As we explore the Franklinton community, with a documentary film and an ongoing series of articles, we’ve learned a lot about the opportunities and the issues facing the neighborhood. Our mission through all of this work has been to share the stories from all of the stakeholders involved and open up this conversation among the community.

The social conversations created around this work have been inspiring.

We’ve collected a few of the comments that best capture the overall sentiment from the community. And now we invite you to take these feelings outside of Facebook and into the real world by joining us at Strongwater Tuesday night November 14th at 5:30 for a Community Conversation.

Overall, there is a thirst from the community to explore this topic more and to know how businesses and residents are working together to build the neighborhood.

There’s an understanding that the new development will help the neighborhood grow and prosper. The community has excitement for this future growth.

Along with the excitement is anxiety about the neighborhood’s future. Residents want to make sure that the growth in Franklinton doesn’t happen without them. They want to be incorporated into the process.

People want to make sure that the improvements in the area don’t run out local, sometimes low-income residents. They want to have a say in the development process and insure that there is still room for affordable housing options.

We found similar sentiments when we constructed our Franklinton Wishing Tree at Independent’s Day this summer.

What do you think about the growth of Franklinton? Join us at Strongwater this coming Tuesday to hear your voice heard and be a part of the process.


We recently introduced you to Franklinton Rising, a non-profit organization working to change the lives of teens and young adults by teaching construction skills and preparing them for full-time employment. The group is currently remodeling a home on Chicago Avenue. During my first visit to the house, I met 25-year-old DeVille Morrow. He has been with Franklinton Rising since March. My first impression of Morrow was of a soft-spoken, friendly guy who displayed a genuine love for building homes. But there is much more to Morrow’s story. The struggles he has had to overcome make his positive attitude and determination to succeed that much more inspiring.

Morrow moved to Columbus in 2011, but was born and raised in Chicago. He briefly told me about some of the activity he witnessed on a regular basis as a child– gang fights, shootings, drug deals, home robberies, and people dying. Morrow said he did his best to keep himself and his younger siblings away from the violence. He also said it was his older brother who taught him how to survive in such a rough environment. The reason that job fell to his brother was because Morrow’s father was not around to do it. He told me his father was convicted of murder when Morrow was just 3, and has been in prison ever since. The two have managed to sustain a relationship though, and his dad’s experience motivates Morrow to live a better life. “He always told me, be smart. To not let other people influence me… And I told myself, that if I had my own kids, I’d make sure I’m in their life. I’d show them a good path so they don’t have to go through struggles.”  

Morrow has stayed true to that promise. He has 3 young sons: DeVarrion, DeMonte and Dekhai. He’s raising the boys on his own. Morrow told me the children’s mother developed a cocaine habit in 2015. “My kids are perfectly healthy, I made sure of that… We see her every few months, but only if I take the boys to see her. Because she doesn’t make any effort. She doesn’t do what she needs to as a mother.”

Morrow described the difficulties that followed after his ex-girlfriend stopped helping with their sons. Morrow says she dropped the boys off one day in 2015 and never came back for them. Soon after, he lost his job because he didn’t have anyone to help look after the kids. The young family ran out of money, and had to go to a shelter. “We spent 1 month and 6 days in the shelter, before I was able to get an apartment.” 

Fast forward to today– Morrow is dedicated to sticking on an honest path in order to keep his family together. Morrow says he was briefly involved in some questionable activity around the time he joined Franklinton Rising; he needed the money to feed his kids. But Franklinton Rising enabled him to get off that path entirely. “If I would’ve kept going the other route, I probably would’ve ended up messing up, and having to start over… I made sacrifices taking on my 3 kids. I didn’t want them in different places. I made sure they were together, with me. I save as much money as I can, even if it’s just $10 per paycheck. I gotta work my way up… I’m trying to set a positive example for them, trying to make a good living and make stuff happen, so that they don’t have to resort to illegal ways to make money.”  

Morrow will complete his training by the end of November. Franklinton Rising is assisting in his job search.

