With Woodland Meadows
gone, neighbors envision field of dreams
By John Matuszak
The walls of Woodland Meadows are coming down, but what will
rise in their place?
It should be something of high quality, suggested John Beckman,
president of the North Eastmoor Civic Association, as Columbus
Mayor Michael Coleman put the first dent in the housing complex
“We want to make sure it doesn’t become something
in 15 years that we want to tear down again,” Beckman
said before Coleman took the controls of a Lowendick wrecker
to tear down a portion of one of the 112 buildings on the 52-acre
Crews will spend the next five months removing the other buildings
that once housed 1,000 low-income people, before Environmental
Judge Harland Hale declared the deteriorated structures a public
nuisance in December.
It is the largest concentration of abandoned buildings in
the city’s history, the mayor said.
Coleman called Woodland
Meadows, previously known as the Greenbrier and derisively
dubbed “Uzi Alley” by police for
its gangs and drug crimes, to be “public enemy number
one” and decreed a “death sentence” for its
decay and blight.
Councilman Andrew Ginther, chairman of the safety committee,
commented that “more than a definition of blight, it’s
a death trap” for its rampant crime.
From November, 2005, to November, 2006, police and emergency
squads made 720 runs to the area, and more than 229 code violation
citations were issued.
Beckman knows that neighborhoods don’t
become slums overnight, and he recalled when it was a respected
community. But a succession of owners allowed the buildings
to fall into “disarray
The current owners, including Jorge Newbury, took over the
troubled spot with an eye toward renewal and met with neighbors
to promise improved living conditions.
The complex was hit with an ice storm in December, 2004, that
froze pipes and flooded apartments. Woodland Meadows never
recovered. Local, state and federal officials tried to hasten
repairs, “but he fought us every step of the the way,” Coleman
He thanked City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer and Assistant Attorney
Bridget Carty for “holding the owner’s feet to
the fire” until Judge Hale okayed the demolition.
Columbus will spend $2.4 million on the demolition that it
will attempt to recover from the owners. The city does not
own the property, but Coleman vowed to keep up the pressure
for positive development.
The land bounded by James Road and Allegheny Avenue is situated
near Port Columbus Airport and the Defense Supply Center, both
major employers. A new Veterans Administration hospital is
being built on the base.
The land could be used for upscale housing or a park, Beckman
“We’re open to a lot of ideas,” Beckman
said. “We want it to be quality, and something that will
Heidi Samuel, economic development chairman for the Eastmoor
Civic Association, also witnessed the demolition.
neighborhoods felt the negative impact of Woodland Meadows,
“Crime spreads, it doesn’t stay put,” said
Samuel, a candidate for Columbus City Council whose group has
fought for improvements along Broad and Main streets.
Even the perception of
crime can corrode a neighborhood, she added. “Sometimes more than being safe, it’s
There is a demand for housing for senior citizens and empty-nesters,
Samuel noted, as well as economic development that the removal
of Woodland Meadows could make room for.
“We need to take a larger look at its potential,” she
City Councilman Hearcel Craig, an eastside resident, shared
the optimism that better days are ahead.
“The buildings need to come down, and hope needs to go
up,” Craig said.
May 28, 2007
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