Reflecting on a Successful Fellowship on Legacy City Revitalization at UChicago’s Institute of Politics

June 15th, 2016

By Lavea Brachman, GOPC Executive Director

I have recently returned from a two month fellowship at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, a new nonpartisan entity designed to ignite a passion in students for politics and public service, where I taught the seminar, “Can America’s Older Industrial Cities Pull Off a Second Act?”  I drew heavily on the research and advocacy work that GOPC is doing with its many partners to drive economic prosperity in Ohio’s legacy cities (or older industrial cities), where quality of life and regrowth are challenged.

The seminar raised questions such as: how to distribute scarce resources for neighborhood revitalization; what is the role of large anchor institutions, like universities and hospitals, in generating neighborhood or economic development when that is not their primary mission; how are massive transportation and sewer and water infrastructure needs going to be financed; and how do we tailor policies and practices to account for the differences between large and small legacy cities.

But the challenge – either implicit or explicit — underlying all of these questions is that of the existing and growing economic divide in Ohio’s cities as well as other legacy cities, like Detroit, Gary, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia, as the percentage and numbers of middle income residents continue to decline.

    LB chicago

This phenomenon is not limited to legacy cities in this country, but the economic contrast is particularly stark in them and has profound societal and political consequences. For instance, UChicago, situated in the thriving Hyde Park neighborhood, is also a stone’s throw from other parts of Chicago’s South Side with remnants of older industrial past– closed manufacturing plants, some still operating factories —  resembling other Midwestern legacy cities.   If you didn’t know you were in America’s third largest city – and the largest and most prosperous city in the Midwest –  then you would think you were transported to a legacy city neighborhood with high levels of economic distress.  Contrast that with Chicago’s downtown and many of its adjacent neighborhoods with thriving commercial and residential districts.   Like legacy cities, Chicago, too, is experiencing increasing extremes in residential income levels and neighborhood conditions.

This trend is of deep concern not only for the residents living in these neighborhoods but also for residents in the more prosperous areas in the rest of Chicago as well as in these other cities — and our country. As our legacy cities rebound, let’s demonstrate economic regrowth practices that intentionally address this increasing economic gap, so they can be the leaders in solving and reversing this growing, pernicious national trend.   

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Publishes GOPC Article on Revitalization of Legacy Cities

June 6th, 2016

By Lavea Brachman, GOPC Executive Director and Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Researcher

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has published a Greater Ohio Policy Center article on the revitalization of America’s small- and medium-sized legacy cities. Beginning on page 7 of its Summer 2016 Communities and Banking magazine, the article describes several promising resilience strategies for legacy cities, based on GOPC’s data analysis. The article also highlights Case Studies from Worcester, Massachusetts; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Syracuse, New York; and Akron, Ohio of recent economic recovery practices.

Visit the Article Here

Downtown overhead

This article is part of broader research that GOPC is conducting on the health of small- and medium-sized legacy cities across the country.

To read the Article, please go Here

 

 

Legacy of Poindexter Village Celebrated in Columbus

May 27th, 2016

By Sheldon K. Johnson, Urban Revitalization Project Specialist

On Wednesday March 18th, Greater Ohio Policy Center attended Columbus Metropolitan Club’s (CMC) event to commemorate the history and legacy of Poindexter Village. Constructed in 1939, Poindexter Village was the first public-housing project in the city of Columbus. All but two of the 35 buildings that housed 414 units were demolished by the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) in 2013. The 26 acre site will be redeveloped in several phases. The first phase, a 104 unit senior apartment complex called Poindexter Place, is nearing completion. The occasion last week, though, was not about planning for the future, but celebrating and remembering the past.

Poindexter Village was named for the Rev. James M. Poindexter, a prominent leader in Columbus’ 19th century black community.  Rev. Poindexter was the pastor of Second Baptist Church from 1862-1898, became the first African-American elected to the Columbus City Council in 1880, and served on the Columbus Board of Education from 1884-1893. Poindexter Village was significant not only in name, but also for its location. Prior to the establishment of CMHA the area between Long Street and Mount Vernon Avenue was known as the Blackberry Patch. It was home to low-income African-Americans who lived in low quality housing.

Poindexter Village offered not only quality housing with modern amenities, but allowed for the creation of a community. The neighborly atmosphere of Poindexter Village was an important part of the discussion between panelists Myron Lowery, Memphis (TN) City Council Chairman, Curtis J. Moody, president and CEO at Moody Nolan, and Leslie J. Sawyer, retired civil servant. Mr. Lowery, who lived in Poindexter Village for 4 years, and Ms. Sawyer, who attended Poindexter Village Preschool while her father managed the complex, both spoke of how important community was to their childhood.

