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.

 

Last Day to Tell ODOT What Kind of Transit We Want in Ohio!

June 30th, 2014

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has designed a survey that lets you weigh in on what the state’s transit priorities should be. All Ohioans are encouraged to take the online survey by June 30, 2014 (today!).

Visit ohiotransitsurvey.com to let them know your transit preferences and please share the survey with your networks!

For more information about ODOT’s Transit Needs Study, go to www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov.

Government Growing Wild: Is Sprawl Exacerbated by Jurisdictional Fragmentation?

June 23rd, 2014

By Bryan Grady, Research Analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency

An underappreciated element of what can make a location a good place to live – or not – is the regional governance structure: the number and configuration of counties, cities, townships, and special districts that comprise a metropolitan area. Across the country, there are substantial differences worth noting. I began looking at these issues when I was an intern at Greater Ohio ten years ago and now, as a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University and a research analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), I am studying the impacts that these forces have on housing outcomes. I worked with Judd Schechtman, a land use attorney and colleague at Rutgers, on developing some preliminary findings regarding the role of fragmented local government in generating sprawl.

Maps illustrating the correlation between sprawl and government fragmentation. Darker hues represent higher values.

 

To operationalize such an amorphous topic, we employed data published in Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact, which defined sprawl as a lack of four characteristics – residential density, mixed-use development, strong economic centers, and connected streets – and computed an index that incorporated all four elements. (A newer version, based on similar methods, was published earlier this year.) With regard to measuring regional governance, we used the Metropolitan Power Diffusion Index (MPDI). In short, MPDI encapsulates both the density of governments (e.g. how many incorporated areas and districts exist for every 100,000 people) and their relative budgetary influence, with a value of 1 representing a unitary regional government and increasing values indicating more diffuse political authority. A handful of other variables were included in the work as statistical controls, including population, manufacturing employment, per capita income, and educational attainment.

A quantitative analysis across 77 regions nationwide found that fragmentation and sprawl were directly correlated with one another at a statistically significant level. This was particularly true when evaluating the residential density component of the sprawl index, as well as the economic concentration component. Why? As Judd and I wrote,

Exclusionary zoning, as practiced by small municipalities, is specifically conceived to limit residential density in order to keep home prices and tax revenues high; reduced fragmentation would seemingly reduce the incentives to maintain such policies. Similarly, every city in a fragmented metropolis attempts to leverage agglomeration effects in office space and retail to their own advantage, whereas a single municipality that dominates a region would be able to channel development into a smaller number of commercial centers.

In short, in a region where dozens of localities are left to zone with only their own constituents in mind, land use patterns that are economically and spatially suboptimal are the direct result. A more regional approach to land use planning is necessary to ensure that money and land are not wasted chasing artificially-created shortages of various types of development.

The full study is available here. If you have any questions, feel free to email Bryan Grady. Please note that any opinions herein are the author’s, not those of OHFA or the State of Ohio.

Brownfield Grants Revitalize Columbus

June 17th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

The Columbus City Council is expected to approve grant money from their Green Columbus Fund sometime this year to redevelop vacant properties in the city. The Green Columbus Fund is a reimbursement grant program with a budget of $1 million that uses financial incentives to encourage sustainable development and redevelopment. Private businesses and non-profits can apply for grants to either redevelop Brownfield sites or to build green in Columbus.

In 2011, Columbus City Council accredited the first four grants under this program, utilizing almost one-fourth of the entire fund. These grants were awarded to two LEED projects and brownfield assessment work at two sites.

Potential developers of two properties now under consideration for a portion of the grant money hope to be able to conduct site assessment work to see whether or not they should go forward with their idea to build apartments on the site. Also under examination by the Columbus City Council is the former location of an old shoe factory on Front Street where the developer of apartments hopes to use the brownfield grant for asbestos remediation and underground tank removal.

GOPC Presents on Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities

June 12th, 2014

Last Friday, on June 6th, GOPC Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, and Manager of Research and Communications, Marianne Eppig, traveled to Cleveland to present at the “Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities” conference.

Marianne moderated a panel about strategic incrementalism (a term introduced in the Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities report) and resource targeting for the revitalization of legacy city neighborhoods. She presented as part of the panel with Alan Mallach, Senior Fellow at the Center for Community Progress, and Paula Boggs Muething, VP of Community Revitalization & General Counsel at the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. Her presentation is included below:

Click the image above to view the presentation.

Lavea was a plenary panelist with Dr. Clement Price, an expert on African American history, Councilman Jeffrey Johnson of Cleveland’s Ward 10, and Emilie Evans of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Lavea presented on an integrated approach to stabilization and holistic preservation. Her presentation is below:

Click the image above to view the presentation.

In advance of the conference, Nicholas Emenhiser, an AmeriCorps Local History Corps volunteer for the Cleveland Restoration Society who was helping to organize the conference, asked Marianne a few questions about historic preservation in legacy cities.