Earlier this year, we set out on a journey to explore our community and share your stories. One of the most impactful stories has been the quickly changing faces of our city’s neighborhoods. And this is perhaps best exemplified in the redevelopment of Franklinton.

Franklinton represents both the excitement for the growth of the city and the need to preserve its rich history. The city’s first settlement was in Franklinton and now that is also the location of its largest boom.

There are plenty of diverse opinions on this redevelopment and how it should or shouldn’t be done. But there are not a lot of opportunities to share those opinions outside of our immediate relationships and conversations.

We’ve explored many angles and perspectives of this story through the Flooded Again documentary and the Franklinton Wishing Tree at Independent’s Day (and in other pieces). The response and support from the community has been overwhelming. This story clearly strikes a chord in our city.

But there’s still more to explore.  

So we’re inviting you to be part of the story.

On November 14th, we’re hosting a community conversation surrounding the development of Franklinton. We want to elevate the voices of the community members being impacted by the changes and give them an opportunity to speak with the people implementing those changes.  

This isn’t a business panel just to promote the developers or a community rally to halt the progress. This is an opportunity for us all to come together and build an open exchange of ideas.

Franklinton is an open and diverse neighborhood, so we want to facilitate an open and diverse dialogue.

How will Franklinton remain a community focused on the arts? How will Franklinton become the beacon that attracts new residents from across the country? There are a lot of stories to explore, and this is your invitation to be a part of the process.

RSVP here.

We’ve been writing about groups and businesses impacting change in the  Franklinton neighborhood.  You’ve no doubt seen the construction sites popping up. But what you probably haven’t noticed are the teenagers and young adults who are involved with rehabbing homes in the area. These young trainees are learning skills that will help reshape not just Franklinton’s exterior facade, but also their lives.

These young adults are part of a group called Franklinton Rising, which began operations in 2015. The non-profit organization purchases run-down homes with donations, grants, and some help from the city of Columbus. The group recruits young people from the neighborhood to renovate the houses. It’s sort of like an apprenticeship. The recruits receive on-the-job training from contractors; they’re also coached on the importance of setting life goals. The current group of trainees are all between the ages of 17 and 25; pay starts at $8.50 per hour with the chance for promotions. Once training is complete, the organization then helps the participants find permanent jobs. Franklinton Rising’s president, Tom Heffner, explained the group’s mission and how it all got started.

“The idea was, let’s take young adults who are probably not going to college, and let’s see if we can help train them for life and for jobs. And to help them become productive members of the community. We started with a Christian foundation of trying to help people. So the idea was if you can get young adults, and help them learn a trade, help them learn skills, help them develop life skills, they’re going to have a greater opportunity for employment.”

One of those people is 25-year-old DeVille Morrow. He’s been involved with Franklinton Rising since March of 2017. “I called [Tom Heffner] on a Tuesday, met him on Wednesday, and started going to classes on Thursday. That Saturday he got me working.” Morrow described the work skills he has acquired in the last few months. “Everything from demolition work, flooring work, building stairs, little bit of drywalling and painting, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work. I’ve been interested in this [type of work] since I was 16. I just liked watching people build houses since I was young.”

Heffner: “In most communities, we’ve done a terrible disservice to young adults by telling them that they must go to college… when the reality is we have kids going to college today graduating with no jobs and $50,000 or more in debt. Whereas a young adult who goes through training and really works hard, by the time they’re between 20 and 25, can be making $50k, $60k, $70k a year with virtually no debt. So there’s tremendous advantage for people who don’t necessarily want to gravitate toward academics.” 

Heffner is right about that. First, consider these stats: 44% of Franklinton households are earning less than $15,000 per year. And nearly 50% of adults in the neighborhood do not have a high school diploma. Now let’s compare that to what adults can earn as skilled laborers. Here’s a look at mean annual wages, via the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Construction laborer: $37,890

Carpenter: $48,340

Electrician: $56,650

Construction Manager: $99,000

For Franklinton Rising, helping trainees land jobs with salaries like these is the goal– not profits. The organization loses money on each home it renovates. One of the two-sided houses Heffner showed me was a tear-down they purchased for $2,500.


