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.”

Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods: Evaluating the Impact of Housing Investments in Weinland Park

March 24th, 2014

Report finds Columbus Neighborhood Weinland Park on path to long-term vibrancy

Greater Ohio Policy Center, in partnership with The Columbus Foundation, has released “Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods: Evaluating the Impact of Housing Investments in Weinland Park,” a data-driven report that assesses whether the Columbus neighborhood of Weinland Park has reached long-term stability.

Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods finds that, as a result of $80 million in housing investments since 2003, Weinland Park is improving. However, the neighborhood has not yet reached a sustainable level of health and coordinated programs and investments should persist in order to ensure the neighborhood does not regress and continues on a trajectory of long-term vibrancy. Additionally, the report finds that Weinland Park does not exhibit signs of gentrification–such as rapidly increasing home values, repeat sales of homes, increasing income levels, and rapidly shifting demographics.

Although Columbus is often considered more economically prosperous than its Midwestern peers, many of its older areas have faced significant challenges common to legacy cities.  Like other neighborhoods, Weinland Park has experienced decades-long declining employment opportunities, population loss, and the associated increases in poverty and vacancy.  Until recently, Weinland Park was perceived to be one of the most distressed neighborhoods in Columbus.

In 2003, a catalytic turning point occurred when 15% of the neighborhood’s housing transferred from poor management to strong management, transforming it over time from housing of last resort to housing of choice. OSU took an active role in supporting revitalization efforts and the City of Columbus strategically chose to prioritize their investments in a targeted way. Philanthropic, government, and nonprofit partners formed the Weinland Park Collaborative to coordinate programs and investments across many areas of neighborhood health, one of which is housing.

The story of Weinland Park is a remarkable one that continues to inspire many community developers, urban pioneers, and citizen leaders. Numerous stakeholders have rallied around a common vision, the community is actively engaged in its transformation, and philanthropic and government partners coordinate regularly with one another and with residents. While investments in Weinland Park are just beginning to show quantitative impact, Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods indicates that the neighborhood is transitioning into vibrancy.

Click here to download the report.

GOPC Presents the Commercial Vacant Properties Guidebook in Youngstown

March 14th, 2014

By Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

On Monday, I traveled to Youngstown to introduce our new guidebook for redeveloping commercial vacant properties at the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Bootcamp hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. The SC2 Bootcamp in Youngstown was a two-day workshop that brought together national experts and local stakeholders to exchange ideas in support of economic and community revitalization in downtown Youngstown and the surrounding region.

The panel I participated in focused on “Tools and Strategies for Revitalization” that can be used as part of a holistic approach to redevelopment in Youngstown. Tamar Shapiro of Center for Community Progress moderated the panel expertly and the other (highly esteemed) panelists included Heather Arnold of Streetsense, Jamie Schriner-Hooper of the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, and Terry Schwarz of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.

For my presentation, I introduced GOPC’s new guidebook for redeveloping commercial properties, titled Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization. Local leaders and practitioners–such as those from community development organizations, municipal planning and economic development departments, Main Street and commercial district programs, SIDs and BIDs–can use the guidebook to plan and manage the revitalization and reuse of commercial vacant properties in legacy cities. The guidebook includes the following tools:

  • Guidance on planning & partnering for commercial revitalization
  • Methods for analyzing the market
  • Advice on matching market types & strategies for commercial revitalization
  • Legal tools for reclaiming commercial vacant properties
  • Funding sources for overcoming financial gaps
  • Menu of property reuse options
  • Ways to attract & retain business tenants
  • Methods and models for managing a commercial district
  • Strategies for building markets in legacy cities

GOPC produced this guidebook in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. and the Center for Community Progress. We plan to release the guidebook within the next month.

Click here to view my presentation on the commercial vacant properties guidebook.

The panel also covered tools for developing vibrant retail streets (see Streetsense’s Vibrant Streets Toolkit), methods for working with anchor institutions to revive vacant land and urban spaces (see CUDC’s Pop Up City initiative and Reimagining a More Sustainable Cleveland), and temporary uses for vacant properties (see VACANT Lansing – the event themes are secret until you show up!). Following the panel, we were able to speak with participants and go into more depth on the tools and strategies presented.

Several of us went on a tour of Youngstown after the event. Dominic Marchionda of NYO Property Group showed us around downtown Youngstown and Wick Park. This tour of the city and its surrounding neighborhoods revealed both challenges and opportunities for efforts that are bringing vibrancy to the city. As Terry Schwarz mentioned during our panel, this will be the work of our lifetimes.

GOPC Testifies on the DataOhio Initiative

January 29th, 2014

On January 29th, Greater Ohio’s Alison Goebel gave interested party testimony on a package of bills that would create the “DataOhio Initiative.”  Introduced by Representatives Duffey (R-Worthington) and Hagan (R-Alliance), the DataOhio Initiative will help local governments standardize information about themselves and develop a clearinghouse where information about local and state governments can be easily located.

