Frank Alexander wasn’t expecting his book, Land Banks and Land Banking, to wind up so big. “In 2010, when we created the Center for Community Progress one of the reasons we did so, Dan Kildee and I, is [because] we could not keep up with the demand, the calls we were getting about vacant and abandoned properties, or requests for help for drafting legislation,” says Alexander, an Emory law professor. “The 2011 [book] was purely a defensive measure on my part as a way of getting information out there so I didn’t say the same thing on a telephone call everyday.”“In 2010, when we created the Center for Community Progress one of the reasons we did so, Dan Kildee and I, is [because] we could not keep up with the demand, the calls we were getting about vacant and abandoned properties, or requests for help for drafting legislation,” says Alexander, an Emory law professor. “The 2011 [book] was purely a defensive measure on my part as a way of getting information out there so I didn’t say the same thing on a telephone call everyday.”
But it has been that big. As Next City columnist Alexis Stephens has pointed out, only five states passed land bank legislation from 1971 to 2008. Yet eight states have passed such laws just since 2011. Delaware might be ninth to join the pack in the coming weeks. Alexander’s report has been regarded the principal text on the topic during this land bank boon, and it serves as a free, downloadable template for lawmakers working on drafting land bank legislation of their own.
According to Center for Community Progress, there were only a “handful” of land banks in 2005. In 2011, they counted 79; today, there are approximately 120. The surge is part of the reason Alexander wrote a new edition, released today — to provide more background on land banking’s evolution and the newer examples that have sprung forth.
Alexander lightheartedly describes himself a “Georgia dirt lawyer.” But if Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan is to be hailed as the father of the modern land bank movement, perhaps Alexander, his fellow Center of Community Progress co-founder, should be regarded as its architect.
But just because Alexander is one of land banking’s most prominent champions doesn’t mean that he’s advocating for its permanence. In fact, he hopes that as decades pass, they’ll fade from cities entirely.
As the movement has grown in recent years, observers have pondered how powerful a tool land banks can be. This question will always be a hazy one because the services land banks can offer are always contingent upon their authority, and how that authority is exercised.
For instance, Ohio is one of the only states that allows land banks to be involved in code enforcement. How this enhanced purview plays out in Cleveland is that the Cuyahoga Land Bank “blocks speculators, ensures that responsible occupants take control of homes, and holds home rehabilitations to proper standards,” according to HUD.
The book aims, in light of such nuances, to better inform readers about the statutes behind those powers, and how to craft them to their locality’s best advantage.
To understand why Alexander hopes these tactics expire one day, this warning from the new edition of Land Banks and Land Banking is a good place to start:
“There is a dangerous tendency for local governments to look at land banks as the complete solution to the challenges they face. Such a dream, however, is often neither accurate with respect to the underlying facts nor realistic with respect to the necessary solutions. If a local government lacks the internal capacity to manage substandard properties, then creating a land bank whose staff will consist of the existing city agencies or departments will not change the outcome.”
Land banks actually will show their ultimate utility, Alexander contends, as a tool to diagnose governmental and policy weaknesses that make the fight against land vacancy more difficult — where tax reform might be needed, which agencies aren’t quite working in concert together or which metros should be working on the dilemma as a region, to give a few examples. With these problems more visible, officials and lawmakers should be able to rectify them, leading to new statutes and more efficient agencies to foster a healthier built environment.
And so, that ideal necessitates that successful land banks will spur their own obsolescence down the line. “Our hope is that one day land banks, and land banking — in all jurisdictions — will be in a position to declare victory and dissolve themselves as independent governmental entities,” the report reads.
But beyond this, Alexander is clear that his ideal is just that, an ideal: “One of the fascinating things about human nature is its infinite creativity, but what lies within its infinite creativity is the infinite capacity to screw up.” He adds, “We try to structure land banks to minimize the risk of human error and human bad judgement, and we do that by insisting on full transparency … but nonetheless there will be some strange decisions made. What we’re trying to do at Community Progress is constantly learn from all the land banks.”
The questions that go along with Alexander’s template are huge: What are the city’s community development goals? What type of governmental entity will the land bank technically be? How will auctions take place? These issues, the report asserts, must be tailored to the community’s needs. And Alexander knows well that that’s the tricky part.
“I have the luxury, in a sense, of sitting back and drafting the state legislation,” says Alexander. “But the real hard work happens on the local level when you have a particular piece of property … the tough work is ‘Okay, now we’ve got the inventory, we’ve got the power. Are we ready to move forward?‘”
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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Jeremy Taylor and Jimmy Brookins are getting to know the streets of Cleveland better than most of the city’s politicians.
With an iPad in hand, they are walking every street, and photographing every house, business and empty lot in search of abandoned properties. They are also recording information – such as the condition of the roofs and porches — and assigning a letter grade to each house. The information is uploaded instantly to a cloud-based database.
Taylor and Brookins, who both live in Cleveland and are in their 20s, are one of eight pairs of people, or teams, pounding the pavement every day for about seven hours. The teams hope to visit all of the city’s 158,000 properties by the end of September, which means they collectively need to check more than 2,000 properties a day. They started this week on the city’s East Side, in North Collinwood, and are working west.
The information they collect will produce Cleveland’s first-ever citywide property survey that is based on visual inspections rather than solely on property records.
The purpose is to give the city a more accurate picture of how many abandoned properties haunt its streets and the condition of the surrounding homes. With such information, the city can better spend limited demolition money, especially with the larger neighborhood in mind.
I’m typically skeptical of surveys, studies and reports. Taxpayers pay thousands for reports that are often poorly conceived and quickly forgotten. I believe this one is simple enough to actually be useful, if only to give us the a real number of abandoned properties.
