GOPC Travels to Youngstown

July 30th, 2014

Yesterday, GOPC’s Lavea Brachman and Marianne Eppig traveled to Youngstown to meet with some of the organizations and people working to revitalize the inner city. Since we were last there, things have been consistently improving. People are excited about the downtown. Businesses and institutions are opening their doors in gorgeous historic buildings. A renewed sense of energy and purpose abounds.

Here are some of the photos we took along the way, showing a beautiful city:

YNDC

Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) Executive Director Ian Beniston shows GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman around Iron Roots Urban Farm, which is adjacent to YNDC’s new facility.

YNDC

The goals of Iron Roots Urban Farm are to expand YNDC’s capability to train city residents in economically viable market gardening techniques, encourage business creation on vacant land, develop and incubate successful microenterprises.

CityScape's Map

Youngstown CityScape Executive Director Sharon Letson shows Lavea Brachman a map of Youngstown, talking about plans for the area.

Coffee Shop in Youngstown

New local businesses are opening their doors in downtown Youngstown, like this specialty coffee cafe.

We look forward to returning to Youngstown soon!

 

Ohio Attorney General DeWine files lawsuit as part of Operation Mis-Modification

July 28th, 2014

By Alison Goebel, Associate Director

On July 23, 2014, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined fourteen other state Attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in filing lawsuits against “foreclosure relief scammers.” Ohio’s lawsuit, filed against a Chicago Company, is one of forty-one companion lawsuits against a total of nine individuals or companies. The lawsuits are being dubbed “Operation Mis-Modification.”

The Plaintiffs allege these companies misrepresented their services or failed to perform services for consumers who were facing foreclosure and seeking assistance, such as loan modifications. According to the Operation Mis-Modification lawsuits, many of the defendants allegedly took advance payments in excess of allowable limits and/or received payment for services never rendered.

If Ohio’s lawsuit is successful, impact consumers may see restitution and the state may receive penalty fees. For Operation Mis-Modification, Ohio is joined by Attorneys general from Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin.

The Operation Mis-Modification lawsuits are not like current “bank settlements” that are in the works, such as the settlement with Bank of America. The “bank settlements” are expected to include billion-dollar agreements with lending financial institutions. These settlements could benefit consumers, or go directly to states, as did the funding that supported the Moving Ohio Forward program. As more information is released on potential future bank settlements, GOPC will be sure to update its blog and social media channels.

Ohio Cities: Stabilize the Population Outflux by Attracting & Retaining the Millennial Generation

July 23rd, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Between the years 1970 and 2013, the city of Cleveland lost almost half of its population. In fact, most cities in the region have also witnessed a decline in population. However, this recent trend seems to have less to do with the location and more to do with the layout of these cities. The most evident reason for this rapid decline may point to the fact that young, educated Millennials favor core cities, as opposed to sprawling communities.

According to research conducted by the Pew Institute and Urban Land Institute, Millennials are driving less than previous generations. However, the Millennials are not alone in this recent trend, as the Baby Boomers are also eager to take advantage of urban amenities and walkable communities. A key component to attracting Millennials to cities is the availability and quality of transportation options. According to a recent survey, “55% of Millennials have a preference to live close to transit” (Yung). With more than half of those polled in favor of such an option, it is obvious that the demand for a multimodal city is real.

One of the most compelling arguments supporting this growing rejection of a car-dependent society points heavily at the financial strain induced by the costly upkeep of a car. With gas prices rising and car loans becoming harder to obtain, and as Millennials find themselves buried in a heap of college debt, owning a car no longer seems to be practical. For this reason, many are shifting to urban areas, where there are multiple transportation options and where almost everything that could be wanted or needed is only a short distance away.

Population of Ohio's Cities Millennial Population in Ohio Cities Millennial Percentage of Population in Ohio Cities

In Ohio, we need to do more to take advantage of these trends and to continue attracting and retaining populations that are interested in urban living in order to strengthen the economies of these cities and their surrounding regions. Some of Ohio’s cities are seeing more positive trends–attracting a greater percentage of Millennials–but in the context of ongoing population shrinkage in all of our major cities except Columbus, it is clear that Ohio’s work is not done. The state’s ability to leverage market demand for inner city living and further incentivize—and remove legislative barriers to—infill development within its cities will help determine Ohio’s future prosperity.

For more information about these national demographic trends, take a look at these articles:

Transforming Legacy Cities for the Next Economy

July 15th, 2014

On July 4th, GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman presented to La Fabrique de la Cité’s international conference, “Tools for Optimizing the City,” in Lisbon, Portugal.

Her presentation, titled “Transforming Legacy Cities for the Next Economy,” can be viewed right here:

Click the image above to be redirected to the video.

Click the image above to be redirected to the video.

