COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering community resources for women of color is building a 10,000-square-foot headquarters north of Downtown.
Zora’s House is breaking ground Friday on a three-story space on the corner of North Fourth Street and East Eighth Avenue in Weinland Park, marking an expansion from Zora’s 2,000-square-foot home base. The organization is the only co-working space and leadership incubator in Ohio created by and for women of color.
“We put on programs, we have a co-working space, we have community partnerships – all of that is working to ensure that women of color have the resources and support they need to lead, create and contribute in meaningful ways in our community,” said LC Johnson, founder and CEO of Zora’s House.
The new home will include a café, a co-working space, subsidized office spaces, and a residential incubator with five bedrooms for week-long stays. With the enlarged space, Zora’s will grow core programming and rehouse previous initiatives offloaded to other entities due to lack of space.
Johnson moved to Columbus in 2015 with her husband and struggled to find a community of other Black women in central Ohio. After working at a co-working space for entrepreneurs in North Carolina, Johnson had the idea to bring the concept to Columbus, honing in on the unique challenges facing women of color.
“It’s always been really important to me to have other Black women and women of color in my life,” Johnson said. “I was really looking for a space where I could get an opportunity to connect with other women of color who would understand certain aspects of my journey and identity.”
In 2018, Johnson launched Zora’s in a 2,000-square-foot space built on Summit Street. The organization was named after Zora Neale Hurston, an author, activist, and graduate of Howard University whose work centered on the complexity of Black culture.
Zora’s quickly outgrew its original home as the organization’s programming increased in popularity. Johnson said the space was limited to around 20 occupants for workshops and couldn’t hold all prospective programming participants. In addition, the organization’s winter and summer markets are now held in the Columbus Commons due to a boom in community interest.
The new home is being constructed on the site of a former convenience store bought by Campus Partners in 2014. After the building was torn down, Community Properties of Ohio donated the lot to Zora’s. The project is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024.
“We are deeply rooted in community,” Johnson said. “We always say that we don’t build things for women of color, we build with women of color.”