Upcoming Event on Legacy City Preservation!

November 17th, 2015

On Tuesday, December 8 from 6:00 – 8:30 pm, Greater Ohio Policy Center will co-sponsor an event called Legacy City Preservation: A National Conversation on Innovation + Practice.

This free public event in Newark, New Jersey will showcase exciting new approaches to preservation in legacy cities to align with the launch of the game-changing Action Agenda for Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities.

More information is here: http://rightsizeplace.org/actionagenda/


Steubenville Summit Generates Ideas to Reinvigorate Historic Downtown

November 6th, 2015

Guest Post by Evan Scurti, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Port Authority

This past October, the City of Steubenville, Board of Jefferson County Commissioners, and the Jefferson County Port Authority took the first step in a long-term journey of sustainable growth and reinvestment in historic downtown Steubenville. “Investing in the Ville–A Real Estate and Business Development Summit” was created through the collaborative efforts of the three local governments, a steering committee of passionate citizens, and sponsorship money and services from local merchants. The event exceeded expectations by welcoming over 100 local and regional developers, investors, building owners, and interested citizens. Organizers agreed that this successful inaugural event is only the beginning of a series of interconnected strategies focused on reinventing the CBD of a historic city that is striving to reposition itself in a new global economy. While the old steel mills employing tens of thousands on both sides of the Ohio River no longer exist as an anchor to support bustling downtowns, there is currently great potential for Ohio Valley growth as new industries like oil and gas extraction emerge. Steubenville’s leaders are focused on guiding that growth back to the historic and large urban core of the city.


Aerial shot of Steubenville, Ohio

The event featured Keynote Speaker Franzi Charen, Executive Director of the Asheville Grown Alliance, a nonprofit supporting grassroots development and local entrepreneurship efforts in Asheville, North Carolina’s downtown. Franzi’s message resonated with the Steubenville crowd, as Asheville has also had to adapt to industrial economy changes in sectors like textiles. Through the vision of creative local developers and entrepreneurs, Asheville has diversified its economy and strengthened its tourism trade, which are both goals that Steubenville is beginning to adopt as its own. To help make downtown Steubenville a renewed destination for locals as well as visitors, the City administration has developed an exciting streetscape and civic plaza vision for the heart of the CBD. Consultants’ overviews of these plans followed Franzi’s address. The event culminated in an inspiring address by a longtime downtown business owner and resident who emphasized the safety and strong potential of the CBD and a walking tour of prime development opportunities that are ripe for new visions.

Event organizers have agreed that this should be the beginning of an annual effort to celebrate successes, invite and brainstorm building reuse ideas, track the CBD’s vacancy rate, and reassess the overall downtown plan. Downtown Steubenville is a special place with a large, impressive built environment. Local leaders are showing great commitment to current and future generations by engaging in the best kind of smart economic development–rebuilding and reusing the infrastructure and wonderful buildings erected by past generations. We firmly believe in, and will work toward, this event growing into a regional movement to renew one of Ohio’s most unique places with enormous potential.

GOPC Offers Testimony in Statehouse

October 28th, 2015

By Lindsey Gardiner, Government Affairs Manager

Throughout the month of October, Government Affairs Manager Lindsey Gardiner has been on the move within the House and Senate offering interested party testimony for various legislative bills that would impact Ohio’s revitalization policies. From establishing Downtown Redevelopment Districts and collecting data to track the effectiveness of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, to extending and expanding the Local Government Innovation Council, there is a lot going on within the chambers of our Legislature.

On October 14th, GOPC submitted written interested party testimony for HB 340, which proposes to extend the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) through December 31, 2019. Currently, the LGIC is scheduled to sunset by the end of December this year. GOPC was extremely supportive of the LGIC when it was established nearly five years ago and we have been impressed by the Program’s positive impact in hundreds of communities across the state. Our testimony to the House State Government Committee affirmed that this program effectively encourages Ohio governments to work more efficiently and that extending the LGIC would enable the continuation of the programs that have benefited communities in innovation, efficiency, and public safety.

LG testify

Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs, offered interested party testimony on numerous bills this month.

HB 233, which proposes to authorize cities to create Downtown Redevelopment Districts (DRDs) and Innovation Districts to promote economic development, is another bill GOPC has strived to place in the spotlight within its respected committee. Earlier this month GOPC offered testimony that supported the overall objectives of the proposal and shared with members of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee of our endorsement of the bill. Testimony stated that our Policy Committee decided to endorse HB 233 as it champions revitalization and incentivizes much-needed investment and redevelopment in Ohio. Additionally, since offering testimony for this bill, HB 233 was amended before ultimately being passed out of Committee. GOPC is happy to report that the bill was amended to include a provision requiring the collection of necessary data to track the performance of revenues resulting from the Historic Preservation Tax Credit (HPTC). As you may recall, the HPTC has played a vital role in the rehabilitation of historic buildings throughout Ohio and has proven to bring economic benefits to the state in more ways than one. This new provision will help the preservation community and members of the Legislature gain a better understanding of why the HPTC is so important.

