GOPC Releases Study on Ohio’s County Land Banks

May 15th, 2015

GOPC releases its latest report, “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies.”

ReportCover

As of April 2015, Ohio had twenty-two county land banks in operation, which have revitalized hundreds of buildings, including residential homes, skyscrapers, historic theaters, and vacant factories, and have demolished over 15,000 blighted structures.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center’s latest report, “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies,” utilizes interviews, conference presentations, media coverage, and land bank documents to assess the current state of land banking in Ohio.  Through its research, GOPC places land banks in the larger context of community revitalization and highlights promising county land bank programs that have the potential to greatly contribute to sustainable economic and community redevelopment throughout Ohio.

GOPC found that each of Ohio’s 22 county land banks is tailored to their local circumstances, although most have shaped their missions to include the broad goals of:

  1. stabilizing and strengthening markets—particularly residential neighborhoods—to prevent further decline, and
  2. clearing a path for private sector re-engagement by lowering barriers through incentives, support, and resources.

Through the study, GOPC identified changes in local practices and state level policies that would further increase land banks’ effectiveness.  Recommended changes in state level policies include:

  • give counties the option to forgo holding forfeited land sales in cases in which properties on this list are more of a liability than asset
  • require county auditors to assess the condition and quality of properties at the same time they are assessed for value
  • provide immunity to trespassing charges to county land bank officials who enter blighted properties

 While Ohio’s county land banks are still early in their development, and many have yet to implement all the tools available to them, “Taking Stock of Ohio’s County Land Banks” concludes that land banks are having impact in their communities and hold great promise for the future.

For more information and a copy of this report please visit “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practice and Promising Strategies.”

 

Managing Distressed Properties at Wells Fargo Community Development

May 1st, 2015

Guest post by Lauren Martinez of Wells Fargo REO Community Development

In a little-known corner of Wells Fargo lives the REO (real estate owned) Community Development Team. This 30 person team, on a basic level, manages distressed properties that have gone through foreclosure while trying to find a suitable nonprofit organization or municipality to receive the properties as donations. The idea is pretty simple, but the effects of the idea create something wonderful out of (nearly) nothing.

This program began in 2009 and has grown over the past six years to donating more than 1,500 properties each year. Of course, there are some regions and states that see more donations than others, states like Florida, Maryland, and, more recently, New York. Wells Fargo operates both a large scale program that donates multiple properties at a time to organizations that have a housing-focused mission and extensive experience rehabilitating homes, as well as a smaller scale program called the Community and Urban Stabilization Program (known as CUSP). This program focuses on a wider target of non-profit organizations and places of worship that do not necessarily have a housing mission but do have the desire and ability to rehabilitate and use a distressed property for a good purpose. The underlying idea of both of these programs is to provide these non-profits and the communities that they serve with an opportunity to stabilize neighborhoods that need it.

It’s truly inspiring to see the wonderful things the nonprofits do with the properties. From vacant lots, we’ve seen community gardens and parks appear; from distressed homes we’ve seen food pantries, low income housing, non-profit office and meeting spaces take shape. The possibilities are virtually endless, and we at Wells Fargo are so proud to play a part in it. It’s no secret that the non-profits are those that put in the long hours and hard labor to put these homes and lots to good use. I often like to think of the process as growing a garden. The non-profits spend the time cultivating, watering, nurturing and weeding out what’s causing the blight. We’re providing the seed for the organizations to make something beautiful out of a less than ideal situation.

“From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.” –Aeschylus

If you’d like more information on our programs, please visit http://reo.wellsfargo.com/community.

The pictures provided below are before and after photos of a rehabilitation completed by the Trumbull County Land Bank, located in Warren, Ohio. This non-profit organization’s focus is “to help return vacant and abandoned properties in Trumbull County, Ohio, to productive use.” The house is now a “first home” for a young couple.

