A local non-profit organization seeking redevelopment for the city’s southwest side hired a development firm whose work includes The Greene shopping center.
The SoDown Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation will pay $11,000 to EDGE, a planning, landscape architecture and development consulting firm, to work on its multi-year Blueprint for Growth Revitalization Plan.
“I’m very excited,” said SoDown Interim Director Tim Ayers, the former Springfield Mayor. “The board is energized by what’s taken place. We look forward to engaging residents and trying to rebuild and rejuvenate a very historic neighborhood and part of Springfield’s history.”
SoDown consists of 3,200 residents living in the approximately 50 blocks within the boundaries of West Liberty Street, South Yellow Springs Street, Jefferson Street and South Limestone Street.
EDGE has offices in Columbus, Toledo and Nashville and was founded by former Ohio State and National Football League running back Eddie George, the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner.
Tedd Hardesty, also one of EDGE’s founding partners, said projects like SoDown are rewarding.
“There’s nothing more gratifying than helping a community improve, and that’s improving their quality of life from an economic, social and environmental aspect,” Hardesty said.
The company worked in Springfield in 2007 when designing a plan for the National Road — U.S. Route 40, which runs straight through Clark County — across the state.
Ayers said EDGE’s background and current development projects — such as The Greene near Dayton, athletic complexes at both Ohio State and Wright State, and the Jefferson Street redevelopment in Nashville — played a huge role in their selection.
“They have a wonderful track record,” Ayers said. “We’re very pleased with what they’ve done with other entities and what they’ll do with SoDown and the residents of the neighborhood.
This phase of the project will consist of neighborhood meetings and gathering demographic information. Organizers will hold an initial meeting in August and a “report to the neighborhood” meeting in November or December. Hardesty said they’ll begin working in the area as soon as possible, gathering data and doing research on the physical environment and demographics.
“It’s not only about establishing a big-picture vision of what everyone wants it to become,” Hardesty said. “It’s about identifying those more near-term catalytic opportunities that can start to make change. That could be a housing project, a mixed-use commercial project or a streetscape project, or a collection of those things which add up to something significant.”
Ayers hopes the following phase — which will include designing a plan based of data and resident input — can begin in early 2014.
The non-profit group has already raised approximately $21,000 for the redevelopment project. Funding for the initiative was provided in part by the Turner Foundation, Springfield City Schools, the Community Improvement Corporation, Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the city of Springfield.
While EDGE could work in the neighborhood for six months to a year, it will take time and strategy for the improvements to happen in the neighborhood.
“It will be the sort of incremental implementation of projects over many years that’s going to make the improvement over time,” Hardesty said.
One of the first big projects in the area, Interfaith Hospitality Network’s $5.5 million, 34-unit Mulberry Terrace, a first-of-its-kind permanent supportive housing development, is currently under construction.
The development is 22 percent completed, including the 26-unit complex on 120 Mulberry St., as well duplexes at 138 and 140 E. Southern St., 401 S. Center St., 35-37 W. Southern Ave., 115-117 W. Mulberry St.
“We’re ahead of schedule,” said Interfaith Executive Director Elaina Bradley.
The duplex on Southern Avenue is expected to be completed in early September. Interfaith and the Springfield Metropolitain Housing Authority expect to establish a waiting list for the housing units in mid-July and will be accepting applications for eligible families.
Bradley called SoDown’s deal with EDGE “great news for Springfield,” especially considering how close the neighborhood is to downtown.
“Anything we can do to redevelop our neighborhoods and provide affordable and safe housing is very thrilling,” Bradley said.
SoDown is also teaming with Clark County Habitat for Humanity on a volunteer-driven Neighbor-to-Neighbor Paint Program later this summer.
The goal is to paint up to eight houses on both Fair Street and Oakwood Avenue. Residents who may need assistance will likely receive letters later this week.
Ayers said resident participation is important in order to restore pride in the neighborhood.
“We need to get people involved in doing the day-to-day things that helps turn around a neighborhood,” Ayers said.
For more information, log on to SoDown.org or visit the organization’s Facebook page.
The Springfield News-Sun has provided in-depth and ongoing coverage of efforts to improve and redevelop parts of Springfield, including the Promise Neighborhood project and SoDown Neighborhoods.