Urbancrest cleans up image

 Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer
 A house in Urbancrest has been vacant for so long that it is getting beyond repairs. It is one targeted for demolition in a clean-up project in the village adjacent to Grove City.

Joe Barnes is like so many people in that he has a ‘to-do’ list. It’s not like a shopping list or a list of chores to do around the house. It’s more of a goal-oriented list.

Barnes, the mayor of Urbancrest since the first of the year, has set a goal to make his little community adjacent to Grove City financially stable, a place to be proud of and proud to be from.

To that end he has started the list. Chief among the early items is removing vacant, run-down and often fire-damaged homes.

"We’ve got to remove the street entrepreneurs," as he calls those involved with drugs.

Recently one house, vacant since fire hit it in 2005, has been razed. The debris has been carted away and the ground levels, ready for someone to build on.

With that lot on Central Avenue a couple of lots away from the mayor’s office crossed off, Barnes can move ahead with the next project for demolition.

He’s targeted at least four vacant houses whose owners may not live in the village tucked away between I-270 and Grove City on the west side of Broadway. A couple of the houses have suffered fire damage.

"We found drug paraphernalia in that one," he said, stopping at a two-story white frame house with plywood where the windows had been. He credits the quick discovery and the response of the Jackson Township Fire Department with keeping damage at that house minimal.

He feels fortunate that the fire was extinguished so quickly. A short distance away is a two-story frame house with severe fire damage and high weeds. It’s going to be torn down. Two other houses set for demolition have not been occupied for a long time and are beyond repair.

Even the lot adjacent to one of those houses is overgrown with weeds and in need of cutting. The owner doesn’t live in the village, so Barnes had to send a notice about the condition of the lot.

"We get good response to those letters," he said.

He’s been working with the Franklin County Health Department in his efforts to get the area cleaned up.

Cleaning up the eyesores is a start. So was last year’s renovation of the old Urban Hollow apartments and renaming them Bending Brook. Renovations also are bringing a new look to the population of little more than 1,000. What used to be all African-American is now showing diversity.

Behind those apartments are several warehouses, including Office Depot and H.H. Gregg. Tropical Fruit and Nut has begun work on its warehouse in the area.

Tax abatements given to businesses a few years ago to locate in this area will soon be expiring, which should produce a little more revenue for the community. Barnes is hoping to increase the warehouse business on 92 acres of land the village recently annexed on the north side of I-270.

Farther down on Barnes‚ to-do list is the construction of a building where the council meets the first Tuesday evening of every month. He would like to make that building a resource center and house offices for all village services.

Many of the services are in the municipal building adjacent to the YMCA and Barnes’ office is on Central. But he’s realistic.

"It’s going to take a long time," he said.

He has made a start.

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