Pic1

Living Area Before

Pic2

Living Area After

Read the rest of this entry »

GOPC Co-Hosts Roundtable on Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets

February 4th, 2015

This Tuesday, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) co-hosted the Roundtable, “Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets: Strategies for Linking Small Business Support and Commercial Vacant Property Reuse in Ohio’s Communities” in partnership with the Ohio CDC Association and the Finance Fund. This Roundtable was part of ongoing work that GOPC will be conducting to promote the combination of small business support and commercial vacant properties in Ohio’s communities. We’ve included presentations and materials from the event below.

Introductory presentation by Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, framing the event:

Brachman introduced the discussion by demonstrating the need for further efforts to connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout Ohio.

 

Presentation by Mihailo (Mike) Temali, Founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, MN:

Temali presented the Neighborhood Development Center’s unique approach that involves training local entrepreneurs and redeveloping commercial vacant properties where their new businesses can locate.

Temali also provided the following materials:

 

Presentation by Kimberly Faison, Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives for ProsperUS in Detroit, MI:

Faison discussed how they are adopting the Neighborhood Development Center’s model in Detroit by concentrating micro-enterprise development in low-income immigrant and minority neighborhoods.

Faison also provided the following materials:

 

Overall, this Roundtable provided an opportunity to discuss the merits of this model, relevant existing programs and practices in Ohio, and efforts needed for a potential longer-term effort that would connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout the state. We look forward to engaging further in this work!

 

A Lesson in Pivoting a Legacy City from the Hamilton Mill

January 8th, 2015

Guest post by Antony Seppi, Operations Director of the Hamilton Mill in the City of Hamilton, Ohio

The “pivot,” according to Merriam-Webster is the “action of turning around a point.” The legacy cities of Ohio and other Midwest cities need to be adept at making these “pivots” for the sake of their long-term survival. Hamilton is pivoting with significant downtown revitalization strategies that will reclaim our urban core. “The Mill,” as it is affectionately known throughout Southwest Ohio, is Hamilton’s small business incubator and is just one piece of the many exciting initiatives taking place in this rustbelt community. Our City’s Economic Development Department has been recognized on several fronts and the pieces are in place to carry the momentum forward. This is all after being dealt several crippling blows in the early 2010’s that included the shuddering of two paper mills, the loss of a major downtown employer, and the after effects of the Great Recession. This is all happening in a legacy city that was built on manufacturing – automotive, beverage, paper, and steel.

In July of 2014, the new and improved Hamilton Mill was unveiled. A new era of business incubation is taking place at The Hamilton Mill, which is conveniently located between Cincinnati and Dayton in the city of Hamilton, Ohio. We are Southwestern Ohio’s only small business incubator dedicated to green, clean, water, digital and advanced manufacturing technologies. We are leveraging the extremely progressive City of Hamilton utilities department that delivers gas, water, electric, waste treatment, and broadband services to our residents and businesses. The municipally provided utilities will be 75%-80% renewable energy when the Meldahl Hydroelectric project comes on-line in 2015. This revolutionary change is taking place now.

The Kauffman Foundation, one of the leading organizations promoting entrepreneurship and small business, has determined that younger firms are the job creators, and The Mill will be an important part of that going forward. We have succeeded in developing significant collaborations with organizations that share our passion for transforming the region’s innovation landscape. It is a formula that has proven itself countless times, and it is a valued principal that has come to define us, as well as the advancement of the region’s start-up community.

We are not new to the game, just more engaged with the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and the needs of Southwest Ohio. The incubator has served Butler County and Southwest Ohio since 2003 and will continue to provide a home to high growth startups that are building things, specifically around manufacturing, clean technology, and digital applications. Below are some key metrics and awards that we have been recognized for since we began our relaunch initiative one year ago.

Mill-Stats

As you can see, our mindset at The Mill is all about innovation and making the swift, key pivots that are required from organizations to be successful. The Mill, in and of itself, is a start-up – just like the start-ups that we are mentoring and recruiting to be part of our journey.

