GOPC Joins 1,000 Change Makers from Across the Country at the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in Baltimore

October 10th, 2016

By Sheldon K. Johnson, GOPC Project Manager

Last week, Greater Ohio Policy Center staff and Board of Trustee members attended the Reclaiming Vacant Properties (RVP) Conference hosted by the Center for Community Progress. The theme of the conference was “In Service of People and Place” and aimed to take a deep look at how innovative reuse of vacant properties can improve the well-being of residents and the communities where they live.

GOPC had the opportunity to learn from local case studies and best practices from around the country that will inform our work of championing revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio. We also were able to share our expertise with conference attendees. Board of Trustee member Ian Beniston, Executive Director of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC), sat on a panel about Community-Based Stabilization Efforts. He shared details about how YNDC organizes Neighborhood Action Teams to engage volunteers for vacant property clean ups.

GOPC’s former Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, spoke on a panel focused on creating state policy change to support innovative solutions to fighting blight. Brachman also joined current GOPC staff member Torey Hollingsworth to host a presentation and discussion on the report they co-authored about revitalizing small and mid-sized legacy cities. Representatives from several cities included in the study attended the presentation. Check out GOPC’s upcoming October newsletter for a more detailed summary of Hollingsworth and Brachman’s presentation. You can find the newsletter here.

In addition to a variety of informative panel sessions the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference also included several engaging plenary sessions. The second day of the conference opened with a breakfast keynote address by Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI). Rep. Kildee addressed the conference the day after Congress voted to provide $170 million in aid to address the Flint water crisis. Kildee, a Flint native, used his remarks to highlight the importance of water and sewer system upgrades (a key issue that GOPC focuses on in Ohio). He also discussed how landbanking and infrastructure investments are key to community revitalization.

dan kildee - ccp

Dan Kildee - Photo Credit: Center for Community Progress

The RVP conference closed with a keynote address from Dr. Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and author of the bestselling book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Desmond summarized the ethnographic study of low income renters and landlords in Milwaukee, WI that he wrote about in Evicted. He focused largely on the story of Arleen Beale and her two sons as they struggled to stay in safe and affordable housing. Desmond argued that Arleen’s story is representative of many people’s, and that concrete solutions for increasing affordable housing are needed.

matthew desmond - ccp

Matthew Desmond - Photo Credit: Center for Community Progress

The Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference was a great opportunity for GOPC to connect with partners doing similar work across the country and to reinforce the importance of our work. Attending conferences like these empowers our staff to be better prepared to continue advocating for and building a Greater Ohio!

 

US EPA Case Studies on Vacant Land Feature Ohio Cities

November 11th, 2015

Re-posted from Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation: 

http://yndc.org/news-media/youngstown-featured-epa-vacant-land-case-studies

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5 recently compiled current practices on vacant lot greening as a resource on issues of stormwater management, construction specifications, job training, property maintenance and funding. This research provides a snapshot of greening practices conducted by 11 spotlight cities including non-profit organizations, municipal offices, land banks and a sewer authority.

Spotlight cities and corresponding organizations include:

  • Baltimore, Md. – City of Baltimore, Office of Sustainability.
  • Buffalo, N.Y. – Buffalo Sewer Authority.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio – Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.
  • Cleveland, Ohio – Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
  • Detroit, Mich. – The Greening of Detroit.
  • Flint, Mich. – Genesee County Land Bank Authority.
  • Grand Rapids, Mich. – City of Grand Rapids, Economic Development Corporation.
  • Indianapolis, Ind. – Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
  • Philadelphia, Pa. – Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
  • Warren, Ohio – Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.
  • Youngstown, Ohio – Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation.

This research supports U.S. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities’ technical assistance to the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Mich., on vacant lot greening strategies. Later this year, individual cities will be speaking about their own greening programs in a series of webinars hosted by EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities. These webinars will provide current practices to other cities seeking to manage their portfolio of vacant properties.

GOPC participates in Roundtable on Small and Medium sized Legacy Cities

October 13th, 2015
 
By Alison Goebel, GOPC Associate Director

Last week, GOPC participated in a Roundtable on Leveraging Local Assets in Small and Medium Sized Cities, sponsored by the Center for Community Progress.  This small Roundtable brought together leaders from a number of sectors who work in Flint, Dayton, Youngstown, and Syracuse. Through a neighborhood tour, presentations, and conversations over meals, GOPC learned about cutting-edge strategies that these medium sized legacy cities implement to accelerate their revitalization and return to vibrancy.

At the beginning of the Roundtable, GOPC presented preliminary research findings generated from analysis of current conditions and trends of a number of small and medium-sized cities in the Midwest and Northeast. GOPC also described promising and innovative urban stabilization and revitalization strategies has found through collaborative research with CCP Senior Fellow Alan Mallach.  One of the most valuable components of the Roundtable was learning firsthand of incredible work underway in these four representative cities.

Flint has recently completed an amazing master plan, Imagine Flint, which includes 13 different zoning districts that acknowledge the reality of current land use and prepare the city to maximize its assets for the future.  The plan is sensitive to the current market and responds to what residents want for the future.  For example, during our neighborhood tour we visited a newly zoned site consisting of work and residential buildings.

flint1

Habitat for Humanity-Flint is helping a family rebuild a new home and retail space where people can play tabletop games, like Dungeons and Dragons.