I’ve heard city housing officials and experts say the number of abandoned properties in the city ranges from 8,000 to 15,000. And Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration has done several of its own surveys of abandoned properties in the city. But these are based largely on city information kept in-house, such as which properties have no utilities connected.
The organization conducting the latest survey is the nonprofit Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which has conducted similar on-the-ground surveys in Akron, Lorain, East Cleveland and elsewhere through its Thriving Communities Institute. The conservancy believes the information about abandoned properties is so important that it launched the Cleveland survey before fully raising the more than $200,000 needed to cover the costs. The Cleveland Foundation has made a sizable commitment to the project. The City of Cleveland doesn’t have any money to kick in, but the city’s Building and Housing Department is lending its expertise by, among other things, helping to train the survey takers on how to evaluate properties.
Jim Rokakis, who is director of the conservancy’s Thriving Community Initiative and has become a prophet of sorts on the housing crisis, said demolitions are critical to a city’s rebirth.
“As demolitions go up, foreclosures go down,” he said, drawing two imaginary lines in the air to simulate a graph.
To see things for myself, I caught up with Taylor and Brookins on Wednesday morning, in Collinwood, on Alhambra Avenue. As they worked the street in bright orange T-Shirts with the words “Cleveland Street Survey,” people on porches wanted to know why they were photographing houses. The explanation triggered enthusiasm.
Seventeen-year resident Vanessa Windham said she is happy someone is paying attention. She then told Brookins about the raccoons that live in the abandoned house next to hers and pointed out another abandoned house a few doors down.
As I looked at the houses, some signs of abandonment were obvious, such as boarded windows and busted front doors. But other rundown homes were harder to evaluate. I kept thinking that one man’s sagging soffits and damaged roof is another man’s castle.
Making that right call will be key to creating an accurate database and that’s why the survey takers received training.
Even with training, Taylor and Brookins and the others house counters have a long road ahead of them.
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The debt owed our nation’s military veterans, including those who stormed ashore on Normandy’s beaches 71 years ago this weekend, will never be paid.
But two recent local initiatives that focus on housing, health and justice for those wounded warriors who find the real world harder to navigate than a minefield are a welcome down payment.
Later this month, a Veterans Treatment Court will begin to offer Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges an innovative sentencing alternative for felons who served their country.
And last month, the “Healthy Communities Initiative – Veterans Housing Project” – a joint venture of Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services and the Cuyahoga Land Bank — began renovating 10 residential units for veterans in Collinwood, across St. Clair Avenue from one of the health network’s clinics.
The land bank donated the properties to the federally funded community health nonprofit, said land bank president Gus Frangos. The land bank also invested $50,000 to help offset the estimated $500,000 it will cost to rehab the properties. Doors are expected to open by May 2016.
The project will provide safe, affordable housing to homeless vets and their families and easy access to health care. There are approximately between 1,500 and 1,700 veterans who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless each year in Cuyahoga County, according to the local Department of Veterans Affairs office.
It is exactly the kind of community program that Common Pleas Judge Michael Jackson, who will preside over the Veterans Treatment Court, may tap. The vet-centric court will initially take on a docket limited to 60 men and women veterans convicted of felonies who are on — or eligible for — probation, said Jackson, a Vietnam Marine vet.
Veterans must volunteer for the program and sign a participant agreement. Each will be assigned a mentor who is also a veteran. They will meet every two weeks beginning June 25.
The court will focus on treating substance abuse and mental health issues as well as job training and housing. Each session will include a Legal Aid attorney and VA representatives.
Those vets not eligible for VA benefits because of an other-than-honorable discharge from the military will be matched with appropriate community programs, Jackson said.
“We want you to succeed,” Jackson said of the vets.
And that is a wonderful pledge to all area veterans.
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CLEVELAND, OH – May 28, 2015: Today the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NEON) broke ground at East 152nd Street in Collinwood to provide housing for veterans as part of the health center’s Healthy Communities Initiative.
Local City of Cleveland officials, including Council Members Michael D. Polensek and Jeffrey Johnson, as well as other supporters gathered to launch the Program this morning.
Located in the Collinwood neighborhood in Cleveland and directly across the street from NEON’s Collinwood Health Center, the Veterans Housing Project is designed to provide safe, affordable and desirable living spaces for veterans and their families. Residents of the property will have access to support and health services provided by NEON as well as the Veterans Medical Center in University Circle.
“Our veterans and their families deserve to live in a safe, supportive and healthy environment,” said Willie F. Austin, president and chief executive officer, Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services. “This Project provides for a holistic approach to housing. More than just a place to live, we will provide our residents with easy access to support and health services to improve their lives.”
The Cuyahoga Land Bank and NEON are working together to make quality affordable housing available for homeless veterans. “It’s an important work that needs to be done, there is a growing need as each year goes by,” said Matthew Fitzsimmons, NEON Board Chair, who also mentioned getting a lot of inspiration in helping achieve the overall mission of NEON. The Cuyahoga Land Bank helped NEON acquire the property (two vacant and abandoned buildings) that NEON, through its development entity, Community Integrated Services will renovate and manage at a cost of more than $500,000. The Cuyahoga Land Bank also contributed $50,000 to the project. Once complete, the property will feature 10 housing units, including 6 two-level row houses and a four-unit apartment building. All of the homes will include green amenities, such as energy efficient furnaces and energy-saving double-pane windows and insulated doors.
“The Veterans Project will help improve our neighborhood by restoring value to once abandoned and vacant properties and by creating modern, stable and affordable housing,” said City of Cleveland Councilman Michael D. Polensek.