Her slides from the presentation are available here:

In her presentation, Lavea cites several critical next strategies that can be used to transform legacy cities for the next economy, including:
  • Use economic growth to increase community and resident well-being
  • Build stronger local governance and partnerships
  • Increase the ties between cities and their regions
  • Make change happen through strategic incrementalism
  • Consider a special paradigm for smaller/medium-sized cities

For more information about Lavea’s trip to Portugal and what she learned while she was there, click here to read her blog post, “Presenting & Learning Tools for Optimizing Cities in Portugal.”

Presenting & Learning Tools in Portugal for Optimizing Cities

July 8th, 2014

By Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of Greater Ohio Policy Center

Lisbon, Portugal—the site of La Fabrique de la Cité’s international conference, “Tools for Optimizing the City,” where I spoke about “Transforming America’s Legacy Cities for the Next Economy: Critical Next Strategies” (slides available here)—is a European city that has experienced trends similar to those of many U.S. legacy cities: depopulation, vacancy, and sprawling development to outer ring suburbs.

Lisbon, a beautiful city situated on the Tagus River that flows directly into the Atlantic Ocean, has many natural attributes as well as historic, Gothic-style, monumental buildings dating from Portugal’s Age of Discovery in the 16th century.  Lisbon city officials are taking a proactive approach to revitalization by targeting resources in historic neighborhoods that are focused on preserving buildings and attracting new populations.  One such neighborhood is Mouraria, where the authentic Portuguese music, Fado, was said to have its origins, and where gang and drug activity had more recently taken hold.

The Mouraria neighborhood in Lisbon, where the authentic Portuguese music, Fado, is said to have its origins.

Situated in an attractive, hilly part of Lisbon, the Mouraria neighborhood is seeing the fruits of public investments. Municipal and national government grants and incentives leverage private sector investments in the Mouraria neighborhood, which is adjacent to another historic neighborhood (Alfama) and anchored by a centuries old castle (an “anchor institution,” if ever there was one…) that stands atop of one of the many hills.

Mouraria in Lisbon, Portugal

With the scourge of crime eliminated, new younger populations are moving in and commercial enterprises are occupying once vacant spaces. Older residents are able to remain in the area as well, taking advantage of rent-stabilized arrangements.

Walking down a street in Lisbon, Portugal

When asked, city officials stated that demolition plays no role in their strategy and seemed puzzled by the idea, as they are most concerned with preserving and showcasing the unique, attractive qualities that distinguish their city from others.  They fear loss of structures would destroy the fabric of future preservation efforts.

While many aspects of Lisbon differ from American cities, certainly there are some lessons to be learned from our European colleagues.

 

Lavea Brachman to Present at International Seminar

July 2nd, 2014

By Raquel Jones, GOPC Intern

Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, will be attending and presenting at La Fabrique de la Cité’s international symposium in Lisbon, Portugal from July 2nd through July 4th.

This year, the topic of discussion will focus around the question, “What tools can be used to optimize the city?” Participants will evaluate new methods and tools that could possibly help to ease the economic, social, ecological, and energy-related concerns that currently face cities all over the world. This three-day event will host a variety of experts from around the globe who will lead discussions on related issues in hopes of sparking innovative ideas and solutions.

Brachman will be speaking on the last day of this conference on the subject of “Transforming Cities for the Next Economy.” She will use case studies of legacy cities in Ohio and throughout the U.S. to give this international audience workable models and tools for communities striving to fix many of the economic, social, and environmental problems that they face in this new age.

 

Last Day to Tell ODOT What Kind of Transit We Want in Ohio!

June 30th, 2014

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has designed a survey that lets you weigh in on what the state’s transit priorities should be. All Ohioans are encouraged to take the online survey by June 30, 2014 (today!).

Visit ohiotransitsurvey.com to let them know your transit preferences and please share the survey with your networks!

For more information about ODOT’s Transit Needs Study, go to www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov.

Government Growing Wild: Is Sprawl Exacerbated by Jurisdictional Fragmentation?

June 23rd, 2014

By Bryan Grady, Research Analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency

An underappreciated element of what can make a location a good place to live – or not – is the regional governance structure: the number and configuration of counties, cities, townships, and special districts that comprise a metropolitan area. Across the country, there are substantial differences worth noting. I began looking at these issues when I was an intern at Greater Ohio ten years ago and now, as a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University and a research analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), I am studying the impacts that these forces have on housing outcomes. I worked with Judd Schechtman, a land use attorney and colleague at Rutgers, on developing some preliminary findings regarding the role of fragmented local government in generating sprawl.

Maps illustrating the correlation between sprawl and government fragmentation. Darker hues represent higher values.

 

To operationalize such an amorphous topic, we employed data published in Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact, which defined sprawl as a lack of four characteristics – residential density, mixed-use development, strong economic centers, and connected streets – and computed an index that incorporated all four elements. (A newer version, based on similar methods, was published earlier this year.) With regard to measuring regional governance, we used the Metropolitan Power Diffusion Index (MPDI). In short, MPDI encapsulates both the density of governments (e.g. how many incorporated areas and districts exist for every 100,000 people) and their relative budgetary influence, with a value of 1 representing a unitary regional government and increasing values indicating more diffuse political authority. A handful of other variables were included in the work as statistical controls, including population, manufacturing employment, per capita income, and educational attainment.

