Best Practices

Mayor Gregory S. Lashutka

Neighborhoods of Choice

The City of Columbus's "Neighborhoods of Choice" initiative was developed in response to recommendations made by a low-income neighborhood advisory panel of the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The goal was to improve upon the revitalization efforts of central-city neighborhoods. In March 1992, the ULI panel visited Columbus to examine our local situation and offer recommendations to improve the delivery of housing and neighborhood revitalization.

Following an examination of background information, neighborhood tours and interviews with over 100 representatives of Columbus neighborhoods, financial institutions, development organizations and city government, several recommendations were made. Foremost was the need to clarify public policies addressing affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization. The panel also advised that neighborhood revitalization activities be based on comprehensive, holistic neighborhood plans and stressed that to have a meaningful impact, revitalization efforts must provide for resident and stakeholder participation at every step of the process, and be able to build upon an area's strengths and successes.

In response to the ULI recommendations, Mayor Lashutka convened the Housing and Neighborhood Development Committee (HNDC) in March 1993. Representing a broad cross-section of the Columbus community, individuals actively involved in neighborhood and development issues, social services and city government drafted policies reflective of all neighborhood interests. Adopted by the City Council in 1994, these policies now serve as the city's statement on the delivery of housing assistance and the revitalization of Columbus neighborhoods.

The Neighborhoods of Choice initiative is based on the following premises: the importance of community involvement in neighborhood planning and revitalization, the importance of a comprehensive approach to neighborhood problems, and the need to commit significant resources to the central city.

To create Neighborhoods of Choice, areas of economic and cultural diversity have been encouraged, along with sound physical structures, a clean, attractive environment and an adequate, well-maintained infrastructure. Safety and physical security, good schools, compatible land use, neighborhood identity and character, coupled with recreational facilities and programs, social services appropriate to the neighborhood population, neighborhood commercial services and access to jobs are also integral parts of the program.

The cornerstone of the Neighborhoods of Choice initiative is the pilot 1994-95 Community Reinvestment Program. Rather than try to "fit" neighborhoods into predetermined city programs, six central-city designated Community Reinvestment Areas have developed plans containing goals and strategies reflective of their neighborhoods' priorities and vision.

The Community Reinvestment Program combines neighborhood-based planning with a three-year implementation phase during which city staff work in partnership with community members to bring about desired changes. These efforts, supplemented by financial assistance from the city, are beginning to show results: one neighborhood has established a community crime patrol, developed and enhanced programs for area youth, and will soon be starting a housing rehabilitation program targeting exterior repairs. Neighborhood input has also directed capital improvements, leading to alley and sidewalk repairs and improved street lighting and refuse collection. Equally important is the renewed sense of community and enthusiasm that has developed in the reinvestment neighborhoods.

Through the Neighborhoods of Choice program and other associated efforts, the Lashutka administration is actively dedicated to sustaining and creating safe, healthy and vital older city neighborhoods.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (614) 645-7671

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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