Finance Fund, Star House and the city of Columbus are teaming up on the $4 million project at Interstate 70 and West Broad Street.

Two blighted hotels on West Broad Street in Franklinton will become the Carol Stewart Village, offering a home for youths aging out of the foster care system and other homeless young people in central Ohio.

Named for a longtime community activist and Franklinton resident who recently passed away—unofficially dubbed the “Mayor of Franklinton”—the project will turn seven one-story buildings that were the Knights Inn and Motel 6 at 1551 W. Broad St. into 100 units housing approximately 80 youths.

The city of Columbus is providing $1.6 million for the $4 million project. Construction is expected to be completed by the start of 2020.

The idea for the project was dreamed up by the nonprofit Finance Fund and Star House, a drop-in center for youths in crisis.

“This is a dynamic example of what our organization does best,” said Diana Turoff, CEO of the Finance Fund, a lender focused on revitalizing distressed neighborhoods that will act as real estate developer for the project.

Star House Executive Director Ann Bischoff said the organization had been floating the idea of housing for homeless youth for about two years before it got hooked up with Finance Fund via the city of Columbus in October. Mayor Andrew Ginther at a Feb. 27 press conference said the project is “part of our overarching and overreaching goal in closing the gap on affordable housing in our great city,” where 1,000 youths each year transition out of the foster care system. Of those 1,000, only half have job training, Ginther said.

Transforming a nuisance into a place that can help others is exciting, said Steve Schoeny, director of the city’s Department of Development. The hotels closed in 2016.

“Motels right next to the highway in a challenged neighborhood like this are recipes for having problems,” he said. “The opportunity [is] to take this from blight to an asset for folks who are incredibly vulnerable.”

Franklinton is a good place for something like Carol Stewart Village, not only because the buildings are in dire need of transformation, but also because it boasts transportation access and bike lanes, Schoeny said.

Through frequent conversations with young homeless people in Columbus, Bischoff and the Star House team have heard all too often they want livable-wage jobs, mentors and resources to achieve long-term stability. The hope is Carol Stewart Village can meet those wide-ranging needs.

“We see this as an opportunity not just where homeless youth live but can actually be part of community,” Bischoff said.

Star House’s role is to be “co-keeper of the vision” as coordinator of the Carol Stewart program’s possible future partners. On the list is Star Works, through which Star House offers participants assembly line-type jobs as pathway to livable jobs. Stauf’s Coffee also is an employment partner.

Bischoff said she is impressed with Franklinton. “People know each other. They truly look out for each other.”

“I love working in my neighborhood,” said Jeff Mohrman, vice president of real estate development for the Finance Fund, who is a Franklinton resident. “I’ve been doing it for seven years in this kind of capacity. This is definitely the biggest undertaking so far, so I’m a little terrified, but if we get it right it’s going to work and it’ll change the fabric of the west side/Franklinton area.”