Poindexter Village before the Demolition circa October 2012 photo by Robb Ebright
We live in a city that is infamous for knocking down interesting historical structures. They seem to treat the official Historic Registry of buildings in Columbus like a “hit list” for demolition. Whenever I see the “Arch Army” on the Jumbotron at a Blue Jackets game, I scream “Go attack the bastards that knocked down the old Union Station.” Or when I see I see the Army on the march, I want to point them not towards the Red Wings or the Lightning, but towards the Columbus Titans who destroyed the historically significant Ohio Pen. It took battles by conservationists to prevent the City’s elites from destroying the magnificent Ohio Theater and Great Southern Theater to turn them into parking lots. Out of these struggles came the creation of the Historical Resource Commission in 1980. The related Historic Preservation Office under Randy Black is responsible for listing our city’s architectural treasures on the Columbus Register of Historic Properties. So we pay our tax dollars to the City of Columbus which establishes a Commission with an enforcement office to protect our most important historical structures, but the elected politicians have once again decided to demolish that which makes us unique. But the elected politicians could decide to override the recommendations of that office. Next on the chopping block are buildings in Poindexter Village, originally an all-brick housing community on the Near East side of the city that dates back from President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. In fact, FDR came to town for its dedication. At a Near East Area Commission (NEAC) Zoning meeting Tuesday, November 19, a Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CHMA) representative showed up with a demolition application to knock down eight of the brick structures at Poindexter that had been slated for preservation. This is despite the fact that the elected area commission, of which I am a member, developed architectural standards for the area that forbid the demolition of brick structurally-sound buildings. On November 1, 2012, Black recommended preserving at least four buildings at Poindexter Village. CMHA signed a draft memorandum of agreement, a required document that is part of a federal Section 106 Historical Review, and in it they pledged to have an expert panel examine 10 buildings for possible preservation. The expert panel concluded this July that the 10 buildings should be saved. Cathy Nelson of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation was a member of the expert group and told the Dispatch that it would be a shame not to save the 10 buildings. The panel’s recommendation to save the buildings concurs with that of the Poindexter Village History Advisory Committee and the Coalition for Responsible and Sustainable Development of the Near East Side who are closely watching the process. Moreover, the NEAC Zoning committee has refused numerous times to issue demolition permits for the historical buildings. Nevertheless, CMHA announced at the November 19 meeting that it has pulled a permit to destroy eight of the ten Poindexter Village buildings – just two less than the minimum recommended by Black for preservation. In a written statement handed to the Near East Area commissioners, CMHA wrote: “This demolition will allow us to redevelop the site consistent with our Master Plan and with the Choice Neighborhood Master Plan.” Their newest Big Lie is in the statement handed to the NEAC members: “We have in a number of forums explained why we chose the buildings we did for preservation.” Since no one realized they would only save two, the statement makes no sense. But CMHA has always had problems with math. If preserving four buildings was a minimum and the expert panel recommended preserving ten buildings – how did they end up preserving only two? Their reason for knocking down historical buildings is even more baffling. They intend to initially keep the place vacant and have no plans for buildings anything on the land. The appalling part of their argument is this: they want to knock down eight of ten buildings that were recommended for preservation simply because they will already have a ball and crane on the site knocking down other historical buildings. Why not kill two historical birds with one wrecking ball? Also, CMHA – known for attempting to arrest community leaders trying to participate in an open meeting on the fate of Poindexter Village – claims that it is just not economically feasible to redevelop the buildings. Everyone else who has looked at the site has come to different conclusions. CMHA also turned down a purchase offer from William Todd, CEO of the real estate firm Develop88 LTD. The historical renovation of Poindexter is eligible for up to 45 percent of rehabilitation costs in terms of tax credits. This represents approximately $16 million in private investment equity to save the structures. We can only conclude that CMHA essentially wants to send a message to community activists on the Near East Side of the City that they’re not welcome in the public debate over preserving their historical neighborhood. The big boys – OSU, Mayor Michael Coleman, Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther and various unknown developers – have their own plans to redevelop the area. Their outlook lacks any sense of history, particularly in this case, black history. There will be a chance to express your views on Saturday, December 7 at the Poindexter Village site at 10am and at the NEAC meeting December 12 at the Community Policing Center, 950 East Main Street, at 6:30pm. The Free Press believes that CMHA is a systemically corrupt organization, so if you know of any activity regarding wrongdoing by CMHA, please contact us at

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