Friday Links: What’s happening on the Near East Side

As always, there’s lots happening on the Near East Side. Here are just a few things you may want to check out!

Central Community House and First English Lutheran Church are again teaming up for a summer full of Friday night block parties. The next block party is tonight, June 21st from 5:30-7 PM at the corner of Main and 22nd. Two more block parties will be held on July 26th and August 23rd. Join us for food, music, dancing, and games for all ages!

On June 28th from 1-3:30 PM kids can catch a free showing of the movie Red Tails and get a chance to meet the Tuskegee Airmen at Driving Park Recreation Center!

Be sure to save the date for this year’s Summer Tour of Historic Homes, featuring homes in Franklin Park. This year’s tour will be on July 14th from 1-6 PM. You can purchase tickets here.

Have you seen this video put out by local business, Yellow Brick Pizza? Head on over and get a taste of their famous Gator Pie yourself. Who knows, you may even catch a glimpse of the Yeastie Boys!

Need some help beating the heat? Checkout Blackburn Recreation Center’s newly renovated spray ground! It’s a great place to take the kids to cool off.

No need to travel outside the Near East Side to fill your grocery list. The Near East Side Cooperative Market recently opened at the corner of Oak and Ohio. Stop in for a selection of fresh produce, dairy, drinks, and healthy packaged goods, many of which are locally sourced. While you’re there, grab some seafood for dinner from Oak St. Meats. Visit the Co-ops website to find out how to become a member!

What will you be doing on the Near East Side this weekend? Have a fun event? Feel free to share it in the comments!

Have a happy weekend everyone!

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Ways to Volunteer, National Grilled Cheese Day, and more in your Weekly Round Up!

I’m back with your weekly round up! Thankfully, we’ve seen our share of spring this week, both in sunshine and showers. Here’s hoping we’re on our way to warmer, brighter days.

Want to get involved in the neighborhood? Here’s how you can!

We’re celebrating Earth Day on April 20th by cleaning up the East Main St. corridor. We’re meeting at First English Lutheran Church at 9 AM then splitting up to pick up trash, plant community gardens, and take down overgrown brush. We always finish our clean up back at First English with a big community cookout at noon! If you’d like to help us make Main St. shine, you can sign up to be a volunteer here! Our project is listed as Beautify E. Main St.

The Harmony Project is partnering with the South Side community to paint store fronts, build a new playground at Fairwood Park, and clean up Livingston Avenue from April 22nd through the 28th. To find out more about this project visit the Harmony Project. If you’d like to help our South Side neighbors you can Sign up to be a volunteer!

Blackburn Recreation Center is under construction, but it’s still got all sorts of programs for youth and adults alike! Drop by the center and check out their weight and cardio rooms, pottery classes, and basketball leagues. Have a special talent? Sign up to teach a workshop at our recreation center. And be on the lookout for the brand new spray ground, expected to open for the summer season this year!

Finally, today is National Grilled Cheese Day! Celebrate by stopping by The Tavern  for one of their killer red masher grilled cheeses or swing by Angry Baker and try their Pepper Havarti Grilled Cheese with bacon and apple.  In a breakfast for dinner mood? Head down the street to L’appat to grab a grilled egg and cheese panini.

And for your weekly inspiration, check out this awesome art project by Candy Chang. It’s a great way to beautify an abandoned building and get people talking!

Have a great weekend neighbors!




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On restoring an abandoned space

As I’m sure most of you noticed, this blog has been “vacant” for over a year now. The original purpose of Near East Neighbors was to provide a one stop location where folks from the Near East community could discover local events, get plugged into a block watch, and find helpful resources for civic engagement.

Over the next few months, I would like to restore this abandoned space back to its original purpose. My hope is to provide you with one weekly post that will provide inspiration, local news, and resources. I will be working to draw attention to the assets of our neighborhood, promote local restaurants and businesses, and share inspiration from cities across the country.

