The community is reshaping with more housing; stronger neighborhood; good people
By John Mclaughlin
Although Danielle McKnight Zellner’s children have all grown up and moved away, she continues to live in the Linden community, where she’s been for the last 17 years. She works tirelessly in the community to assist the people of the Linden neighborhood through her position as a community service worker at St. Stephen’s Community House.
“A lot of times this community is just like a family, and that’s a big part of what keeps me here,” she says.
This sentiment seems to be a theme that runs throughout the Linden community— and is another one of the small but quietly beautiful surprises the neighborhood has to offer, with families staying in the same area, the same house even, for multiple generations.
“Our block is very unique. One house across the street, the grandparents lived there, now their grandchildren live there,” said one North Linden resident who wishes to remain anonymous. She and her husband bought their home in 1959, and haven’t moved since.
Thinking back on the years in her Linden neighborhood, she recalls block parties and social gatherings, as well as a neighborly friendliness that seems to be another hallmark
of the area to so many residents “I remember meeting neighbors out in the middle of the street to talk. In fact, we still have one who comes over to use our lawnmower.”
Most Columbus denizens, however, probably consider Linden differently, because if you’re familiar with the community in 2020, it’s likely not in a positive way. The historic neighborhood, which has existed since the turn of the 20th century but wasn’t officially annexed by the city of Columbus until 1921, became a bustling middle-class neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, with the population of North Linden just over half of what it was 60 years ago, the area has seen its share of struggle, and is no stranger to crime and poverty.
Many residents—those who have lived, worked, and served there for decades—will paint you a much different picture than those shown in the media, and often it’s one of a community on the rise.
“What we try to make sure of is we want to encourage the media and people from the outside to get underneath the mascara,” said Adam Troy of the New Salem Baptist Church, a Linden community cornerstone. “Typically the mascara is really hiding the truth. And the truth is, this is a really wonderful community.”
Troy will also be the first one to admit the area has its issues it needs to overcome—there is crime; there is violence. The once-thriving Cleveland Avenue corridor, which slices north to south through the neighborhood and serves as its primary commercial area, is now littered with empty storefronts.
Over the last few years, though, a new energy has overtaken Linden. This isn’t just a community with good people waiting for a break anymore; this community is on the precipice of real change.
In 2018, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther launched the One Linden Community Plan, a comprehensive, multi-year initiative to reinvigorate the area and its residents, with a surge of funding, new development, and community support projects. It’s bringing a new, $20M community center to Linden, and investing an additional $18M in infrastructure and community programs. Even more important than these contributions is how the plan has galvanized a litany of nonprofits and community groups, each aimed at making Linden thrive.
And if you talk to anyone in the community about the One Linden Plan, you’ll pretty soon find out that it boasts nearly monolithic support throughout the community. This is because the Plan relied extensively on community participation to formulate its goals, spending 13 months between March 2017 and April 2018 engaging with Linden residents to understand what the area truly needs.
For those who personally participated in the plan’s formulation, like Zellner did, knowing her voice would help shape things to come was a major incentive. “To know that my idea is going to somehow affect what’s going to happen in Linden, that’s huge. I think programs like that give people a sense of being a part of something. They’re also realistic; they’re giving people what they want.”
Residents identified the creation of affordable housing as one of the area’s biggest needs, and one of the most important groups in the community right now addressing that front is Columbus Next Generation Corporation. The nonprofit group, which is legislated and funded by the city government, seeks out underutilized properties in Columbus neighborhoods and puts them to good use.
According to Director Boyce Safford, the group has identified and purchased two pieces of real estate in Linden where a pair of large-scale housing developments are underway.
One will eventually become a 41 to 45-unit affordable housing development, but Next Generation hasn’t yet selected a developer for the space. The second, Mulby Place, will stand at the southeast corner of Cleveland Ave. and Myrtle Ave. Construction is already underway on the 100-unit development of affordable living for seniors, in addition to 11 single-family homes and over 3,000 square feet of commercial space. It will likely be completed in 2021.
Another Columbus nonprofit, Homeport, was selected by the Next Generation board of directors to oversee the development of Mulby Place. Homeport is also in the process of constructing another critical affordable housing developments in Linden area, including 90 different single-family homes, and Kenlawn Place, which will hold 45 apartments for low to moderate-income families (in addition to five single-family homes) on the West side of the 2900 block of Cleveland Ave.
“The key with Mulby Place Key is that it’s right in the area which the Linden plan designated as downtown Linden,” said Homeport CEO Bruce Luecke.