For more information on GOPC’s testimony, the endorsement of HB 233, or to ask any questions pertaining to our legislative efforts, please feel free to contact Lindsey Gardiner at LGardiner@greaterohio.org.


GOPC participates in Roundtable on Small and Medium sized Legacy Cities

October 13th, 2015
By Alison Goebel, GOPC Associate Director

Last week, GOPC participated in a Roundtable on Leveraging Local Assets in Small and Medium Sized Cities, sponsored by the Center for Community Progress.  This small Roundtable brought together leaders from a number of sectors who work in Flint, Dayton, Youngstown, and Syracuse. Through a neighborhood tour, presentations, and conversations over meals, GOPC learned about cutting-edge strategies that these medium sized legacy cities implement to accelerate their revitalization and return to vibrancy.

At the beginning of the Roundtable, GOPC presented preliminary research findings generated from analysis of current conditions and trends of a number of small and medium-sized cities in the Midwest and Northeast. GOPC also described promising and innovative urban stabilization and revitalization strategies has found through collaborative research with CCP Senior Fellow Alan Mallach.  One of the most valuable components of the Roundtable was learning firsthand of incredible work underway in these four representative cities.

Flint has recently completed an amazing master plan, Imagine Flint, which includes 13 different zoning districts that acknowledge the reality of current land use and prepare the city to maximize its assets for the future.  The plan is sensitive to the current market and responds to what residents want for the future.  For example, during our neighborhood tour we visited a newly zoned site consisting of work and residential buildings.


Habitat for Humanity-Flint is helping a family rebuild a new home and retail space where people can play tabletop games, like Dungeons and Dragons.

Syracuse described a highly successful partnership between St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Care, a workforce development program, and community revitalization program.  Through St. Joseph’s leadership, the surrounding neighborhood is being revitalized, hospital employees are living in the neighborhoods, and the hospital is achieving an unprecedented retention rate among local residents who participate in the workforce program.

Dayton discussed the advantages of utilizing a non-profit, CityWide Development Corporation to direct redevelopment around key anchors in the city—including a new elementary school and a hospital.  CityWide, as the lead entity for this public-private partnership, is spearheading three major redevelopment projects that are tied to key anchor institutions.


Downtown Flint is revitalized and populated. The Flint Weather Ball is also visible in this picture.  It turns red when the temperatures are predicted to rise and blue when the temperature is expected to go down. The night of the picture, the temperature was remaining steady and so the ball was yellow.

Roundtable participants were excited by a new strategy Youngstown is piloting, which they call micro-planning.  The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) has identified key schools, churches, and other community facilities that can potentially be a catalyst for neighborhood regrowth and YNDC is now directing its resources to the blocks that surround these smaller institutions.

The challenges these cities have faced—and the ability to master and leverage these challenges into opportunities—was inspiring and reaffirmed the resiliency and strength of these places.

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Ridgway White, CEO of the C.S.Mott Foundation was our host for the Roundtable.  Over dinner we swapped stories and received advice and suggestions from peer cities on different revitalization strategies.

A Prescription for Urban Regeneration Part II

August 17th, 2015

Opportunities for Ohio’s Cities

By Raquel Jones, GOPC Intern

Yesterday, I discussed Ohio’s development patterns and how suburban development (i.e. lower-density development) and high rates of racial and economic inequality exist in Ohio’s three largest cities: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.  While inequity and low density development continue to some extent, these historic trends are beginning to subside as there has been a renewed interest in an urban lifestyle by two key demographics. Millennials, the cohort of people born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, and empty nesters appear to prefer to live in urban areas where there is increased walkability and mixed-use development. However, this in-migration of members of the middle-class and affluent people into these areas has arguably led to the displacement of poorer residents through the process of gentrification. However, with many of Ohio’s cities having lost a tremendous number of citizens since its peak population, such as Cleveland, where only half the number of the original population remains, there is obviously room for everyone. Therefore, the displacement of vulnerable populations— people of color, people living in poverty, elderly people—can benefit only if the repopulation of our cities is done thoughtfully.

