The Rise of Concentrated Suburban Poverty in the 21st Century

August 27th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

At the turn of the century, the sum of urban poor greatly outnumbered the sum of suburban residents living beneath the federal poverty line[i]. However, much has changed in the physical location of poverty over the last decade, so much so that it may now be said that suburbs contain nearly as many high-poverty[ii] tracts as cities, and almost half of all of the metro area poor population living in high-poverty tracts live in suburbs. These neighborhoods have the potential to become areas of concentrated poverty in due time, which is why there is a need for them to be closely monitored. Suburbs face an uphill battle in combating this unforeseen problem, as they are ill-equipped and unprepared for this growing issue.

The most challenging aspect of this revision in demographic trends lies in the distribution of poverty, which has been marked by intermittent clusters of poor in the display of distressed neighborhoods[iii]. As documented in the American Community Survey, the concentrated poverty rate (the share of poor residents living in distressed tracts) had jumped from 9.1% in 2000 to 12.2% from 2008-2012.

 

Although concentrated poverty is still higher in urban areas, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in tracts of concentrated poverty between 2000 and 2008-12.

Although concentrated poverty is still higher in urban areas, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in tracts of concentrated poverty between 2000 and 2008-12.

 

Impoverished neighborhoods provide residents with fewer opportunities and more hardships, so that locals become entrapped in an endless cycle of poverty, making it near impossible to escape. This, of course, has serious implications on the larger regions encompassing these run-down communities, as it becomes more difficult to promote growth in metropolitan areas when poverty proves to be a consistent issue. In order to more effectively tackle this growing issue, there is a need for more integrated and cross-cutting approaches.

 

Pic 2

Pic 3

There have, however, been some positive demographic trends in the last decade or so, such as the increase in homeownership rates in higher-poverty tracts and the noticeable decrease in households receiving public assistance. Other demographic changes include a more diverse population living in lower-poverty neighborhoods, although white people continue to constitute a majority. On the other hand, higher-poverty neighborhoods have increasingly become integrated with white people.


Pic 4

According to data released through a recent report, the Toledo Metro Area appears to have the highest percentage of the poor population living in high-poverty and distressed neighborhoods in Ohio. It is ranked 3rd out of the 100 largest metro areas in the nation for its share of poor living in distressed neighborhoods (poverty rates of 40% or higher).

To search for more statistics on other Ohio metro areas, visit this interactive feature in the Brookings report, “The Growth and Spread of Concentrated Poverty, 2000 to 2008-2012″ by Elizabeth Kneebone.
[i] In 2012, the federal poverty line was defined as an income of $23,492 for a family of four.

[ii] High-poverty neighborhoods: at least 20% of residents are poor

[iii] Distressed neighborhoods: at least 40% of residents live below the poverty line

Leadership in the Queen City: Lessons from Cincinnati

August 11th, 2014

By Alison D. Goebel, Associate Director

As part of Leadership Ohio’s Class of 2014, I have been spending one weekend a month in a different Ohio city meeting local leaders and learning about the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the state.  I have participated in a team-building retreat in Oberlin, learned about state government in Columbus, and explored Ohio’s role in early American history in Marietta (you can read my thoughts on our Marietta trip here).

This month’s Leadership Ohio Class was held in Cincinnati and focused on sustainability and economic development.

View from the Observation Deck of the Carew Tower in Downtown.  Over the Rhine is in the foreground and the Uptown neighborhoods of Clifton and Avondale on the hill.

View from the Observation Deck of the Carew Tower in Downtown. Over the Rhine is in the foreground and the Uptown neighborhoods of Clifton and Avondale on the hill.

I have always had soft spot for the Queen City, but the leaders we met and the projects we saw underway bowled me over.   Some lessons I learned from the weekend:

  • Sustainability Conserves Financial Resources: Cincinnati Zoo is the “greenest” zoo in the nation.  While environmental stewardship is a natural interest of the Zoo, their work is also motivated by economics.  The Zoo has experienced a net savings of over $2 million through infrastructure modernizations, such as using pervious pavement and roofs with plants.  Sitting on the top of one of Cincinnati’s many hills, the Zoo now annually diverts over 18 million gallons of water from the city’s wastewater sewers by reducing unnecessary consumption and capturing rain runoff for reuse on the grounds.
  • Transportation Options Appeal to All Sorts of Unexpected People: My husband joined me for an extra night in Cincinnati and we stayed across the river in Covington, KY, because all the rooms in downtown Cincinnati had been booked by country western fans attending a large concert at the Great American Ballpark. (An aside: on principle, we always try to keep our sales tax and bed tax dollars in Ohio, but couldn’t this particular night.)  We took a $1 trolley from Covington to Fountain Square in the heart of downtown Cincinnati.  Joining us on the Trolley were several middle aged couples who were clearly tourists and cowboy booted concertgoers who were running late for their show.  Other riders included a few workers who were getting off their restaurant or hotel shifts and a teenager.  Yes, our late night return trip to Kentucky had its share of inebriated yuppies (perhaps the epitome of ‘choice riders’ of public transit), but the Trolley also had more cowboy booted concertgoers whose farming pickup trucks were parked at our hotel.  Given transportation options, people will take them; public transportation is not an either/or choice.
  • Cross-Sector Collaboration Produces Quality Places that Attract Outside Investment: There is palpable excitement and energy around the major projects underway in the Queen City, namely the ongoing revitalization of the central business district around Fountain Square, and the rebirth of The Banks, Over the Rhine, and the Uptown neighborhoods.
Cincinnati Street Car rails. I speak as an individual, not as a GOPC staffer, when I say I am really excited about the Streetcar.