I love being a part of this community and am constantly encouraged by the creativity, loyalty, and fierce pride of the people here. I hope to pass some of that encouragement onto all of you.

I would love to hear any ideas you might have for this space (local business feature, housing stock features, more information about what other neighborhoods are doing to build communities, etc.), so feel free to leave ideas in the comment section. If you would like to submit an event to be included on the community calendar, please send me an email at and I’ll get it up.

This site is for you all–the neighbors–so please let me know how I can make it helpful for you.

For now, here’s just a couple of things to inspire and inform.

First off, Congratulations to The Olde Towne Tavern who was voted best new bar by the readers of Columbus Alive. Check out the article on them here or visit The Tavern’s website. Better yet, just stop in. The red mashers grilled cheese is outta this world!

Next, come by your local community center, Central Community House, for their annual meeting on Wednesday, April 10th at 5:30. It’s a great way to get to know the staff and board of the center, meet your neighbors, and enjoy good food and fellowship.

On the same night, you can check out Dishcrawl’s tour of Olde Towne East. Tickets get you food at four Olde Towne restaurants. Meet your neighbors and patronize local businesses. For more information, check out the event website. Olde Towne East tour event website.

The city of Columbus is about to undertake a large scale pot hole repair project. If you know of a pothole in Columbus that needs fixed, you can either connect with them through their Facebook page or Twitter (@ColumbusDPS) with the name of the street, nearby address, direction of travel, and which lane the pothole is located in.

Finally, a note of inspiration for spring– Check out Good’s 10 Most Awesome Guerrilla Gardens From Around the World. 

Have a great weekend neighbors!


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Communities fighting back: How neighbors can address vacant housing

We’ve all seen it. That one house. The house that steals attention away from all the other well-kept, beautifully restored properties on the street. Whether it’s yard stick high grass, unwieldy brush, dilapidated porches, or open entries, we know vacant housing is not only an eye sore, but a safety hazard as well.

Though the problem may seem overwhelming, we as neighbors are not powerless. There are several steps we can take to help alleviate the burden vacant housing causes on our community. Here are just a few.

First, if something is not up to code, report it! Grass, weeds, or brush over 12 inches, any unsecured, unboarded windows or doors, graffiti, holes in the roof or clearly deteriorating porches, junk cars, and bulk trash or debris are all examples of code violations. To report a violation, call 614-645-3111 or visit Once on the website click “submit a service request” and follow the automated process. You will need an address to complete a code violation report.

2. Speaking of addresses, here’s one way you can find them! If you find yourself driving by a particularly egregious house over and over again, but never remember to check for an address try using the Franklin County Auditor’s website to track it down. The website address is: Once on the site, click “your property” then “property search.” On the left side bar, you can search for a property by intersection, point on a map, address, or owner’s name. Once you find the appropriate general area, you can click on individual parcels (they’re in orange) to bring up all the important information about the property. There you can find out who the owner is, if the property is tax delinquent, and, if applicable, a rental contact.

Now that you’ve reported the property and found out who the owner is, there are a couple more things you can try. Sometimes a well written letter signed by the local civic association or neighbors detailing the effect of the property on their quality of life can have an impact. You could send the letter directly to the property owner in the hopes that they’ll reconsider neglecting their property.

If that doesn’t work, you can contact the City Attorney’s Zone Initiative Office. The Assistant City Attorney for our Precinct is Jody Spurlock. Her information can be found here. The City Attorney’s office may be able to give you more information on the status of the property and tell you if it is already in court. If it is, a letter may help demonstrate to prosecutors and judges the negative impact a property is having on the surrounding community.

Finally, there’s the old fashioned way. Roll up your sleeves and organize a community clean up. Cut down overgrown brush that makes it easy for people to hide or break into a property. Pick up trash. Paint boarded windows and doors to look like windows and doors. Mow lawns that have gotten out of hand.