The group spent $170,000 to renovate the building (in materials and labor costs). When the house was appraised, its value was set at about $72,500. Think about that. That’s a $100,000 loss. (Both sides of the house are now rented). But again, as Heffner explained, making money isn’t the point of the organization– making positive changes in Franklinton is the goal.


Heffner: “The idea is if [the trainees] have skills, and confidence in themselves… the likelihood of them being incarcerated and going down a destructive path is far less. And so that’s one of the reasons we believe them developing skills, getting full-time employment, and understanding principles of life, is a way to help them not only not be incarcerated, but they’re not going to be on the rolls of welfare. They’re going to be productive citizens. Paying taxes, paying for services, and being good role models for others.”

Heffner also explained that Franklinton Rising wants to eventually sell these renovated homes back to the trainees who worked on them. “They can go from being a young adult who didn’t have any idea what they were going to do in life, with no skills relatively speaking, to individuals who have skills… and ultimately end up with a house. Maybe one of the nicest houses in the neighborhood, and hopefully be great role models for other young adults; to prove to them they don’t have to live in poverty. If they’ll work hard, they too can not only survive but do very well.”

Morrow: “As far as life skills, I’ve learned a little bit more about teamwork. The criticalness of being on-time. Working hard. Patience. If something becomes frustrating, take a step back, think about it, come back to it. That’s a way for me to learn.”

Morrow also described Franklinton Rising as a family atmosphere. “Everyone here, everybody basically is family-oriented. They talk a lot about the Bible, going to church, trying to keep people on their toes and on the right path. Basically showing people that… if you like working with your hands, this is where you want to be. If you love the job, it’ll be more about your job than about the money. Whatever job you love, of course you’re gonna keep wanting to go there, and stay at it. So I think this program is good for anybody who wants to come in and do something better with themselves.”

One decade ago the Washington Township Fire Department approached Matt Wenning, a world record holding powerlifter based here in Columbus, to see if he could help reduce injury rates amongst their firefighters. Today, Wenning is helping the department save $250,000 per year in health insurance expenses.

But how?

Simple. He helps the firefighters get stronger.

Born and raised in Muncie, Indiana, Wenning was introduced to powerlifting at an early age. After being hit by a car at the age of 6, he spent the better part of two years in a wheelchair and then in a full-leg cast. Once he was cleared for exercise, his legs were too weak and stiff to join his friends for football and other team sports. So he started strength training.

With the help of a few national caliber powerlifters who happened to train at his local YMCA, Wenning made leaps and bounds on his strength throughout middle school and high school. By the time he was 17, he was attending national and world class meets.

In 2004 Wenning went pro in powerlifting, and shortly thereafter, at the age of 26, he began to set world records. In 2006, a few military officials saw Wenning featured in a magazine. He then received a phone call from a special unit in Fort Benning, Georgia– the unit invited him to come down to their base to teach them about strength training. The unit liked what he brought to the table and soon saw declining injury rates amongst their personnel. Wenning has been doing contract work with the military since then.

Wenning at his gym, Ludus Magnus, in Franklinton.

Around the same time, Wenning relocated to Columbus to train at the world-renowned, invite-only powerlifting gym, Westside Barbell. Before long, Wenning’s work with the military gained notoriety amongst the local fire departments. The first department to approach Wenning was Washington Township in Dublin. Over the past ten years, he has been collecting both the strength and insurance data for the department. Notably, as the firefighters’ strength numbers have gone up, Washington Township’s insurance expenses have gone down. When Wenning began to coach and program workouts for their 135 firefighters, the average deadlift was under 200 pounds. Today, the average deadlift has doubled to just under 400 pounds, and the department is spending $250,000 less on insurance costs.

So why does being strong reduce injury rates? According to Wenning, it’s because society is getting heavier. In the 1960s, the fitness tests for fire departments were created with dummies based on the average weight of an American male at the time, 165 lbs.

“Shit, that’s a small girl now,” Wenning remarks. And he’s kind of right. The average American today weighs about 30 pounds more than they did half a century ago, which also means that what the average male used to weigh is now what the average female weighs.  