Cincinnati Street Car rails. I speak as an individual, not as a GOPC staffer, when I say I am really excited about the Streetcar.

Free concert at Fountain Square on Saturday night.  Several hundred people danced to the music while the bars and restaurants surrounding the Square were packed with locals and tourists enjoying the weekend.

Free concert at Fountain Square on Saturday night. Several hundred people danced to the music while the bars and restaurants surrounding the Square were packed with locals and tourists enjoying the weekend.

I met one local leader who now runs a venture capital firm in Cincinnati—he was from Manhattan originally and had been smitten by the city 6 years ago.  Part of his current job is to attract other entrepreneurs and small business owners to locate and stay in Cincinnati.  It sounds like it’s working.

None of the projects underway in Cincinnati—physical or business development—could happen at the scale that they are without significant coordination and collaboration among the private, public, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors.  Cincinnati is still a recovering legacy city and continues to face significant challenges.  But the vision the City has for itself and the steadfast way it is executing this vision demonstrates the outsized gains a community can make when all major institutions are “rowing in the same direction.”

Like many legacy cities, Cincinnati has faced and continues to face serious challenges.  However, my trip to Cincinnati convinced me that the initiatives underway are strengthening the city’s role in restoring prosperity to the region and are significantly contributing to the state’s overall economic future.

 

Reinventing Mansfield

August 4th, 2014

Guest post by Jennifer Kime

Concert

The revitalization challenges in downtown Mansfield are not unlike those of other mid-sized Legacy Cities where the struggle for right-sizing and redevelopment has been a harsh reality for decades.  While we have watched population, median income and property values plummet; we have only grown stronger in our resilience and commitment to a better future for our community. The process of reinventing our economic strategies here is unique in that it joins together commercial districts and neighborhoods where the programs and projects work together for the mutual benefit of the regional population, of which Mansfield is the urban center.

This community wide approach has allowed us greater flexibility and has enabled us to blossom in our revitalization years ahead of what we thought was possible. Because of our community’s size and lack of economic advantages available to larger cities, we began losing businesses and industry well before it was notable on the national scale. In fact, by the time the mortgage crisis hit, our business and retail environment had already been struggling for years, couple that with the manufacturing loss that we sustained with the closing of our GM plant and the loss of total income and resources to our community was nothing short of devastating. To many, it seemed impossible that we could come back from that loss and transition our economic fabric into a community with a downtown that is not only surviving, but is authentic, lively and thriving.

While the overall approach is multi-tiered, some of that success has been due to intense and relentless marketing and promotions, including entertainment programming aimed at showcasing the restoration of our built environment. The tipping point of community redevelopment is arguably the point at which the general public begins to believe that change is not only possible, but it is happening. The only way to change the stubborn, ingrained negative perceptions that flourish within the population of rust belt communities is to show them first hand. Through a combination of property tours (vacant, for rent, rented), shop hops, neighborhood block parties, car shows, farmers markets and free concerts, we bring thousands of people downtown each month. Those activities have spurred development interest from several new property developers, business owners, employees and mostly, the public, who are now coming to downtown for the first time to shop and dine.

While promotions and place-making are sometimes seen as the feel good neighbors of tax credits and fiscal incentives, their impact is real and tangible. When done correctly and sustainably, they create new businesses, new jobs and they retain the very community fabric that is at stake when the supply and demand of a region are not in our favor. It’s happening right now in Mansfield, Ohio.

For more information on the impact of the programs of Downtown Mansfield, Inc., see these recent news articles:

Downtown after dark: nightlife thriving” by Chike Erokwu for the Mansfield News Journal on Aug. 3, 2014

Final Friday Concert Series a raging success, spurs economic growth” by Emily Dech for the Richland Source on July 25, 2014

About the Author:

Jennifer Kime is the Executive Director of Downtown Mansfield, Inc. Currently, Jennifer’s main focus areas are in long term planning, preservation based planning, new program and project development and community development for the downtown and near downtown neighborhoods of Mansfield, Ohio.

www.downtownmansfield.com

www.facebook.com/downtownmansfield

GOPC Travels to Youngstown

July 30th, 2014

Yesterday, GOPC’s Lavea Brachman and Marianne Eppig traveled to Youngstown to meet with some of the organizations and people working to revitalize the inner city. Since we were last there, things have been consistently improving. People are excited about the downtown. Businesses and institutions are opening their doors in gorgeous historic buildings. A renewed sense of energy and purpose abounds.

