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.

The Second Annual Economic Development 411

November 15th, 2013

The Second Annual Economic Development 411 (ED411) is designed to showcase best practices in economic development for elected officials, community leaders and business leaders in the Columbus Region.

“You are part of the reason why the Columbus Region is realizing an economic development surge and being recognized as a leader in job growth. ED411 will allow you to learn how we can work together to maintain our dynamic and growing economy.”

Friday, December 6
8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
The Ohio Union at Ohio State University
$25 per person, includes continental breakfast and lunch

Last year’s event sold out. To ensure your space, please register here.


The event will feature two acclaimed speakers:

Bruce Katz
, founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and co-author of The Metropolitan Revolution
Mark Lautman, founding director of Community Economics Lab and author of When the Boomers Bail.

ED411 will also include four breakout sessions:

  • Workforce and Talent
  • Site Preparedness
  • Economic Incentives
  • Regional Case Studies

Local and national experts will share their insights and advice on how best to move our communities forward.

For more information, including details on event parking, please visit

This program has been created by our friends at the Mid-Ohio Development Exchange, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and Columbus 2020.

Legislative Update: GOPC to Give Testimony!

October 30th, 2013

In partnership with Ohio CDC Association and a coalition of supporters, the Greater Ohio Policy Center will be testifying at the Statehouse in support of the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program on November 5th.  The bills that would create this state tax credit program (SB 149 and HB 219) have begun to receive hearings, which allows for members of the General Assembly to ask questions about the proposed program.  GOPC is excited to be a leading proponent of this legislation.

As previous newsletters have described, the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistant Program would authorize tax credits for monetary contributions invested in catalytic economic and community development projects undertaken by local governments and nonprofit corporations.

This upcoming legislative hearing would not be possible without the dozens of organizations around the state that have facilitated introductions to legislators or have voiced their support of this bill to their Senator or Representative.  To see the complete range of supporting organizations, we proudly list them on the 1-pager we “leave-behind” with stakeholders and on this webpage.  If you are interested in adding your organization to this list, please email Alison D. Goebel. Your support has been and will continue to be invaluable in moving this legislation toward passage!

Greater Ohio 2012 Accomplishments

January 18th, 2013

We are proud of the accomplishments we have made in 2012. To fill you in on what’s been going on at GOPC’s office and throughout the state in the past year, below is a list of our accomplishments within our three priority policy areas: Urban Core and Neighborhood Redevelopment, Transportation and Sustainable Growth, and Regional Governance Reform. Together, redeveloping our urban centers, expanding our transportation options, and fostering regional cooperation will contribute to smarter, more sustainable growth, improving our quality of life and economic competitiveness in Ohio.


Raising Our Statewide Profile:

  • Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute. GOPC hosted this innovative two-day forum that promoted solutions to vacant and abandoned properties. Nearly 200 local leaders from municipalities and non-profit community development organizations across the state attended.
  • Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program. The Ohio Attorney General’s office contracted with the GOPC to provide technical assistance to communities for the Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program, which supports Ohio’s communities undertaking activities to demolish abandoned and vacant residential properties.
  • Panels and Keynotes. GOPC presented on urban revitalization issues over 20 times to a variety of audiences including Ohio code enforcement officers, Cincinnati’s Foreclosure Group, Cleveland’s Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council (VAPAC), and Heritage Ohio workshop attendees.
  • In the Media. In 2012, GOPC was quoted or cited over 50 times in Ohio’s major newspapers and other publications around the country. In one article about vacant properties, The Columbus Dispatch relied heavily on data and graphs produced by GOPC.

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Common Ground, Not Battleground

December 27th, 2012

By Lavea Brachman, Executive Director, Greater Ohio Policy Center

With the aftermath of the election barely behind us and the so-called “fiscal cliff” looming, political polarization seems unabated.  But beneath the surface and beyond the drama of the national election in “battleground Ohio,” Ohio is less divided in ways that matter to economic progress.  As a bipartisan state policy organization, we are privileged to observe the similarities of governing and good policies among policymakers of both parties.

First, the urban-rural divide characterizing Ohio for decades has quietly and gradually begun to fade away.  Seven major regions in the state exist now, centered around cities. Rural places are increasingly economically dependent on the urban areas and their satellites.  But benefits extend in both directions- for example, urban Columbus-ites enjoy the proximity of the Hocking Hills while those in the Appalachian region benefit from health care and spin off jobs from the city.

Second, for over a decade, policymakers have been turning these regions into the building blocks of the new economy.  Democratic and Republican governors alike embraced the concepts found in a seminal report completed in the mid-2000’s during the Taft Administration, identifying key economic regions in the state and critical industries. A regional economic development approach was initiated under Governor Strickland with now Governor Kasich working on economic redevelopment through on-the-ground regional organizations. While implementation scenarios vary, regional economic growth efforts – corresponding loosely to metropolitan regions — are starting to take hold.
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Defining a Place with Placemaking

November 9th, 2012

By John Gardocki, Greater Ohio Intern

I attended the 2012 Ohio Kentucky Indiana (OKI) Regional Conference in Columbus, Ohio on September 19. Experts from around the Midwest gave insight into how their cities and partners are striving for economic growth based around places of value during the “Economies of Place” workshop. 