“Today, 300 pound people are everywhere,” Matt says, he himself weighing in around 300 pounds. “That’s a big problem when you’re dealing with an average strength [firefighter] with a deadlift under 200 pounds.”

So the problem is quite simple: injuries can occur when firefighters aren’t strong enough to do their job. It follows then that the solution is quite simple too: firefighters need to be stronger. And Wenning’s data supports this. He assures me that he is one of the first people in the country to have long-term data of this kind that suggests that getting stronger decreases injury rates in the special forces. Because of the rarity of this data, Wenning has been invited to speak about his work all around the globe.

“A lot of people don’t know that we’re doing some groundbreaking work here in central Ohio,” Wenning notes.

He is now in charge of 500 firefighters’ strength training programs across Columbus and continues to help these local departments lower their injury rates and health expenses. Wenning also advises for the Seattle and Los Angeles Fire Departments, as well as a few sports teams including the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers.

So what is it about his coaching that makes him so successful?

He practices what he preaches. Wenning’s methodology is based on the style of training that has allowed him to last 25 years in a sport that a lot of people burn out of in just a few years. The key component to his training philosophy is an understanding of compression versus traction (or decompression) movements. Since most everything a firefighter does in their daily life is compressive, Wenning selects mostly traction-based movements to get them stronger. For instance, instead of barbell squats which compress the spine, Wenning has the firefighters use a belt squat machine, which pulls you down by the hips.

“So I basically take the philosophy that has let me last 25 years in powerlifting, and apply it at a lower level to the fire departments, and it creates this perfect scenario,” Wenning says with a smile.

When he isn’t coaching firefighters and military personnel, Wenning is coaching powerlifters and serious recreational lifters at his gym, Ludus Magnus, in Franklinton. Since a significant portion of his time is dedicated to working with special forces, his gym member base consists of people who can train around his irregular schedule. Ludus Magnus doesn’t even have a sign on the door– Wenning likes to remain off the beaten path. His gym is not the right fit for your average commercial gym client. Walk in on a normal day and you’ll probably encounter blaring music, lots of grunting, and the occasional bloody nose.

You come to this place and it’s time to work. It’s a strenuous environment,” Wenning explains. “I find that human growth is not comfortable– it’s painful, whether it be lifting or jobs or anything else. And I try to live my life that way. I used to travel two and a half hours every weekend to lift at Westside where I was the weakest guy at the time. That’s what made me what I am today. If I was just comfortable with being the strongest guy at the Lifetime Fitness or YMCA, how strong are you really?”

Based on the  overwhelming response to our Flooded Again documentary feature, and in line with our continued quest to uncover the stories of Franklinton, we decided to set up a community listening project at Independents’ Day Festival over this past weekend. We called it The Franklinton Wishing Tree. The results are in: 476 people wrote their hopes, dreams, fears and wishes onto tags and tied them to our tree.

Our prompt asked for thoughts on the development of Fraklinton, and while we got lots of general wishes (like the child who wanted a puppy dispenser), we also got some really great feedback about the neighborhood and its trajectory. Here’s a taste of the sentiment we collected.

Residents are hopeful that Franklinton will maintain its urban, artistic, eclectic feel. Here’s a look at some of the tags that addressed hopes for neighborhood atmosphere.

They want more natural spaces and green initiatives, like urban farming and gardening.

They fear corporate takeover and love independent taco joints.

They’re hopeful that the artistic community will continue to have a presence in the area.

Some tags addressed the deep history of the neighborhood or specific communities with an interest in building or preserving their footprint in the area.

KTC is a Columbus Buddhist organization, several tags on the tree mentioned this organization by name. Station 67 is a historical building on Broad St. (we’ve written about it before).

In general we found both enthusiasm and reticence for the development. There is definitely some excitement for the growth….

But overwhelmingly the worry was that the current residents would be displaced by this development because of rising cost of living. Gentrification was another big one… we’ve written about that topic too.

