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/


US EPA Case Studies on Vacant Land Feature Ohio Cities

November 11th, 2015

Re-posted from Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation: 


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5 recently compiled current practices on vacant lot greening as a resource on issues of stormwater management, construction specifications, job training, property maintenance and funding. This research provides a snapshot of greening practices conducted by 11 spotlight cities including non-profit organizations, municipal offices, land banks and a sewer authority.

Spotlight cities and corresponding organizations include:

  • Baltimore, Md. – City of Baltimore, Office of Sustainability.
  • Buffalo, N.Y. – Buffalo Sewer Authority.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio – Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.
  • Cleveland, Ohio – Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
  • Detroit, Mich. – The Greening of Detroit.
  • Flint, Mich. – Genesee County Land Bank Authority.
  • Grand Rapids, Mich. – City of Grand Rapids, Economic Development Corporation.
  • Indianapolis, Ind. – Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
  • Philadelphia, Pa. – Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
  • Warren, Ohio – Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.
  • Youngstown, Ohio – Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation.

This research supports U.S. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities’ technical assistance to the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Mich., on vacant lot greening strategies. Later this year, individual cities will be speaking about their own greening programs in a series of webinars hosted by EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities. These webinars will provide current practices to other cities seeking to manage their portfolio of vacant properties.

The Detroit Story: Are there Lessons Learned in Revitalization of Ohio Cities?

October 23rd, 2015

Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of Greater Ohio Policy Center, recently published a book review on the website The National Book Review. The review, titled “Detroit was a Golden City Once – And It Can Be Again,” explores Detroit’s recent revitalization strategies and describes practices that legacy cities in Ohio could replicate.

Recrafting Vacant Properties into Assests: Panel at HeritageOhio

October 19th, 2015

By Ellen Turk, GOPC Intern

I recently attended a panel at the HeritageOhio annual conference where Alison Goebel, Associate Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center along with Doug Lewis, Painesville Assistance City Manager and Josh Harmon, President of the Ohio Code Enforcement Officials Association, discussed utilizing “Vacant Properties as Assets”.

Goebel explained that since the 1970s Ohio’s population has incrementally declined while land use for commercial purposes has remained stable. In addition to this decline, Ohioans’ demographic makeup has continued to age at a rapid rate. Vacant properties across the state have remained at about 10%, costing an estimated $15 million in city services each year with $49 million lost in taxpaying revenue. Eight cities in Ohio spent $41 million servicing vacant properties. To this end, Greater Ohio Policy Center’s guidebook, “Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities,” functions as a resource for anyone seeking to redevelop and reuse vacant properties in downtown areas of towns or cities to promote economic growth.  Motivating business people and owners to invest in downtown properties and updating them can help attract visitors and generate revenue for communities.

But how do you encourage title owners to maintain their property or business owners to invest in local downtowns?

One method described in the guidebook and implemented successfully by Painesville Assistance City Manager Doug Lewis is through passing a Vacant Properties Ordinance. In Painesville, vacant properties can be owned by a variety of titleholders, including irresponsible owners and corporations not inclined to sell or maintain. The Ordinance requires owners to submit a Vacant Properties Plan whereby proprietors who do not comply with the rules of the Ordinance and proprietors who do not file the plan on time face fines. If the property is no longer deemed vacant, 30% of the building must be used and the first floor must be utilized.

Another way to curb irresponsible property ownership is through the courts. In Cleveland, the court system has stipulated that you can conduct no business within the court until you have paid off any outstanding fines to the court. This is very useful for incentivizing owners of multiple vacant buildings with fines to sell or generate revenue on the properties. Also, a Court Community Service program ensures minor offenders are placed in the community to perform manual labor and bring properties back to building code compliance.

According to the guidebook, another essential tool is hard data demonstrating the economic effects of revitalization. Josh Harmon spoke about the importance of data as a tool to show communities the detriments of having vacant properties. Census counts recording the number of vacant properties in an area is important. Often, showing residents a vacant property can act as a drain to city resources encourages them to support Vacant Building Ordinances. In Franklin County alone the last time that vacant properties were assessed was 2006! To mitigate vacant property problems, Greater Ohio Policy Center recommends targeting resources, forming alliances in the community, and defining the most effective way to allocate funds and assets.

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.