“The men and women who serve our country have made many sacrifices,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos. “Providing veterans with affordable housing and support through programs like this is just one way of saying thank you.”
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NEON) and the Cuyahoga Land Bank will announce Thursday the creation of a joint effort to provide housing and support services for homeless veterans.
The “Healthy Communities Initiative — Veterans Housing Project” involves the renovation of six, two-level row houses and a four-unit apartment building on St. Clair Avenue at Nye Road in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood. The 10 residences are located near NEON’s Collinwood Health Center, and each has three bedrooms.
Gus Frangos, Land Bank president, said the project is “right smack in line with our mission of fixing a house to serve a need in the community — in this case veterans housing and access to health care for veterans.
“When you get something like this that all of a sudden transforms that corner, it not only fixes a building but fixes people,” he added.
“Sometimes transportation is an impediment to getting care, so this is a great strategic move on NEON’s part, Frangos continued. “They can say that not only do they have good health care available, but by golly, they have housing nearby, too.”
Frangos said the structures are vacant, and had been abandoned due to tax forfeiture.
He estimated that renovation of the buildings will cost about $500,000. “They’re not so dilapidated that they need to come down,” he said. “They have good bones on them, and all the basic systems are in place, or can be easily transformed.”
Frangos said NEON would be handling the reconstruction. Plans call for installation of new energy-efficient furnaces and/or heat pumps, appliances, double-pane windows and insulated doors.
Renovation should take about six months, and a completion date of May 2016 is scheduled, Frangos said.
In addition to the property, the Land Bank is providing $50,000 in equity for the project, and would become a minority partner with NEON in the limited liability company that would own and operate the rental units, according to Frangos.
The Land Bank has been involved in other housing efforts for veterans including a program offering property discounts to veterans.
Frangos’ son is serving in the Army, “so stuff like this has special meaning,” he noted.
Local agencies have estimated that there are about 1,700 veterans who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless each year in Cuyahoga County.
As for additional veterans housing projects being developed through the partnership, “we are open to some kind of discussion regarding properties that are unproductive near (NEON) health centers, that they’re willing to rehab,” said Dennis Roberts, director of program and property management for the Land Bank.
Karen Butler, NEON chief operating officer, said the Collinwood project is the start of a possible expansion of the concept, creating housing for veterans near NEON’s seven health centers in the county.
“This is first of what we anticipate to be replicated in other communities and neighborhoods that we serve,” she noted.
Support offered veterans and their families by NEON’s Collinwood Health Center covers what Butler described as “a comprehensive array” of services including adult medicine, optometry, a pharmacy, dental and behavioral health.
Butler said community groups in Collinwood assisted in the project, that will be funded through a variety of sources.
Announcement of the project will be made at 10 a.m. at the housing site, 15300 St. Clair Avenue, across from the health center.
NEON will work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in selecting potential residents, Butler said. Rent, anticipated to be $800-$900 per month, would be largely subsidized through housing vouchers from the VA and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, she added.
“We want to help eliminate homelessness among veterans,” Butler said. “We believe all veterans should have a place to call home, as well as access to needed health services, and this project enables us to meet both of those goals.”
The Detroit City Council recently approved the transfer of more than 37,000 city-owned residential properties to the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). This represents a major milestone in creating the strong infrastructure needed to transform the tens of thousands of vacant properties in the city.
Previously, ownership and management of city property had been spread out across as many as 12 entities. This confusing morass of ownership was a major roadblock for people trying to reuse properties — from the resident trying to plant a garden, to the developer trying to rehab blighted houses. In order to improve this, the Detroit Future City (DFC) framework called for the majority of public land to be brought under one roof, at the DLBA.
Land banks are public entities focused on stabilizing and improving communities by putting problem properties (often vacant, blighted, unmarketable, or foreclosed) back into productive use. They can employ tools such as the ability to acquire properties at low or no cost, expedited title clearance, and discounted property sales — an especially important tool in Detroit, where opportunities for traditional financing can be limited.
Despite the logistically and politically daunting task of negotiating the transfer of tens of thousands of properties from multiple city, county and state entities to the land bank, now, only two years after it was recommended in the DFC framework, DLBA will control the majority of publicly owned land in the city.
To support the DLBA’s property management, the City Council also approved an allocation of $11.8 million. By itself, that is a significant amount of money. But when spread out across all of the properties that the DLBA is about to receive, in addition to the properties it currently manages, it amounts to around $140 per property. Given ongoing maintenance needs — such as mowing, garbage clearance, boarding, let alone the costs to improve the properties through rehabilitation, demolition, or replanting — the DLBA’s expenses far exceed a couple hundred dollars.
Understanding this gap, DLBA has sought additional governmental and private funding with some success. However, it still does not have a dedicated and predictable funding source that meets the scale of its challenges. This is a perennial issue not just for the DLBA, but for land banks throughout the state.
We must explore new opportunities for predictable, dedicated funding for land banks that will enable them to implement bold, longer-term strategies, rather than having to operate with insufficient, unpredictable funding. In Ohio, land banks receive an annual allocation of fees generated from the collection of delinquent property taxes. For the Cuyahoga Land Bank, which manages 1,200 properties, this amounts to around $7 million a year.
The Ohio funding model may not be the solution for Michigan land banks, but represents the type of structural change needed for land banks throughout the state.
BALTIMORE—In 2011, the city sold a vacant row house in East Baltimore’s Oliver neighborhood to a developer who promised to restore it within 18 months. It is still boarded up.
“It’s gotten worse,” said 60-year-old Patsy Jones, who rents the attached house next door on North Caroline Street and says rain falling through the vacant home’s collapsed roof regularly soaks her basement.