If nothing else, we’ve got lots of concerned, hopeful citizens with big ideas for the future of Franklinton…

What are your hopes and fears for the Franklinton neighborhood? Tell us in the comments.

1. Jacob Overdier Harrison House: 570 W Broad St.

The Harrison House is one of three remaining original buildings in Franklinton. This two-story brick home was built in 1807.  General William Henry Harrison used the house during the War of 1812 as a base of operations. (Harrison went on to become the 9th President in 1841, but died just one month into his term). During the Civil War, Confederate spy A.J. Marlowe allegedly used the home as his base from which he reported Camp Chase activities to the south. The Harrison House was listed as a National Historic Place in 1972, and is now owned by the City of Columbus.

2. Franklinton Log Post Office: 72 S Gift St.

This former post office is the oldest known structure in Franklin County still standing on its original foundation. The two-story log house was built in 1807 by David Deardurff; the building is also known as the David Deardurff House. The county’s first post office operated from this home until 1834; that’s when the city of Columbus took over operations. The building was registered as a National Historic Place in 1974, and added to the Columbus Register of Historic Properties in 2001. Restoration has been ongoing for several years.


3. Station 67: 379 W Broad St.

The Toledo and Ohio Central Railway station was erected in 1895. It served as a transportation terminal until the 1970s. During World War I, recruited soldiers boarded trains here, and veterans were welcomed back at this depot. The station was also used to transport Ohio State University football teams to away games. The station managed to keep operating despite suffering major setbacks over the years. A fire burned through the roof in 1910, during construction of the elevated tracks. The flood of 1913 swept five feet of water and debris into the grand lobby.

The space flooded again in 1959. And in 1975, a two-alarm fire burned through the roof once more; the the wood arches of the vaulted ceiling survived and have since been restored. Station 67 is registered as a National Historic Place. It now serves as the home of the Columbus Firefighters Union, and is also rented out for special events such as weddings.

4. Holy Family Church: 584 W Broad St.

The Holy Family Church was established in 1877, and was the fifth Catholic parish to open in the city of Columbus. The parish prides itself on its history of openness. Early Catholic churches in the area were built to serve specific ethnic groups, like German Catholics or Irish Catholics. But from the very beginning, Holy Family was meant to serve anyone who wanted to be a part of the community.  The building survived major floods in 1913 and 1957, as well as a fire in the mid-1950s. Currently, more than 500 families belong to the parish. Masses are offered in both English and Latin.



5. Bellows Avenue Elementary: 725 Bellows Avenue

This elementary school was opened in 1905 with 13 rooms, 350 students and 11 teachers. It operated until 1977, and has been sitting empty for years. It was listed on the Columbus Landmarks Foundation’s list of Endangered Buildings in 2014 and 2015. The current owner has plans to renovate the building and turn it into condominiums.

6. A.D. Farrow Co. Harley-Davidson: 491 W Broad St.

This motorcycle shop has some serious bragging rights. It is the oldest, continuously operated Harley dealership in the country. The business was founded in 1912 in Nelsonville; the original store was very small, just 25 x 25 feet. A.D. and his wife Lilly moved the company to Columbus in 1925. But just two years later, A.D. died unexpectedly at age 38. Lilly chose to hold on to the dealership, despite skepticism from the Harley franchise that she could be successful. But she proved the naysayers wrong, managing to keep the company in operations through the Great Depression and beyond. Current salesman (and resident A.D. Farrow historian) Allen Grobin told me that the Harley franchise described Lilly as the “iron fist in a white glove, never a pushover but always a lady, and tough as nails but sweet as pie.” Inside the dealership, you can see a replica of the original store. 

Want to explore these locations for yourself? We made you a handy Google Map. Check it out here. 

The Green Lawn Abbey in Franklinton was built in 1927. An estimated 560 people are entombed here. Much like the rest of the neighborhood, the building is undergoing a major revitalization. The Green Lawn Abbey Preservation Association has taken on the task of repairing several decades worth of damage to the mausoleum, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 1812 Columbus takes a look inside the historic crypt… and learned how community members can spend time with the ghosts of Columbus.

