The Well CDC Overview
This is the story of Middlebury. A neighborhood in Akron, Ohio at the heart of the Rust Belt. It's a story that highlights inequity, systemic racism, segregation, redlining, job loss and disinvestment. A story that's all too common and now leaves us facing the reality of lack of access, opportunity and power within the neighborhood. Over the last several decades, trillions of dollars in aid have been spent in low status neighborhoods like Middlebury, yet poverty is still a growing reality. Because what these trillions of dollars have failed to do is create systemic change and recognize that individual unique neighborhoods can't be fixed by upfront investments with little or no long-term follow-through.
That's what The Well Community Development Corporation is looking to change. The organization's holistic approach to systemic issues seeks to improve the quality of life within the Middlebury neighborhood by fostering choice in housing, job creation and neighborhood pride. Sinking porches, rotten cabinets and leaky roofs are typical in a Middlebury home. The dream of owning a home often becomes unattainable as out-of-state investors seek maximum profit for minimum investment. Currently, investors own close to 75 percent of homes in Middlebury, making it incredibly difficult for neighborhood residents to purchase a home of their own.
These residents are then left to rent unstable and unsafe housing. The Well CDC intentionally purchases flighted properties and rehabilitates them into homes that speak to the dignity of the tenants. Creating a healthy housing pipeline gives residents the power to choose the type of housing that fits their current needs and future aspirations, whether it's home ownership or long-term rentals.
While quality housing is important to community development, a growing and prospering economy is also essential. The Well CDC works to spark the local economy through the adaptive reuse of community assets, supporting entrepreneurship, career pathways and engagement with anchor institutions. The organization's career development program was created in collaboration with community partners to give individuals a chance in economic mobility. The program works with anchor organizations looking to hire local and also host trauma-informed cohorts that encourage mental and emotional wellness. The goal is to inspire individuals to seek opportunities that provide a stable living wage with a career that interests them.
Another method for building a strong economy is to develop a system that eliminates barriers for entrepreneurs. The Well CDC's Akron Food Works transformed an old church kitchen into a shared commercial launch kitchen that supports food entrepreneurs without the extreme financial burden of typical startup costs. The goal is to create locally-owned, food-based businesses along the main corridor of Middlebury to help build a thriving economy and create job opportunities.
In a neighborhood characterized by transiency, lasting relationships become difficult. The well CDC is inviting people to build relationships with each other and their neighborhood by engaging in the community. From repurposing an old church into a community Hub, to a coffee shop that serves as a destination in the heart of Middlebury, to the families teachers and students at Mason Community Learning Center. The Well CDC looks to strengthen the sense of community in the neighborhood.
Throughout history neighborhoods have held cities together, provided residents with a support system and served as a celebration of diversity. The Well Community Development Corporation is working toward innovative equity-driven solutions that support the healthy growth of the Middlebury neighborhood.