East 11th Avenue gets a makeover

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

East 11th Avenue's transformation from eyesore to OSU gateway

The renovation of 23 historic rowhouses in the city's Weinland Park neighborhood has turned East 11th Avenue into a hip urban housing corridor after decades as a run-down, crime-plagued entrance to the Ohio State campus area.

Wagenbrenner Development brought the buildings-now dubbed Grant Commons-online starting in late 2014 through early summer 2015 after more than $8 million in renovations. The 90-unit complex was once part of a collection of federally subsidized low-income housing called the Broad Street portfolio, named for its previous ownership group that managed a high concentration of ill-kept properties in Weinland Park, the nearby campus area and the Short North.

Campus Partners, OSU's redevelopment affiliate, worked with federal, state and local agencies and nonprofits such as the Ohio Capital Corp. for Housing and the Columbus Foundation to restructure the Broad Street portfolio and get the properties into the hands of more responsible owners and managers. The group, working under the corporate-backed Weinland Park Collaborative, labored to take numerous units such as the 11th Avenue properties out of the subsidized housing program to deconcentrate low-income housing in the neighborhood.

Rents for Grant Commons cost tenants $1,125 a month for a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom townhome. That is more than most properties in Weinland Park, but marketing agent Jeff Wagenbrenner says prices fall below those found in trendier neighborhoods nearby, while still offering the young professional residents pedestrian access to the Short North and campus entertainment scene. "It's a nice price for something with this level of finishes," Wagenbrenner says.

Grant Commons resident Jeseka Fuller looked at other urban residential properties before her March move into a one-bedroom unit at Grant Commons at a cost of $850 per month. The community health educator says she recalls driving past the boarded-up rowhouses several years ago when she visited friends at Ohio State. "It was an eyesore on 11th coming from [Interstate] 71." She says she enjoys living in the historic buildings after the overhaul. "They're extremely nice apartments."

The city of Columbus has augmented Wagenbrenner Development's investment, repairing East 11th and installing new underground utility lines along the stretch of homes between North Grant Avenue and North Fourth Street. "The road had potholes and needed reconstructing. The sidewalks were crumbling and [11th Avenue] had few trees and poor lighting," says Michael Wilkos, the Columbus Foundation's community research director and an owner of a similar rowhouse two blocks away from Grant Commons. "It's a very different environment now."

Rory Krupp, housing committee chairman of the Weinland Park Civic Association, praises the decision to renovate the existing buildings rather than build new 40-foot-high apartments. "It's better to match the scale of the neighborhood," Krupp says. "It preserves the fabric, the flavor of the neighborhood."

Wilkos believes Grant Commons marks a turning point for Weinland Park. The development, he says, represents one of the first true market-rate apartments in the area's renaissance. "People are always surprised, because they remember what the neighborhood used to look like," Wagenbrenner says. "It's modern and updated, not really what [potential renters] expect for the area."