Did you know?

Jason Knauer recently joined the staff at the Cuyahoga Land Bank as the Land Reuse Program Assistant. Jason’s primary role will include outreach and assistance to residents who would like to purchase vacant lots adjacent to their homes thLand Bank Staff rough the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s, Side Yard Program. Jason moved to Cleveland in 2013 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor Degree in Urban Studies. He completed two years of service at Slavic Village Development – one as a Trinity Urban Service Corps Fellow and one as an AmeriCorps VISTA – working with community gardens and volunteer projects.  A big welcome to new employee, Jason!

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Posted in 2015.9.1, Didja Know?, Newsletter

Neighborhood Developer on a Mission

As a former U.S. Marine, local developer Daryl Anderson has been on many missions during his tour of duty in various countries. Daryl Anderson understands missions.
Anderson and his team at AP Business Solutions is now on a mission to help stabilize neighborhoods on Cleveland’s near west side.  Working with Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, AP Business Solutions has renovated over a dozen homes on behalf of its real estate construction business as well as with partner investors who work with AP Solutions to renovate homes.
What is unique about this mission, is that AP Business Solutions works with Catholic Charities, US Together and International Services Center to provide quality housing for legal refugees relocating to Cleveland’s near westside.  Even more unique is the fact that many of Land Bank Staff the people that help renovate these homes include the very refugees that AP Solutions trains to provide housing.  The benefits to the community are many.
First, distressed homes are renovated and become occupied productive properties.  Second, by working with the refugee service organizations, properly screened refugees are repopulating the City of Cleveland.  These refugees have a high rate of employment, involvement in the community and appreciation for being in the United States coming from oppressive or war-torn areas throughout the world.  Third, many of these refugees are getting trained as skilled tradesmen in home renovation.
“I love this kind of work. It is very gratifying when you can tie your work to an important social contribution to the community,” said Anderson.
As a result the AP Business Solutions “business with a social conscience,” partnered with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to renovate several homes in their inventory.  Among some of the recent projects will be two multi-family small apartment buildings just outside the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood service area.  This is an area particularly desirable and affordable for those clients referred by the refugee service organizations.
One of these projects includes a four suite apartment building donated by Wells Fargo Bank to the Cuyahoga Land Bank which is very suitable for renovation.  “We asked Wells Fargo if it would contribute this foreclosed property in its inventory, and explained the purpose behind the donation. Wells Fargo honored our request and donated this property,” said President and General Counsel Gus Frangos.  Wells Fargo and the Cuyahoga Land Bank have had an ongoing cooperative relationship to re-purpose distressed properties.  For several years, Wells Fargo has donated properties in need of demolition, and has paid the full price for demolition.
Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization Director Jeff Ramsey acknowledged his work with AP Solutions and said, “I wish we had ten more such developers in our neighborhood. They do timely, quality work and maintain the properties in a professional manner.”
The Cuyahoga Land Bank will develop the Wells Fargo donated property in partnership with AP Business Solutions.
Cuyahoga Land Bank Board Chairman Anthony Brancatelli praised the work of the Cuyahoga Land Bank by noting that through the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s relationships, many creative collaborations take place.  “When you consider that the Cuyahoga Land Bank is able to identify quality developers through the CDC network and push banks to cooperate on donating higher value properties, this is a testament to the quality work and reputation of the Cuyahoga Land Bank,” said Brancatelli.

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Posted in 2015.9.1, Newsletter

