“Downtown Linden” may start taking shape by the end of the year, with nonprofit developer Homeport planning to break ground on a 100-unit senior apartment development at Cleveland and Myrtle avenues by the end of the year.
In July, the Columbus City Council approved the rezoning of 2.3 acres at the southeast corner of Cleveland and Myrtle avenues for the $25 million Mulby Place development. Homeport also plans to build 10 single-family homes nearby.
Also in the works: local developer Trey Addison and a Pittsburgh-area developer plan to build a 42-unit “workforce housing” apartment complex on the west side of Cleveland Avenue near the Mulby Place development, said Boyce Safford, executive director of the Columbus Next Generation Corporation.
Creating a ‘Downtown Linden’ along Cleveland Avenue
So far, Columbus Next Gen, a local development corporation created by the city originally to focus on opportunities on the city’s Near East Side, has acquired 27 parcels in the North Linden area to redevelop near Cleveland between Briarwood and Arlington avenues, Safford said.
Officials are still coming up with idea for other properties Columbus Next Gen has, including an old Lev’s Pawn Shop on Cleveland Avenue and the now-shuttered New Harvest Cafe at Cleveland and Arlington avenues, Safford said.
The city’s One Linden plan, completed in 2018, said that improving the area of Myrtle and Cleveland avenues can help create a sense of place, a downtown-type central area “giving Linden residents a public place to gather and take pride in while drawing people from other parts of the city.”
It suggests that the Cleveland-Myrtle intersection should be more pedestrian-friendly so people can cross safely, encouraging new retail development, plus tree-lined medians along some portions of Cleveland Avenue.
It also suggests a plaza next to dining or art space for regular events, such as live music and art shows.
The plan says that restoring and preserving existing buildings is important to maintain Linden’s culture, history and identity, but would likely need tax credits to make that economically feasible.
The Mulby Place development — two buildings, each with three stories, at 2432 Cleveland Ave. — will have 70 one-bedroom apartments and 30 two-bedroom units for people ages 55 and up, plus 3,196 square feet of commercial space.
Residents must fall within 30% to 60% of the area median income to rent the apartments. For 30%, that would be $17,600 for one person, and $26,500 for a four-member family. For 60%, that would be $35,220 for a one-person household and $50,520 for a family of four.
The monthly rents would be $438 to $744 for the 650-square-foot, 1-bedroom apartments and $744 to $871 for the 900-square-foot, two-bedroom apartments.
The project is being financed with low-income housing tax credits.
Columbus Next Gen selected Homeport as the developer after putting out a request for proposals and receiving plans from four groups.
Neighbors want to see retail revive on Cleveland Avenue
John Lathram, who lives on Myrtle Avenue just west of the site, said he likes the development, but said there ultimately needs to be more if Downtown Linden is to truly be a neighborhood anchor.
“We need restaurants, a bakery, a coffee shop,” said Lathram, a former North Linden area commissioner.
“You can have an attorney’s office, a young architect’s office, a lawyer. Places for small business development within the minority community, and jobs,” Lathram said. “The goal all along is trying to get more employment in the community.”
He said a public parking area would primarily serve the popular Ena’s Caribbean Kitchen at 2444 Cleveland Ave.
Homeport is already building the 45-unit Kenlawn Place apartments, another tax-credit project, about a mile to the north of Mulby Place along Cleveland Avenue.
Mark Lomax, who grew up and lived in the Linden area not far from Cleveland and Myrtle avenues from the early 1980s to late 1990s, said the developments are good, but investments have to be made in the residents themselves.
“The only way to mitigate the negative impact of gentrification is to invest directly in the people,” said Lomax, community research and grants management officer for the Columbus Foundation who had a role in shaping the One Linden plan.
During the conversations about the plan, Lomax said he heard about the need for good jobs and safety. But he said it’s more than that.
“What investments are we making to help residents improve their homes? To make sure young people are valued, who stay and add value to their community,” he said.
Lomax said that when people in power or authority make pronouncements or give platitudes, they rarely manifest themselves on the ground. There have to be results, he said.
“If decision-makers really want to improve Linden, they should design what that neighborhood could be with residents from top to bottom,” he said.
Safford said that while there have been no regular meetings with neighborhood groups, they have been kept in the loop.
“We’re pretty transparent with them, every step of the way,” Safford said.