Mill-Award1

Mill-Award2

GOPC Participates in Conferences on Community Revitalization

November 3rd, 2014

GOPC has been keeping busy! Want to find out what we’ve been up to? Take a look at the events GOPC has been participating in:

CEOs for Cities

CEOs for Cities National Meeting
Nashville, Tennessee
November 4-6, 2014

Our Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, attended the CEOs for Cities National Meeting in Nashville this year. The meeting convened leaders from around the globe to learn the smartest ways to measure, benchmark and catalyze city progress, exchange best practices for cross-sector collaboration, and explore the smartest ideas for reaping dividends through targeted, measurable investments in economic growth and opportunity.

Participants explored what the city of Nashville has to offer. CEOs for Cities has also announced they will be releasing City Vitals 3.0 at the meeting. There are still a few slots open, so visit the website and register today to see what these city leaders have to say.

 

Ohio Housing Conference

Ohio Housing Conference
Columbus, Ohio
November 4-6, 2014

GOPC’s Associate Director, Alison Goebel, presented at this year’s Ohio Housing Conference, “United for Ohio’s Communities.” This meeting celebrated the impact that the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s and Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing’s common mission of providing decent affordable housing has had on Ohio’s residents, communities and economy. Those who attended were able to converse with over 1,600 peers who are passionate about affordable housing and engage in over 50 sessions and workshops.

Alison’s first presentation, titled “Effective Partnerships: From Demolition to Development,” is included below:

Panel Description: This session will discuss a broad range of vacant property issues including how demolition funding is used by land banks to assist cities/towns to strategically target blight, and assist developers in effective redevelopment and long-term community stabilization. Who are the players and partners, (perhaps some you haven’t thought of) that can help? What are the roadblocks facing efforts to combat vacancy and blight? How can we develop partnerships to make the most impact from limited funding resources across the board – from demolition to development?

The panel also included:

  • Carlie J. Boos, Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA)
  • John Habat, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
  • Aaron K. Sorrell, City of Dayton

GOPC also presented on the “Legacy Cities” panel and gave the following presentation:

Panel Description: An overview of revitalization and preservation of the social aspects of neighborhoods including retail recruitment, public space, amenities for residents and priorities for pedestrians including bicycles and walkable neighborhoods.

The panel also featured:

  • Margo Warminski, Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA)
  • Daniel J. Hammel, University of Toledo

 

Habitat

Habitat for Humanity of Ohio Conference
Columbus, Ohio
November 11-12, 2014

Alison Goebel presented at this year’s Habitat for Humanity of Ohio Conference on a panel titled “County Land Banks: Opportunities for Partnership in Neighborhood Revitalization” on November 12th. This session described what county land banks do in Ohio and how they operate. Then, panelists representing two different Habitat affiliates and a county land bank discussed how partnerships among land banks and non-profits can mutually benefit each organization and highlighted strategies and models that can be replicated in other communities.

Other panelists included:

  • John Habat, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
  • Amy Hamrick, Richland County Land Bank
  • Dawn Stutz, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati

 

Expanding Transit Options: Lessons from the Nation’s Capital

November 3rd, 2014

By Nicholas J. Blaine, Project Coordinator

Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a roundtable on behalf of Greater Ohio Policy Center. To get from the airport to the city, I opted to use public transit in lieu of renting a car or taking a taxi. The transit system in D.C. is excellent, offering a host of buses, light rail, and bike lanes. While I was traveling, I began to think about what Ohio’s cities would need to offer a similar array of transit options.

City Populations:
Columbus 822,553
Washington D.C. 646,449
Cleveland 390,113
Cincinnati 297,517
Toledo 282,313
Dayton 143,355

Source: U.S. Census 2013 Population Estimates

A lot of it likely comes down to population dynamics. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Washington D.C. has a population of 646,449, which swells daily due to the influx of workers and travelers to the city. Ohio’s major metros have similar populations and growing demand within their urban areas for transportation options. Additionally, D.C. and Ohio’s legacy cities face similar challenges and opportunities when it comes to creating bike friendly communities.