First English Lutheran Church and Central Community House are organizing a good old fashioned clean up in honor of Earth Day. The event will take place Saturday, April 14th at 9 AM. We’ll meet at First English (1015 E. Main St.), then split up into groups with some people working to beautify gardens, some on trash pick up, and others on vacant lot clean ups. Please save the date and join us! We’ll gather back at First English at 12:30 for a cookout.

I hope these tips can help you get started. If you have further questions, please contact Courtney at 614-242-3157 x126.

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10 Things You Can Do to Build Community this Holiday Season

1.  Get outside! One of the best and easiest ways to build community is to get out and be visible, and that doesn’t have to stop once cold weather sets in. Take the kids out to play in the snow, walk the dog around the block, or string up holiday lights.

2. Gather a group together to carol in your area. (If you live on the Near East Side of Columbus you can join us for caroling on Thursday, December 15th at 4:30 at First English Lutheran Church).

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3. Hang wreaths, holiday banners, or bows on lamp posts throughout the neighborhood.

4. Write and deliver heartfelt Christmas cards to neighbors on your street.

5. Give to someone in need. Adopt a family, deliver a Christmas meal to a home-bound senior, volunteer at a local social service organization, or organize a canned food or winter coat drive.

6. Have a holiday potluck. Ask guests to bring the recipe along with their favorite dish. Afterward, you can use the recipe cards to make a community cookbook!

7. Offer to shovel your neighbor’s driveway.  A little kindness goes a long way towards building a better community.

8. Organize a cookie swap with your civic association, block watch, or neighbors across the street. Have everyone write their name and address on a piece of paper and draw it from a hat. Each person then bakes a dozen cookies and delivers it to the person they drew.

9. Shop local businesses for gifts, holiday catering, decorations, and more. Make it a point to say hello to the owner while you’re there!

10. Greet new neighbors. See someone moving in across the street? Take time to introduce yourself, welcome them to the neighborhood, and even bring over some baked goods. A homemade meal and a friendly face can do wonders to ease the stress of moving in.

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Vacant House Beautification

A hard working crew of neighborhood residents and friends have been working hard this summer to maintain and beautify 16 vacant properties in the 43205 zip code. Armed with lawn mowers, weed whackers, trimmers, and trash bags, our teams have gone to war against jungle-high grass and unwieldy bushes. Now that all 16 properties are manicured, the crews are turning their focus to installing battery operated motion sensor lights and painting the boarded windows and doors to blend in with the rest of the structure.

Here are a few of the before and afters. We’re still in process, but you can already see an improvement.

The goal of this project, funded through United Way’s Neighborhood Partnership Grant, is threefold.

First, all of these properties are not only being brought up to code, but are also being transformed into lovely spaces within the neighborhood. By painting the boarded windows, painting porch railings, and adding potted flowers, our goal is that these properties become eye-catching, not eye sores.

Second, the newly transformed properties will increase safety and decrease crime in and around the property. When grass and weeds are overgrown, rodents and criminals alike find hiding places within vacant lots. By installing motion sensor lights, we hope to deter break ins and chase any critters away.

Finally, our hope is that these properties will eventually be sold or rented to responsible neighborhood residents. This is, of course, the ultimate solution to the vacant housing issue. We need people to come and occupy these homes with care and respect. We believe cleaning up the properties is an important step in that direction. It’s much easier to see the potential in a beautiful, well maintained home than it is in an overgrown, run down space.

I think the before and after pictures here really say it all! Our crews have managed the heat with grace and have truly done a fantastic job. We’ll be working hard over the next few weeks to paint windows and porch railings, and add some bright spots of color with flowers. Stay tuned for updates as continual improvements are made! If you have questions or are interested in this project, please contact Courtney Rowland 614-252-3157 x124.

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Main St. Block Parties

Join us every Friday night from 6-7:30 for a neighborhood block party at the corner of Main St. and S. Champion Ave.! We have hot dogs and drinks, along with fun activities for the whole family. This is a great way to meet your neighbors, learn about resources in the community, and have a fun, safe Friday night!


So come on out as we fire up the grill and get the weekend started off right! Hope to see you there!

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