According to Carla Gwinn, President of the Greater Linden Business Network and a business owner in Linden for 19 years (as the franchisee of Liberty Tax Service at 1406 Cleveland Ave.), these developments in new downtown Linden will likely pay lasting dividends to other areas in the economy.
Said another tenant of the One Linden Plan, “Development is important for there to be a framework of viable retail space and other development opportunities in the area,” she said. “Once you see development starting, you may encourage more.”
And it isn’t just housing coming to Linden.
Likely the most unique project to come out of the efforts stoked by the One Linden Plan is the combination of two Columbus nonprofits, The Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio and Community Development for All People, in taking over what was formerly Eagle Market at 1464 Cleveland Ave. This development, which was also facilitated by Next Generation, will offer free prescriptions for non-narcotic medication to low-income residents as well as free fresh produce.
Many other groups are involved across a number of platforms, such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which is addressing health-related tenants of the Plan by providing pediatric clinics and school-based behavioral health services at several Linden schools.
What’s more, the 614 for Linden collaborative, formed in late 2019, saw the city pair with a host of additional nonprofit groups and community partners, with the goal of advancing the One Linden Plan. It even saw an investment of $5M from JP Morgan Chase’s Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods program, and a $500,000 donation from Huntington Bank for small-business development.
And while initiatives from the One Linden Plan rightfully garnered a large amount of attention, the area is built on a strong foundation of community programs that are still making a difference today.
One of these is St. Stephen’s Community House. The nonprofit, based on Linden’s Southside since 1960, first opened over 100 years ago as an educational and social hub for many of the city’s immigrants, and it continues that mission of service to this day. They offer programs for teens, seniors, families, and even run a food bank that has fed nearly 700 families a week during the pandemic, according to the director of marketing and development Natalie Atkins.
Anchoring community service programs on the Northside of Linden is the New Salem Baptist Church. The church, founded in 1909, is anchored by the Troy family, pillars of the community for decades, as they continue to extend after school programs, urban gardening, a large-scale food pantry, housing initiates, and even programs helping local businesses secure critical funding.
And it appears people are truly taking notice following the waves of support and development in Linden. A lot of people. Danielle Zellner has seen a significant spike in home owning and real-estate interest within the last few years.
“We definitely have noticed the growth. People are looking into homeownership now. That’s huge. Five years ago, people were not looking to buy,” she said.
What’s more, Linden neighborhoods are seeing a new influx of younger families moving in from other areas of the city, a definite sign that the arrow is pointing up.
Amy Miller, 37, grew up in Upper Arlington, and most recently lived in Clintonville, two of the city’s more desirable neighborhoods. Now, though, she and her husband Ryan are homeowners in the North Linden neighborhood of Kenmore Park.
The couple was turned on to the area after visiting friends who were located in Kenmore Park. When the time came to purchase their own home in early 2019, they found a good deal on a home they liked. Miller admits she had some misgivings about Linden before learning more about the neighborhood, but now the young family couldn’t be happier with their choice.
“I will say yes, I had a perception that there was more crime, definitely compared to UA there is more crime, and that made me nervous at first. But since coming here we’ve met so many people and really truly become friends with them in a short period of time,” Miller said. “The Houses are closer together, people are out more, and they’re more interested in chatting. There’s a desire to connect here more than any other neighborhood.”
“There are food trucks in our neighborhood every Friday and Saturday, and Tuesday evenings there’s a playgroup that meets at a grassy area in the neighborhood. And there are traditions, a movie night on certain Friday nights with a projector. It’s just a great community to be a part of.”
Ultimately Linden, like any community, is truly made or broken by its citizens. And if there’s one thing residents—of 60 years or 18 months—have sung the praises of, it’s the people.
“The Linden community is woven with a fabric of incredibly caring, hard-working people trying to provide for their family,” said Carla Gwinn. “I think the headlines undermine that, but the headlines don’t represent the everyday people I come in contact with; that doesn’t represent who we are.”
Natalie Atkins of St. Stephens agreed.
“This community is strong, it has the most involved community members that are proud of the history of this neighborhood, proud of where it’s going, where it’s been, and how far they’ve come,” she said. “It’s always going to be cautiously optimistic, but I think there’s this vibrancy now, it’s radiating through a lot of different facets of this community. You see the growth, and you see what’s coming.”
Join the Linden Clean Columbus Ambassadors — Earn Extra Holiday Cash
Columbus City Council, with the leadership of Councilmember Emmanuel V. Remy, will launch the Cleaner Columbus Employment Program on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The Community of Caring Development Foundation is honored to have been selected as one of five organizations coordinating the cleanup efforts.
