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Updated: Linden Proposal Pits New Affordable Housing Against Existing Jobs, Neighbors Say

Brent Warren Brent Warren Updated: Linden Proposal Pits New Affordable Housing Against Existing Jobs, Neighbors SayThe proposed apartment complex on Bonham Avenue. Renderings by Ebersoldt + Associates Architecture.
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Update (7/27/21): Ascent Development chose to withdraw its development proposal for Bonham Avenue before it could come up for a vote last night at City Council. Ascent Principal Michael Rodriguez told CU that the decision to table the vote was made because “we ultimately did not have the votes needed to be successful.” He added; “Although Ascent Development will not be moving forward on this site, we do hope to find another site to assist the City of Columbus in addressing their affordable housing needs.”

The original article on the proposed development, as published on July 14, appears below:

A plan to bring 204 affordable apartments to Linden will be heading to City Council despite being voted down earlier this year by both the Development Commission and the South Linden Area Commission.

The proposal calls for a nine-building apartment complex to be built on about ten acres of land at 999 Bonham Ave. Rents would range from about $775 a month for a one-bedroom to $975 for a three-bedroom, according to the project’s developer, Ascent Development Group.

At the May 13 Development Commission meeting, several neighbors voiced concerns about the project, particularly the impact that it would have on a local business that has been employing Linden residents for years.

Recycling contractor Enviro Recycling Group has operated on land it controls to the south and east of the proposed apartment site for about 15 years. In 2017 the company expanded onto the site at 999 Bonham Ave., leasing the land that Ascent now wants to build apartments on.

The company’s CFO, James T. Wilson, told the Development Commission that he has tried to buy the land but has not been successful, characterizing the current proposal as “an out-of-state developer with unlimited capital going against a minority enterprise.”

He believes that if the apartments are built, not only would he no longer be able to use the 999 Bonham Ave. site, but the company’s operations on the surrounding parcels would also be threatened.

“We’re trying to get people who have been disenfranchised and forgotten into an industry that has the ability to pay decent wages and sustain families,” Wilson said, adding that Enviro Recycling employs between 30 and 35 full-time employees, offering wages between 18 and 25 dollars an hour. “If we are put in direct zoning conflict with this proposed apartment complex, I don’t think we’d be able to sustain the barrage of issues you’d have…this would put our business out of business.”

Michael Rodriquez, Principal of Indiana-based Ascent, told CU that he still hopes to see the project approved by City Council (according to the city, the proposal has been submitted to council but has yet to be scheduled for a vote).

He said that Ascent responded to concerns expressed by the neighborhood about jobs by adding 4,000 square feet of commercial space to the proposal, and by committing to the creation of a career service facility on site that would provide job training and help with job placement.

“Although disappointed that we were not able to receive support from Development Commission, we are hopeful City Council will consider our request for a re-zoning and other land use approvals as we believe this $45 million, mixed-use investment will provide a tremendous benefit for the South Linden Community,” Rodriguez added in an emailed statement. “The population in Linden has declined by more than 20% over the past five years, which has been followed by a significant increase in business vacancies, and it is our hope that this mixed-use, affordable community will assist in revitalization efforts.”

Ascent also authored a guest post that was published on the website of the pro-housing organization Neighbors for More Neighbors Columbus that gives more details on the proposal.

Sundi Corner, Chair of the South Linden Area Commission, told the Development Commission that residents are not against affordable housing in general – she cited a nearby project approved by the commission that will contain 44 affordable units – but in this case, the threat to existing jobs is a bigger issue for the neighborhood.

“We have training sources already, we need actual, physical jobs, and Enviro Recycling is providing that,” she said. “They’re providing jobs to individuals within our community, so to remove jobs where people are able to support themselves with a living wage, in order to create affordable housing…it makes no sense to me, why would we remove jobs within our community?”

A view of the proposed complex’s clubhouse.
The site, from the zoning package prepared by the City of Columbus.
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