Our world is urbanizing at light speed. In 2016, an estimated 54.5% of the world population was living in urban areas. By 2030, that number is expected to exceed 60% and continue to grow– so how we develop and manage urban spaces now will determine how successful cities are in adapting to snowballing populations, climate change effects, and growing inequality.

Striking a balance between embracing change and honoring legacy is difficult. There is quite literally no way to do that and keep everyone happy. We can strive for a perfect equilibrium of social, economic, and environmental interests, but in our messy world, it’s unrealistic.

The most important thing that we can do, then, is to ensure that what we do do is done in an inclusive way. Sometimes that looks like participatory planning. Sometimes it looks like shifting power back down to grassroots level and allowing citizens to create their own solutions. It might even necessitate a widely embraced ethical framework around development, although that sounds a little lofty in a society obsessed with the bottom line.  

There is no playbook for this. There is no formula that developers and neighborhood activists can follow to co-create the Franklinton of the future. There is no gold standard city or neighborhood that is getting everything right. But, there are some examples that we can look to around the globe which may help us to think about development differently.

I spoke with Chad Rochkind of Human Scale Studio in Detroit, an internationally recognized urban strategy firm providing people-centric solutions to cities, neighborhoods, and businesses. Here’s what he had to say:

“The challenge is the narratives that are out there about cities right now–there’s either the press release from the developers which is like any development is good development, and then there’s the other side which is like any development is just awful and equals gentrification. And there isn’t another conversation happening of what is the development like that we want to see? What does socially generative development look like?”

So what does socially generative development look like? Let’s take a look at a few real life examples.

Via Verde, South Bronx, NYC
Mixed-income mixed-use development

Credit: Via Verde

A lot of cities, including New York, have tax exemption programs for developers who build 50/30/20 mixed income housing (50% market rate housing, 30% subsidized housing, 20% public housing). Via Verde one-ups this model with 151 low-income rental units and 71 middle-income co-op housing units.

Not only is Via Verde economically inclusive, but it’s also environmentally sustainable. Residents who rent and own in these LEED Gold Certified buildings must be educated about environmental impacts and participate in various facets of green living, such as specific recycling procedures and using green cleaning products. Additionally, Via Verde was designed to address community health issues, as the South Bronx population exhibits high rates of asthma and obesity. A rooftop vegetable garden and orchard, tended to almost entirely by residents, provides access to fresh produce and programming for childhood education about nutrition. The first floor of Via Verde is home to a 5,500 square foot health and wellness center operated by the Montefiore Medical Center and staffed by four full-time family medicine physicians and nurse practitioners.

Another area in which Via Verde excels is in community building– according to Rochkind, with most 50/30/20 or similar developments, developers usually try to provide some amenities specifically for the market-rate buyers and renters and then separate amenities for the people in the public housing. However, Via Verde was designed for social interaction– all residents are encouraged to commune at the community garden, in common areas, and at events organized by staff on site.

You’re probably thinking, wow, a project like this must’ve cost a lot more than a normal development… But it didn’t. Via Verde cost only about 10% more than a typical project of its size, and the majority of that 10% can be attributed to the cost of remediation of the brownfield site that Via Verde was built on.

Lessons learned:  Place-based design that addresses the local community’s greatest challenges can be both embraced by the community and successful in the market. When implemented intentionally, mixed income developments can yield successful, positive integration and interaction between residents of different income strata. Additionally, Via Verde demonstrates that affordable housing that also addresses health and sustainability can be financially feasible if you are creative with funding mechanisms (through a combination of grants, loans, tax credits, etc.).

Read Via Verde’s case study by the Urban Land Institute here.

Blackland Community Development Corporation, Austin, TX
Community Development Corporation

Credit: Blackland CDC

Community Development Corporations (CDCs) are non-profit organizations that aim to build community wealth through affordable housing, social services, and other forms of support for an underserved neighborhood. The most successful CDCs tend to have boards made up of entirely or almost entirely local residents– the board guides the decision making, with significant input from the surrounding community members.