“As an extension of our ongoing Health & Hope initiative throughout Linden, we welcome the opportunity to serve in partnership with Councilmember Remy and the Columbus City Council as a vehicle for continued investment in the core asset of Linden, it’s people,” said Adam K. Troy, Executive Director for the Community of Caring Development Foundation.
According to a July study on the impact of COVID-19 in major US cities, more than half of residents reported experiencing serious financial challenges, said Councilmember Emmanuel V. Remy. The Cleaner Columbus Employment Program will provide employment to local residents experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19.
Over the course of two weeks, workers will be paid a minimum of $15 per hour. The five organizations receiving the grant funds will prioritize enrolling residents who have experienced employment disruption.
The program offers residents in five neighborhoods the opportunity to have temporary employment for two weeks performing litter cleanup and neighborhood beautification. In partnership with the Community of Caring Development Foundation, the Linden Clean Columbus initiative is scheduled to kickoff on Saturday, Nov. 14. Please watch our website for registration — coming soon!
The following five agencies are accepting applications:
COMMUNITY OF CARING DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
Focus Area: Linden
Phone: (614) 484-0911
FRANKLINTON BOARD OF TRADEFocus Area: Franklinton
Phone: (614) 398-2435
GREATER HILLTOP AREA SHALOM ZONEFocus Area: Hilltop
Phone: (614) 398-1230
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL PEOPLEFocus Area: South Columbus
AFRICENTRIC PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT SHOPFocus Area: East Columbus
Two months ago, New Salem Church’s 30-year-old food pantry was a place where the community was welcomed inside the doors. The environment was full of conversation, music and laughter. You could find a pat on the back, a hug and a word of inspiration.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that. Now, for the safety of our volunteers and clients, cars line up in the church’s parking lot, people phone in their orders, our volunteers bring boxes of food and other necessary household items out to the car, load them and then watch clients drive away to make room for the next car.
From February to March, we saw a steady increase in new clients, up 32%, and senior citizens, up 28%. The line grows longer each week with people who’ve never needed help putting a meal on the table. In the U.S., the black community is taking the biggest hit. People are hurting and dying disproportionately as we struggle to control the COVID-19 world pandemic. And in Columbus’ Linden community, we are feeling the full wake of the curve.
Linden residents felt the COVID-19 pandemic free fall before most Ohioans as Linden-based restaurant and hospitality workers began losing income on March 5, 2020, when Gov. Mike DeWine, for safety reasons, prohibited spectators and exhibitors from attending a major sporting event in Columbus.
Nearly 60% of employed Linden residents work low-wage service industry jobs, and 58% of neighborhood residents are housing cost-burdened. Additionally, more than 38% of all households in Linden include children, who are typically fed at school. The loss of income for many residents has exacerbated tenuous housing situations.
The area’s food insecurity and housing instability are sure to intensify during the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath. The gap of inequity in health outcomes and social determinants of health that existed before the world pandemic is now wider than ever before and deadlier.
The two largest food pantries in Linden, Bread of Life Food Pantry run by New Salem’s Community of Caring Development Foundation and St. Stephen’s Community House, are among the few still open. In addition to requests for food, more people are calling daily for rent and utilities assistance.
In the ongoing months, as the impact on our economy and our communities is unveiled, we must think through what public policy changes are needed in a post-COVID-19 world to improve our quality of life and eradicate the inequities that arrest our full potential, keeping many citizens struggling behind the rest of society.
In the meantime, we are all aware of the need for more testing and tracking in Columbus’ communities of color and throughout the city. And there is an urgent need for data collection, specifically in the African American and Hispanic communities so we can better understand how the virus spreads and find ways to mitigate it.
A slow, gradual reopening of the economy is the best approach and will bring relief, hopefully, for our area’s workers who are ready to go back to earning a living. However, we must remember the disproportionate number of people of color, many working in essential jobs around the city, who are vulnerable citizens with high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, heart disease and undergoing cancer therapy. They need our ongoing protection during these times of uncertainty. We all have a role to play. Let’s be responsible.
And let’s remain faithful and be a resource people can depend on, even if it’s just your next-door neighbor or an elderly family member. During these challenging times, we must be there for our neighbors and then make it our new normal.
The future is uncertain; it is going to be a long, hard road for us all. But if we remain committed to helping others, donating and volunteering when we can, staying at home and wearing a mask in public, we can successfully practice social distancing without becoming socially disconnected.
Adam K. Troy is director of missions, New Salem Baptist Church and chief engagement officer of the Community of Caring Development Foundation, the economic and development arm of New Salem Baptist Church.