GOPC has long expressed concern regarding the lack of standardized data in Ohio.  We believe the DataOhio Initiative will provide the first crucial step to creating the tools local governments and the state need to make data-driven, evidence-based decisions. These decisions should help communities modernize procedures, maximize resources, attract jobs and businesses, and plan for sustainable, prosperous futures.

GOPC is excited about the possibility DataOhio holds to help government officials find underutilized dollars through “apples to apples” comparisons with their peers and the  ability to use the data to systematically uncover opportunities to share services and implement best practices.

  • HB 321’s requirement to de-silo information and make information machine-readable is essential for any data analysis.  The creation of a DataOhio Board ensures there is a face to the Initiative and a resource for participating entities.
  • HB 322’s requirement to use a uniform accounting standard allows communities, researchers, private citizens and funding sources to track performance over time.  More importantly, a mechanism that creates apples to apples comparisons helps identify best practices and opportunities for government efficiencies and cost savings.
  • By gathering and indexing the universe of data available in Ohio, HB 323 will enrich and strengthen research while also saving users time.
  • Last, and perhaps most important, HB 324 assists communities in meeting these requirements.  The cost savings and opportunities to share services or resources that will arise from a methodical understanding of our local governments will more than make up the foregone revenue of the Grant program.

To take the necessary steps that will ensure the long term sustainability, economic competitiveness, and physical attractiveness of our communities, decisions and development strategies must be data-driven and evidence-based.  GOPC is pleased to see that DataOhio holds the possibilities of providing that crucial information.

Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program Update

December 20th, 2013

Through early December, progress continued on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program legislation with proponent testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee.

As discussed in earlier blog posts, Senate Bill 149 and House Bill 219 propose to create a program that would offer a tax credit to businesses that make monetary donations to catalytic community development projects.

At the second hearing on November 20th GOPC provided testimony in partnership with coalition member Ohio CDC Association and explained the design specifics of the program and discussed successes other states have experienced with similar programs. At the third House Ways and Means Committee hearing on December 4th, testimony was given from varying perspectives. Taris Vrcek, Executive Director of McKees Rocks CDC in Pennsylvania relayed a compelling story of decades long disinvestment in this first ring suburb of Pittsburgh (and Governor Kasich’s hometown) reversed by Neighborhood Partnership Program tax credits that resulted in the renovation of the historic Roxian Theatre, brownfield remediation and central business district revitalization.

Tim Bete, President, St. Mary Development Corporation described the complexity of development financing, the resource contraction facing the industry, the catalytic impacts of community economic development projects, and the desire for NIAP funding in Ohio. Mike Gonsiorowski, Regional President of PNC Bank in Columbus provided written testimony explaining their many years of experience participating in similar tax credit programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The proponent testimonies significantly contributed to the momentum and energy around this proposed program. The General Assembly is on holiday break and the effort will continue in the New Year. The coalition greatly appreciates the commitment and travels of the testimony team.

For background information and written testimony on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program, please click here.

Progress continues on advancing proposed Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program

November 13th, 2013

On November 12, 2013 the Greater Ohio Policy Center offered proponent testimony to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program (NIAP)Senate Bill 149 proposes to create a program that would offer a tax credit to businesses or corporations that make monetary donations to catalytic community development projects.  Providing testimony in partnership with coalition member, the Ohio CDC Association, GOPC and OCDCA explained the design specifics of the program and discussed successes other states have experienced with similar programs.

After GOPC and OCDCA testified, a representative from PNC Bank offered proponent testimony in support of the bill.  PNC has been a leading voice for the creation of this program in Ohio and has many years of experience participating in similar tax credit programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Providing the private sector—investor—perspective, Stephanie Cipriani, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Community Development Banking, described a range of projects PNC has invested in.  These projects include a housing development and a workforce and early education center.

Last, a nonprofit leader from Asbury Park, New Jersey described the transformation of a neighborhood in Asbury Park which was decimated by race riots and urban renewal projects in the 1970s.  With the help of New Jersey’s Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program, Paul McEvily and Interfaith Neighbors, Inc. have led the revitalization of one of New Jersey’s more disinvested neighborhoods.  McEvily’s testimony included a series of pictures of this neighborhood transformation and the impact of the private-public partnership created through New Jersey’s program, which prompted the Committee Chairman to jokingly propose a field trip to Asbury Park!

The proposed NIAP program still has at least one more hearing in the Senate and at least two more in the House before it can be voted upon by either the full House or Senate.  However, yesterday’s proponent testimonies significantly contributed to the momentum and energy around this proposed program.  Be sure to follow our twitter feed, blog, and newsletters to learn when these hearings will be scheduled.

For background information on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program, please visit our webpage.

Legislative Update: GOPC to Give Testimony!

October 30th, 2013

In partnership with Ohio CDC Association and a coalition of supporters, the Greater Ohio Policy Center will be testifying at the Statehouse in support of the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program on November 5th.  The bills that would create this state tax credit program (SB 149 and HB 219) have begun to receive hearings, which allows for members of the General Assembly to ask questions about the proposed program.  GOPC is excited to be a leading proponent of this legislation.

As previous newsletters have described, the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistant Program would authorize tax credits for monetary contributions invested in catalytic economic and community development projects undertaken by local governments and nonprofit corporations.

