Natalia’s Carry Out was, as you may have guessed, a carryout in the Columbus, Ohio, neighborhood of Weinland Park. The business was located across the street from a community park, an elementary school, and an early childhood center. The store was shut down in 2017, when the City of Columbus declared it a nuisance.
That year, the City of Columbus filed a complaint against Natalia’s Carry Out for having “a general reputation in the community and among the Columbus Police as a public nuisance.” It, according to the complaint, was known to be a location where “gang members, felons, and persons with active warrants hang out.” From 2015 to 2017, “police responded to Natalia’s Carry Out on reports of shootings, assaults, disturbances, weapons offenses, and drug activity.” Additionally, the store’s manager sold alcohol to an undercover underage informant for Columbus Police on six separate occasions, and police sent the property owner multiple notifications and warnings about the operations at Natalia’s.
In the end, the Franklin County Municipal Environmental Court order the store to shut down, and the building was demolished in 2018.
Natalia’s Carry Out seems, at first glance, to be a straightforward case; clearly the business broke laws and didn’t take adequate steps to address its problems. But here, context matters. Weinland Park borders The Ohio State University, and it’s a neighborhood that the City and Campus Partners, a collaboration between the university and developers, have focused on transforming.
In the past, other cities such as Cincinnati have pursued neighborhood development — or dare we say gentrification? — in part by buying up or closing down locally-owned carry outs. Columbus, Ohio is going through it’s own period of expansion, with less expensive areas becoming hotspots for growth. This economic, demographic and cultural change is why we’re also investigating the cornerstore’s intersection with crime. Many of the same charges leveled against Natalia’s Carry Out — weed, underage alcohol sales — could be leveled against higher-end bars in the Short North, but often aren’t. We want to explore how Natalia’s Carry Out fits into these broader efforts to “rebuild” Weinland Park.
Through this podcast, we want to explore whether law enforcement is fairly applied to all areas of Columbus, how wealthier stakeholders are trying to shape the area, and whether the vision and strategy of Weinland Park development will actually produce an equitable, just, and socio-economically diverse neighborhood.
Weinland Park is located in Columbus between Ohio State’s campus and downtown. It’s found between North High Street and Milo Grogan, between 11th and 5th avenues.
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