Several audience members shared memories of their time living in Poindexter Village and urged that the legacy of the complex not be forgotten. Though details of what will happen in the next phases of redevelopment weren’t discussed this event speaks to the importance of the built environment. The presence, or lack thereof, of surroundings such as buildings, greenspace, and infrastructure can have both positive and negative effects on a community. Balancing the revitalization of bricks and sticks for the future while celebrating the special culture of a specific neighborhood or city is important work that many Greater Ohio Policy Center partners are currently undertaking.

 

CMC Forum Explores Urban Revitalization

May 2nd, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

Last week, Greater Ohio Policy Center attended Columbus Metropolitan Club’s panel on the way cities are working to attract and retain talent, and thrive in today’s economy. The session was moderated by OSU History Professor David Staley, who asked questions to Lee Fisher, President of CEO for Cities and Steve Schoeny of the Columbus Department of Development.

Fisher began the session by declaring that in the coming years, urbanization will be the single most important demographic change in the coming years, with many people choosing to move to cities. Today many cities struggle to provide the vehicles to fully use their talent, despite there being plenty of talent available. Attracting new talent, however, can only happen if cities have the tools for people to collaborate. Moreover, Schoeny believes that retaining talent is a big challenge for cities, as many young, educated people will look to move elsewhere. Schoeny emphasized the need to create places that connect housing with jobs, because people often choose to where to live before they decide where to work. This idea reflects GOPC’s support for place-based investment, to build off existing resources, and the idea that players should take advantage of the assets that already exist in Ohio’s cities.

CMC urban revitalization 4.20

Schoeny believes that successful cities share three common features: they are dense, active, and connected. One key ingredient to all of these is having lively public spaces, such as parks and bike paths, where people can meet each other and share ideas. Fisher echoed this sentiment, declaring that active cities have at least 10 public spaces, which ultimately improve our health. Moreover, active communities, according to Schoeny, are incumbent on robust public transportation systems by expanding choices for everyone. GOPC concurs with this assessment and has been working in recent months to boost resources for multimodal transportation options.

A Look Back on my Internship at GOPC

April 22nd, 2016

By Addie DesRoches, GOPC Intern

As my time as an Intern is winding down at the Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC), I have taken some time to look back on my experience as part of the organization. After anxiously waiting to begin my internship at GOPC, Deputy Director Alison Goebel helped me feel more at ease on my first day. She introduced me to many of the staff members and then took me into her office to discuss what I would be doing at GOPC. I then met with Sheldon Johnson and Colleen Durfee, who showed me how to track conferences and call for submission deadlines on a spreadsheet. Later, Lindsey Gardiner introduced me to a project where I would sort through House and Senate bills that involved rural, suburban, and urban revitalization, which she ultimately presented to the House.  I also helped create a list of contact information of representatives running for House in the next cycle who are involved with Lindsey’s bill.

A few months later, I met Dr. Nobuhisa Taira of Seigakuin University in Japan, who had come to learn about Ohio land banks. Following our meeting, I wrote a blog post on his plans to apply research on Ohio land bank models in Japan. While working on these projects, I also created one-page documents that briefly describe GOPC’s areas of work. Because I really enjoyed this design work, I created an updated GOPC press release banner. I also found out that I thoroughly enjoyed working on spreadsheets when I was involved with two projects. For one project, I helped Alex Highley and Sheldon update Ohio newspaper contact information and the second involved helping Lindsey locate all the Brownfield locations in Ohio in order to draw up a live map.

I have learned a lot from my colleagues at GOPC and enjoyed my time working with them. They have given me so much insight on how a nonprofit organization works and tools that can be used to improve Ohio’s cities. For instance, before I came to the GOPC I had no idea what a Land Bank or Brownfield was, let alone what they can be used for. Being able to read GOPC reports and seeing the success of Ohio’s Land Banks gave me new knowledge about solutions I was not aware of.  Now knowing and understanding how to utilize these and other tools in improving the community, I feel as though I will bring an alternative outlook to policy creation and action in my future endeavors.

The First Step to Revitalization

February 18th, 2016

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Graduate Intern

This week, GOPC released a study called the62.4 Reporton urban health and competitiveness in Akron. The report, whose title refers to the city’s square mileage, realistically acknowledges that the city is facing challenges, but also finds that Akron is in a strong position to deal with them. GOPC’s work on small- and medium-sized legacy cities nationwide has found that for many cities, the first step of recovery and revitalization is understanding and accepting their current situation. This may have been more challenging for Akron, because unlike many of its peers, it has not had a clear moment of hitting “rock bottom” when a major economic sector completely left town. Instead, change in Akron has been slower, with a steady stream of residents and businesses leaving the central city for the suburbs and a more gradual shift from a manufacturing-based to service-based economy. Without a major crisis, the alarm bells never rang, even though conditions in the city were declining.