Syracuse described a highly successful partnership between St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Care, a workforce development program, and community revitalization program.  Through St. Joseph’s leadership, the surrounding neighborhood is being revitalized, hospital employees are living in the neighborhoods, and the hospital is achieving an unprecedented retention rate among local residents who participate in the workforce program.

Dayton discussed the advantages of utilizing a non-profit, CityWide Development Corporation to direct redevelopment around key anchors in the city—including a new elementary school and a hospital.  CityWide, as the lead entity for this public-private partnership, is spearheading three major redevelopment projects that are tied to key anchor institutions.

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Downtown Flint is revitalized and populated. The Flint Weather Ball is also visible in this picture.  It turns red when the temperatures are predicted to rise and blue when the temperature is expected to go down. The night of the picture, the temperature was remaining steady and so the ball was yellow.

Roundtable participants were excited by a new strategy Youngstown is piloting, which they call micro-planning.  The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) has identified key schools, churches, and other community facilities that can potentially be a catalyst for neighborhood regrowth and YNDC is now directing its resources to the blocks that surround these smaller institutions.

The challenges these cities have faced—and the ability to master and leverage these challenges into opportunities—was inspiring and reaffirmed the resiliency and strength of these places.

flint 3

Ridgway White, CEO of the C.S.Mott Foundation was our host for the Roundtable.  Over dinner we swapped stories and received advice and suggestions from peer cities on different revitalization strategies.

GOPC Announces Finalists for the 2015 Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards

June 2nd, 2015

GOPC is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2015 Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards.

Don’t forget to join us for the Awards Ceremony, where winners will be announced, on Wednesday, June 10th from 8am-9am, which will presented as part of GOPC’s Summit: Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions. Click here to register now!

The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio. We received nominations from around the state for many worthy contenders; working with an independent advisory committee, three finalists were advanced for each of the four awards.

Public Sector Leader Award

This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Public Sector Leader Finalists:

  • Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery and Preble Counties. He is Chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Workforce. He previously served as a member of Tipp City Council, where he was Council President. In addition to his legislative duties, Beagle operates his own small business. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Miami University and earned an MBA from Cleveland State University.
  • The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transit Needs Study examined existing transit services and quantified transit changes that might be needed. Looking at travel trends and demographics, ODOT found a rising need for both urban and rural transit and developed short- and long-term strategies to bring the most efficient and cost-effective improvements to transit riders and taxpayers. In addition to the study report itself, ODOT published focused study reports and initiative papers to inform citizens and decision-makers about Ohio’s transit needs and proposed solutions.
  • Mayor Georgine Welo was first elected as mayor of South Euclid in 2003. She has spearheaded innovative community revitalization projects to transform neighborhoods hard-hit by foreclosure and vacancy. Under Mayor Welo’s leadership, South Euclid’s Green Neighborhoods Initiative used competitive grant funds and involved design students to remodeling postwar bungalows using green building techniques and universal design features. Vacant lots were transformed with the building of two “idea homes” and the creation of eight community gardens and three pocket parks, all designed to show the potential of South Euclid’s affordable bungalow housing stock and walkable community and to build neighborhood camaraderie. Since the launch of the initiative, South Euclid has attracted over $33 million in private residential investment and has been named a Top 10 Northeast Ohio Community by Keller Williams Realty.

Private Sector Champion Award Read the rest of this entry »

Greater Ohio Featured in Youngstown Workshop

March 29th, 2013

Expert panel (from left): Alan Mallach, Brookings Institution; Lavea Brachman, Greater Ohio Policy Center; Thorsten Wiechmann, TUD professor; and Ian Beniston, YNDC.

On March 28th, Greater Ohio Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, traveled to Youngstown, Ohio for the workshop “Policies and Strategies in Shrinking Cities: The Case of Youngstown, Ohio,” hosted by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) , German Marshall Fund (GMF) and Technical University of Dortmund, Germany (TUD). The workshop included site visits, an expert panel in which Brachman participated, and a presentation by the urban planning students of TUD on ideas for the regeneration of Youngstown’s riverfront and neighborhoods.

The Business Journal cited Lavea Brachman:

Lavea Brachman, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, said the city is pursuing the right course in its neighborhoods through organizations such as the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., targeting those areas that stand the best chance of turning around in the near-term.

“It’s important to look at our redevelopment strategy,” Brachman said. “One of the things we’re talking about is a master plan for certain key neighborhoods, such as Wick Park, that provides a plan for the future and some comfort for investors.”

Much of the redevelopment in the Ruhr Valley, Brachman noted, emphasizes the region’s industrial heritage while at the same time brings to life new cultural amenities. “They used these old coal and mining facilities and they’re now beautiful cultural designations.”

It’s an example from which cities such as Youngstown can benefit.

“That goes back to building on our assets,” Brachman said, citing a tour of industrial sites she took just that morning. “They have fantastic beauty, and Youngstown should be capitalizing on that.”

 

The following articles cover the workshop:

Vindy: German Students Propose Improvements for Youngstown

WKBN: German Students Offer Revitalization Ideas for Youngstown

Business Journal: German Students Offer Fresh Perspectives on Redevelopment