David Borinsky, who bought the house along with 12 others for $26,000, said he planned to renovate it but the market has proved too weak on Ms. Jones’s block to justify the costs—though he thinks that is starting to change.
Baltimore’s sea of vacant homes is one of many entrenched socioeconomic problems thrust into the national spotlight after last month’s riots following the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died of injuries sustained in police custody.
Nearly 17,000 homes, or about 8% of the city’s housing stock, are deemed unfit for habitation. That doesn’t include thousands more considered livable but sitting empty. Baltimore’s population of roughly 620,000 has fallen by about 35% since the 1950s, contributing to blight.
Many urban areas grapple with widespread vacancies, which depress values of surrounding homes and are seen as magnets for criminal activity. In recent years, cities and counties across the U.S. have devised new programs to tackle the problem, which housing advocates say worsened with the foreclosure crisis and the 2007-09 recession.
While comprehensive statistics on vacancies across the U.S. aren’t readily available, Baltimore’s record shows the challenges. Between 2010, when it started a new program, and 2013, the city sold 410 vacant houses for rehab; more than 40% don’t have use-and-occupancy permits, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. That usually means a house is empty. The Journal limited its analysis to pre-2014 sales, because housing experts say rehabs can easily take a year.
City officials said occupancy-permit figures don’t reflect the progress on some empty homes and stressed the inherent uncertainties in real-estate deals. Still, they conceded missteps and acknowledged they haven’t enforced legal provisions that allow the city to retake homes if developers miss rehab deadlines—but said they are now savvier with developers.
“We didn’t have the capacity to do consistent monitoring,” Deputy Housing Commissioner Julie Day said, adding that her agency recently hired someone to track whether developers follow through.
Baltimore has taken a three-pronged approach to tackling vacancies: enforcing city code more stringently by levying fines and persuading judges to force auctions if owners don’t renovate; demolishing more than 1,500 houses, with hundreds more to be razed in coming years; and marketing some of its own vacant inventory, which accounts for about 15% of the total.
Beefed-up code enforcement has helped turn around the Oliver neighborhood, according to Mr. Borinsky, who said he has rehabbed about 40 houses there in the past several years.
Baltimore officials deserve credit for a higher-than-50% success rate on vacant homes sold by the city, said Frank Alexander, an Emory University law professor who co-founded the Center for Community Progress, a nonprofit that advises local governments on addressing vacant properties. “But they cannot fail to deal with those for which there has been no progress,” he said. While he said he understands officials’ reluctance to take properties back, failing to do so means the problem continues.
In Cleveland, the Cuyahoga Land Bank keeps the deeds of homes it sells until promised work is done. “All you have to do is lock the doors, essentially,” program director Dennis Roberts said. Since 2010, it has sold more than 600 houses that way with few problems, officials said. (Land banks are public or quasi-public entities that manage and sell vacant structures and lots.)
But most cities’ programs rely on post-sale mechanisms to ensure progress: Baltimore puts the deadline in the deed. Ms. Day said some buyers mortgage the homes, making reversion impractical. Some buyers have agreed to give houses back to the city.
Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano said a focus on whole-block revitalization has yielded successes in several areas of the city, including the transformation of a long-derelict stretch of Broadway north of Johns Hopkins Hospital that he calls “mind-boggling.”
“Anywhere we believe there is a market, we will sell a property,” Ms. Day said.
More than 800 of the city’s 16,745 vacant homes are in Sandtown-Winchester, the site of Mr. Gray’s arrest and some of the worst looting of the protests.
Developer Robert DePonte said he fears lingering damage to Baltimore’s image—made worse by what he called hyperbolic news coverage—could harm his investments and the gains made in the East Baltimore neighborhood where he is working. “It wasn’t a city on fire,” he said.
Mr. DePonte has rehabbed five of the 10 houses he bought from the city in 2012 and 2013. The pace is slow, he said, because this is a side business for him and the work he does is extensive. After sinking $80,000 to $120,000 into each overhaul, he said he now gets monthly rents of $1,200 to $1,800, above the neighborhood average.
Some developers say the city’s packaging of properties complicates their efforts.
In 2010, AHC Greater Baltimore, an affordable-housing developer, set out to revive a block on Violet Avenue near an apartment building it overhauled in northwest Baltimore. City officials agreed to sell there but insisted AHC also buy several other homes blocks away, said its director, Andrew Vincent. Ms. Day said she doesn’t recall requiring the group to purchase them.
Mr. Vincent said it made no sense to tackle three of the others due to surrounding blight. While nearly the entire block of Violet is now renovated, those three remain boarded up.
On North Caroline Street, Ms. Jones said she is tired of having a wet basement in her rental home, a three-story row house built more than a century ago.
Mr. Borinsky said the house next door to hers was in bad shape when he bought it from the city in 2011. Records show the city deemed it unsafe to occupy in 2003. Most houses on the block are occupied, and he said he expects that by the end of this summer, the market will improve to a point where he can seriously explore rehabbing the long-vacant house.
But Mr. Borinsky said such decisions come down to economic considerations.
“I can’t be an arm of the housing department, robotically renovating these houses they let me buy,” he said. “I want to. I try to. It’s not realistic.”
Read it from Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/baltimore-grapples-with-blight-quandary-1432586983
The Butler County land bank is considering commissioning a cost/benefit analysis, perhaps to be performed by students at Miami University.
ROCKY RIVER, Ohio –- The city is applying for a $3 million state grant to pay for a traffic study on Center Ridge Road.
The study is necessary to upgrade traffic signals and keep up with new development on the busy road that connects commercial, school and residential areas, Mayor Pamela Bobst said.