Downtown overhead

Akron, Ohio

Fortunately, many stakeholders in Akron are willing to take a hard look at where Akron is now to plan for where the city can be. Kyle Kutuchief, program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – which grew out of Akron and funded the study, compares the report to diagnostic testing required when going to the doctor. Once the city knows what is wrong, it can start making a plan for getting better.

Akronites are excited about making that plan. GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman and Graduate Intern Torey Hollingsworth travelled to Akron this week to present the report’s findings. At meetings with stakeholders, they had productive conversations about what the city could do to reposition itself as a vibrant, competitive city where people want to live and work. Despite the sobering data, there was clear energy about Akron’s future and resolve to do what it takes to get the city there. Now that the city has taken the tough first step of finding out what needs to change, Akron is even better positioned for recovery. 

Go here to read the report!

GOPC Partner Preservation Rightsizing Network Releases Action Agenda

February 11th, 2016

The Greater Ohio Policy Center has been a long time contributor to and supporter of the Preservation Rightsizing Network (PRN).  PRN works in legacy cities to preserve local heritage and revitalize the built environment, bring market sensitive tools and solutions that leverage historic preservation for urban revitalization.

GOPC has long supported a holistic approach to legacy city revitalization—calling for a strategic and thoughtful mix of demolition, rehab, historic preservation and new development.  GOPC is pleased to share a video associated with the release of an Action Agenda for historic preservation in Legacy Cities.  GOPC co-sponsored the public event where the report was released and looks forward to supporting Ohio’s communities as they implement tools and policies contained in the Agenda.

Please take 5 minutes to watch this video to learn more about the Action Agenda.

GOPC’s 2015 Accomplishments & A Look Ahead

December 15th, 2015

Dec Newsletter Photo

Pictured from left: Alison Goebel, Lindsey Gardiner, Lavea Brachman, Meg Montgomery, Torey Hollingsworth, Sheldon Johnson, and Alex Highley.

2015 has been an eventful year around Ohio and has been filled with achievement and promise for GOPC. As a leader in championing revitalization and sustainable growth, GOPC has accomplished a lot in the past year, including:

Led Dialogue on Revitalization and Sustainable Regrowth in Ohio

  • Summit on Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economiesthat brought together national experts, state policymakers, and local leaders to recognize outstanding leadership and practices in revitalizing Ohio’s cities and to discuss new strategies to sharpen the state’s economic edge.
  • Roundtable on Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets to further GOPC’s effort to connect small business growth to areas with commercial vacant properties. The Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, MN and ProsperUS in Detroit, MI presented their successful models for property reuse.
  • Participated in over 15 events as speakers, panelists, or moderators

Successfully Influenced State Policy

  • Advanced Two Reforms for a Diversified Transportation System. GOPC is working with leading planning organizations—as well as other regional leaders—to develop and advance policies to support additional funding for public transit systems and multi-modal options throughout the state, as well as investment in existing infrastructure.
  • Helped Create Service Stations Cleanup Fund Program. GOPC offered interested party testimony to the Senate Finance Workforce Subcommittee on the Service Station Cleanup Fund. GOPC supported the creation of this program because it leverages initial investment for future economic development.

Published Original Research

  • Assessed Current State of Land Banking in Ohio. In May, GOPC released Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies , which analyzes how land banks operate in the larger context of community revitalization. The report highlights promising county land bank programs that have the potential to greatly contribute to sustainable economic and community redevelopment throughout Ohio.
  • Identified Challenges and Initial Solutions for Water & Sewer Infrastructure Improvements. With support from the Ohio Water Development Authority, GOPC recently released an Assessment of Needs for redeveloping sewer and water infrastructure to identify innovative financing options to assist communities with infrastructure modernization. GOPC is working with financing experts and MORPC and will release its Phase II recommendations in late 2016.
  • Financing in Opportunity Neighborhoods Report. This report analyzes neighborhoods in Ohio that are showing signs of stability but struggle to attract traditional financing because of credit gaps and other challenges. In this report, GOPC outlines potential interventions and innovative financing tools and strategies that can stabilize the housing market in these neighborhoods.

Provided Education and Strategic Assistance to Ohio’s Communities

  • Strategic Advice on the Formation of a Youngstown Center City Organization. GOPC is working the Wean Foundation and local partners to develop a process for creating a Youngstown Center City Organization. The YCCO will catalyze and coordinate economic development and community investment in Youngstown’s Central Business District and adjacent areas.
  • Commercial Vacant Property Redevelopment Webinars. GOPC partnered with the Ohio CDC Association to present four webinars as a “how to” for local leaders of legacy cities faced with commercial vacancies. Topics for the webinars included redevelopment planning, identifying successful tools and strategies, and overcoming financial gaps.
  • Continued Outreach to Practitioners and Leaders in Ohio’s Cities.  GOPC met regularly with leaders throughout the state around needed revitalization policies and policy reforms that will assist with neighborhood regeneration and sustainable redevelopment.

