Windham - The buildings, dubbed “the projects” had been constructed in the early 1940’s. They were originally built to house the workers that would flock to the Windham area as the Ravenna Ordinance Plant was getting geared- up for production in the early ‘40’s. The structures, that were designed to last around 10-15 years, had far surpassed their life expectancy when they were reduced to a pile of rubble to make way for re-development of the area.
The village purchased the 20 blighted properties earlier this year for $2000 each from the bank that held the loans that were in foreclosure. They then started the process of demolishing 20 buildings in the Maple Grove area several months ago when they hired a crew to remove asbestos and other hazardous materials from the old, dilapidated buildings before the arrival of the wrecking ball. Many of the twenty buildings were four or five family units, which could provide housing for approximately 120 families if properly maintained. When the village purchased the properties, only five units in the 20 buildings were occupied. The village helped the tenants by relocating them to other more stable buildings then started the process of tearing the old buildings down. This past week the large equipment arrived; the demolition process began and will continue until all of the 20 buildings are down.
This demolition project brought out all kinds of questions. What happens when the projects are gone? Where will folks live? When you keep demolishing the projects the population will decline if the population declines than what is the future of the Village? The plan is to replace the demolished buildings with single family homes and a multi- family complex similar to South Wood apartments in Garrettsville. The goal is to provide housing for people in a variety of economic levels, fostering strong neighborhood ties. Strong neighborhoods build strong communities. The days of poverty- concentrated neighborhoods of transients in Windham will soon be a thing of the past.
When asked about the decline of the population of Windham and the demolition of the projects contributing to it, the mayor said that it is simply not true. “The Windham Police Department has been pro-active on crime and has made it more difficult for criminals to conduct business in the village so they have started to leave and go to other areas where police aren’t as proactive.” The dilapidated buildings were a hazard to the community because they attracted squatters and curious children. Eventually, someone was going get hurt in one of the buildings; it was just a matter of time. Therefore, demolishing them became a safety issue as well as part of the re-development of the area.
Donham sees the future of Windham as bright. The village’s agreement to provide water and sewer services to Camp Ravenna will eventually lead to the opening of the gate in Windham, allowing soldiers access to the village and its businesses. The agreement brings improvements to the village’s infrastructure which will generate more money for the village by the sale of city utilities to Camp Ravenna.
Besides the agreement with the Arsenal, Donham has also been working on getting a turnpike exit in Windham. The possibility of an exit in the village will have the potential to open doors for distribution centers, manufacturing facilities and other businesses to consider Windham as the new, up-and-coming place to conduct business. Having a direct access to the turnpike will be a huge draw for this area and will eventually bring more jobs to the region.
The mayor stated “This is not your grandfather’s Windham any more.” The administration has plans to market the village as the most economical place in Portage County to live; lowest taxes in the county, suitable family housing at a reasonable cost and excellent safety forces. The re-development of the project area will offer more affordable housing for families, seniors, singles, etc and will be a big draw to the community It will no longer be a concentrated area of one social economic group, it will be a diverse neighborhood. The diverse neighborhood will attract families which will increase the population in the village and in the schools, which will be a win-win for everyone.
The buildings coming down are just part of the vision. The vision has many phases before the ultimate goal of a healthy, strong, diverse community can be established. The face of Windham is changing and is happening one step at a time; this is only the beginning. Before too long the old reputation of the village will be a very distant memory as the new Windham emerges.