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Weinland Park looks to rebuild from the ground up

Weinland Park is an area on the outskirts of the university district that some residents say is known for its abandoned houses, problems with public safety and high rates of poverty and unemployment.

The community will soon be revitalized and construction has begun on 14 homes, said Mark Wagenbrenner, president of Wagenbrenner Development, the company heading the project.

“Roots & Roofs” will hold an event showcasing the new housing opportunities of Weinland Park and will provide volunteer opportunities to help clean up the neighborhood from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on May 7. Weinland Park is the area between Fifth Avenue and Chittenden Avenue as well as High Street and the CSX railroad tracks.

“The houses down Chittenden need to be revitalized,” said Tessa Reinhard, a third-year in political science and Spanish and Weinland Park resident. “Out of campus, it is the part that could use the most work.”

The revitalization involves building new homes, renovating homes, picking up litter and gardening, said Steve Sterrett, chair of the “Roots & Roofs” planning committee.

“By the end of 2011 there will be almost 100 houses that will be renovated or under construction and there will be a very visible change in the neighborhood,” Sterrett said.

Houses will be at a selling price of $90,000 to $110,000 when finished and will be sold to families earning less than 120 percent of the area median income, Wagenbrenner said.

“These are exceptional deals … they will be really nice houses,” Wagenbrenner said.

JP Morgan Chase and The Columbus Foundation, a private non-profit foundation, are funding the project, said Michael Wilkos, grant officer for The Columbus Foundation and resident of Weinland Park.

The Columbus Foundation has committed $2 million to the project, Wilkos said.

The Columbus Foundation chose to contribute to the revitalization of Weinland Park because there are many organizations working together, which will create a greater long-term impact, Wilkos said.

“We funded a large research study (last summer) with Ohio State University in which 26 percent of all households in Weinland Park were surveyed in order to figure out their needs so we could make informed decisions on how best to better the community,” Wilkos said.

About one-third of households in Weinland Park are college students, including OSU students, Sterrett said.

“We’d like students to know that we consider them part of the neighborhood,” said Laura Bidwa, vice president of the Weinland Park Community Civic Association. “This neighborhood has literally every kind of person in it and we’re glad they’re a part of it.”

As the renovations finish and new houses are built, there will be a lottery that people can enter in order to purchase a house, Wagenbrenner said. The first one starts this summer and there are about 20 people in the lottery so far.

The lottery will continue as more houses are built and reconstructed, Wagenbrenner said.

“The whole idea is to create a neighborhood. We want to see stakeholders. This will create tremendous potential for upside,” Wagenbrenner said. “We’ve got to have safe neighborhoods and the only way you get permanently safe neighborhoods is by building a community of stakeholders. This is a long-term plan.”

Sterrett said students should have an interest in what is happening in the neighborhood.

“This will improve the appearance and public safety. The neighborhood is so close to campus,” Sterrett said. “I think everyone has an interest in seeing it improve and it will have a positive impact on the University District.”

“Roots & Roofs” will meet Saturday at Godman Guild Assocation at 303 E. Sixth Ave. Lunch will be served at noon.

The organizations working together to create this neighborhood are the Weinland Park Community Civic Association, Campus Partners, The Columbus Foundation, Continuum Church, Community Properties of Ohio, Godman Guild Association, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Columbus, OSU’s International Poverty Solutions Collaborative, JP Morgan Chase, OSU Extension, Rebuilding Together Central Ohio, United Way of Central Ohio and Wagenbrenner Development Company.

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