Many CDCs fold for lack of funding and resourcefulness, or sell out and lose sight of their people-first orientation– but Blackland CDC is different. BCDC has been around for nearly 35 years. What started as a fight against UT’s impending annexation of much of Austin’s east side in the 1980’s has given way to a focus on preserving affordable housing. BCDC owns and operates 50 rental units in the Blackland neighborhood, serving low income families, people transitioning from homelessness, seniors, and people with disabilities.

The Board is entirely resident run and remains committed to development in the interests of the pre-existing neighborhood, even in the face of private development occurring around them. Per the BCDC website, “the nonprofit’s presence informs prospective buyers and realtors that the neighborhood will remain inclusive — that community characteristic attracts some new homebuyers and self-eliminates others.” One of their more recent endeavors is to provide learning opportunities for the newcomers in the neighborhood to understand and advocate for the need for affordable housing and diverse communities, which the CEO believes will be key.

Lessons learned: CDCs should lean heavily on their community’s assets and volunteer hours to ensure that they can stay true to their mission of community wealth building. Franklinton actually has a few CDCs, including the Franklinton Urban Empowerment Lab (FUEL). FUEL does a nice job of coordinating and supporting meaningful community events, while also rehabbing houses in the Franklinton area for sale. It would be nice to see them make a bigger push towards providing more affordable housing, for both purchase and rental, especially that which caters to a diverse community, including a variety of income brackets, ages, abilities, and life stages.

Learn more about Blackland Community Development Corporation here.

Baltimore Housing Roundtable’s 20/20 Campaign for Fair Development
Community land trusts and job creation

The Baltimore Housing Roundtable is a coalition of individuals, non-profit developers, community associations, policy experts, and other stakeholders, with the mission to realize a Baltimore City where everyone has the right to affordable and accessible housing as well as equitable economic and community development.

BHR operates under the belief that, “the incoming tide of development can lift all boats only if it is principled and based on human rights values.” To work towards more principled development, the Roundtable advocates for policy, their largest undertaking being their 20/20 Vision for Development without Displacement. The 20/20 Vision calls on the city leaders to commit $20 million annually to creating permanently affordable housing, largely through community land trusts, and another $20 million annually to construction and development job creation that provides opportunity for those facing employment obstacles, such as the formerly incarcerated and the homeless.

Community land trusts (CLTs) are non-profit community-based organizations that steward land and ensure housing prices remain affordable. The CLT retains ownership of their parcels of land in perpetuity, while prospective homeowners buy their condo or house and enter into long-term renewable leases for the land under them (generally 99 years). When it comes time for the homeowner to sell, the resale price is based upon a predetermined formula that provides a reasonable rate of return on the investment while keeping the home’s price within reach for future low to middle income buyers. This innovative approach to community development provides a more stable housing market to low income residents and a bridge to the private market for first time buyers.

Lessons learned: If BHR can garner enough support to get Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh to allocate the 20/20 funds, then they will become a prime example of how community stakeholders can band together to successfully advocate for policy. Policy should prioritize the creation of land trusts owned by the community, as well as complementary job creation policy that helps the local low-income community obtain and retain jobs that allow them to stay in place.

Read the Baltimore Housing Roundtable’s comprehensive report and 20/20 Vision here.

Veridian at County Farm, Washtenaw County, Michigan
Living Community

Recently, the Washtenaw County commissioners selected the cutting-edge plan for Veridian at County Farm to be developed on a plot of county owned land. Veridian’s proposal was largely inspired by the Living Community Challenge— a standard for development that integrates a mixed income community while also being environmentally generative. CEO of THRIVE, the firm behind the Veridian at County Farm proposal, hopes that this project will “shift the paradigm toward communities that are ecologically restorative, socially just, and culturally rich.”

Credit: Veridian at County Farm

Veridian is slated to offer 40% affordable housing units, 16% micro housing, 34% market-rate houses, and 10% cottage homes. Powered entirely by renewable solar energy, and potentially geothermal heating systems, the development aims to eliminate all energy bills for its residents. Rainwater harvesting and re-use will minimize water needs, passive house design will reduce energy use and ensure non-toxic construction materials are used, and edible landscaping will improve soil health and cultivate local food ecosystems.