GOPC Discusses Ohio’s Demographic Trends with Township Administrators

July 10th, 2015


Last month, Greater Ohio Policy Center’s Associate Director Alison D. Goebel presented “Ohio’s Changing Demographic and Their Impact on Townships” to the Ohio Township Administrators Network, hosted by the Ohio Townships Association.

Discussing current characteristics of Ohio’s population and where different demographic trends are headed, the presentation provided useful strategies and state-policy recommendations on how to strengthen existing communities and prepare for future needs and demands.

Administrators from around the state attended and represented a range of townships, including urban, suburban, and ex-urban townships.

The presentation 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.


Why Ohio’s business leaders want walkable downtowns

June 18th, 2015

Hundreds of American companies see unique competitive advantages to being located in a walkable downtown neighborhood. These locations are helping companies attract and retain talented workers, build their brand and corporate identity, support creative collaboration, be closer to partners, consolidate operations, and support triple-bottom line business outcomes.

Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown is a new report out today from Smart Growth America in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield and the George Washington University School of Business’ Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. The report surveys nearly 500 companies that have moved to or expanded in walkable downtowns over the past five years, as well as interviews with 45 senior-level staff at those companies. The report sheds light on why these companies chose a walkable downtown and what they looked for when making their decision.

“These companies chose a walkable downtown location to help them better compete for talent and resources,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “That tells us two things. First, that creating these kinds of places is a crucial economic development strategy for cities. And second, that companies which haven’t considered a walkable location may be at risk of falling behind.”

In addition to explaining the reasons why they moved downtown, company leaders also outlined what they looked for when choosing a new location. Many interviewees said they wanted their offices to be close to restaurants, shops, and entertainment options, and accessible by a variety of transportation options. Great office space was another important factor. A warm welcome on the part of the city, and a clean and safe environment were also influential factors when deciding where to move.

The report’s survey includes 53 companies from Ohio, including General Electric, BrownFlynn, Dakota Software, Nationwide and Deloitte. These are just some of the many companies that have moved to walkable downtowns in the state in recent years.

The full report, along with a full list of companies included in this survey and an interactive map showing where they moved, is available on Smart Growth America’s website at www.smartgrowthamerica.org/core-values.

Smart Growth America is the only national organization dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring better development to more communities nationwide. From providing more sidewalks to ensuring more homes are built near public transportation or that productive farms remain a part of our communities, smart growth helps make sure people across the nation can live in great neighborhoods. Learn more at www.smartgrowthamerica.org.

Join the kickoff event: A look at companies moving to downtowns

June 16th, 2015

Over the past five years, hundreds of companies across the United States have moved to and invested in walkable downtowns. Why did companies choose these places? And what features did they look for when picking a new location? On June 18, national non-profit Smart Growth America will release new research that seeks to answer both these questions.

“Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown” surveys nearly 500 companies that have moved to or invested in walkable downtowns over the past five years, and includes interviews with more than 40 senior-level staff at those companies. There are 53 companies in Ohio’s urban cores included in the analysis, including General Electric, BrownFlynn, Dakota Software, Nationwide and Deloitte. Ohio metropolitan areas mentioned in the report include Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo.

As part of the launch of this new research, Smart Growth America will hold a kickoff panel discussion in Washington, DC. The event will be livestreamed on the web, and you can watch it as it happens on Thursday, June 18, 2015 starting at 9:00 AM EDT. Register to join:


Joining the panel will be Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America; Paula Munger, Director of Business Line Research and Brian Dawson, Senior Managing Director and Market Leader for the Washington, DC region for Cushman & Wakefield; Michael Deemer, Executive Vice President, Business Development at the Downtown Cleveland Alliance; Mark Fisher, Vice President of Government Relations and Policy Development for the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce; Brad Lacy, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Conway, AR Chamber of Commerce; Jim Reilly, Vice President, Corporate Communications at Panasonic; and Amy Ronneberg, Chief Financial Officer at Be the Match.

The conversation in the report as well as on the panel will provide an overview of why these companies chose to move downtown, and what they looked for when considering a new location. The event will also provide ideas for cities about how they can create the kinds of places these companies seek.

Have questions for the panelists ahead of time? Tweet them to @SmartGrowthUSA or use the hashtag #CoreValues.

We hope you’ll join us for the live event on June 18.