By Christina Cudney, Project Coordinator at GOPC
When I first learned I’d be moving to Ohio I thought, “Ohio?! What does Ohio have other than cornfields?” The only Ohio city I had ever done more than pass through was Boardman, where my family used to drive from across the Pennsylvania border to eat at the Olive Garden some Sunday afternoons (hardly a notable Ohio experience). I had no idea that 7 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas were located in the Buckeye state, each full of its own rich history, unique personality, and will for economic recovery. The following 14 months were filled with lessons of rust belt regeneration and – despite the longest winter of my life – many positive memories, a few of which I’ll share with you in brief.
It’s hard to choose a favorite memory, but the moments that top the charts would be:
- Interviewing members of our Weinland Park Advisory Committee, particularly Susan Colbert at OSU Extension and Isabel Toth at Community Properties of Ohio. While many organizations are doing truly inspirational work empowering low-income families across Ohio, the passion and creativity of leaders in those two organizations will particularly stick with me.
- Meeting the unforgettable Robb Hankins, who presented at our Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties conference about the creative work Arts in Stark is doing to revitalize downtown Canton.
- Going on a self-guided walking tour on my first-ever trip to Detroit, prepared off the cuff by the one-and-only Alan Mallach.
- Being completely charmed by the historic districts and cultural assets of Dayton, Ohio, a city that deserves way more credit than it receives.
- Gaining an entirely new vocabulary related to foreclosures, bank walkaways, housing stock, land banks, demolition, and property acquisition as I worked with community leaders who regularly identify new and exciting approaches to leverage vacant properties as assets.
- Visiting the beautiful statehouse to watch colleagues give testimony for the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program and coming to understand that a vast amount of policy never makes it to the morning news, but nonetheless has impacts on our day-to-day lives in ways we may not even realize. That is why it is critical that there are advocates and research institutions ensuring that policy does not have unintended negative impacts.
- Getting a tour from Jeff Raig of Slavic Village in Cleveland, a neighborhood that was once the poster child of the foreclosure crisis, but that is demonstrating resilience on its way to stability. It’s encouraging to see private, public, and nonprofit sector partners come together to think outside of the box and eradicate blight.
- And, while not a part of my professional life, hiking at the beautiful Hocking Hills. An experience every Ohio resident should regularly take advantage of.
I love cities. It’s been exciting to play a small role as a researcher on the revitalization of Ohio cities. I’ve learned a lot at Greater Ohio Policy Center and am sincerely disappointed my time in Columbus has been as short as it has been. I look forward to carrying the lessons to my new home in Morgantown, West Virginia and who knows, maybe one day I will be back!
Christina’s last day at GOPC is this Friday, June 6th. She will be missed!