Once I made it to the National Mall, it was clear that biking was a popular mode of transportation in D.C. With 1,100 bikes in city’s bike sharing system and an increasing number of cyclists, Washington D.C. launched a Downtown Bike Lane Pilot Project to create separate bike lanes throughout the city’s core. Incorporating bike lanes into city and transportation corridor planning is a strategy that Ohio cities of any size can employ. As part of this project, Washington D.C. will install 14 miles of bike lanes, three miles of shared lanes, and two miles of off-street bike paths during 2014.

Pedestrian path in DC

The city’s efforts are in large part no different than those in any Ohio city seeking to expand bicycle ridership, which likely means the impact is replicable. By counting the number of riders observed on the streets, the District Department of Transportation determined in most cases that adding bike lanes more than doubles the number of riders. This, in turn, reduces the amount of traffic in other modes, such as cars.

With recently implemented bike sharing programs in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, it is clear that Ohioans have an appetite for commuting by bicycle. As Washington D.C.’s bike lane expansion demonstrates, if you build it, they will ride.

Bike path in DC

 

 

GOPC Invites Panel Proposals for its June 2015 Summit on Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio

October 20th, 2014

GOPC 2015 Summit

Deadline for Letters of Interest: November 14, 2014

Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: A Summit on Innovation and Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions, a Summit hosted by the Greater Ohio Policy Center on June 9-10 of 2015 at the Westin Columbus, will explore the links between neighborhood revitalization and regional growth that make economically Ohio competitive in the 21st century.

GOPC welcomes champions of sustainable development from across Ohio to participate in this Summit, creating a dialogue around both policy and practice that will set an agenda for innovation, sustainable growth, and economic prosperity in Ohio.

We invite Letters of Interest describing panels that address the role of innovation and sustainable development in city and regional revitalization and economic growth in Ohio, such as:

  • approaches to generating and supporting innovation economies in Ohio’s cities
  • strategies for metropolitan and regional sustainable development and economic growth
  • practices for vacant and abandoned property reuse and community revitalization
  • financial tools for infrastructure improvement
  • options and financing for advancing multimodal transportation
  • financial tools and partners for strengthening neighborhoods and downtowns
  • case studies of ways to address environmental and equitable development issues
  • innovative governance tools that advance sustainable development and economic growth
  • new cross-sector community and regional solutions for revitalization

Summit sessions will address a wide range of topics essential to sustainable development and economic growth in Ohio, appealing to an audience that includes civic, business, philanthropic, non-profit and political leaders, including bankers, developers, and practitioners. The Summit will highlight cutting-edge strategies and practices, new tools, effective partnerships and policy solutions that are laying the foundation for building sustainable, prosperous, innovative communities and regions in Ohio and beyond.

Format and Process for Letters of Interest

Letters of Interest (up to 500 words) should describe the panel concept and how it will contribute to the Summit. Please include a list of proposed speakers and be prepared to confirm their participation upon panel acceptance.

GOPC will work with selected participants to finalize panel topics and speakers. GOPC will notify all individuals who submit a Letter of Interest with a decision by January 2015.

Contact

Please direct any questions about the Summit or this process to gopcsummit@gmail.com. Letters of Interest should be submitted to the same address by November 14, 2014.

About Greater Ohio Policy Center

Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC), a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Columbus and operating statewide, develops and advances policies and practices that value our urban cores and metropolitan regions as economic drivers and preserve Ohio’s open space and farmland. Through education, research, and outreach, GOPC strives to create a political and policy climate receptive to new economic and governmental structures that advance sustainable development and economic growth.

