A bold, visionary plan to strengthen the Weinland Park neighborhood—led by the Weinland Park Collaborative, a public-private partnership formed in 2010—was the groundwork for an opportunity to apply for a national funding opportunity from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF).
“In 2012, we submitted a proposal to the Annie E. Casey Foundation after they had spent over a year looking at about 100 neighborhood revitalization initiatives across the country,” said Michael Wilkos, Director of Community Research for The Columbus Foundation. “They ultimately invited seven neighborhood revitalization projects to submit to be part of AECF Family-Centered Community Change work and selected only three neighborhoods. Weinland Park was one of them.”
In 2008, The Columbus Foundation’s Governing Committee approved a multi-year investment to help strengthen many facets of the neighborhood located southeast of The Ohio State University, including housing, employment, health, education, and others. These investments are beginning to pay off as the landscape of the neighborhood changes, and positive improvements are made in ways that can be seen—and many that can’t.
The way in which the partners are working together is really exciting to me because from the very beginning they have been committed to doing business differently.
— Amorette Morris, Annie E. Casey Foundation
Following a planning and pilot period, AECF committed $750,000–$1 million a year to implement a “two-generation” approach in Weinland Park that involves working with low-income children, parents, and families to improve educational outcomes for the children and economic self-sufficiency for their parents or caregivers.
AECF is a national foundation based in Baltimore. For more than 60 years, the foundation has worked to improve the lives of America’s children and their families. It has been involved in place-based work for decades. It considers itself a “strategic co-investor” in the Weinland Park project, joining the existing community change effort already in place as an additional funding partner.
“We sought out communities that already had momentum—that already had community change and transformation efforts underway. It was people who were already coming together with a commitment to neighborhoods and a commitment to improving outcomes for kids in those neighborhoods,” said Amoretta Morris, Senior Associate, Family-Centered Community Change at AECF.
In addition to Weinland Park, neighborhoods in Buffalo and San Antonio are participating in Family-Centered Community Change.
“One of the things I really value about the Columbus community is that people are really clear about what it means to be doing this work and to be part of this community change effort,” Amoretta said.
Over several years, the neighborhood has seen significant change. Crime rates are down, key investments in programs serving at-risk youth have been made, and the physical environment has seen considerable improvement. More than 500 housing units have been repaired, renovated, or newly built by the Weinland Park Collaborative since 2008, the majority of which have been affordable housing units serving existing and new residents. In addition, the neighborhood and funders are focused on creating a mixed-income community that encourages people to move in, builds upon the fabric of the existing community, and encourages those already in the neighborhood to take advantage of new mid-range housing options.
“If there’s going to be an example about how communities are having authentic conversations about race, power, and how to have new residents and older residents work together to see themselves as part of this renaissance, it’s going to happen here,” Amoretta said.
As of December 31, 2015, The Columbus Foundation has invested more than $8 million in Weinland Park, including a $2 million loan and more than $6 million through 104 grants focused on seven primary areas to generate positive change—education, employment, health, housing, public safety, resident engagement, and youth development. The AECF has invested $1.23 million in grants since joining the Weinland Park Collaborative in 2013.