A collaborative effort is bringing life to a group of buildings that had long been forgotten, and creating a fresh new gateway to Weinland Park and The Ohio State University along East 11th Avenue.
In May 2014, The Columbus Foundation announced a $2 million low-interest loan to help support the restoration and renovation of a collection of vacant buildings, now known as Grant Commons.
The Foundation provided support to help with the overhaul of 23 buildings—more than 90 units in total—stretching along East 11th Avenue from Grant Avenue to North Fourth Street. These units represent the first market-rate rental units in Weinland Park in many years. The initial units were finished at the end of 2014, and all will be completed by the summer of 2015. Renovated with new mechanicals, wood floors, and off-street parking, rents start at $775.
“Part of the charm of the buildings was the covered front porches. Restoring those porches really brought back the scale and the charm of the neighborhood.”
—Mark Wagenbrenner, Principal with Weinland Park Properties, LLC
“This project is beneficial because it keeps a large collection of the original historic fabric of the neighborhood intact, in the way it was intended to be,” said Douglas F. Kridler, president and CEO of The Columbus Foundation. “The Foundation and its donors continue to support innovative ideas that strengthen the neighborhood and serve as a point of pride for residents of Weinland Park and the city as a whole.”
Originally built from 1916–1921 by Charles Foster Johnson, the buildings were part of the New Indianola Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
“Once we understood the significance of the buildings, I think we all believed that restoring them would be more of a long-term asset to the neighborhood than demolishing and building new,” said Mark Wagenbrenner, a principal with Weinland Park Properties, LLC. “This project, and the collaboration, exemplifies revitalization.”
The Foundation’s loan is a Program Related Investment (PRI), a tool used to provide financial support to nonprofit organizations and programs that generate revenue while still fulfilling a broad community benefit. The loan was made to Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment. Campus Partners used the funds to support the work of Weinland Park Properties, LLC in its effort to renovate and restore the properties along East 11th Avenue.
The Columbus Foundation is a partner in the Weinland Park Collaborative, a public-private partnership formed to focus on improving and sustaining the neighborhood’s quality of life. The Foundation has invested more than $6 million in total financial support to initiatives, including housing stabilization, academic enrichment, crime reduction, and supporting the delivery of healthy full-term babies.
“Having those properties turned around was important to all the partners in the Weinland Park Collaborative,” said Keith Myers, associate vice president, Physical Planning and Real Estate, at The Ohio State University, and chair of Campus Partners. “It took everybody working together to get a deal structured that balanced the risk with the investment level, and I think we ended up in a place where everyone is really pleased with it.”
The total cost of the Grant Commons project is $12 million. Funding support came from Nationwide Insurance, S & T Bank, Campus Partners, Community Properties of Ohio, City of Columbus, and The Columbus Foundation, with the addition of state and federal
In 2008, the Foundation’s Governing Committee approved a multi-year investment strategy in the revitalization in Weinland Park, and since 2013, the Foundation has been working with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to support a family-centered community change model in that neighborhood. The project is focused on improving the academic attainment of children and removing workforce barriers for caregivers of those children to move them into living-wage employment. Weinland Park is one of only three neighborhoods nationally to be selected by the Casey Foundation for this work.