Notes of town hall meeting with Near East Side residents and PACT officials-part 1
Fred Ransier, PACT Advisory Chair, said he wants to hear from a variety of stakeholders. Black folk comprised most of the adivsory committee. There were about 350 people at the meeting which took place at Trinity Baptist Church. PACT is an acronym for Partners Achieving Community Transformation.
"The more input we get, the better the outcomes," said Ransier.
Dawn Tyler Lee, PACT Executive Director, told those at the meeting that there is not a plan yet.
"What we're doing at this town hall event is talk about the process that the plan will entail...We will clear up some misinformation."
She said the Martin Luther King Jr. Libary has a PACT information center and that other such centers on coming.
"$10 million sounds like a lot of money but as you know there are needs in the community requiring more than $10 million," Lee said. She said because of that, the more input from the community that PACT gets, the better.
"The Taylor Avenue corridor the site where Poindexter Village is currently located is our initial focus area," Lee said.
"It absolutely matters that the public give their input," Lee said. "We're inviting people to be a part of this process. Thru stakeholder engagement, we can collectively build the blueprint. We're committed to transparency thru all parts of the process. Anyone who wants to participate can do so," Lee said.
Adding to information that is in the 7-page town hall brochure for the PACT town hall meeting, Lee said,
"I see housing options for a variety of income levels. I see our neighbors leading healthy lives with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, where residents have access to good public transportation."
David Dixon an official with PACT said to the gathering of about 350: " We're working for PACT, but we're really working for all of you. We have to let you know what we have done with what we've heard from you. An important questions is, how do we empower communities so that they can be the authors of their
own own change? "
Dixon said it's important to look at the retail and small business market that people in the area can help develop.
"What are the opportunities we have around housing? We're going to make studies about that available to the community," Dixon said.
"Engagement is not something be do separate from the thinking and planning," Dixon said.
Another PACT official, Paul Sherwood, said he expects the Wexner Medical Center Expansion Project to employ 500-600 people in jobs related to construction and renovation.
"We'll see what we can do to get a lot of those jobs to people here in this community," Sherwood said.
James Ervin of the CMHA Board of Commissioners said PACT doesn't have a plan to show Near East Side residents, but said that whatever does emerge will preserve the history and heritage of the area. Doing that involves a lot of input from the community, said Ervin.
"We hope you make your voices known. If you think we haven't answered your questions, or if you think you haven't been heard, contact us. Families are what we care about, not the bricks and mortar," Ervin said.
Ervin said the demolition of Poindexter Village is in the best interest of families, in that it would have been too expensive to make the buildings safe and healthy by renovating them. Ervin said CMHA has helped 188 families relocate to every zip code in Franklin County.
(Side note: Most of the statements that got the most applause from those in the audience were the ones that expressed distrust and skepticism about PACT.)
Bryan Brown, Senior VP for Business Development at CMHA, said 25 percent of the families that have moved out of Poindexter Village have stayed in the Near East Side as a result of collaboration among organizations in the community. He said CMHA conducted interviews within households to assess their needs and link them to services.
"We provided transportation to those without it. We've had 3 housing fairs where landlords come to Poindexter Village to provide information...We urge anyone to contact the relocation office if you have property you'd like to rent to Poindexter residents," Brown said. He said the relocation should be complete within the next six months.
Reggie Johnson of CMHA said buildings currently vacant are zoned off to prevent people from looting materials from them.
An elderly man name William Potter asked the speakers why Black homeowners in the community should have any faith in partnership with OSU when the university hasn't made progress in the enrollment of Black students.
An official with OSU who was present said the university leads the Big Ten in enrollment of Black students. He said OSU's numbers on that front look better when we include the regional campuses.
When Potter expressed his distrust of OSU officials a second time in the form of a statement instead of a question, he drew applause, and a low rumble of murmurs.
Audience member Anthony T. Hodge used the town hall Q & A to call for the return of public access TV.
Audience member Lidia Wiggins, a resident of Poindexter Village said she supports PACT in the Near East Side.
As she spoke, she appeared to be looking toward the front row where where people working with PACT were seated, most of whom, like herself and other members of the audience, were African-American. "Come to Poindexter to work with us. Don't just come to these meetings and then drive home in your Lexus. I work in the relocation office. I want to let you know that the Near East Side is not all bad."
After Wiggins spoke, a young African-American woman pressed officials with PACT for more information about a plan for the Near East Side. She spoke briefly with irritation in her voice.
Lee responded by saying, "the planning process starts now."
Brown responded by saying the plan involves a series of steps occurring in the next 8 months: relocating Poindexter Village residents; demolishing the buildings; making the site ready for re-development; and planning with current Near East Side residents about what they'd like to see.
"By then, we expect to have the plan you're looking for," Brown said in her to question.
Rita Smith asked PACT officials about using vacant housing in the Near East Side, instead of relocating Poindexter Village residents to outlying areas. Smith suggested this would cost less money. State Senator Charleta Tavares responded by saying land bank projects are underway.
Last month 10TV reported Mayor Coleman announced during the State of the City address a Mow to Own program which he said will come out in greater detail in about a year.
One resident asked about what is being done for Poindexter Village residents who don't meet eligibility standards for getting assistance as they relocate. A CMHA official responded by saying, "there is a process for those who fall thru the cracks," while repeating the idea that renovating Poindexter Village would not be feasible given the high costs, estimated to be about $60 million.