“We want to support the investments we see today and future investments in the area by having a roadway that functions well,” the mayor said.
A new $29 million 264-unit high-end apartment building at Wooster Road opened to residents in 2014. Goldwood Primary School is on Center Ridge, as is Westgate Town Center. The city has also received a $304,000 grant from the Cuyahoga County Land Bank to tear down the old Executive Club at 21330 Center Ridge, a site that Bobst said is almost 2 acres of prime commercial real estate.
“The study will analyze traffic flow and do a traffic count along Center Ridge Road, where we have a lot of points of egress and ingress and a lot of curb cuts,” Bobst said. “We want a good, safe traffic flow and accessibility to our high traffic areas and adjacent residential areas.”
The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency denied the city’s application for similar funding a year ago, but the mayor is hopeful that this year will be different.
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CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Central and Fairfax neighborhoods lost an estimated 100 jobs in 2012 when T&B Foundry closed a storied metal casting plant in a foreclosure process that left the eight-acre property vacant, shuttered and saddled with nearly $2 million in liens.
Now Cleveland Heights entrepreneur J. Duncan Shorey has a proposal to transform the plant at 2469 East 71st St. at Platt Avenue with an unusual mix of overlapping uses including a fish farm, an orchard, a studio center for artists, a farmers market, a cooking school and a computer server farm.
The Foundry Project, as he calls it, would encapsulate hot themes in Cleveland redevelopment including sustainability, urban agriculture and the arts as a place-making tool, plus the drive to build social equity by creating jobs in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Also part of the potential mix are federal and state historic tax credits, which Shorey said he hopes to pursue in the restoration of the century-old foundry building, which towers six stories over vacant lots just east of Woodland Cemetery.
“I have an exciting vision, and I have found a group of people who are receptive and who have agreed to help me pursue the vision,” Shorey said last week during an interview at the foundry site, which he acquired in March from the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
Shorey said he is close to securing financing on the first element of the project, a $4.5 million, 40,000-square-foot high-tech fish farm building in which he’d produce thousands of pounds a week of live branzino, or Mediterranean sea bass. A second 40,000-square-foot building would follow after the first is up and running, he said.
Shorey’s goal is to launch the fish farm late this year, in time to serve fresh branzino during the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2016.
And he said he could get the computer data center, or server farm, up and running in six months, once a customer is identified.
The rest of the project could take longer, depending on financing and demand. Total investment in the project could run $15 million to $25 million, including $6 million to remove asbestos from the six-story T&B factory building and to restore it, Shorey said.
His investment so far, not counting the value of unpaid time spent by Shorey and his partners, amounts to $100,000, he said.
Shorey and partners including horticulturalist Jay Szabo and Curt Witchey, the chief financial officer for the project, have designed the project with a series of economic and environmental feedback loops that would knit the fish farm together with other elements of the project.
In sum, the project would:
- Use 5 percent of profits expected from fish farming, or $50,000 to $100,000 a year, to support the nonprofit studio center on three upper floors of the renovated T&B building.
- Tap into the fiber-optic trunk line buried next to the adjacent Norfolk & Southern rail line to provide high-speed Internet access for a new data center, or server farm, to be located on the property.
- Use waste heat from the server farm to provide energy and reduce utility bills for the fish farm.
- Use waste harvested from the fish farm to fertilize fruit grown in an orchard and greenhouse operation on site.
- Involve the neighborhood by providing jobs, a cooking school and a weekly farmers market to improve what Shorey called a food desert.
Skeptics might scoff at Shorey’s vision, but he has established a record of momentum and buy-in during the two-and-a-half years that he’s spent on the project.
The county land bank, for example, helped Shorey clear $1.8 million in liens against T&B held by PNC Bank and the state of Ohio for workman’s compensation claims, according to land bank lawyer Doug Sawyer.
Cuyahoga County’s Department of Economic Development spent nearly $39,000 on a Phase II environmental survey for the project, which Shorey said indicates that soils on the property are safe for farming.
And Shorey has secured letters of intent from Maximum Seafood, a Toronto-area live fish broker and from Sweetwater Springs Fish Farms in northern Indiana to buy a large percentage of his production of branzino.
Shorey said he’s sharing the letters with potential lenders and investors, along with letters of endorsement from Cleveland chefs Karen Small, owner of Ohio City’s Flying Fig restaurant and bar; and Doug Katz, chef-owner of Fire Food and Drink in Shaker Square.
“To have somebody locally doing aquaculture in our own backyard is something pretty exciting that I would support,” Katz said Monday. “I would certainly buy the fish [from Shorey] for my restaurant.”
Ward 5 Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, who has followed Shorey’s progress since 2013, said Monday, “I’m a believer.”
And Grafton Nunes, president of the Cleveland Institute of Art, the city’s independent, four-year art college, said Monday he was intrigued by Shorey’s proposal to turn the top three floors of the Foundry building into a studio center for artists with infrastructure including a glass-blowing furnace.
“It’s a worthwhile social and economic experiment, and I’m happy to work with him on it,” Nunes said of Shorey’s vision.
Shorey estimated that Ohio has roughly 300 fish farms, most of which are small, pond-based operations, he said.
The Rid-All Green Partnership at East 81st Street and Otter Road established a fish farm in recent years that produces tilapia, but a spokesman, who asked that his name not be used, declined to comment Monday on the farm’s weekly production and whether demand exists for a second, large-scale operation in the city.
Shorey, however, is convinced strong demand exists locally and across the Great Lakes region for the 500,000 pounds a year of branzino he ultimately plans to produce.
