Faculty and Students Involved in Food District @ Weinland Park Project


Building on an $865,000 Community Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the project received in 2011, faculty at the Knowlton School are involved in the launch of the capital campaign to create a new food district in the Columbus neighborhood of Weinland Park. In late August, plans for the Food District @ Weinland Park were presented to city leaders by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and other partner organizations, Local Matters, architecture firms MKSK and DesignGroup, the Godman Guild, and The Ohio State University, including the Knowlton School. The Community Economic Development Corporation of Ohio (CEDCO), a not-for-profit subsidiary of the Godman Guild Association, will manage the capital campaign and the development of the Weinland Park project.

All three of the Knowlton School’s academic sections – including half a dozen regular faculty, several visiting faculty, and well over 100 students – have been involved with the Weinland Park project since its inception in 2009. The project developed as part of the university’s new International Poverty Solutions Collaborative (IPSC). Knowlton Associate Professor of Architecture Kay Bea Jones was among 12 Ohio State faculty who developed the initial ReVisioning Weinland Park proposal, which was awarded a $50,000 IPSC Seed Grant in 2010. That project, which focused on issues of housing redevelopment in the context of urban revitalization, set the groundwork for the $865,000 HUD grant, as well as two more IPSC seed grants of $50,000 and $75,000 in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The larger Weinland Park project is also directly related to the Food Situations Banvard Gallery exhibit, set to open on October 9, and the Situating Food Symposium, to be hosted in Knowlton Hall on November 8-9.

In addition to Jones, other Knowlton faculty involved in the project include Jesus Lara, Charisma Acey and Bernadette Hanlon from city and regional planning, and Jacob Boswell and Katherine Bennett from landscape architecture.

The Food District @ Weinland Park project involves OSU faculty and students in the fields of architecture, city planning, urban zoning, landscape design, agriculture, and soils research, working closely with local government, social service agencies and community groups. As described in the MORPC press release about the project: “The cornerstone of the Food District is a proposed local-food processing plant that will generate revenue to support a job-training and -placement center for unemployed residents of Weinland Park and nearby neighborhoods. The Food District also will have a co-op market, café, wholesale cash-and-carry food market, education programs and office space and businesses services for food entrepreneurs. A planned aquaponics system, combining the production of fish and salad greens, will be incorporated into the Food District.” The proposed facility would be located at the northeast intersection of North Fourth Street and East Fifth Avenue.

According to Jon Moorehead, executive director of CEDCO, announcing any construction timelines would be premature. Moorehead believes that the project is at least two years away from a ribbon cutting. He describes a facility that probably will develop as “two separate buildings.” Initial construction would include a “processing center and event space, with the second building focused more on entrepreneurial education and incubator spaces.”

Brian Williams, agriculture specialist at MORPC, has stated that the Food District will need to operate as a self-sustaining business: “We’re hoping for private sector donations, Columbus Foundation grants, and other financing, but once this is up and running, it can’t have operating subsidies. It has to stand on its own, so we’ve looked at revenue streams and viable business models that in turn would leave funding to do job training and educational programs.”

If successful, the Food District @ Weinland Park could act as a model for a larger, regional local food economic system.

For more information about the Food District @ Weinland Park, visit the Community Economic Development Corporation of Ohio website. More information, including a video about the project, is available at thefooddistrict.org.