Webinars on How to Redevelop Commercial Vacant Properties

For those of you who weren’t able to make it for the webinar series this summer on how to redevelop commercial vacant properties and business districts in legacy cities, I’ve included the links to the archived webinars for your viewing pleasure!

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PLANNING FOR COMMERCIAL VACANT PROPERTY REUSE
This first webinar provides an overview of the first steps of any commercial revitalization process. These steps involve gaining an understanding the targeted property type and the specifics of its context, developing a plan for commercial revitalization that leverages the advantages of commercial vacant properties, and coordinating cross-sector partnerships around a framework for action. We also provide guidance on how to select an appropriate commercial vacant property reuse, maximizing the “match” between the property and its reuse.

TOOLS & STRATEGIES FOR COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE REDEVELOPMENT
The second webinar supplies tools and strategies that can be used to address the unique challenges of commercial real estate redevelopment. Additionally, strategies for motivating property owners to reuse commercial vacant properties and for gaining site control are covered. The webinar provides tools and strategies that, together, can help practitioners in a variety of contexts return commercial vacant properties to productive use.

TOOLS & STRATEGIES FOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND DISTRICT MANAGEMENT
Commercial revitalization requires the productive reuse of redeveloped spaces. This webinar lays out strategies and models for managing commercial districts in addition to specific methods for developing and attracting business tenants. Methods for developing existing businesses and attracting desirable new economic uses are described as part of implementing an overall business district management approach. The combination of commercial property redevelopment and long-term business support programs may increase the potential for successful commercial revitalization.

TOOLS FOR OVERCOMING FINANCIAL GAPS
Since the costs of commercial vacant property demolition, clean-up and redevelopment can be prohibitively high, established and creative financing sources will be necessary to undertake each of these activities in the future-especially in weaker markets and legacy cities. Various sources of capital from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, as well as how they can be used, will be described in this webinar.


I presented these webinars in partnership with Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) and the Ohio CDC Association during the Summer of 2015. In 2014, GOPC, in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. and the Center for Community Progress, released the publication Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization. Utilizing the guidebook as the basis for these webinars, each webinar featured expert panelists with on-the-ground experience in webinar subject matter.

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Mayor Coleman Calls for an Urban Agenda

As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman of Columbus gave the following remarks at the Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies Summit on June 9th:

“We need a state legislature that understands cities are economic engines, not economic drains,” Coleman said during his keynote speech at the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s summit on urban innovation and sustainable growth.

Coleman wants to see better public transit — both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He wants the state help to create more-walkable neighborhoods and fight blight, and he wants the legislature to renew a state fund to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be redeveloped.

“We’ve come to the point where we need a statewide urban agenda,” he said at the Westin Columbus hotel Downtown.

The Summit also included a plenary panel of leading mayors from across the state: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Mayor Randy Riley of Wilmington, and Mayor John McNally of Youngstown. Highlighting recent successes in their cities, the mayors struck an optimistic tone on the future of cities in Ohio and each noted the unique relationship their city had with its surrounding region and the state. Discussing challenges facing their cities—including the difficulty of blight and connecting workers to jobs and opportunity—the mayors cautioned that the state of Ohio could do more to support cities.

An urban agenda would support the revitalization of neighborhoods and cities throughout the state, help connect workers to employment centers, create vibrant communities of choice, and strengthen Ohio’s economy.

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

Graduate Students Innovate Strategies for Rust Belt Revitalization

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:

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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.

Urban Exploration

In honor of my birthday today, I thought I would give myself (and all of you!) one of my very first and very favorite blog posts from 2009. Enjoy!

Kent architecture alum, Ted Ferringer M.Arch ’08, MUD ’08, took these photos while exploring the urban outskirts of Cleveland.  His descriptions of place are coupled with the photography.

“Admiring”

Admiring

This photo is from the roof of the old Howard Johnson’s hotel at the north end of E. 55th Street, just off of I90. This photo was taken during the Labor Day weekend airshow, which some friends and I spent the afternoon watching from the roof. That roof probably has the best view in the city.

The building is currently being demo-ed, but the work has paused as the building’s owner has sued the city, who was demo-ing it through eminent domain.

A common collaborator of mine and good friend, Ryan DeBiase, embellished the day’s events in a blog post, here. It’s a work of creative non-fiction; some events are true, some are complete lies.  Granted, he still re-caped the day’s events better then I ever could.

Its pretty ironic that the demo of the building started, then stopped, and now looks like it was bombed. It seems somehow appropriate, however, that the lies of that day eventually became a sort of fact.

6611 Euclid Ave. (1) and (2)

6611 Euclid Ave.

These photos were taken during another urban exploration with my common companion for such things, Mr. DeBiase. This building intrigued us the second we saw it after moving to Cleveland. It’s located along the Euclid Corridor, and its basic story is that it used to be light industrial/warehouse space (I believe it housed a garment factory for a number of years) before eventually being abandoned.

When the Euclid Corridor project started, the front bay of the building  on the Euclid Ave. side was cut off to accommodate the wider street. For quite a while the building sat unsecured, with the entire front of the building sitting open–creating an amazing real-life building section.

6611 Euclid Ave.

Again, there seems to something inherently poetic about having to cut into the former soul of the city (a former manufacturing building)–creating a monumental scar–for progress to take place.

The RTA, which owns the building, has since covered the front of the building with giant metal panels, creating a new billboard/super graphic along the corridor, promising better times ahead. Like all things Cleveland, the potential is amazing, if perhaps forever unrealized.

I also happened to do a real estate case study for this property in a real estate class at CSU’s Levin College. This property would make an amazing technology/health care incubator site, as the shell of the building is in amazing shape, in an amazing location. It could make an incredible mixed use, TOD development.

Photos from this day’s real were just used in an article about this idea.

(Ted Ferringer lives in Ohio City and works for a local architecture firm.)

Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities

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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.

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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.

Greater Ohio Policy Center just released 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.

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:

Continue reading