This week is Demographics week. First up, ACD’s second neighborhood profile, featuring the King-Lincoln District, Columbus’ historically African American cultural heart.
I was going to write a history for the area, but this video tells it better than I ever could.
History aside, what I can do is provide a more detailed demographic picture from the past, present and possible future of the neighborhood.
Population peaked around 1950, but during the 1950s began its long-term decline. Some might say this was a product of White Flight, but in this case, the neighborhood was already almost entirely non-White. The White Flight movement was more than just about racial demographic changes in neighborhoods, it was a factor of urban neglect. Just like in the rest of urban Columbus, King-Lincoln lost its urban appeal due to infrastructure deterioration, lack of city-focused leadership, decline of schools and increasing crime rates (among other things). One of the biggest blows to the area, just like what occurred with Olde Towne East to its south, was the construction of I-71 in the early 1960s. The highway cut the neighborhood off from Downtown, demolished hundreds of historic buildings, and allowed more people to effectively leave the neighborhood altogether. This is a good reason why the population dropped by almost 35% between 1960 and 1970.
The population loss rate had been slowing down each decade through 2000. During the 2000s, the city cleared out Poindexter Village, one of Columbus’ first public-housing projects and home to several hundred residents. This accounted for a very large chunk of the loss that occurred from 2000-2010 and why the loss increased during that time. The city is now tearing the complex down with plans for mixed-use development on the site. If not for this action by the city, it’s very likely that King-Lincoln would’ve had it’s lowest total population loss since the decline began in the 1950s.
% Change By Demographic for Each Decade
The demographics for the last 30 years show Hispanic and White populations are becoming an ever larger chunk of the neighborhood, while Asians have declined significantly. The African American population is still, by far, the largest demographic, but it too is on a long-term decline. This suggests a gradual gentrification of the neighborhood.
And what of the future of the area? Significant revitalization news has been coming out in recent months. As mentioned above, the 36-building Poindexter Village, long a hot spot for crime and concentrated poverty, is currently in the process of being torn down. The site will be replaced with residential, retail, office and arts space over time. A larger area plan was recently announced here: http://www.columbusunderground.com/pact-plans-165-million-strategic-redevelopment-for-near-east-side . The $165 million plan will focus on King-Lincoln’s main thoroughfares: East Long Street, Mount Vernon Avenue and Taylor Avenue. Increasing density with mixed-use development and revitalizing the commercial corridors is a big part of the plan, as well as infrastructure and green space improvement. Smaller developments include Homeports housing renovations http://www.columbusunderground.com/homeport-looks-to-increase-activity-on-long-street-in-king-lincoln-district-bw1, which have been very successful so far.
So while King-Lincoln has seen better days, the neighborhood is currently in transition. 5-10 years from now, the neighborhood should be radically changed, hopefully for the better. Its proximity to Downtown and other central neighborhoods give it a great advantage as the city has become fairly popular again.