Message From The Community of Caring Development Foundation (COCDF)
As your community and economic development partner, the Community of Caring Development Foundation (COCDF) cares for the health and well-being of all our neighbors in Linden and Columbus, which is aligned with our mission of creating a connected community. During this coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that we stay connected as a community and share information and resources.
We are closely monitoring the situation. Please take care to review the information below.
The City of Columbus public health officials are working in tandem with federal, state and local officials and agencies to continuously monitor the evolving coronavirus/ COVID-19 situation and appropriately alter its response plans to mitigate community spread. Health officials strongly recommend that seniors and those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill consider avoiding large crowds, traveling only if necessary, and taking extra precautions when leaving the house. It’s also recommended that all residents:
- Clean your hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- If you are sick, stay home, unless you are seeking medical care. Look out for symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. If you’re not familiar with your employer’s sick leave policy, please talk to your supervisor or HR representative.
- While sick, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as doorknobs, phones and tabletops.
- Social distancing is key to slowing the spread of the virus. According to the CDC, maintain about six feet of personal space and avoid public places like movie theaters and shopping centers. Avoiding shaking hands and touching, as much as possible, by practicing social distancing – an infection control action intended to stop or slow down the spread of the contagious disease. The objective of social distancing is to reduce the probability of contact between persons carrying an infection, and others who are not infected, to minimize disease transmission, morbidity and ultimately, mortality.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all events with more than 10 people be canceled in the U.S. The agency also provides the following insights:
- STAY INFORMED: To make sure you have the most up-to-date information, check the CDC site regularly or sign up for the CDC newsletter here, and share the information with your neighbors.
- BE PREPARED: Make sure to have enough food, household supplies, water, vitamins and medications for each person (and pet) in your home. If you run out of supplies, let neighbors know so they can share or direct you to available supplies at businesses in your local area. Should you become ill, it is important to have health supplies on hand including pain relievers, cough and cold medicines, and fluids with electrolytes.
- GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS: Talk with your neighbors (particularly the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions) about emergency planning and let them know you’re there to help. According to the CDC, older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. Localized community response can be critical during times when federal, state and local authorities are overwhelmed.
- IDENTIFY AID ORGANIZATIONS IN YOUR COMMUNITY: Create a list of local organizations that you can contact for information, health care services, support, resources, and mental health or counseling services.
- CREATE AN EMERGENCY CONTACT LIST: Ensure your household has a current list of emergency contacts for family, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, health care providers, teachers, employers, the local public health department, and other community resources.
As we tighten our daily interactions and remain closer to home let’s use this as an opportunity to support the businesses in our community who service and support us every day!
Federal, state and city:
Community Aid Resources from around Ohio including Central Ohio.
Volunteer or donate to the Columbus City Schools.
What do you do if you are sick?
Is Your Household Ready for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
How to keep work, schools and homes safe.
Market brings Linden residents together to connect, replenish, and promote community health
With the success of the 2018 pilot season of the Linden Farmers Market, the Community of Caring Development Foundation (COCDF) agreed to return with even more fresh produce grown by local farmers, hot food from local food vendors, beautifully created baked goods, body and home products, clothing, local art, jewelry, and more.
Sponsored by the Community of Caring Development Foundation (COCDF), New Salem Baptist Church, The City of Columbus, The Columbus Foundation, Molina Healthcare, United Way, and PNC Bank, the 2019 season of the Linden Farmers Market hosted more than 400 people on its opening day, Sunday, July 7, 2019, and will be open every Sunday, July 7 – Sept. 1 from 12-3 p.m., at Gye Nyame Place, 2830 Cleveland Ave., Columbus, at the intersection of Cleveland Ave. and E. Lakeview.
In addition to fresh vegetables, hot food and other products, there are also learning opportunities, such as container gardening classes and a community-driven compost project, as well as live music every week by the Market House Band – CCS’s Fort Hayes graduate Rubin Traylor’s Soubdsofru Duo and other special performances.
“The Linden Farmers Market has become a place where community happens, and I’m excited that we’re up and running again for a second year,” said Landon J. Adams, market manager. “We look forward to connecting with old and new friends as well as our community partners. We proudly support Linden-based growers and vendors, as well as vendors of color and women-owned businesses. The market is an oasis in an area that’s become a food desert. It’s here that we display our Linden PRIDE, reconnect with residents, and welcome neighbors from across the Central Ohio region.”
Community groups, food vendors, and local artists who want a table to share information, produce, art, and other goods, are welcomed. The Linden Farmers Market accepts SNAP and WIC Farmers Market coupons and participates in Produce Perks matching program. Some vendors accept LifeCare Alliance senior coupons as well. The market includes such vendors as:
2956 Cleveland Avenue
Columbus, OH 43224