By Sheldon K. Johnson, Urban Revitalization Project Specialist
On Wednesday March 18th, Greater Ohio Policy Center attended Columbus Metropolitan Club’s (CMC) event to commemorate the history and legacy of Poindexter Village. Constructed in 1939, Poindexter Village was the first public-housing project in the city of Columbus. All but two of the 35 buildings that housed 414 units were demolished by the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) in 2013. The 26 acre site will be redeveloped in several phases. The first phase, a 104 unit senior apartment complex called Poindexter Place, is nearing completion. The occasion last week, though, was not about planning for the future, but celebrating and remembering the past.
Poindexter Village was named for the Rev. James M. Poindexter, a prominent leader in Columbus’ 19th century black community. Rev. Poindexter was the pastor of Second Baptist Church from 1862-1898, became the first African-American elected to the Columbus City Council in 1880, and served on the Columbus Board of Education from 1884-1893. Poindexter Village was significant not only in name, but also for its location. Prior to the establishment of CMHA the area between Long Street and Mount Vernon Avenue was known as the Blackberry Patch. It was home to low-income African-Americans who lived in low quality housing.
Poindexter Village offered not only quality housing with modern amenities, but allowed for the creation of a community. The neighborly atmosphere of Poindexter Village was an important part of the discussion between panelists Myron Lowery, Memphis (TN) City Council Chairman, Curtis J. Moody, president and CEO at Moody Nolan, and Leslie J. Sawyer, retired civil servant. Mr. Lowery, who lived in Poindexter Village for 4 years, and Ms. Sawyer, who attended Poindexter Village Preschool while her father managed the complex, both spoke of how important community was to their childhood.
Several audience members shared memories of their time living in Poindexter Village and urged that the legacy of the complex not be forgotten. Though details of what will happen in the next phases of redevelopment weren’t discussed this event speaks to the importance of the built environment. The presence, or lack thereof, of surroundings such as buildings, greenspace, and infrastructure can have both positive and negative effects on a community. Balancing the revitalization of bricks and sticks for the future while celebrating the special culture of a specific neighborhood or city is important work that many Greater Ohio Policy Center partners are currently undertaking.