Drive north on Joyce Avenue, past industrial parks and over railroad tracks, and you'll see the humble entrance to a forgotten neighborhood not far from East Fifth Avenue.

Drive north on Joyce Avenue, past industrial parks and over railroad tracks, and you'll see the humble entrance to a forgotten neighborhood not far from East Fifth Avenue.

You might pass it except for a small, white sign on your right-hand side.

The area is tiny, and a good deal of the houses sit on large lots with the kind of trees and grasses you might see on an old farm. The narrow, quiet streets lack sidewalks, storm sewers and curbs.

What appears to be a small rural village dropped into the city's urban core is called American Addition, and it was one of Central Ohio's first black settlements.

Now, after decades of decline, the neighborhood is seeing new life.

"I want to bring people back to this area," said Mayor Michael Coleman, who pledged $4 million in infrastructure improvements to the neighborhood during his State of the City address in February. "The money is there, and it's ready to go."

Over the next decade, more people will be able to return.

Construction crews recently broke ground on a series of single-family homes. These buildings are kicking off a four-stage development project by nonprofit developer Homeport, also known as the Columbus Housing Partnership.

The organization seeks to create a mixed-income neighborhood of more than 100 new homes during the next 10 years. Meanwhile, in August, crews working with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" built a new house at 1507 Dewey Ave. for a special that will air around Christmastime.

"This was a community," said David Reierson, senior project manager for Homeport. "This is kind of the first time where it has a chance to shine again."

Founded in 1898, the neighborhood was plotted on the northern end of a growing city and became a destination for blacks in need of work.

"Cheap land, proximity to urban industry jobs and the semi-rural tranquility of the neighborhood attracted many recently relocated African-Americans from the South in search of unskilled labor jobs and a better life," according to the Homeport website. "For many of the first Additioners, this was the first time they had owned property."

As Columbus sprouted in all directions, the area remained distinct and supported a tight-knit community. Neighbors once farmed together in what's now American Addition Park and even founded their own fire station.

However, after being annexed by Columbus in 1959, the area was largely ignored, and the city failed to provide improvements.

"It's just a case of unfairness that we have to do right by them," Coleman explained. "American Addition was an area that was made promises by the city for a very long time - many years ago, generations ago - and this city never fulfilled those promises."

Many city services didn't arrive for years, even though the neighborhood lies little more than three miles from Broad and High streets. Coal stoves, outhouses and wells were common into the 1970s.

The number of households declined from more than 200 to roughly 50. Today, the neighborhood also is home to several churches, the Tray Lee Community Center, a small park with a playground and a motorcycle club.

American Addition is bordered by Joyce Avenue to the west, East 12th Avenue to the north, Dewey Avenue to the south and Petrel Alley to the east.

"It's very different than the rest of Columbus," said Sean Smith, who filmed documentary shorts about residents several years ago. "It still feels like that when you go out there. The houses almost look like little dollhouses to me. Some of them have been up for 100 years or more."

Change is coming, and Homeport and the city are hoping to honor the neighborhood's past by finally helping it into the future.

"We've gotten so many phone calls of people who have a connection to the American Addition," Reierson said. "What kind of validates our efforts is the amount of people who want to move back."