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.

 

The Release of the Guidebook for Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities

May 6th, 2014

In the wake of the mortgage foreclosure crisis and the long-term abandonment of older industrial cities and their regions, communities and neighborhoods have been increasingly burdened with vacant and abandoned properties. Organizations and municipalities are now more systematically addressing vacant residential properties. However, for years there was very little guidance for the redevelopment of commercial vacant properties, which are equally prevalent — especially throughout older industrial regions.

Commercial and residential vacancy at the county level for legacy cities. Data collected on the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013. Data source: US Postal Service. Data aggregates vacant and no-stat addresses.

 

Today, Greater Ohio Policy Center is releasing its new guidebook, Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization, which is the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive set of tools and strategies for redeveloping commercial vacant properties and business districts in legacy cities.

The guidebook, developed in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and with support from the Center for Community Progress, is designed as a “How To” manual for local leaders, identifying practices and policies that take advantage of the link between available commercial properties and needed economic re-growth strategies in legacy cities.

The tools and strategies provided can be used by local leaders and practitioners no matter where they are in the process of commercial property redevelopment, from data gathering and planning to real estate acquisition and redevelopment, and from tenant attraction and support to business district management.

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

While the tools, strategies, and policy recommendations within the guidebook are particularly relevant for legacy cities and their communities, they are also applicable to all cities and regions that seek to reuse commercial vacant properties with the purpose of enhancing community stability and economic development.

Click here for more information and to download the guidebook.

 

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.

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.

Greater Ohio Featured in Youngstown Workshop

March 29th, 2013

Expert panel (from left): Alan Mallach, Brookings Institution; Lavea Brachman, Greater Ohio Policy Center; Thorsten Wiechmann, TUD professor; and Ian Beniston, YNDC.

On March 28th, Greater Ohio Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, traveled to Youngstown, Ohio for the workshop “Policies and Strategies in Shrinking Cities: The Case of Youngstown, Ohio,” hosted by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) , German Marshall Fund (GMF) and Technical University of Dortmund, Germany (TUD). The workshop included site visits, an expert panel in which Brachman participated, and a presentation by the urban planning students of TUD on ideas for the regeneration of Youngstown’s riverfront and neighborhoods.

The Business Journal cited Lavea Brachman:

Lavea Brachman, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, said the city is pursuing the right course in its neighborhoods through organizations such as the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., targeting those areas that stand the best chance of turning around in the near-term.

“It’s important to look at our redevelopment strategy,” Brachman said. “One of the things we’re talking about is a master plan for certain key neighborhoods, such as Wick Park, that provides a plan for the future and some comfort for investors.”

Much of the redevelopment in the Ruhr Valley, Brachman noted, emphasizes the region’s industrial heritage while at the same time brings to life new cultural amenities. “They used these old coal and mining facilities and they’re now beautiful cultural designations.”

It’s an example from which cities such as Youngstown can benefit.

“That goes back to building on our assets,” Brachman said, citing a tour of industrial sites she took just that morning. “They have fantastic beauty, and Youngstown should be capitalizing on that.”

 

The following articles cover the workshop:

Vindy: German Students Propose Improvements for Youngstown

WKBN: German Students Offer Revitalization Ideas for Youngstown

Business Journal: German Students Offer Fresh Perspectives on Redevelopment

Detroit’s Rebirth: “Future City” Report offers new ideas and solutions

February 13th, 2013

By John Gardocki, Greater Ohio Policy Center Intern

“Cities are living places that require ongoing awareness and firm yet flexible approaches to decision making which acknowledge changing realities and multiple voices, leading to pragmatic and agreed-on solutions” (Detroit Future City Framework, 12).

Future City, a two year report offering short and long term solutions to restore Detroit was recently released by Detroit Works. It is the culmination of an in-depth 24 month process involving 30,000 interviews, 70,000 surveys, and hundreds of public meetings.

Below are some key statistics that demonstrate the challenges Detroit is facing and the need to come together to solve these problems.

  • 79,725 out of 350,000 units are vacant in the city of Detroit-meaning the city has an astounding vacancy rate of 22.7%
  • 700,000 people live in a city originally designed for 2 million people.
  • There is only one job for every four Detroit residents
  • A recent survey of Detroit residents revealed that nearly one-third of the respondents would leave the city within five years, citing safety as the top reason.

Four major targets are to be evaluated in 2030 that stakeholders see in their vision that will be accomplished from the framework.

