Land Banks: Tools for Community Revitalization

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As of April 2015, Ohio had twenty-two county land banks in operation, which have revitalized hundreds of buildings, including residential homes, skyscrapers, historic theaters, and vacant factories, and have demolished over 15,000 blighted structures.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center’s latest report, “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies,” places land banks in the larger context of community revitalization and highlights promising county land bank programs that have the potential to greatly contribute to sustainable economic and community redevelopment throughout Ohio. Continue reading

Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland 2.0

Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland is an initiative that started in 2008 as a pilot program for vacant land reuse. Neighborhood groups, churches, schools and individuals could apply for funding and technical assistance to transform a vacant lot from the Cuyahoga County Land Bank into a community garden, a pocket park, a phytoremediation site, an urban farm, or any number of other green land uses.

In 2010, the leaders* of the initiative decided to tackle more vacancy than could be done on the individual lot level.  Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland 2.0 is a study to identify large-scale catalytic projects in the following categories that could create lasting change in Cleveland: agriculture, alternative energy, contamination remediation, land assembly, neighborhood stabilization, sustainable pattern of development, and stormwater retention.

To learn more about Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland 2.0, take a look at this presentation that was given by Freddy Collier Jr., Citywide Plan Project Manager of the Cleveland City Planning Commission:

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Northeast Ohio’s Notable Nine

What is better than a “Top Ten” or a “Year in Review” list?  The Notable Nine, of course.  A whiz-bang combination of both, and yet unique in number, the Notable Nine have managed to multiple-handedly change the game in Northeast Ohio.

Without further ado, I present…

The Notable Nine

9.  Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Action and Resources Guide: In the second year of its decade-long endeavor, this mayor-led initiative has published a report on how to move forward.

8.  The Restoring Prosperity Report: A collaborative effort between the Greater Ohio Policy Center and the Brookings Institute, this report offers policy recommendations for improving Ohio’s long-term prosperity.

7.  The Northeast Ohio Green Map: You can add sustainable organizations, initiatives and infrastructure to it too!

6.  Water|Craft Urban-Infill Vol. 3: This book by the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative’s PopUp City is jam-packed with ideas on regional water issues and new urban design approaches to tackle them.

5.  NEORSD Project Clean Lake:  No one likes Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), including the US EPA.  CSOs allow untreated sewage to go into our otherwise beautiful watershed and Great Lake.  The NEORSD is now going to do something about it.

4.  Trust for Public Land: Taking the reigns for completing the Towpath Trail and connecting it to Lake Erie, the Trust for Public Land is making it possible to build a greenway through downtown Cleveland.

3.  Flats East Bank Loan Guarantee from HUD: The redevelopment of the Flats East Bank is perhaps not so far off after all.

2.  Reimagining Greater Cleveland: The Cleveland Botanical Garden is using the $167,000 grant they received from the Great Lakes Protection Fund to help transform vacant land in Northeast Ohio into ‘green’ infrastructure.

1.  Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant and the Regional Prosperity Initiative: There’s nothing quite like getting federal dollars for sustainable community building in Northeast Ohio!

(Continue reading for Honorable Mentions and Maybe Next Times)
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“I will stay if…”

Share your ideas for a better Cleveland this Wednesday, Nov. 18th, from 5:30-8:30pm at the Speakeasy below Bier Markt (1948 W. 25th St. in Ohio City).

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The event is hosted by the Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE) and will include special presentations from:

  • Matt Zone, Ward 17 Councilman
  • Randell McShepard, Policy Bridge Board Chairman
  • Lillian Kuri, Program Director for Architecture, Urban Design and Sustainable Development at The Cleveland Foundation

For more information on the Cleveland edition of GLUE’s “I will stay if…”, click here.

Raise your voice and let the city know what it must do to keep you.

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Structural Racism and Sustainable Solutions in Detroit

Sustainability: social, environmental and economic justice.

This video shows an interview with Carl Anthony, Founder of the Earth House Leadership Center in Detroit, talking about the problems of structural racism in our urban centers.  Anthony also talks about how groups in Detroit are working to abate urban sprawl through an inner city land bank initiative similar to Cleveland’s “Reimagining a More Sustainable Cleveland” initiative and a statewide proposal for a transportation bill limiting the construction of new highways into existing farmland.  Cleveland could use a transportation bill like that.

Click “Continue Reading” to view the rest of the interview about community empowerment and using federal Stimulus dollars to re-invest in whole metropolitan regions.
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Why have urban farms?

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During a workshop for “Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland,” one of the attendees stated ardently that chickens and farms belong in the countryside, not in the city.  I understand where he’s coming from.

It would be better to have farms in the land surrounding our cities instead of pavement and seemingly endless suburbia.  But the fact of the matter is that we do have suburban sprawl, which directly influences the amount of land available for farming and the distance that food has to travel in order to get into our cities.

On top of that, many post-industrial cities like Cleveland are “food deserts.”  Meaning, because of racism and white flight from the inner city, grocery stores abandoned the city to take up post in the more affluent suburban neighborhoods.  In their place, fast food restaurants thrived because of the cheap price of processed foods.  The consequence of this is that many inner city inhabitants suffer from health problems associated with their poor diets.  But what alternatives do they really have?
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Videos from the Summit

I recently re-found this video that was shown on the first day of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit:

My mom (Ruth Eppig), my boss (Margie Flynn), and my freelance employer (Terry Schwarz of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative) all appear in this video, which I thought was pretty cool.  This was filmed by Gram Vessey, who will also be making a video of the event itself.

Here is another video, filmed by Mark Rabkin on his Flip, of my boss – Margie Flynn of BrownFlynn – speaking at the Summit.