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A great deal of attention in recent months has been focused on rehabilitating two near-downtown neighborhoods in Columbus.
The areas around the Ninth Street Park and 11th and Washington streets have drawn the attention of city government and a small army of volunteers.
The majority of them are residents within the neighborhoods but also a significant number of individuals who live elsewhere but look upon what they contribute as beneficial to improving the quality of life throughout the community.
The attention directed at these areas is typified by the city’s recent decision to seek $550,000 in grant money from the state to acquire six vacant homes and apartments in the immediate area around the Ninth Street Park. The buildings either would be torn down or repaired for use as low-cost housing.
In some respects, it is a small gesture that affects a small area within a block or two of the park at Ninth and Wilson streets. However, this approach is in keeping with a philosophy establishing a series of building blocks that are intended to spread outward and engender other projects, not only in the overall neighborhood, but in the community in general.
The attention focused on these two areas stems largely from the deteriorated conditions into which both have fallen, especially in recent years. Residents pointed to signs of the ongoing deterioration — increased crime, rundown properties that had not been maintained by absentee landlords, domestic disturbances often played out in public, stray animals, litter, etc.
City officials have responded in a significant manner in both neighborhoods. They have helped residents in efforts to establish neighborhood watch groups; police patrols have been dramatically increased; massive cleanup projects involving scores of volunteers have been staged; and infrastructure improvements, such as street lighting and installation of speed bumps in alleys to reduce traffic, have been made.
It has been a sustained effort for several weeks now, and officials and residents alike contend that it will be continued well into the weeks and months ahead. It is that commitment that is critical to the long-term future of these neighborhoods and the overall community.
Too often, past neighborhood rehabilitation projects have been short-lived, characterized by bursts of energy that produced immediate results that eventually turned out to be transitory. The Ninth Street Park neighborhood has witnessed these short-lived efforts a number of times in the past, each ending in a return to the same situations that precipitated the calls for action.
The encouraging aspect to both of these recent projects is that the residents have become involved, interacting more closely with police and other city officials in removing undesirable elements and improving their properties.
There is obviously a limit to how much public officials can expend on these two small neighborhoods, but there should be a clear demonstration that what is being achieved can be sustained on a long-term basis before the city reduces its efforts.
If successful, these rehabilitation efforts can serve as a model to other areas of the city on how to reclaim a neighborhood.
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