Read on for the Q&A:

  1. How is revitalization different in larger Legacy Cities as opposed to smaller Legacy Cities?

Whether a city is large or small, access to and availability of resources is a key factor in revitalization. Just as important, the scale of vacancy and abandonment is a determining factor. That’s why we see such different outcomes between cities even when they are similar sizes, like Pittsburgh and Detroit. For cities of all sizes, revitalization requires a strategic, targeted approach to maximize available resources. The panel I’ll be on (“Strategic Incrementalism & Resource Targeting for the Revitalization of Legacy City Neighborhoods” on Friday at 1:30pm) will discuss how to target resources effectively to revitalize legacy city neighborhoods of all sizes.

  1. What kind of scale are we talking about with vacant and abandoned properties in Ohio? Surrounding states?

At the state level, Ohio has about 13% vacancy as of the 4th quarter of 2013. Pennsylvania also has around 13% vacancy and Michigan has around 16.5% vacancy. What may be more telling for states with legacy cities, though, may be vacancy in their major metropolitan areas. I’ve included a chart below that provides vacancy rates for counties containing major legacy cities.

Vacancy at the county level for legacy cities. Data source: US Postal Service, 2013 Q4.

  1. Are there any photos that best illustrate research and/or solutions that have come out of the Greater Ohio Policy Center?

That’s a good question. Instead of photos, I would actually point you to several of Greater Ohio’s recent reports (they include lots of images and charts!): “Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities” by Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and “Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Use and Economic Revitalization,” which I wrote with Lavea Brachman and the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. These reports provide both the theory and the practical tools for revitalizing legacy cities – and they’re both free!

Lavea and Marianne greatly enjoyed the conference and want to thank Cleveland for being a wonderful host, as always!

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.

Top Moments in Ohio: A Farewell Blog Post from Christina Cudney

June 3rd, 2014

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Being completely charmed by the historic districts and cultural assets of Dayton, Ohio, a city that deserves way more credit than it receives.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!

GOPC Endorses HB 223

May 27th, 2014

The Policy Committee of the Greater Ohio Policy Center Board of Directors recently voted to endorse HB 223 (130th GA). HB 223 would expedite the foreclosure and transfer of unoccupied, blighted parcels in cities with Housing Courts (Cleveland and Toledo) or Environmental Courts (Columbus/Franklin County).  The bill also allows for allows for property to be sold for less than 2/3 value to certified buyers in county sheriff sales.

HB 223 is sponsored by Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Representative Mike Curtin (D-Marble Cliff).

This bill has a five year sunset, effectively creating a pilot program that GOPC anticipates will demonstrate great success.

GOPC’s Policy Committee has endorsed this bill because many communities continue to struggle to mitigate the impact of blighted properties in their neighborhoods.  Providing a framework to shorten the foreclosure timeline will help move properties from “limbo” to responsible end users.  In particular, the ability to buy property at less than 2/3 value at sheriff sales, acknowledges the value of sweat equity in turning around neighborhoods and provides a pathway for interested parties to buy and renovate properties for owner occupancy.

For more information on GOPC’s endorsement, please contact Alison D Goebel, Associate Director at agoebel@greaterohio.org.

GOPC Co-hosts Roundtable on Regenerating Legacy Cities

May 21st, 2014

Mayors from post-industrial cities in the Northeast and Midwest have convened at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy today in Boston to begin a two-day workshop in strategies for revitalization.

The chief executives in attendance are Toledo, Ohio, Mayor Michael Collins; Gary, Ind., Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; Syracuse, New York Mayor Stephanie Miner; Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto (who was featured in a recent article on innovative practices in cities in The American Prospect); Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley; and Huntington, West Va. Mayor Steve Williams.

The Roundtable on Regenerating Legacy Cities, organized by the Lincoln Institute, the Center for Community Progress, and the Greater Ohio Policy Center, also includes public and private sector practitioners, foundation leaders, and scholars. Alan Mallach, a leading authority on Legacy Cities, will be joined by Tamar Shapiro, president and CEO of the Center for Community Progress, and Lavea Brachman, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center. Brachman and Mallach were co-authors of the Lincoln Institute Policy Focus report Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, which recommends the approach of “strategic incrementalism” for cities wrestling with job and population loss.

The Roundtable is set to be an open, pragmatic conversation about strategies to foster sustained revitalization of our nation’s older industrial cities. The dialogue centers on three central themes: fostering neighborhood change and revitalization; building effective community and anchor institution partnerships; and building effective regional strategies for economic development. Participants will learn from experts and each other, and return home with new ideas, strategies and insights.

The conference began on the evening of May 20 with a presentation by Xavier De Souza Briggs, Vice President of Economic Opportunity and Assets, at the Ford Foundation. The next day begins with a workshop led by Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis, and currently director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. Providing high-quality education and research, the Lincoln Institute strives to improve public dialogue and decisions about land policy. Lincoln Institute on Twitter: @landpolicy Hashtag #LegacyCities

GOPC’s Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, and Associate Director, Alison Goebel, will both be presenting and are providing live coverage of the event on our @GreaterOhio Twitter account.

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.