A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Center for Great Neighborhoods focus is on inclusive, sustainable development for all (Part 2) 

Editor’s note: This story is the second part of a two-part series the Center for Great Neighborhoods has rolled out to raise awareness for the different ways it works to create positive change in Covington.

Faye’s story from Part 1 illustrates how deep many of our residents’ ties are to this community and while we celebrate this history, we also want to make room for fresh stories to emerge. To do this, we focus our development efforts both on helping longtime residents stay in their houses and gain equity while also providing opportunities for new people to move in and make this place their home.

The integration of our homebuyers into the fabric of the community is key to our housing development.

To date, The Center has completed over 60 projects (mostly formerly vacant historic homes in the Westside), and we are proud to have a continued relationship with the majority of our buyers long after they’ve moved in. Because it’s important to us that each buyer understand The Center’s work, we take time to get to know the buyers’ stories and then try to connect them to the larger community based on their interests and talents.

Stephanie and Chase are recent arrivals to the neighborhood and provide a great example of integrating into this place as newcomers. In 2018, they bought one of The Center’s newly rehabbed homes on Robbins Street after living in other parts of the Cincinnati region.

Their reasons for choosing the Westside? The mix of residents, the energy, the community events, the neighborliness, and the walkability with a 5-minute walk to Mainstrasse and a 10-minute walk to downtown Covington. Chase is also a visual artist and appreciated the focus that The Center was putting on the arts, including the development of artist studios at the Hellmann Creative Center and our Shotgun Row development (live/work homes for artists).

The Center has generally taken the worst homes on the block, ones that no one else would touch, turning them into assets. Stephanie and Chase’s home is no exception. Located on the corner of Robbins and Holman and directly across from John G. Elementary School, the building sat vacant for decades, acting as a home for both squatters and drug dealers over the years.

Stephanie says that since moving to Robbins Street, she has “felt welcomed by the neighbors with many of them stopping by our home and thanking us for being here. We’ve also had police and fire tell us they appreciate the way the house looks and that they remember when the house was a drug haven with multiple calls to the police every weekend. Now, it’s an asset to the block and not a blight.”

Chase says he appreciates the history of the home before it became vacant and loves to tell the story of meeting relatives of the people who once lived in the house decades ago: “They gave us a photo of their Christmas tree in what’s now our kitchen.”

Beyond loving the house, Chase and Stephanie are also getting involved in the wider community, i.e., attending neighborhood events like the Westside Spring Celebration, BLINK Party at the Bus Stop, etc. Most tangibly, one of Chase’s sculptures sits prominently at the intersection near his house. The Center was able to commission “The Lunchbox” sculpture as part of our FreshLo program, which explores the ways that arts, culture and food interrelate in a community. The brightly-colored piece has become an icon in the community with people often saying “we are near the corner where the rainbow box sits.”

As Stephanie and Chase continue putting down roots, they mention the excitement around new restaurants and businesses opening and how they make a point of patronizing them when possible. The Center believes that new businesses should be accessible to everyone in the community and that food establishments, in particular, build a cohesiveness to community life, acting as gathering spaces for all walks of life. To that end, The Center has begun purchasing and developing buildings along MLK Blvd. for affordable, healthy food businesses that will benefit both old and new residents. Stay tuned as we continue this development journey, making the Westside a place for all the Fayes, Stephanies, and Chases to live, work, and eat!

Join the Center for Great Neighborhoods on Thursday, January 16 4:30-6:30 p.m. for an open house at its latest rehab project, at 306 West Robbins Street in Covington. This house is not pre-sold and will be on the market soon.

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