COLUMBUS, Ohio (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — The United Way of Central Ohio is moving because of the growing cost of upkeep for its downtown headquarters and the desire to work more collaboratively with partners in the region, CEO Lisa Courtice told Columbus Business First.

The move is also an opportunity to help solve one of the region’s most pressing issues: an affordable housing shortage.

The nonprofit is seeking proposals for its current home at 360 S. 3rd St. that include affordable multifamily housing. It plans to move to a new space it would share with several complementary nonprofit organizations.

Courtice said a site where similar nonprofits could work and be near each other has been talked about for years, although a specific one has not yet been selected.

“We want to work together with funded partners and other nonprofits for increased impact,” Courtice said.

Preliminary proposals for the downtown site are due Feb. 28. After review by a task force, top applicants will be invited to submit comprehensive plans by April 22.

Submissions should include a site plan, floor plans, specify how many units would be affordable, describe the building program’s alignment with the United Way’s values, and detail a plan for how the program will continue to be implemented for at least 15 years. Mixed-use development is encouraged.

The board will then provide final approval and authorize a purchase and sale agreement. Courtice said she expects the new owners to tear down the building because the value is in the land.

The United Way will give special consideration to projects incorporating affordable housing, but will also consider other projects.

“We don’t want to limit it to affordable housing, but we do think the greatest opportunity would have some affordable housing because it is our community’s most pressing issue,” Courtice said. “We are underbuilding housing right now and it really is a matter of where people are going to live and if they’re going to be able to afford to live near where they work.”

According to United Way data, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 41 percent of Franklin County residents were right above or below the poverty line. That’s about 211,000 households and a 10-year record high, Courtice said.

“There is so much opportunity in this location. It is near German Village, Nationwide Children’s, and county offices,” she said. “The sale will be an opportunity for the community because we will then have assets to reinvest into the community.”

The organization anticipates it will be out of the building at the end of 2022.

Courtice said the RFP was sent out Monday to developers, but there will also be a link on the United Way’s website.

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