“A Housing Project Upgrade Done Right
Kaid Benfield. Sept 17, 2012
Lincoln Heights, Ohio, is about a dozen miles north of Cincinnati. It contains around 4,500 residents, 98 percent of them African-American. In fact, according to a community website, it was the first self-governing African American community north of the Mason-Dixon Line and at one time the largest. But household income is low, and only about a third of the town’s single-family homes are owner-occupied.
What I will write here is really a set-up for the evocative video below. It shows the story of Valley Homes, a cooperatively owned housing project built in Lincoln Heights in 1942 that had become badly deteriorated, because mounting needed repairs to buildings that had been poorly constructed in the first place had become too numerous and too expensive for its low-income owners to undertake. In 2005, the property fell into receivership and two years later a task force was appointed to search for a permanent solution. The details of what happened over the next few years and the evolution of the project’s ownership and financial structure are complex.
But high on the list of task force goals were new senior housing and allowing current residents to stay. Eventually the old buildings were condemned and torn down, and the group selected a development firm named the Model Group to redevelop the site. The good news is that Valley Homes has now been replaced with a mix of updated and affordable housing types called Villas of the Valley, and the site is once again serving the community. Jay Springer elaborates onCincinnati.com:
The redevelopment of the site was identified as a top community priority in the Lincoln Heights Urban Renewal Plan and Revitalization Strategy of 2001. Model Group worked closely with the residents of the Valley Homes Redevelopment Task Force and the Lincoln Heights Planning Commission to develop designs appropriate and sensitive to the surrounding community. This development included the demolition of functionally obsolete, dilapidated housing and the construction of 42 new ranch-style, detached senior cottages, 35 two-story, attached rental units, and 4 single-family detached homes.
Model Group’s effort to incorporate community feedback combined with key members of the Planning Commission publicly championing the project resulted in a transformational development for the Village of Lincoln Heights.
The new development also includes a community center.
The change is certainly impressive and, in some respects, green. But it is not perfect: from the perspective of smart growth and city planning ideals, one can certainly find fault with the new neighborhood, which took a step back by replacing part of the traditional street grid with cul-de-sacs, and constructed fewer homes than the site once contained. I’m particularly disappointed that parts of the development appear even to lack sidewalks. But this is not a major transit-oriented, affordable and mixed-use showcase with the impressive scale and urban detail of, say, Denver’s remarkable South Lincoln transformation. (It also hasn’t enjoyed the focus and assistance of multiple federal agencies, as has that project.) Nor does it contain the sparkling green ambition of, for example, Seattle’s High Point. The financing appears to have been challenging, to say the least.
No, this is a much smaller and more modest project, but one no less important to its community and certainly no less significant to its residents, whose lives it has vastly improved. You would have to be blind not to see the dramatic improvement. It looks terrific to my eye, suggesting some of the first, more densely populated inner suburbs”
Via: The Atlantic Cities
Photo: The Model Group