Here are some of the photos we took along the way, showing a beautiful city:

YNDC

Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) Executive Director Ian Beniston shows GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman around Iron Roots Urban Farm, which is adjacent to YNDC’s new facility.

YNDC

The goals of Iron Roots Urban Farm are to expand YNDC’s capability to train city residents in economically viable market gardening techniques, encourage business creation on vacant land, develop and incubate successful microenterprises.

CityScape's Map

Youngstown CityScape Executive Director Sharon Letson shows Lavea Brachman a map of Youngstown, talking about plans for the area.

Coffee Shop in Youngstown

New local businesses are opening their doors in downtown Youngstown, like this specialty coffee cafe.

We look forward to returning to Youngstown soon!

 

Ohio Cities: Stabilize the Population Outflux by Attracting & Retaining the Millennial Generation

July 23rd, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Between the years 1970 and 2013, the city of Cleveland lost almost half of its population. In fact, most cities in the region have also witnessed a decline in population. However, this recent trend seems to have less to do with the location and more to do with the layout of these cities. The most evident reason for this rapid decline may point to the fact that young, educated Millennials favor core cities, as opposed to sprawling communities.

According to research conducted by the Pew Institute and Urban Land Institute, Millennials are driving less than previous generations. However, the Millennials are not alone in this recent trend, as the Baby Boomers are also eager to take advantage of urban amenities and walkable communities. A key component to attracting Millennials to cities is the availability and quality of transportation options. According to a recent survey, “55% of Millennials have a preference to live close to transit” (Yung). With more than half of those polled in favor of such an option, it is obvious that the demand for a multimodal city is real.

One of the most compelling arguments supporting this growing rejection of a car-dependent society points heavily at the financial strain induced by the costly upkeep of a car. With gas prices rising and car loans becoming harder to obtain, and as Millennials find themselves buried in a heap of college debt, owning a car no longer seems to be practical. For this reason, many are shifting to urban areas, where there are multiple transportation options and where almost everything that could be wanted or needed is only a short distance away.

Population of Ohio's Cities Millennial Population in Ohio Cities Millennial Percentage of Population in Ohio Cities

For the graphs above, Millennials were defined as being born between 1981 and 2000.

In Ohio, we need to do more to take advantage of these trends and to continue attracting and retaining populations that are interested in urban living in order to strengthen the economies of these cities and their surrounding regions. Some of Ohio’s cities are seeing more positive trends–attracting a greater percentage of Millennials–but in the context of ongoing population shrinkage in all of our major cities except Columbus, it is clear that Ohio’s work is not done. The state’s ability to leverage market demand for inner city living and further incentivize—and remove legislative barriers to—infill development within its cities will help determine Ohio’s future prosperity.

For more information about these national demographic trends, take a look at these articles:

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.

 

13 Strategies for Rust Belt Cities

June 5th, 2014

By Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Rust Belt cities—like Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Warren, Youngstown, and Buffalo—have some of the most pernicious challenges facing urban areas today. Concentrated poverty, aging infrastructure, population and industry loss, swaths of vacant properties, and decades of underinvestment are just some of the issues confronting these cities. And yet, now more than ever before, these cities have an opportunity to attract new populations who crave vibrant places with character.

The question is, how do these cities strategically invest in their assets and tackle their obstacles to benefit from this renewed interest in urban living? How can they become great again?

As a graduate student in the City and Regional Planning program at OSU’s Knowlton School of Architecture, I started a yearlong independent study to attempt to answer these questions and to innovate solutions to Rust Belt city challenges. Twelve other masters students in the City and Regional Planning program signed up for the course, and together we spent the 2011-2012 academic year researching, brainstorming, and writing about potential solutions for the Rust Belt. As part of our research, we visited Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Detroit, and Flint during our Spring Break and spent time talking to local leaders and learning from grassroots efforts. By the end of the year, we created a publication compiling our articles on our individual topics and solutions.

The publication that we created is titled 13 Strategies for Rust Belt Cities, and you can download it for free here:

Each article in the publication presents an innovative strategy to address a Rust Belt challenge, such as:

  • Tax code to reduce the number of inner city vacant lots,
  • Chaos planning to bring life into urban cores,
  • Multi-lingual signage to accommodate diverse populations,
  • Policy to protect the Great Lakes,
  • Reuse of abandoned rail lines,
  • Free rent to incentivize migration back into the city, and much more.

Together, these articles paint a vision for what the Rust Belt could be within our lifetimes. By promulgating these ideas, we hope to contribute to the conversation about how to implement strategies for addressing the region’s obstacles and providing avenues to revitalization.

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.