Columbus Mayor Announces South Side Renewal Plan

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Mayor Coleman releasing his 2012 budget proposal for the city of Columbus(Photo: Sam Hendren, WOSU)
Mayor Coleman releasing his 2012 budget proposal for the city of Columbus(Photo: Sam Hendren, WOSU)

The bicentennial State of the City address, given last night by Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, focused on the renewal happening in some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods. And as WOSU reports, the mayor introduced a plan to revitalize the one of the city’s most overlooked communities.

While much of the city has been gearing up for Columbus’ 200th birthday, there are some neighborhoods that have lacked a reason to celebrate.

The struggling South Side is one of them. The area’s unemployment rate is 20 percent. A quarter of its residents lives in poverty. And there’s limited access to health care.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said the South Parsons Corridor, the area south of I-70, is one the city’s neighborhoods in greatest need of help.

“Where one in five houses is vacant and abandoned. High teen pregnancy, infant mortality and death rates for chronic diseases plague the neighborhood,” Coleman said.

The mayor announced a plan that he says will renew the community. It calls for job creation, new home builds and rehabs and a health care center.

The South Side has lost major companies throughout the years, but Coleman said one is staying put and investing. The mayor announced Columbus Galvanizing, a manufacturing business, plans a $6 million expansion that will create a handful of new jobs while maintaining current positions.

“I’m sure the neighborhood and everybody’s glad it’s there. Techniglass used to be down there and it had 1,700 jobs and it left. And other jobs left the area. And for a company to step up and say we’re staying,” he said.

Another issue the community has is limited access to health care. There’s no hospital south of I-70. But Coleman said construction of a new health and wellness center is set to begin this summer.

“To offer a full range of services for everybody to infants to senior citizens,” Coleman said.

The mayor also wants to tackle abandoned and vacant homes. Last week, Coleman announced the city would demolish 900 houses in some of Columbus’ most blighted areas and that effort is not absent in the South Side plan.

Using a combination of state and local funds totaling more than $10 million, Coleman wants to replace some of the demolished houses with 40 new single-family homes, and he plans to construct an apartment building for senior citizens.

“While this South Side collaborative and new investments represent great strides toward progress in this neighborhood, we still have miles and miles to go to turn this neighborhood around,” he said.

Taishean Glover is optimistic the South Side will turn around. Glover grew up in the neighborhood and is part of its revitalization. He recently signed a lease for a warehouse on the South Side. Glover said he’ll probably use it for apartments and store fronts.

“For years I’ve watched the gradual decline of the South Side. And I think everything they’re doing there is wonderful and will be very helpful to the residents and the community,” Glover said.

Local non-profits and private companies also have pledged to invest more than $3 million for the South Side. Those funds will go toward fixing up existing homes, constructing a new child care facility and starting a healthy lifestyle initiative.