Columbus Dispatch article
From the Columbus Dispatch, May 8, 2008


Thursday, May 8, 2008
By Mark Ferenchik and Jonathan Riskind

The company redeveloping the Columbus Coated Fabrics site into apartments and condominiums plans to build unsubsidized housing along E. 11th Avenue to create a gateway to the old industrial site.

But to do it, it will need the help of Congress and the president.

Wagenbrenner Development plans to tear down 96 units of blighted, government-subsidized housing along 11th Avenue owned by the nonprofit Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, said Eric Wagenbrenner, company vice president.

Redeveloping that site into condominiums and apartments would provide an attractive link from N. 4th Street to the Columbus Coated Fabrics site at Grant Avenue, he said. "It's all one contiguous piece," Wagenbrenner said.

He wants to build 500 apartments and condominiums on the old factory site in the Weinland Park neighborhood. The 96 units are among the 1,335 apartments that Ohio Capital Corp. bought in 2003 that were once maintained by Broad Street Management. Ohio Capital has renovated or is renovating about 1,000 of those units, many of them in Weinland Park.

Ohio Capital determined that the 11th Avenue housing wasn't worth renovating, said Hal Keller, Ohio Capital's president.

About 70 of the units are occupied, Keller said. Those residents would be moved to renovated units the corporation owns.

Joyce Hughes, president of the Weinland Park Area Commission, said she is excited about the idea to revitalize E. 11th Avenue.

"The housing that's there now is in disrepair," she said.

The development "deconcentrates" government-subsidized housing in Weinland Park and the Near East Side, opening those areas to unsubsidized housing development, Keller said.

However, Congress must first pass legislation enabling Keller's group, which is locked into federal contracts, to transfer those subsidies to other homes. Where hasn't been decided, Keller said.

He said 175 units are affected, including the 96 along 11th Avenue. The language permitting the transfer of the subsidies was inserted by Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Upper Arlington, in a wide-ranging housing-relief bill that is expected to be addressed by the House today.

The bill's overall thrust is to help homeowners avoid foreclosure with government-backed mortgage guarantees, up to $300 billion worth nationwide. It still must pass the Senate, and President Bush has threatened a veto, saying the House version is a "reward to speculators and lenders."

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is working on the proposal in the Senate. He will try to insert it in the Senate housing bill or, alternately, try to place the provision in a Section 8 overhaul bill if that measure looks more likely to move forward this year.

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