This upcoming legislative hearing would not be possible without the dozens of organizations around the state that have facilitated introductions to legislators or have voiced their support of this bill to their Senator or Representative.  To see the complete range of supporting organizations, we proudly list them on the 1-pager we “leave-behind” with stakeholders and on this webpage.  If you are interested in adding your organization to this list, please email Alison D. Goebel. Your support has been and will continue to be invaluable in moving this legislation toward passage!

Tours de Cleveland and Philadelphia

October 18th, 2013

Last week, Greater Ohio traveled to Cleveland and Philadelphia both to learn from local experts and to share knowledge.

On Monday, Lavea and I took a road trip up to Cleveland. Our first stop was to University Circle, Inc. where we met with UCI President Chris Ronayne. We learned about the great work UCI is doing as part of a unique “anchor district.” In other words, University Circle is a district with a multitude of anchor institutions contributing to its strength. We’re interested in learning more about other anchor districts and how they can support legacy cities and their communities!

Next, Lavea gave a presentation to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section about the Clean Ohio Fund and the future of the brownfield revitalization program. Click here to view the presentation.

Finally, we went on a tour of Slavic Village and met with some of the partners of Slavic Village Recovery LLC, including representatives from Forest City Enterprises Inc., Safeguard Properties, and Slavic Village Development Corporation. The public-private partnership intends to renovate up to 300 homes within the next three years, which will have a transformative effect on the neighborhood. When asked what he thought of the new developments in the community, a local resident said he thought that it is great for the neighborhood. Another resident even offered to help mow the lawns of the newly renovated homes. Greater Ohio is keenly interested in learning about Slavic Village Recovery’s strategy for helping to stabilize the neighborhood over time.

Lavea traveled to Philadelphia on October 11th to participate on a panel at the University of Pennsylvania’s Legacy and Innovation conference. The interdisciplinary conference was sponsored by the Provost at Penn and hosted in partnership with PennDesign, Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), Penn Institute for Urban Research, PennMedicine, PennLaw, Wharton, PennEngineering, and Next City.

The stated purpose of the conference was to:

“[…] bring together regional and national thought leaders in economic development, urban policy and planning, design, and innovation to discuss a future for the Philadelphia region, with the intention that these lessons learned, new ideas, and identified new frontiers can be applied to other metropolitan areas across the country and the world.”

Lavea participated on a panel titled, “Legacy Cities, Legacy Assets.” Lavea was the co-author of the recently published report “Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities” and was able to add value to the discussion on legacy cities’ assets and how they can influence regional economic performance. The panel was moderated by Diana Lind of Next City , and included John Grady of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, Patrick Kerkstra of the blog City Junto, and Ted Dahlburg of the Delware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Coincidentally, Emilie Evans recently wrote an article about the “Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities” report for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, called Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities: A Review from Detroit.” Check it out!

Around the World in Several Days: GOPC Travels to Philadelphia and Germany

September 16th, 2013

This past week, GOPC traveled to conferences on both sides of the globe. Executive Director Lavea Brachman participated on panels at both the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference hosted by Center for Community Progress in Philadelphia and the Shrinking Cities in Europe conference held in Essen, Germany.

Brachman moderated a panel in Philadelphia titled “Aligning Financial Institutions and Community Development Goals: Building Strategic Coalitions to Move a State Level Vacant Property Revitalization Policy Agenda.” The panelists, including bankers and community development leaders from Ohio and Pennsylvania, discussed coalition-building strategies that they have used to leverage relationships between the private, non-profit and public sectors to generate a strategic statewide policy agenda that addresses the acquisition, demolition, foreclosure, redevelopment and prevention of vacant properties.

Shortly afterward, Brachman flew across the Atlantic to Germany, where she participated in the conference roundtable on “The global challenge of Shrinking Cities.” As a former Fellow of the German Marshall Fund and a delegate of the Cities in Transition initiative, Lavea contributed her knowledge of legacy cities in the U.S. while learning from other experts from around the world. The conference marks the conclusion of the 4 year European COST Action “Cities Regrowing Smaller” initiative.

GOPC’s involvement in these events has enriched our network of relationships as well as our working knowledge of how to address the challenges and promote the strengths of legacy cities.

Brachman Discusses How to Rebuild Legacy Cities

July 23rd, 2013

This morning at 10am, Executive Director Lavea Brachman will be featured on WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher show, discussing Detroit’s potential for a comeback despite the city’s bankrupt status.

You can listen to the show, “Low Times in Motown: Detroit Files for Bankruptcy,” by tuning into WOSU (89.7 FM) or you can listen to the live stream online.

On Saturday, The Boston Globe published Brachman and Alan Mallach’s article, “Gateway cities don’t need a silver bullet,” about the report they wrote together – Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities – for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

The report explores the challenges of regenerating America’s legacy cities—older industrial cities that have experienced sustained job and population loss over the past few decades. It identifies the powerful obstacles that stand in the way of fundamental change in the dynamics of these cities, and suggests directions by which cities can overcome those obstacles and embark on the path of regeneration.