In a corner of our Bexley community, tucked away behind (and only accessible from) Livingston Avenue, is a neighborhood of 19 duplexes and a 72-unit apartment development that front onto Ferndale and Mayfield avenues.
These apartments were developed in the 1960s, on a piece of land that had, at least in part, been formerly used as a landfill.
As time has passed, this neighborhood has struggled for a variety of reasons. It is not connected to the classic street grid which contributes to Bexley's walkable, community feel. A multitude of absentee landlords have contributed to a chaotic rental environment, where little reinvestment into the structurally compromised properties that were settling along with the landfill meant tenants either gave up and moved on or put up with a substandard living environment. And frankly, the city, not knowing how to best increase the quality of life of residents in the area, failed to invest in infrastructure or find solutions that would ensure a safe and enduring environment for our residents.
Fifty-plus years on we know more about environmental risk than we have in the past, and we are more acutely aware than ever that affordable housing needs to not just be "cheap," but also to provide safety and dignity to the residents who are a part of our community.
I believe that rectifying the bad planning decisions of the past, and ensuring a safe and sustainable living situation for residents in the Ferndale and Mayfield area, is an imperative project that is a No. 1 priority for Bexley today.
To that end, City Council, myself and the Bexley Community Improvement Corporation are united in our goal to increase the quality of life for residents in the area, and we have been systematically working on putting the tools together to better understand the environmental risks posed by the underlying ground, and to brainstorm alternative affordable housing routes in Bexley in the event that the area is deemed environmentally unsafe for human habitation as currently occupied.
There's still a lot more to learn about the environmental risks posed by the landfill that was closed so many decades ago, but we know a lot more today than we have in the past.
We've taken the first steps to remediate the undeveloped portion of this landfill that the city acquired in the early 2000s, and later this year, the Schneider Park athletic fields will be an added amenity to the community, complete with a playground for kids in the area and more direct walking routes to school.
The Bexley CIC has acquired its first two duplexes, and is in the process of thoroughly testing the soil and the indoor-air quality of its properties to better understand any health risks that might be posed from the underlying landfill. Based on the results of the testing that is ongoing, the city will work with the CIC to create a strategy that increases the quality of life for residents in the area, and provides the type of care and attention to built environment that we give to all other areas of the city.
Improving the living conditions for residents in the Ferndale and Mayfield area is a project that is complicated, sensitive and carries risk. But continuing to ignore a portion of our community that has been neglected for far too long is not an option, and never should have been.
For a full history on the city's efforts and strategies for the area, visit bexley.org/ferndale.
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler contributed this City Notes column.