Celebrating its 80th anniversary as a comprehensive, neighborhood-based community center, Columbus’ Central Community House is launching a mixed-use facility to catalyze workforce development and interest in the arts.
Since 1936, Central Community House (CCH) has served the near east and near south areas of Columbus, OH. Within CCH’s primary service area, 46.9% of people live below the national poverty level – nearly half of those living in poverty are children – and the median household income is $28,249. Only 15.6% of households with children are comprised of two-parent families and the high school graduation rate is under 70%. For this reason, CCH focuses on serving youth, families and seniors, typically female-headed households that earn wages at or below 150% of poverty and use approximately 65 -70% of income for rent and utilities.
Central Community House (CCH) operates in the Settlement House tradition, addressing the widespread effects of generational poverty with a holistic approach focusing on children, families and communities. They do this by operating an accredited Child Care Center, after school/summer day camp programs, a seniors program, programs focused on neighborhood support and development, family strengthening, case management, basic needs, financial assistance and career development and Transit Arts, an arts-based youth development program.
In 2005, the organization moved to a newly built facility and left its long-time home, an 1890s-era Victorian house, vacant. As the surrounding neighborhood began to gentrify and CCH leadership diligently explored social enterprise, the board and staff decided to dedicate the old building to furthering its mission, housing the youth arts program and creating a gathering space for the larger community.
Set to launch this year, the Walter and Marian English Center for Art and Community will bring new life to CCH’s old home. Its carriage house will serve as a working art gallery, art studio and classroom space for the organization’s thriving Transit Arts youth art mentorship program. Meanwhile, the main house will include classrooms and computer labs for CCH’s workforce development programs, along with conference and meeting space for rent to the public and local civic associations, businesses and neighborhood residents for retreats, offsite meetings and celebrations. Offices will be offered for rent to small businesses, entrepreneurs, community groups or other nonprofits, while a kitchen and an outdoor courtyard will provide opportunities for community gardening and gathering. Finally, an upstairs apartment, offered for reduced rent to a low-income individual, will house a 24/7 property caretaker.
In addition to fulfilling all these roles, the English Center will serve as a source of unrestricted funds for CCH, giving it the resources to expand its services, respond to changing community needs and continue its holistic approach to social change.
Having completed a successful capital campaign, the English Center space is completed and undergoing final inspections. As the neighborhood continues to change and develop, CCH envisions the English Center as a place where people of different socioeconomic statuses can come together and build community.
By repurposing its old home into the Walter and Marian English Center for Art and Community, CCH is expanding its services, supporting its programs and bringing new energy to this changing community.