Cities are once-again beginning to prosper and grow, however, there remains more to be done to ensure that they continue to thrive and stand as a place where people want to live and work. An urban agenda must be put in place to prioritize sustainable urban regeneration. Mayor Coleman of Columbus recently made a call for such an action plan to state lawmakers during his keynote speech at the GOPC’s summit on urban revitalization and sustainable growth in early June of this year. He outlined the plan as including increased access and diversity of public transit options – both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He also noted the sustained need to fight blight in Ohio’s urban centers, as well as the renewal of a fund to provide for the redevelopment of brownfields, or polluted industrial sites. Finally, he emphasized the need for the state legislature to increase local government funds, which have been cut in recent years, to be able to support the many services that cities provide to the general public.

An urban agenda must also include smart-growth strategies to combat the spread of the uncontained suburban growth covered in the previous post. One possible solution includes the implementation of urban growth boundaries. While this approach may not be as applicable or feasible in Ohio as it may be in other states, it has been established in the state of Oregon. Regardless, infill development should take place first in order to utilize open space already available in urban centers. Further options include the transfer of development rights to allow for higher-density development in some areas and lower-density development in other places, open-space zoning, and conservation easements for the long-term protection of natural areas and farmlands from urban development. Together, these policies stand to provide for the revitalization of Ohio’s economic engines in order to be competitive in the 21st century.

A Prescription for Urban Regeneration Part I

August 17th, 2015

The History and Consequence of Ohio Cities’ Development Patterns

By Raquel Jones, GOPC Intern

Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus have more in common than their location in the buckeye state. Together, these three metropolises have the largest concentration of the state’s population. Unfortunately, they also have the highest levels of neighborhood inequality in terms of income, education, homeownership rate, and housing values. In Worlds Apart, a new report released by the Urban Institute in June of this year, an index intended to calculate this form of inequality was developed and utilized, and ultimately supported this conclusion. The neighborhood inequality score, indicating the overall degree of inequality within each region, is calculated by subtracting the average neighborhood advantage score (a composite score of the four indicators mentioned above) of the areas’ bottom census tracts from the average of its top census tracts.  Columbus tops off with a neighborhood inequality score of 5.54, while Cleveland and Cincinnati are not far behind with scores of 5.26 and 5.17, respectively.

Accordingly, all of these cities are geographically segregated, with the majority of the poor inhabiting the urban core and those who are more privileged residing in the suburbs. However, in two of these municipalities, suburban-like development exists within city limits, disbanding the conventional association of cities with urban development. This is the case in both Columbus and Cincinnati. In Columbus, the suburbs account for sixty percent of the households in the municipality, while Cincinnati is forty-nine percent, or nearly half, suburban.* Although the wholly urban city of Cleveland is an outlier in this examination of city density, it remains evident that Ohio cities are heavily suburbanized and at the same time greatly segmented.

To be able to fully analyze and comprehend the present inequality and density within these regions, it is necessary to put it into a larger context within the history of suburban sprawl and the discriminatory practice of redlining, which carved up cities into desirable (i.e. white), average and undesirable (neighborhood of color) areas. The end of the Second World War signified the start of a new era as new cultural norms and demographic changes diffused across the nation. The baby boom that followed the war led to an increase in the number of families seeking housing who were aided by house-buying subsidies included in the GI Bill. This led to the development of new subdivisions on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, many which had restrictive covenants restricting the sale of homes to desirable (i.e. white) residents inserted into the subdivision’s incorporation articles and often transferring over to the deed of the house. The growing popularity and affordability of the automobile facilitated the feasibility and creation of these car-dependent societies. Furthermore, gas taxes subsidized major road construction projects, including the interstate highway system, providing a faster commute between suburban regions and the downtown area.

These developments also coincided with the “white flight” movement that embodied the large-scale migration of white people of various European descents out of the urban core and into suburban or exurban communities. Businesses and industries followed suit, resulting in a rapid decline in the number of jobs available to those who remained in the core of the city and expansive urban decay. The minority groups within the inner city had little hope of escaping poverty, as it was near impossible for residents of these areas to obtain mortgages or loans from banks, who unfairly refused to provide their services to these people. This continued until the passage of The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975, and it was not until the Community Reinvestment Act was passed by Congress in 1977 that the harsh effects of the so-called redlining began to be reversed.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the possibilities latent in our cities and the opportunities to overcome and transform this history.

*Percentages were calculated by dividing the number of households within zip codes determined to be suburban by an analysis of its development density out of the total number of households in the zip codes with half or more of its territory within city limits.

Growing Legacy City Populations: GOPC Moderates at the Welcoming Economies Annual Convening

July 13th, 2015

In the mid-twentieth century, Ohio’s population growth was strong, adding almost a million new residents every decade. Since the 1970s, however, Ohio’s population growth has stagnated and as of 2013, Ohio is 47th in the nation in terms of population growth.

The state of Ohio estimates that in the next twenty five years, the state will experience a net gain of 85,000 residents. During that same time period (2015-2040) the nation as a whole is projected to gain another 60 million residents.

