New life is sprouting in Southern Orchards.

New life is sprouting in Southern Orchards.

An area that's unfamiliar to many in Columbus, the small, gritty enclave on the South Side is seeing a wave of investment from nonprofit group Urban Alchemy and Nationwide Children's Hospital. The organizations are working independently but agree that the area holds much potential for affordable housing close to Downtown.

"It's turning lead to gold, trying to make something out of nothing," said John Delia, head of Urban Alchemy. "You don't need everyone to invest in you. You just have to go out and build something."

Delia operates JSD Holdings Group, a real-estate investment company. He started Urban Alchemy to help jumpstart things around Southern Orchards, where he's been buying and rehabbing properties to rent and sell.

"What you see on the outside of this neighborhood is not what it is," he explained. "I saw the potential for revitalization quicker here than in a lot of other neighborhoods."

Southern Orchards is bounded by Whittier Street on the south, Livingston Avenue on the north, Parsons Avenue on the west and Lockbourne Road on the east.

So far Delia's been concentrating on the southern end, and he set up a makeshift office in an empty storefront at 782 E. Whittier St. Urban Alchemy has planted a community garden and painted murals. A youth center is being discussed.

Meanwhile, the area has been a site of significant investment by Nationwide Children's Hospital, according to the hospital's community relations director, Angela Mingo.

Since 2008, more than 70 properties have been improved through the hospital's Healthy Homes program, she said. Some have been bought, rehabbed and sold by Children's, while others have been fixed up through grants to existing homeowners.

An open house featuring 13 properties currently on the market will run from 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3.

"As a result of the program, we're now seeing an interest from young professionals wanting to move into the neighborhood," Mingo said. "It's nice for us to be able to offer housing to employees who want to live and work right here in the neighborhood."