Lessons learned: While a design like this will seem utopian to most, Veridian at County Farms demonstrates an integrated systems approach to solving our affordable housing, energy, food, water, and transportation challenges. These issues do not exist in silos and must be addressed as such. It does us no good to plop down affordable housing units if there are no supporting services and policies in place to ensure that the residents can stay employed, the community can stay healthy, and the environment can thrive and continue providing ecosystem services. Further development in Franklinton should take some notes from Veridian and the Living Community movement to design holistic solutions to our varied challenges.

 Read THRIVE’s proposal for Veridian at County Farm here.


So those are all great examples of what socially generative development may look like– but many would say that it’s too late for Franklinton. We understand that a lot of the deals in East Franklinton are done, and thus cannot be modeled after these projects. However, future development in the city and unfinished plans in other parts of Franklinton can and should learn from progressive solutions around the country.

One of the most notable things that Rochkind of Human Scale Studio left me with? It’s crucial that we understand what is and isn’t negotiable as pre-existing plans come to fruition. Check back in the coming weeks for more on this and other tactics that Franklinton stakeholders can implement to ensure that Franklinton is developed inclusively.


Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

With a median household income one-third lower than Columbus as a whole and nearly half of the residents lacking a high school diploma, the Franklinton neighborhood is poorer and less educated than the city overall. This has created unique health care challenges for the neighborhood.

One organization confronting the issue is Lower Lights Christian Health Center, a faith-based nonprofit community health center.

Awareness is half the battle in providing quality care to the neighborhood, says Chief Strategy Officer Ann Schiele.

“There are many people in Franklinton still not accessing health care and part of our responsibility is to get the word out that we can care for them regardless of their income,” Schiele says. “It’s getting them to come to us so that we can work with them.”

About half the organization’s patients are on Medicaid. All services – medical, vision, dental, counseling and nutrition care – are available regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.

But that doesn’t mean anyone’s sacrificing quality.

“I would match it with the quality of care of any private practice,” she says. “We have patients that are fully insured that choose to use our resources.”

Among those people is Trent Smith, executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade, a neighborhood advocacy group.

“I have regular insurance,” he says, adding, “I go there, I have great care.”

Across seven locations in central Ohio, the organization serves 14,000 patients a year.

About 23 percent of patients are in Franklinton and another 13 percent are from Hilltop, another high-need neighborhood west of Franklinton.

The need is only growing.

Schiele expects Lower Lights could soon serve 20,000 patients in a year.

“We continue to grow very rapidly in terms of the number of patients we’re seeing,” she says. “We will build capacity to serve all patients, whether in Franklinton or another area. There should not be one individual that does not have health care available to them.”

Adding to the neighborhood’s need is the opioid addiction crisis that’s making headlines nationally.

“Many, many of our patients have substance abuse problems,” Schiele says. “Many of them have had very difficult lives for one reason or another. Certainly that lifestyle has contributed to dependency.”

Recognizing the issue, Lower Lights has introduced a program in which 40 patients are being seen.

The participants, which must already be patients of Lower Lights, receive the treatment drug Suboxone as part of a holistic approach that includes emotional treatment.

By year’s end, Lower Lights wants to serve 100 people.

“It is amazing, the individuals in that program, and the results we’ve had,” Schiele says.

In October, in another new development, the organization plans to open a nonprofit grocery on West Broad Street.

Jubilee Market and Cafe, the neighborhood’s first full-service grocery, will provide Franklinton families healthy and affordable fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats, breads and ready-made meals.

The project aligns with Lower Lights’ mission, as there will be an emphasis on nutrition education.

Payment, as with other Lower Lights services, will be based on income.

“It’s discreet and it’s dignified.” says Smith, of the Board of Trade. “It’s very medicinal in its concept, that’s what’s cool about it.”

He expects wealthier consumers will shop alongside the neighborhood’s poorer residents.

“Literally for the last 12 years, that’s the battle cry: we need a grocery store,” he said.