By 2030, Detroit will have a stabilized population
By 2030 the city will have two or three jobs for each person living in the city
By 2030, the Detroit Metropolitan region has an integrated regional public transportation system
By 2030, Detroit will become a city for all
 

The plan outlines several strategies that should be put into place to make a permanent transformation in Detroit over the next 20 years or more. There are five major planning elements: Economic Growth, Land Use, City Systems, Neighborhoods, and Land and Building Assets built within the framework to enforce the strategies:

  • Economic Growth is intended to make Detroit’s economy more knowledge based by utilizing four economic pillars: Global Trade/Industrial, Digital/Creative, Local Entrepreneurship, and Education & Medical. The four knowledge based sectors are meant to diversify the workforce.
  • Land Use is integral to transforming Detroit by addressing four key ideas: A City of Multiple Employment Districts, A City of Connecting People to Opportunity, A Green City Where Landscapes Contribute to Health, and A City of Distinct, Attractive Neighborhoods. The city’s current footprint is too expansive to meet the current population and fiscal capacity and so it needs to be refocused to be more sustainable.
  • City Systems revises the path to sustainable systems by using three transformative ideas: Strategic Infrastructure Renewal, Landscape As 21st Century Infrastructure, and Diversified Transportation for Detroit and The Region. This element is important to the city to determine which systems are critical to remain online, discontinued, or upgraded. Financially the city cannot afford to give out these resources to areas that are not populated.
  • Neighborhood utilizes five ideas to create more choices for residents: A City of Many Assets, A City of Neighborhood Choices, A City of Different Strategies for Different Neighborhoods, A City of Diverse Housing Types for Diverse Populations, and A City of Residents Who Engage In Their Own Futures. To remain competitive and meet the demands of a 21st century city, Detroit needs to understand the needs of their many neighborhoods and the unique challenges each neighborhood may face.
  • Land and Building Assets is critical to solving Detroit’s vacancy problems which will be initiated by: A City That Shares A Vision: Coordinating the Management of Vacant Land, A City Where Everything Is Connected: Viewing Vacant and Problem Properties Within One Interrelated System, A City of Strategic Approaches: Recognizing The Uniqueness of Each Property’s Value and Challenges, A New Urban Landscape: Using Land for Infrastructure And Innovation, and a City Where Public Facility Investments Count: Aligning Public Facilities With Land Use Transportation. Detroit has numerous neighborhoods that are beset by blight and have vacant land that needs to be utilized for new uses like parks, urban farming, and commercialization. To get a handle on the declining population will mean a critical movement to alter the vacancy problem in Detroit.

The use of info-graphics and GIS data helps to showcase Detroit’s urban crises and how they are interconnected. Figuring out exactly where the problems are heavily weighted will help impact the city’s strategy.

Detroit has a wide range of economic assets that should be capitalized on to fuel economic growth. Assets include existing businesses, institutions and transportation infrastructure. (Detroit Future City Framework, 38).

This first of its kind report can be a great tool for other cities across America facing similar problems to better assess and find new and innovative solutions.

GOPC Speaks at Legacy City Event

December 27th, 2012

On December 11, 2012, Greater Ohio Policy Center’s Executive Director Lavea Brachman joined a panel of urban experts at the “Revitalizing the Legacy Cities of Upstate New York” convening.  The panel held at Syracuse University, opened the two day event, discussing shared challenges and new strategies “legacy cities” can utilize to become globally competitive, build a world class innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, and be more innovative with vacant property and land.

 Brachman stressed the importance of collaboration between legacy cities in disseminating best practices and new polices.  Brachman also spoke of the need for cities to work more regionally and convince people of the center city’s connectedness to a region’s strength.  

 For more information about the event, visit the SyracuseU Live twitter feed.

Greater Ohio Policy Center Uncovering Solutions to Commercial Vacant Property

October 19th, 2012

As part of our Healthy Properties, Rebuilding Communities Initiative, GOPC is developing state policy reforms that will assist communities in stabilizing commercial properties.  Commercial properties—strip malls, urban core buildings with retail or commercial activity on the first floor and residential space on upper floors, office buildings and other non-industrial properties—pose unique challenges for redevelopment, but are a valuable resource in a state where sparking entrepreneurialism, training and retaining the workforce, and attracting businesses are key economic development strategies.

Building on our expertise in residential property stabilization and redevelopment, Greater Ohio is now researching practices and policies that will assist communities in returning vacant commercial properties to productive use.  We are currently investigating ways to reform code enforcement statutes, hold owners accountable for neglected properties and identify ways to support the demolition or rehabilitation of vacant properties. 

GOPC is also partnering with the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF)’s  Urban Development x, to develop a Vacant Commercial Property Reuse Toolkit.  This Toolkit will support economic and community development teams and nonprofits, local and state policymakers and community groups as they work to transition vacant commercial property into productive reuse that is strategically linked to community economic development goals.  

Addressing the commercial vacant and abandoned properties challenge is an essential revitalization component for Ohio by providing key sites for economic and business redevelopment.  During the next 8 months to a year, Greater Ohio Policy Center will uncover and document solutions that lead to putting the pivotal commercial properties in our cities and communities back to use. Check our website and newsletter often for updates and reports on our research.