Near East Side | Columbus, Ohio
The PACT community is changing the Near East Side’s economic trajectory with an economic revitalization initiative called Delivering Black Dreams.
The Near East Side of Columbus was among the upper middle-class communities developed in the late 19th century along the city’s streetcar lines. By the 1920s, affluent Black families made it one of Columbus’ more diverse neighborhoods.
But like many inner-city neighborhoods nationwide, the Near East Side experienced a slow, devastating decline. Various factors exacerbated the downturn and loss of population, including redlining and other forms of systemic racism and a freeway system that cut through the heart of Columbus.
Today, multiple barriers disproportionately and negatively impact Black residents. Wage and household income disparities remain entrenched. The neighborhood’s housing gap offers limited options for people with low to middle incomes. State test scores are the lowest among the city’s public high schools. The neighborhood has no grocery and just one pharmacy.
Still, the Near East Side remains home to a wealth of assets that center Black heritage and creativity. They include Lincoln Theatre, King Arts Complex, Martin Luther King Library and Maroon Arts Group BoxPark. The neighborhood is also home to the oldest Black congregation in Columbus and boasts five community gardens.
For the past decade, PACT has worked with partners and the community to change the Near East Side’s economic trajectory. Key to that transformation has been an uncommon dedication to the neighborhood’s cultural significance – and a steadfast determination to improve the social and economic landscape for area residents.
PACT began with a $10 million investment from the Wexner Medical Center and a revitalization plan called the Blueprint for Community Investment. The plan seeks to make the Near East Side neighborhood a healthy, sustainable community offering residents access to safe, affordable homes, quality health care and education and local employment opportunities.
Ten years later, PACT, its partners and area residents have transformed the Near East Side into a remarkable public-private success story. And the community says they are just getting started.
PACT and its partners will continue to deliver Black dreams by leveraging the neighborhood’s rich cultural legacy and creating an economic impact corridor. They aim to carry out that work in a way that honors the Near East Side’s collective history, while building Black futures in the neighborhood.
The organization and its partners will leverage this new infusion of funds from Fifth Third Bank to:
- Develop a Black-owned bank and grocery store
- Support public art creation across the neighborhood
- Provide down-payment support for middle-income and ladder-up housing opportunities that build generational wealth
- Expand health, dental and optometry services
- Create financial education, literacy and savings programs for area youth
The plan builds on PACT's community-developed blueprint, designed to empower Black residents through engagement, decision making and self-determination.
“Infusing good development practices and principles into a natural weave of culture and legacy has been our vision and our dream. The expertise and investment of Fifth Third – combined with the knowledge base of Enterprise – make this an exceptionally critical moment for our community. And we’re ready – we’re just so poised to leverage it.”
− Autumn Glover, former President, PACT
What Success Looks Like
The success of PACT’s Delivering Black Dreams plan in the Near East Side hinges on a range of neighborhood-wide improvements. They include enhanced safety, transportation, streetscapes and green spaces.
New neighborhood-driven development will spur mixed-income revitalization and position the community for more investment – particularly in commercial development as the link between the Near East Side and downtown Columbus is restored.
Strategies prioritize housing and neighborhood initiatives that will improve residents’ quality of life and create a healthy, vibrant environment:
- All levels of education will be improved
- Residents will be connected to jobs and job training
- The number of households will grow by over 20%
- Over $135 million in new investment will be implemented within the next decade
The plan also emphasizes the development of facilities that will create wealth and well-being for Near East side families. The vision includes:
- A new federally qualified health center, including dental and optometry care
- A high-quality early education and training center
- Financial services and commercial office development, including a satellite space for the only co-working space dedicated to women of color in Columbus