Bringing back value into communities to spark economic and population growth is of key importance in the 21st century where millennials are getting into the workplace and housing market.  The baby boomers are retiring at growing rates and want to move to more urban areas where they have amenities and public places to visit. 

Strong Towns is a group that supports models for growth that allow town’s to become financially strong and resilient.  Charles Marohn, the Executive Director of Strong Towns talked about his hometown in rural Minnesota that had built a strong community with valuable areas for the town people.  High density was visible along main roadways with pedestrian amenities and a park right in the middle of the town for people to congregate.  Today, that town is mainly one story commercial buildings with parking lots for each of them.  He hopes his hometown will see the potential in putting value back into the once strong town. 

Columbus is home to a new investment into community value, the Columbus Commons project developed by Columbus Downtown Development Corporation.  Phase 1 has been completed with an urban park located in the urban core of downtown.  Phase 2 has broken ground to complete an apartment style complex along one of the busiest streets downtown.  Columbus is following New York’s example of Central Park.  The edges of the park are set to be developed just like Central Park’s edges were built up over the years that sustained high values of buildings.

The event ended with a push to bring back the placemaking education we learned to our own communities.  People from the age of 18-retirement age at the conference are making a difference in how we view our communities.  It is now my turn as a millennial to start making a difference and bring back a feeling of “place” into the Columbus community.

Greater Ohio Raises Benefits of Regionalism to Local Government Fiscal Officers

October 8th, 2012

On October 3, 2012, Greater Ohio Policy Center spoke at the Central Ohio Association of Government Accountants about the potential for service sharing among local jurisdictions and the importance of such collaboration in paving the way towards local governance reform and regional economic development.

Joined on the panel by Hugh Quill of Public Performance Partners and Steve Campbell, Director of Regional Growth Initiatives at the City of Columbus, Greater Ohio spoke to the benefits of shared services and other collaborative relationships, such as increased service delivery, lower costs and the creation of a more regional culture throughout Ohio.

Greater Ohio Policy Center strongly believes that Ohio must reduce duplication within our local government activities—in a thoughtful and strategic way.  In streamlining how local government delivers services, natural regions can form among former local competitors and excess funds can be direct back into our communities and schools.

As one important route toward sustainable statewide prosperity, reforms among local governance structures and regional approaches to economic development must occur if Ohio wants to compete in the 21st century.

GOPC, “Across the Spectrum” Think Tanks Unite Again

September 13th, 2012

Greater Ohio Policy Center is again collaborating with Center for Community Solutions and the Buckeye Institute, two other think tanks that span the political spectrum, renewing the call to examine the issue of tax expenditures, commonly known as “tax loopholes.”  Last week, the three partners issued a Press Release once again advocating for a Joint House-Senate Tax Expenditure Review Committee to examine and vet tax expenditures and subject these loopholes to “sunset revisions,” which would allow certain tax expenditures to expire after several years unless re-enacted by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor. 
“In the absence of guidelines for demonstrating effectiveness, and a schedule for periodic evaluation, these cannot be considered good public policy”, the three groups said in their Press Release.
This unique tripartite partnership began during last year’s debate over Ohio’s 2012-2013 budget, when the groups joined together to propose ways that Ohio policymakers could address the issue of tax expenditures.  This partnership attracted extensive state and national attention and spurred the highly successful “Across the Spectrum” conference, raising the level of public discourse by facilitating thoughtful discussions that avoided partisan platitudes and instead explored a range of policy solutions available to the state and nation.
GOPC and their partners commend Governor Kasich for his recent comments on the need to examine expenditures and the Ohio House of Representatives for convening a tax review committee last year.  These policymakers have brought back into public view the importance of adopting a comprehensive process for assessing Ohio’s loopholes.
Evaluating the costs and benefits of specific expenditures will ensure a transparent and defensible decision-making process.  In improving Ohio’s competitiveness and quality of life, any future expenditures—new or renewed—must have transparent criteria that ranks projects and clearly demonstrates a net benefit to tax payers.
“Our organizations often take different positions on how best to raise and allocate public resources, but we share the common goals of eliminating ineffective, counterproductive or outdated tax expenditures, and assuring that those remaining in Ohio tax law receive periodic scrutiny.”

The collaboration between Greater Ohio and their partners have already received attention by Trib Today, Salem News, the Akron Beacon Journal, and been featured on WVIZ NPR.

Resources for Investing in Ohio’s Future

July 26th, 2012

This four-page guide from the Ohio Department of Development and JobsOhio provides a description of every economic development finance tool available at the state level. These finance tools include tax credits for job creation and retention, research and development, historic preservation, and more.  There is also a loan program that aims to help small businesses grow and expand.

This catalog of resources is useful for communities that have catalytic projects that may be experiencing funding gaps. An easily accessible collection of resources available from the state can help communities identify economic and community development programs that can assist in the realization of these projects.