway was a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The Residences is a community housing development, funded with the help of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs), which aims to revitalize the south side of Columbus and connect residents with meaningful workforce supports. Developers constructed the urban infill project on the site of a vacant elementary school building and created a total of 58 units, split between one- and two-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom townhomes.

Workforce training and career development are emphasized through a 2,400-square-foot innovative workforce training room, where community partners host specialized workshops for all members of the Gateway. Similarly, the project has partnered with local entities such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital to create a link to area employment.

Background on the South Side of Columbus

Prior to construction, the south side of Columbus was one of the worst neighborhoods for economic quality of life relative to the entire city. In 2010, median income of households in the south side was 43% lower than Franklin County as a whole ($27,943.63 and $49,087, respectively). The percent of people with a high school diploma or higher was also greater in Franklin County at a rate of 88.9%, compared to 74.9% in the south side.

Employment indicators were similarly worse for the south side; the south side had an unemployment rate of 23.9%, compared to 8% for Franklin County.

Since 2010, the south side of Columbus has been undergoing substantial transition. In 2016, changes in the south side were spurred, in part by a massive $730 million, 11-project expansion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital that will add 2,000 jobs to the city by 2024. Beyond the thousands of employment opportunities available at the hospital, Columbus State Community College also offers workforce training for in-demand occupation to residents of Career Gateway.

Success Metrics

Since 2010, the south side of Columbus has modestly improved in all quality of life indicators. The Residences at Career Gateway positively contributed toward these changes by providing stable housing and promoting employment.

The success of the Residences at Career Gateway can be tied to a complete buy-in from the partners involved with the project, as well as the recognition of the connection between housing and health care. From the top down, those at Nationwide Children’s recognized that proactively treating the community through stable housing and employment is a financially efficient health care strategy. Those who fill the role as major employers and economic engines of communities, such as hospitals, as well as those on the policy side of housing and health care, are beginning to understand how community investment can be a financially sustainable and benevolent decision.

The location has also provided opportunity for beneficial housing to be in walking distance to employment. The Residences provides secure housing intended as a starting point and model for health and safety to revitalize the south side, which has suffered from loss of industry and employment opportunities over the years. A focus on social determinants, primarily for children, provides justification for the housing design. Those involved see the applicability of The Residences’ design for cities across the United States.

This article was originally published in Best in American Living. Read the full post here.

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