Affordable Housing Proposed for Heyl School Site on South Side
A proposal to redevelop the former Heyl Avenue Elementary School on the South Side calls for demolishing the building and replacing it with 58 units of affordable housing. The plan has already received a vote of approval from the South Side Area Commission and has been granted the necessary zoning variances, although the final go-ahead awaits an Ohio Housing Finance Agency decision on whether Low-Income Housing Tax Credits will be issued.
Non-profit organization Community Development for All People (CDFAP), an affiliate of the Church For All People on Parsons Avenue, is partnering on the project with Cleveland-based developer NRP Group.
“We’re really excited, and hopeful that we receive good news,” said David Cofer, CDFAP Managing Director. He added that a decision is expected in May or June, and that construction could start about six months after that if the credits are awarded.
The school sits at the the corner of Heyl Avenue and East Whittier Street, about five blocks east of Parsons. The plan to build a three-story apartment building along with four smaller townhome buildings offers a contrast to plans for the former Barrett Middle School, which is less than a mile away in Merion Village. The historic Barrett building is going to be renovated and turned into apartments, with new single-family homes also built on the grounds.
Homeport is developing the Barrett property – along with Casto, who they brought in as a partner – and although there is a small affordable housing component to the project, its primary purpose is to generate funds to support the nonprofit’s work in other parts of Columbus.
Cofer said that renovating the Heyl School and incorporating it into the site plan was not a feasible option for this project.
“Given the condition of building, and the need to maximize the number of units, it was clear from very beginning that it would require the demolition of the historic building,” he said.
As for concerns from the neighborhood about the building coming down, Cofer said that the “surrounding community is very supportive of the project overall,” and that they plan to “be collaborative about doing something inside the new building that honors and pays tribute to the legacy of the Heyl Avenue School.”
Cofer also stressed that a partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital will ensure that the project brings more than just housing to the neighborhood.
“A hallmark of this development is that onsite there will be around 2,000 square feet of multipurpose space, envisioned for on-site delivery of workforce development and professional development training. This is a unique feature – residents and neighbors would be able to attend evening or weekend classes, and the space would be available for community meetings. The goal is for it to be used, it could be programmed for 12-14 hours a day.”
CDFAP has collaborated with NRP Group on other projects in the neighborhood, including Parsons Village, a 56-unit affordable senior housing development on the former Schottenstein store site at 1846 S. Washington Avenue. (Construction is close to wrapping up on that project, with a ribbon-cutting planned for May).
CDFAP has also worked on a number of initiatives to repair and renovate existing housing in the area.
“We’ve demonstrated our commitment to maintaining the fabric of the community wherever possible,” said Cofer. “This is one more piece of us trying to work, in collaboration with the community, toward a comprehensive approach to offering affordable housing on the South Side.”
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All renderings by RDL Architects.