A quantitative analysis across 77 regions nationwide found that fragmentation and sprawl were directly correlated with one another at a statistically significant level. This was particularly true when evaluating the residential density component of the sprawl index, as well as the economic concentration component. Why? As Judd and I wrote,

Exclusionary zoning, as practiced by small municipalities, is specifically conceived to limit residential density in order to keep home prices and tax revenues high; reduced fragmentation would seemingly reduce the incentives to maintain such policies. Similarly, every city in a fragmented metropolis attempts to leverage agglomeration effects in office space and retail to their own advantage, whereas a single municipality that dominates a region would be able to channel development into a smaller number of commercial centers.

In short, in a region where dozens of localities are left to zone with only their own constituents in mind, land use patterns that are economically and spatially suboptimal are the direct result. A more regional approach to land use planning is necessary to ensure that money and land are not wasted chasing artificially-created shortages of various types of development.

The full study is available here. If you have any questions, feel free to email Bryan Grady. Please note that any opinions herein are the author’s, not those of OHFA or the State of Ohio.

Brownfield Grants Revitalize Columbus

June 17th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

The Columbus City Council is expected to approve grant money from their Green Columbus Fund sometime this year to redevelop vacant properties in the city. The Green Columbus Fund is a reimbursement grant program with a budget of $1 million that uses financial incentives to encourage sustainable development and redevelopment. Private businesses and non-profits can apply for grants to either redevelop Brownfield sites or to build green in Columbus.

In 2011, Columbus City Council accredited the first four grants under this program, utilizing almost one-fourth of the entire fund. These grants were awarded to two LEED projects and brownfield assessment work at two sites.

Potential developers of two properties now under consideration for a portion of the grant money hope to be able to conduct site assessment work to see whether or not they should go forward with their idea to build apartments on the site. Also under examination by the Columbus City Council is the former location of an old shoe factory on Front Street where the developer of apartments hopes to use the brownfield grant for asbestos remediation and underground tank removal.

GOPC Presents on Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities

June 12th, 2014

Last Friday, on June 6th, GOPC Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, and Manager of Research and Communications, Marianne Eppig, traveled to Cleveland to present at the “Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities” conference.

Marianne moderated a panel about strategic incrementalism (a term introduced in the Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities report) and resource targeting for the revitalization of legacy city neighborhoods. She presented as part of the panel with Alan Mallach, Senior Fellow at the Center for Community Progress, and Paula Boggs Muething, VP of Community Revitalization & General Counsel at the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. Her presentation is included below:

Click the image above to view the presentation.

Lavea was a plenary panelist with Dr. Clement Price, an expert on African American history, Councilman Jeffrey Johnson of Cleveland’s Ward 10, and Emilie Evans of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Lavea presented on an integrated approach to stabilization and holistic preservation. Her presentation is below:

Click the image above to view the presentation.

In advance of the conference, Nicholas Emenhiser, an AmeriCorps Local History Corps volunteer for the Cleveland Restoration Society who was helping to organize the conference, asked Marianne a few questions about historic preservation in legacy cities.

Read on for the Q&A:

  1. How is revitalization different in larger Legacy Cities as opposed to smaller Legacy Cities?

Whether a city is large or small, access to and availability of resources is a key factor in revitalization. Just as important, the scale of vacancy and abandonment is a determining factor. That’s why we see such different outcomes between cities even when they are similar sizes, like Pittsburgh and Detroit. For cities of all sizes, revitalization requires a strategic, targeted approach to maximize available resources. The panel I’ll be on (“Strategic Incrementalism & Resource Targeting for the Revitalization of Legacy City Neighborhoods” on Friday at 1:30pm) will discuss how to target resources effectively to revitalize legacy city neighborhoods of all sizes.

  1. What kind of scale are we talking about with vacant and abandoned properties in Ohio? Surrounding states?

At the state level, Ohio has about 13% vacancy as of the 4th quarter of 2013. Pennsylvania also has around 13% vacancy and Michigan has around 16.5% vacancy. What may be more telling for states with legacy cities, though, may be vacancy in their major metropolitan areas. I’ve included a chart below that provides vacancy rates for counties containing major legacy cities.

Vacancy at the county level for legacy cities. Data source: US Postal Service, 2013 Q4.

  1. Are there any photos that best illustrate research and/or solutions that have come out of the Greater Ohio Policy Center?

That’s a good question. Instead of photos, I would actually point you to several of Greater Ohio’s recent reports (they include lots of images and charts!): “Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities” by Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and “Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Use and Economic Revitalization,” which I wrote with Lavea Brachman and the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. These reports provide both the theory and the practical tools for revitalizing legacy cities – and they’re both free!

Lavea and Marianne greatly enjoyed the conference and want to thank Cleveland for being a wonderful host, as always!