At discussion about development, host said people 'must be ready for the change' in community

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJune 29, 2014 

Gloria Strode says community development and redevelopment in Columbus is a good thing, but residents need to be prepared.

"Those who live in the neighborhoods must be ready for the change," she said. "They must be educated."

Strode made the remarks Sunday at a roundtable discussion on development and redevelopment. About 25 people attended the event at the Columbus Public Library.

Strode is the host of a television show called "Straight Forward with Gloria Strode," which airs Sunday mornings on the CW Network. She planned and led the program.

The discussion was built around gentrification, which Strode said is a national trend. Gentrification is the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poor residents.

She said she got the idea for the discussion when she saw that a new art gallery opened in the Bibb City area, a place not known for that kind of upscale business. She also heard talk of a hotel being built.

"I started thinking about people who have lived in those houses for many years, mill workers and their families," she said. "Will they still be able to live there when their property taxes rise?"

NeighborWorks Columbus President and CEO Cathy Williams, who participated in the discussion, said that gentrification isn't a big problem here because of the property tax freeze. While development may drive up the value of the homes, the taxes stay the same.

Strode said that is fine for the current owners, but those who inherit the property will lose the freeze protection and must be informed that if they want to keep the house, they should start preparing now for higher taxes.

Strode and Williams agreed -- as did others in the room -- that people in communities need to get involved in the discussion of changes in their neighborhoods before all of the decisions have been made.

Williams praised some redevelopment projects, such as Arbor Pointe, which replaced Baker Village. She said Arbor Pointe it is a good example of community redevelopment. The apartment complex helped erase the visibility of poverty for the people living there and helped remove the stigma, she said.

J.A. Hud is the founder and director of Project Rebound Inc., a community-based intervention program that works with children.

He said that people development is just as important as buildings.

Hud said that people will be integrated into new neighborhoods and must be taught what is expected there. He said the development of neighborhood associations is important and not just for those who campaign against drugs.

"People have to be taught to care about where they live," he said. "We need to develop infrastructure in the neighborhoods. We need to strengthen neighborhoods from the bottom up."

Strode thought the discussion went well.

"We opened the conversation," she said.

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