A lawyer and president and CEO of the Foundry Project and Northcoast Fish Farm LLC, Shorey learned about the T&B property during the mid-1990s when he served as environmental compliance officer for Oglebay Norton Corp., which bought the forging company in the 1970s and then later sold it back to its previous owners.
Shorey said T&B — formerly known as Taylor & Boggis — experienced difficulties in the 2000s when the customer base for its cast-metal products evaporated.
“It’s just the way the world’s economy is changing,” he said.
But he said he remained intrigued with the T&B property and began exploring ways to acquire it and put it back to productive use.
When asked what would happen if he only gets the first fish farm building built, and the rest of the property lies dormant, Shorey said that’s not his plan.
“I’m not going to let that happen,” he said. “That’s the short answer. The long answer is we’ve built what we think is a pretty robust business plan that we think will get us there.”
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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Following its success in 2014, the “Rooms to Let: Cleveland” exhibition is returning to the Broadway Slavic Village neighborhood Saturday and Sunday.
Organized by Slavic Village Development, the show aims to promote public debate over vacancy and the struggles of city neighborhoods in the wake of the foreclosure crisis and the 2008-09 recession.
Some 40 visual and performance artists have been invited by a team of curators to use vacant houses scheduled for demolition as a palette for temporary installations.
The event, free and open to the public, will also feature hands-on art activities sponsored by the Broadway School of Music and the Arts and Zygote Press Mobile Press, plus live music performed by ensembles including the Cleveland Orchestra.
Hours for the event are 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Event maps will be available at 7019 Fullerton Ave., at the corner of East 71st Street and Fullerton.
Curators for the event include Sai Sinbondit, a designer at Bialosky+Partner Architects and a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Art; Amy Krusinski Sinbondit, a ceramics/sculpture artist and adjunct faculty member at the art institute; artists Dana Depew and Scott Pickering; Rian Brown, a filmmaker, video artist and associate professor at Oberlin College; and Rebecca Cross, a textile artist and adjunct professor at Kent State University.
Commenting on the show in a news release, Depew said: “Participating artists and curators enact their vision in order to give these spaces a proper eulogy.”
Participating artists include Mona Gazala, Megan Louise Pitcher, Tina Ripley, Meg Matko, Kelsey Moulton, Megan Elk, Mallorie Freeman, Lauren Sammon, Loren Naji, Jeffry Chiplis, Paul Sydorenko and Jose Carlos Texiera.
Read from source here: http://www.cleveland.com/arts/index.ssf/2015/05/40_artists_will_transform_vaca.html
Ohio Housing Finance Agency will address blighted, vacant properties in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lucas counties Toledo, OH – May 6, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Today Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur celebrated the allocation of $4,968,105.61 by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) to assist Northern Ohio land banks through its Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP). Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation will receive $2,699,071.83, Lorain County Land Reutilization Corporation will receive $269,033.78 and Lucas County Land Reutilization Corporation will receive $2,000,000.00. “This initiative will go a long way to reducing blighted properties and stabilizing home values in communities across Northern Ohio,” said Rep. Kaptur. “This is an important step to begin the healing process in neighborhoods that were impacted by the recent economic downturn. Partnering with these three successful county land banks helps put these properties back into circulation, giving them a fresh start and getting the surrounding neighborhoods back on track. Thank you to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and the U.S. Treasury Department for supporting these important initiatives.” The maximum amount of assistance per property is $25,000 with an estimated average amount of assistance of $12,000. Awardees are responsible for all aspects of the property acquisition and removal as well as plans for greening and ongoing maintenance of the property. Nearly 800 blighted structures have been removed with more than 100 units pending approval as a result of the first and second rounds of funding; and more than 60 lots have been transferred and greened. Thus far, NIP has disbursed and reserved $10 million. At the current funding levels, OHFA expects to eliminate 5,500 vacant and blighted units by October 2016. “Through blight elimination we have increased our impact to not only stem the tide of foreclosures in critical neighborhoods, but to proactively preserve homeowner equity and enable our communities to wholly recover from the effects of the foreclosure crisis,” said Doug Garver, executive director of OHFA. “NIP is not a deviation from, but rather an expansion of, our foreclosure prevention investment.”
Willie Bethune recently participated in the Deed-In-Escrow Program and purchased a three bedroom home in the Broadway-Slavic Village neighborhood. Willie shared about his successful purchase and says “It was a really good experience and a great learning experience to be able to see all phases of the renovation project to completion. Everything was very straight forward in working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank and I am happy to be a first time homeowner.” The Cuyahoga Land Bank wishes Willie best of luck with his new home!
The city’s community development corporation One South Euclid has appointed a new board president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, and wants to triple the size of its board of directors.
Council renewed the city’s three-year agreement with One South Euclid at its meeting Monday. The organization plans to roll out additional programs this year under its new strategic plan, community services director and ex-officio One South Euclid board member Keith Benjamin said.
Here’s a look at council’s actions Monday.
The organization’s new vice-president is Yvonne Sanderson, former executive director of the Heights-Hillcrest Chamber of Commerce and owner of Focal Plane Photography, an aerial photography business in South Euclid.
Longtime resident and Argonne-Avondale Neighborhood Group founder Pam O’Toole is the new secretary and Austen Welter, a pastor at St. John Lutheran Church, is treasurer.
The non-profit, founded in 2007, receives homes from the city and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and works to sell them to buyers who pledge to occupy the homes or sell them to owner-occupants. One South Euclid has also opened multiple community gardens and hosts neighborhood festivals and events.
Benjamin, who cannot vote on the board, said this year is the first One South Euclid has money to spend. He said the group will seek the community’s input on new programs, which could include: offering grants to help seniors or low-income resident repair their homes or loans for businesses planning to upgrade or expand.
