COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s been an eyesore and crime-ridden place in the city for years. But now, help is on the way for the residents of Colonial Village.
This weekend, the east-side apartment complex is getting a bit of a facelift, thanks to a partnership between the city, police department, and neighborhood volunteers.
For Columbus police officer Wendell Tolber, seeing the deterioration of Colonial Village is personal.
“I spent the majority of my career out here. It’ll be 25 years in November. I actually grew up, and born and raised out here. I went to Scottwood Elementary, Johnson Park, Eastmoor High School. I used to live in Colonial Village,” said Ofc. Tolber.
But through the years, the quality of life in the complex has worsened due to landlord neglect and a massive increase in crime and violence.
“There’s no doubt this is one of the most dangerous places in the city and we have to fix it. There are lot of kids that live here. There are families that live here. And each and every single tenant deserves to have a safe place to live,” said Columbus city attorney Zach Klein.
“The stories [from tenants] of ‘hey officer, one night I had to take myself and my dog and sleep in the tub overnight because of all the gunfire and the crime and everything,'” said Tolber.
Back in August 2021, the city of Columbus obtained a court order declaring the property a public nuisance in an effort to hold the property owners accountable for the criminal activity and countless code violations. And then in March of this year, the city went a step further.
“This is the first of its kind approach of this scale. We have come in as a city attorney’s office. We have taken over the complex. We have given it a receiver. Someone who is actually coming in and doing the work that’s necessary. And unfortunately, starting from scratch in a lot of ways because of the negligence of the previous owner,” said Klein.
That is music to the ears of Officer Tolber, who four months ago became the Community Liaison Officer for the neighborhood, motivating him to lead an effort for a community clean-up day. The goal is to have volunteers pick up trash, pull some weeds, and put down some mulch.
“What we want to do is just say, hey listen, the city hears you. We heard your cries. We’re here for you. So they can step out their door and you know, look around, and say, hey, this is nice,” said Tolber.
Plus, numerous social service organizations will be there, to help lend a hand to a community with a fresh start and a little hope.
“I’m honored to be a part of this and looking forward to the change,” said Tolber. “And not just the physical change, but the change in people’s lives and making a difference in their lives.”
Officer Tolber is hoping to recruit volunteers from not just the east side, but all over the city to help in the clean-up this Saturday. The event kicks off at 8:30 a.m. and goes until 1:00 p.m.
Parking is available across from the property at 3575 E. Livingston Ave. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, as well as landscaping tools, but those who want to bring their own are encouraged to do so.