Former MLK Library converted into Ohio State Healthy Community Center

Former MLK Library converted into Ohio State Healthy Community Center

When you open the doors of what was once the Columbus Metropolitan Library branch, named for Martin Luther King Jr. on Columbus’ Near East Side, you’ll be greeted by a quote from the civil rights icon.

“I have the courage to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits,” the bold, metallic gray letters read.

It is the vision in that quote that the new Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Healthy Community Center hopes to achieve side by side with the surrounding community. Starting Wednesday, the center at 1600 East Long St. will be open for health screenings, community groups to host events in their community spaces, cooking classes focused on nutritious foods and a host of other options to meet the area’s wellness needs.

Just a few blocks from Ohio State East Hospital, the 8,900-square-foot center has been a conversation between OSU and the surrounding community since 2019. The $5.1 million project currently consists of a large community room, a teaching kitchen, a café that will house a local vendor, and a general wellness area for exercise and other activities. Outside is a patio area with outdoor seating and views over the raised wooden beds where a communal garden will grow.

Each space in the center is a direct response to resident feedback, explains Javonte McDonald, director of the center. Access to nutritious food and education around it, social spaces for the community (especially older people) and ways for local organizations to grow together were among the top priorities. But OSU isn’t interested in going it alone.

“It’s a space where we’re not the only people leading the programming, but the community is as well,” McDonald said. “They can bring things here. They can bring their problems or they can also bring their programs and ideas that they have into space.”

Dr. Joshua J. Joseph, medical director of the new center, grew up on the floors of the old library building. He sees the center not just as a stopping point, but as a launching pad to connect to other community resources that residents may not be aware of, such as larger urban gardens and more advanced health care services.

“We really want this to serve as an example or archetype for how the state of Ohio and other major medical centers can do this across the country to improve health in all communities,” Joseph said.

If you would like to collaborate with the Healthy Community Center or have ideas for programs, please email [email protected].

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