Environmental assessment: Developer DFS Management LLC is seeking a brownfield redevelopment grant from Cuyahoga County to build a new medical office building at 14141 Cedar Road. The company is considering investing $905,000 in the site and renting the space to University Heights Dental and other businesses.
Council unanimously approved the company’s application with the county Monday.
Road tax: Council is considering asking voters to renew a road repair property tax.
Engineer Andy Blackley urged residents and council to support the 2.5-mill, five-year levy Monday and said the city would not be able to resurface roads without the money.
The tax has been on the books since the 1980s and costs owners of $100,000 homes $250 each year.
Read it from the source.
Four attached buildings that comprise the former Executive Club at 21330 Center Ridge Road will be razed as the result of a recently awarded property demolition grant.
“We received $304,000,” said Rocky River Law Director Andrew Bemer in a Thursday interview. “This is county money, but the county land bank, which is a freestanding corporation, will act as third-party administrator. They will do all the necessary competitive bidding and practical machine work to get it down. We didn’t have $300,000 sitting in our treasury, so when the county came up with this program, we jumped on it.”
The program is administered through the Cuyahoga County Department of Development and Cuyahoga Land Bank. A Letter to Abate a Public Nuisance was included in the city’s grant application.
Newly emerging property owners have since attempted “creative refinancing” on the “blighted” property, city council meeting minutes indicate. Those owners could demolish the buildings themselves, but Bemer indicated they have had years to remedy the situation and failed to act. Rocky River has six months to complete the demolition process.
Bemer said the 1.9-acre property is worth more without the buildings and has witnessed collapsed ceilings, hanging wires and missing fixtures. Discarded tires and an old television are stacked and hidden in the bushes near a rear door, beside a dilapidated sidewalk.
“Through our fire marshal, we issued a number of warnings and citations, but the principals were located in New Jersey,” Bemer explained, citing prolonged multi-state bank and court involvement for contributing to the four years that have elapsed. “The fire marshal boarded up the property, and there was a property manager involved. The interesting thing is, the property owners have surfaced. I know people are interested in protecting their interests, and we certainly respect that, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to sit on the sidelines now and fold our hands and wait. I’ve been in the building with the fire marshal, and it’s creepy. Let’s get this done.”
More Rocky River buildings likely will encounter the wrecking ball in the future.
“We’ve identified a couple of other properties for the next round (of grant applications, due in May),” Bemer said. “A couple of residences are vacant and in foreclosure.”
City Council needs to pass a resolution to enter into an agreement with the county to execute the demolition. Bemer said he is working with the county law department to get all the necessary documents prepared.
Read it from the source.
The Richland County Land Reutilization Corporation hopes to know in about a month if it will receive more funds from the federal Neighborhood Initiative Program that can be used to demolish abandoned homes in the county.
Amy Hamrick, who administers the county land bank for the non-profit corporation, told the corporation board at its meeting Tuesday the county has met a requirement that at least half of money from a $773,750 grant be committed to specific projects by March 31.
Hamrick said the land bank has obtained 43 properties and obligated some $516,000 for demolition under the program, although there are no demolition contracts yet for any of the structures.
The amount obligated is based on NIP’s estimated cost of $12,000 to demolish a home.
Hamrick said the Ohio Housing Financing Agency, which administers NIP, is reviewing reports to determine which counties did not meet the spending guideline. “After that, they’ll be pulling money from counties that did not meet the requirement and reallocating it,” she said.
Hamrick also submitted the final report on the Moving Ohio Forward program, which provided additional funds to demolish blighted properties. Money for the state program came from settlements against mortgage companies.
Hamrick said officials spent just over $1 million to demolish 121 structures at an average cost of $8,667 before the program ended Dec. 31, 2014. The money included $797,150 from the state and $251,568 in matching funds that came mostly from Mansfield’s Community Development Block Grant program.
Statewide, counties removed 14,600 problem units at a cost of $118 million.
In other business, the RCLRC reviewed a letter from Robin Thomas, director of the land bank program for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in Cleveland, asking if the group is interested in joining a group effort to get a letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service on the tax exempt status for the land bank. Land banks currently have been relying on an opinion from a nationally known law firm provided to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.
Thomas said the private letter ruling from the IRS would provide assurance of the tax exempt status and assure donors their contributions are tax deductible. Estimated cost to the local land bank could be as much as $3,700. The board put off a decision pending a review of the information.
Read it from the source.
On Friday, April 10, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish made good on his promise to assist the inner-ring suburbs of Cleveland, including Parma, in demolishing properties that are vacant and distressed. Recently, he, along with County Council, approved the first round of what is to be a $50 million dollar commitment to suburban communities. “We are committed to working with communities and housing advocates, side-by-side, to eliminate blight, promote redevelopment and ultimately, create stronger neighborhoods,” Budish stated at a press conference held at the headquarters of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank in Cleveland.
Cities were required to complete grant applications in hopes of being awarded part of the initial $10 million package. Most of the communities that applied were awarded funding. Parma’s successful grant application translates into a $116,400 award, which will be used to eliminate 8 residential homes. In fact, the grant will provide the funds to demolish the unsafe and unkempt properties located at 1522 Grantwood Drive, 2824 Maplecrest Avenue, 3110 Ingleside Drive, 3425 Brookview Boulevard, 4208 Snow Road, 5735 Bavaria Avenue, 6710 Theota Avenue, and 911 Dawnwood Drive. Ward Four Councilman Brian Day, who, as City Council’s Safety Committee Chairman, has been a constant advocate of eliminating unsightly and unsafe structures in Parma’s neighborhoods, stated that he is “very pleased that Parma will be a recipient of these demolition funds, as they will help us eliminate some blighted properties that have been an eyesore in our neighborhoods.”