Coming in 2016…

In 2016, GOPC will continue working to ensure Ohio has robust, effective policies and practices that create revitalized communities, strengthen regional cooperation, and preserve Ohio’s green space by reducing sprawl. With partners from around the state and nation, GOPC will continue to investigate creative financing approaches to infrastructure improvements and neighborhood revitalization; advocate for a diversified transportation system, and support communities as they invest in themselves and their futures.

We believe GOPC offers strong leadership and unique skills to address critical issues and to ensure a prosperous future for the people of Ohio. And others agree; check out the New Video illustrating GOPC’s role in vital areas!

National Leaders Announce Release of Action Agenda for Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities

December 7th, 2015

Urban Leaders and Landmark Experts Celebrate Newark’s Hahne & Company Revitalization As Example of How Historic Preservation Can Spur Development and Strengthen Legacy Cities Across the Nation

Newark, New Jersey—Today, the Preservation Rightsizing Network (PRN) released a new Action Agenda for Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities, which lays out a wide-ranging plan to address urban challenges by advancing new development while protecting communities’ cultural heritage.

Tuesday’s release was accompanied by a public discussion co-hosted by Rutgers University – Newark with over 40 of the nation’s top urban development and historic landmark experts. As part of that discussion, PRN conducted a tour of the ongoing redevelopment of the historic Hahne & Company building, which is being highlighted as a  successful, collaborative approach that combined preservation and economic revitalization – a challenge in many legacy cities like Newark, Detroit, and more.

The Action Agenda for Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities — which can be accessed here — is a nine-point strategy that shapes a new approach to preservation, adapts existing tools and policies used by preservationists, and promotes place-based collaboration, especially in legacy cities like Newark, Detroit, and Cleveland (also known as Rust Belt cities or shrinking cities). By offering new strategies for protecting local cultural heritage, the Action Agenda serves as a guide for preserving the stories of Rust Belt cities and communities and make them more equitable, prosperous, and sustainable in the face of economic shifts. Using examples from Cincinnati, Buffalo, Detroit, and more, the Agenda offers suggested next steps, potential partners from preservation and allied fields, and financing and coalition-building toolkits for urban development and preservation advocates.

Emilie Evans, co-founder of Brick + Beam Detroit, an initiative that connects and supports building rehabbers in Detroit, said: “The Action Agenda provides clear steps legacy cities can take to leverage older buildings and local heritage as powerful assets for revitalization. It bolsters core tenets of Brick + Beam’s mission to support the rehabilitation of Detroit’s incredible older buildings, engage meaningfully with local property owners and tradespeople, and develop practical tools to move reinvestment projects forward.”

The Action Agenda was released in Newark in recognition of the leadership and partnerships demonstrated during the planning and redevelopment of the Hahne & Company building, which had sat vacant for over 30 years. The new development will include a full-line grocery store, affordable and market-rate housing, and a major arts program space and incubator conceived and implemented by Rutgers University-Newark and community partners including local artists, arts organizations, and other arts and culture anchor institutions in Newark.

Rutgers University Chancellor Nancy Cantor said: “The Action Agenda’s clarion call to carry forward the ‘legacy’ of legacy cities by preserving their stories entails an equally powerful call to amplify the voices of diverse new generations in retelling them. That is a challenge to all of us—in Newark and legacy cities like it everywhere—and it is precisely what we have in mind with our university-community collaboratory we are developing in the Hahne & Company building and precisely why we think the name of our collaboratory, ‘Express Newark,’ is so apt. We are thrilled to be working with the Preservation Rightsizing Network to advance this shared agenda.”

The Preservation Rightsizing Network meets annually to bring leading preservationists and allies together and supports local leaders in generating national conferences on historic preservation in legacy cities, including a previous conference held in Cleveland (2014) with another scheduled for Detroit (2016).

President of the Lucas County Land Bank, David P. Mann said: “Faced with unprecedented economic challenges and property abandonment, legacy cities must seize new tools and new strategies in order to preserve all that makes them special. This Action Agenda is a smart step in that direction, not just to help save historic assets, but to ensure that the voice of the historic preservation movement is heard in this important and ongoing conversation.”

Cleveland City Councilman Jeffrey Johnson said: “Historic preservation is vital in the revitalization of Cleveland. Our history, as told through the older buildings and neighborhoods, is the foundation on which our community must rebuild.”

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.

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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.