 

Brachman Presents on Building an Innovation Economy in America’s Legacy Cities

October 15th, 2014

InnovationCity

Last week, GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman presented at the Innovation and the City colloquium in Boston. The event convened scholars, policy makers, and practitioners to discuss the strategies, opportunities and drawbacks associated with innovation-based urban economic development.

Her panel, titled “Building an Innovation Economy in America’s Legacy Cities,” included:

  • Moderator: Mark Coticchia, Chief Innovation Officer, Henry Ford Innovation Institute, Detroit
  • Dean Amhaus, President and CEO, The Water Council, Milwaukee
  • Cathy Belk, COO, Jumpstart, Inc., Cleveland
  • Benjamin S. Kennedy, The Kresge Foundation, Detroit

Take a look at some of the tweets about Lavea’s presentation:

 ·  Oct 8

Legacy cities can be more competitive by innovating regionally says conference

 ·  Oct 8

thinks of the new economy in a broad way, from immigrant entrepreneurs in Dayton to high-tech

 ·  Oct 8

: transformation requires meeting places where they are–not every city will have a high revolution

Innovation and the City was hosted by The Venture Café Foundation, the non-profit sister organization of the Cambridge Innovation Center. The mission of the Venture Café Foundation has three key elements: to build and connect communities of innovation, to expand the definition of innovation and entrepreneurship, and to build a more inclusive innovation economy.

 

Economic Recovery in Southwest Ohio’s Clinton County

September 8th, 2014

Guest post by Christian Schock, Executive Director of Clinton County Regional Planning Commission

Clinton County RPC wins the APA Award

Last year, the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission and their non-profit arm Energize Clinton County won a National Planning Achievement Award from the American Planning Association.

Like much of Ohio and the nation, an economic recovery has been ongoing in Clinton County and Wilmington in southwest Ohio. This is especially poignant locally, following the dramatic economic disaster of DHL’s departure from the Wilmington Air Park in 2008. While there have been many successes locally in job creation, corporate attraction and expansion of businesses at the Air Park, another key story has also been the re-appreciation of local businesses and revaluing of local assets following the disaster, and has led to new community and economic development policies and programs in Clinton County.

Last year, the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission and our non-profit arm Energize Clinton County won a National Planning Achievement Award from the American Planning Association for these policies and programs rooted in a five-part strategy focused on: local business, local food, energy, young professionals, and community visioning. Each of these areas were highlighted as observed local leakages in the economic system at the time of disaster, and by developing pragmatic programs focused on these issues, we were able to address both short-term and long-term development needs of the community. Read the rest of this entry »

YNDC’s New Small Business Loans

September 5th, 2014

By Octavious Singleton, GOPC Intern

Photo of small business support at YNDC by Marianne Eppig

Photo of small business support at YNDC by Marianne Eppig

The Youngstown Neighborhood and Development Corporation (YNDC) is promoting growth in Youngstown, Ohio by supporting local businesses. The non-profit will grant equipment loans ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to companies whose applications are approved. While any type of business can apply, the criteria they must meet include: 1) the company must be located in the city, 2) the owner must be a resident, and 3) the company must have five or fewer employees. To further narrow the selection of businesses, YNDC will consider whether the owners are low-income individuals, if they are hiring, and the likelihood that the business will prosper in the future.

The loan allows the companies the opportunity to obtain needed equipment for business expansion, which should ultimately generate economic benefits in the city. YNDC is only attaching a 2% interest rate to the loans. The YNDC will also be flexible on the amount of years repayment will take. This approach is set up to ensure small companies benefit from the aid.

Selected companies will be awarded loans in November. The loans will be a pilot program to determine whether YNDC expands its mission into micro-business support. Loan applications are available in YNDC office, at 820 Canfield Road, and by emailing Liberty Merrill at lmerrill@yndc.org.

For more information on this program, visit YNDC’s website.

See also: “YNDC Taking Applications for Small Business Loans” by Josh Medore for The Business Journal