As President of Parma City Council and an attendee of Budish’s press conference, I was very happy with the announcement on several fronts. First and foremost, it provides our city with another tool to fight blight in an effort to bolster property values and quality of life in our otherwise stabilizing neighborhoods. Further, it shows the commitment of Mayor Tim DeGeeter and Parma City Council to seek creative ways of financing local government, given our budget challenges due to state cuts over the years. It also reveals that Budish is making good on his campaign pledge to assist cities like Parma that are still experiencing the effects of the economic downturn on our housing stock. At the conclusion of the conference Budish announced that the next round of grants will begin on May 1.
Read it from the source.
Millions of our tax dollars are about to be funneled into cleaning up neighborhoods in Cuyahoga County. County Executive Armond Budish wants to remove 619 structures in 20 communities countywide.
Just take a right or left turn in Cuyahoga County and you will run into a vacant or abandoned property. There are thousands of them. So Cuyahoga County has decided to toss in $10 million to remove a small slice of the vacant property pie.
“I think the first round alone will clean out something like 10 percent of the blighted houses in our region, which is a big step forward,” said Budish.
“This first round of demolition will remove over 600 blighted, vacant and abandoned structures across the county, providing needed relief to our communities,” added Cuyahoga County Council President Dan Brady. “I’d like to thank the county executive and the county land bank for their support in making this program a reality, and I look forward to continuing the momentum that has already begun.”
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Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers, who attended the announcement in downtown Cleveland, believes the money is a valuable assist from the county.
“After the housing crisis, there was a lot of blight left around the neighborhoods that brought down property values, which has had a direct financial impact of just about everyone in the community,” said Sellers.
Additional money to tear down more properties is coming soon, but each city must meet a May 1 deadline to apply.
The county hopes after the removal of the blight, developers will move in to help create stronger neighborhoods.
Read it from the source.
Euclid is being recommended to receive $1 million in the first round of Cuyahoga County Property Demolition Program, one of only two communities recommended for the maximum allotted funding.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced his recommendations for the first round of funding April 10.
Euclid is looking to demolish 23 structures with the recommended funding, 12 residential and 11 commercial. Euclid Planning & Development Director Jonathan Holody said a larger portion of the funding will go toward commercial demolitions.
For commercial demolitions, Holody said the city will start with properties that they already own or control. Those include a former city pool on E. 279th Street and the former Lakeshore Chevy site on E. 185th Street.
Holody said there is a community garden next to the pool site that he thinks the gardeners will be able to expand on and will “remove an eyesore from the neighborhood.”
During a December 2014 council meeting, Councilman Kristian Jarosz referred to the Lakeshore Chevrolet site as an eyesore and said Euclid Hospitals tells people to enter its campus from E. 200th Street and not E. 185th Street.
“They don’t want that vision to be what (the patients) perceive our community to be,” he said.
Some of the commercial demolitions, Holody added, will help make the sites ready more quickly for new development.
Last year, Cuyahoga County Council approved a plan to make $50 million available to its communities to remove blighted structures. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank has been allocated $9 million of the $50 million.
Funds for the program are equally available to all the municipalities in the county, despite previous attempts from representatives from Cleveland and inner-ring suburbs to receive a larger percentage of that funding.
To qualify for demolition, structures must be certified as vacant, abandoned and nuisance properties.
More than $10 million was awarded in the first round of funding to 20 communities to demolish 619 properties according to a news release. In total, 22 communities applied for funding. Applications for the first round of funding were due in late February.
Communities could apply for up to $1 million in funding and no more than $100,000 can be awarded to demolish any individual structure.
East Cleveland is the only other community to receive the full $1 million in funding.
Richmond Heights is receiving $100,000 to demolish three structures in the city.
According to the news release, Budish’s administration has identified $14 million to fund the first round of demolition that was previously allocated for an upgraded data center. The Department of Information Technology planned to pay $30 million over 25 years for an upgraded data center in the Medical Examiner’s Office, but in early 2015, Ohio announced the availability of their data center for $9.5 million over 25 years. County Council still needs to vote on whether to approve a contract with the state for the data center.
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Call it addition by subtraction.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced the county is awarding $10 million-plus spread over 20 communities to demolish 615 decrepit homes and commercial buildings.
It’s the first phase of the county’s $50 million demolition plan to knock down blighted buildings.
Budish acknowledged the energy and new development occurring downtown.
“Now it’s time make sure our neighborhoods share in this renaissance, ” he said.
Bedford, Bedford Heights, Berea, Brook Park, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, Euclid, Garfield Heights, Lakewood, Maple Heights, Newburgh Heights, Oakwood, Olmsted Falls, Parma Richmond Heights, Rocky River, Shaker Heights, South Euclid and Warrensville Heights are the communities that will benefit.
The County Land Bank is playing a key role.
Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik says eight commercial buildings and about 30 abandoned homes will come down in his city.
Some are on East 185th Street, the main entrance way to Euclid Hospital, Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School and the Hospice of the Western Reserve,
Cervenik said the demolitions will help revitalize the neighborhood and increase property values by clearing the way for investment.
Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers said, “It’s a huge deal” for his city and called the program a “big step” for the whole region.
Money for this first round of awards was accomplished by some re-budgeting.
The county was planning to spend $30 million on upgraded data center for the Medical Examiner’s Office with $14 million of that funding became available for the demolition program because the county plans to save money by using the state’s data center , saving money for the next 25 years.
Budish pledges to find funds for the entire $50 million program. Applications for the second round of funding will be accepted starting May 1.
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