Ohio’s population has shifted around the state, leaving behind half-populated neighborhoods in our older communities and thousands of abandoned homes. To repopulate our cities and to make them as vibrant, economically strong, and attractive as before, Ohio cannot depend on “growing its own.”

Greater Ohio Policy Center joined dozens of other organizations at the Welcoming Economies Global Network Annual Convening last week in Dayton, Ohio, to discuss strategies for attracting and retaining new populations, specifically immigrant and refugee groups. Legacy cities across the country—including Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Dayton—are actively working to create welcoming environments for new residents. These residents are renovating abandoned houses, starting businesses, farming urban plots, shopping in local stores, and contributing to the regeneration of legacy city neighborhoods.

GOPC moderated the panel, “Neighborhood Revitalization: The Immigrant/Refugee Opportunity” and opened a discussion by briefly discussing Ohio’s current demographics. That information can be found here.

Panelists then spoke about programs in Detroit that are working to help place people in land bank-owned homes in three diverse working class neighborhoods, how the city of Dayton is supporting Ahiska Turks who are revitalizing the Old North Dayton neighborhood, and plans the city of Cleveland has in development to build a refugee-focused neighborhood around a school that serves students who are learning English.

In each city, immigrants are pumping millions of dollars into the economy, creating energy and nodes of economic activity that will be critical for the “come back” of these cities.

More information about the Welcoming Economies Global Network can be found here.


Landmark Legislation Extends Land Bank Authority, Marks Fifth Anniversary

July 7th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center applauds the Ohio General Assembly for passage of game-changing legislation that extends land banking authority to the remaining 44 Ohio counties that previously could not establish land banks!  Five years ago, on July 7, 2010, Ohio’s 43 most populous counties received statutory authority to organize county land banks, with Cuyahoga leading the way the year before.  Ohio enjoys one of the most effective and widely-used pieces of land bank legislation in the country.  Happy anniversary to Ohio’s county land banks!

Glue Conference Urban Farms 046

Land from the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has been redeveloped for urban farming, among many other uses, in Cleveland.

In 2009, Cuyahoga County piloted the land bank structure and its success compelled legislators to extend land banking authority to counties with 60,000 or more residents in 2010.  Now, five years later, the General Assembly has amended the original legislation to allow all counties to create land banks and Governor Kasich signed the changes into law on June 30, 2015.  This amendment paves a path for more exurban and rural counties to access this tremendous tool for community and economic redevelopment.

Since 2010, Ohio’s county land banks have helped revitalize hundreds of buildings–including residential homes, skyscrapers, historic theaters, and vacant factories–and have demolished over 15,000 blighted structures throughout the state.  While not a panacea, land banks have managed the redevelopment of hundreds of acres, guided critical community reinvestment, and fostered economic regrowth in some of Ohio’s most distressed areas.  With this new legislation, existing and additional Ohio counties have the capacity to continue to accelerate community revitalization and statewide economic prosperity.

Greater Ohio Policy Center thanks state legislators for their leadership and commitment to helping Ohio’s communities manage abandoned and blighted properties, especially Rep. Scott Ryan (Newark),  Rep. Ryan Smith (Bidwell) chair of the House Finance Committee,  Sen. Tom Patton (Strongsville), and Sen. Dave Burke (Marysville) for their assistance.


GOPC Endorses SB 40

June 26th, 2015

The Policy Committee of the Greater Ohio Policy Center Board of Directors is proud to announce its endorsement of SB 40, which provides tax credits to individuals and for-profit corporations that invest in place-based catalytic neighborhood projects with non-profit organizations across Ohio. SB 40 has experienced the same bipartisan support it did in the last General Assembly. Please see the following link for coverage of the bill when it was originally introduced.

For more information on GOPC’s endorsement, please contact Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs at lgardiner@greaterohio.org.


Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Jeopardized

June 15th, 2015

As you may know, the Ohio Senate has unveiled a proposal to put a 2-year freeze on Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit projects beginning this July. The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit has been an important tool in revitalizing Ohio’s communities and strengthening our metro economies. We need to keep this going to create jobs and vibrant communities in which people want to live and work.

Why is the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits program good for Ohio?

1. Job Creation. Since the start of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program in 2007, more than 21,000 permanent jobs and more than 20,000 construction jobs have been created.

2. Economic Development. Every $1 of Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit will leverage at least $6.71 in investment. This proposed moratorium will kill major revitalization projects that are already in the pipeline and underway but not yet complete and it will put the entire program in jeopardy.

Please email your senator TODAY and tell him or her why this moratorium is a bad idea for your community and for Ohio and ask the committee to remove the proposal from the Senate Budget Bill. You can find your senator’s contact information here:   http://www.ohiosenate.gov/senate/members/senate-directory