Thriving Communities Property Survey Battles Urban Decay

This past summer, the nonprofit Thriving Communities Institute (TCI), a program of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in collaboration with the City of Cleveland has been surveying the property condition of all 150,000 parcels in Cleveland.  The project is in collaboration with the City of Cleveland’s Building and Housing Department, Cleveland City Council and local community development corporations.  Partial funding for the survey was committed by the Cleveland Foundation. Land Bank Staff
TCI will conclude the city wide survey this fall. TCI has completed community-wide surveys in Akron, East Cleveland, Lorain, Sandusky and Oberlin.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank worked closely with TCI on a prior neighborhood survey targeting blight removal in the Buckeye-Shaker, Mount Pleasant and Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhoods surrounding St. Lukes Campus in Cleveland. These neighborhoods are faced with vacant properties that have become a threat to the community.
The initial neighborhood survey was made possible by the St. Luke’s Foundation which awarded TCI, a two-year grant to target and identify blighted properties in the Buckeye and Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods for the St. Luke’s Project, which began in late 2013. By the end of March 2014, a group of seven assessors had walked the streets and surveyed the conditions house-by-house.
The survey covered a total of 13,000 residential and tax-exempt parcels that included 2,000 vacant lots and resulted in identifying 1,500 vacant and distressed properties (map above). These properties were then graded on an A to F scale, describing the of the property. An “A” for those that were in very good condition to an “F” for those structures that were uninhabitable and dangerous.
According to the St. Luke’s Property Inventory Report, the properties were identified as: Occupied structures, A – 28%, B – 47%, C – 23%, D – 2%, and F – 0% and Vacant structures: A – 3%, B – 9%, C – 22%, D – 31%, and F – 35%.Land Bank Staff
Following the survey, the most blighted properties that had a grade of “F” were advocated for demolition.  This initiated the  Cuyahoga Land Bank to play a role in the project.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank then followed to strategically target demolition of these properties and is still working to do so.  TCI continues to advocate for demolition since it will take a fifteen million dollar investment to address all 1,500 target properties from the St. Lukes Project.
“There are several steps that must be taken in order for us to breathe new life into our communities,” said TCI Special Projects Manager, Jay Westbrook.  “The first is identifying the problem and that’s what the St. Luke’s Project has done.  The second is to address the blight through demolition and building code enforcement.  Only after these first two steps have been taken can we successfully redevelop, repurpose and green these properties.

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Posted in 2015.9.1, Newsletter

Thriving Communities Institute | AP Business Solutions – 2015.9.1

NL 9.1.15

Posted in 2015.9.1, Newsletter

Speedway will rise in Berea’s North End, other buildings will come down (cleveland.com)

BEREA, Ohio — A Speedway with room for semi-trailer trucks should rise in Berea’s North End and three nearby city-owned buildings will come down soon in hopes of further development in that area.

After winning a long legal battle against Berea, Speedway has razed the old Toth Buick and gotten a construction permit for a station on the site.

The Speedway should rise soon on the southeast corner of the diagonal intersection of Sheldon Road and North Rocky River Drive near Front Street. It will have some bays big enough for semis. Speedway, based in Enon in downstate Ohio, owns about 2,760 stations in 22 states.

In 2012, the Berea Planning Commission voted 5-2 against Speedway’s proposal, fearing traffic from the semis. Speedway sued in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, where Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold upheld the city. Then a three-judge appeals panel unanimously reversed her. City maneuvers delayed construction a while, but the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Speedway officials Monday declined to comment on plans for the Berea station.

Meanwhile, the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., better known as the Cuyahoga Land Bank, plans to raze the three buildings for the city, which owns more than 12 acres there and seeks a private developer for it.

Cuyahoga County will pay the land bank $300,000 to demolish the last three buildings standing on city-owned land in the North End: the former Palker Automotive, Mid-City Tire and Automotive Creations. The land bank has razed two other city-owned buildings there in past years.

Matt Madzy, the city’s economic development director, says the land bank has begun testing the three remaining buildings and should raze them in the next couple of weeks.

Despite the semis, Madzy says the North End, which is near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, rail lines, interstates 71 and 480, the I-X Exposition Center and the Cleveland Browns’ headquarters, should still attract developers.

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Guest Editorial: Surveying city properties (WOIO)

My name is Jim Rokakis. I am director of the Thriving Communities Institute, a program of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a land conservation organization in a 17-county footprint in northeast Ohio.

Four years ago, Western Reserve extended its work into urban areas by establishing through thriving communities, where our initial goal was to establish county land banks in northeast Ohio. I established the first land bank in Cuyahoga County in 2009, when I was county treasurer. As a way of dealing with the thousands of distressed properties in our community, we have now established 24 land banks through all of Ohio and raised $240 million to demolish distressed properties in Ohio’s 88 counties.

Currently, we are involved in a door-to-door survey of every property in the city, using trained surveyors who are photographing and rating these properties. If you live in Cleveland, you may have seen or you will see them. They are wearing orange shirts and armed with iPads and working on every street in your neighborhood. When they are finished, Clevelanders will have an accurate count of how many properties are vacant, if they can be rehabilitated, or if they need to be demolished. We are striving to make Cleveland a blight-free city, but need reliable information to be able to do this. We will have that information by the end of summer.

Thank you.

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Cleveland Heights raises awareness for available vacant lots: City Council wrap-up (cleveland.com)

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Officials plan to post most if not all of the 124 city-owned vacant lots around town, although some could be set aside for possible land-banking ventures.

At least half of those lots are available for $100 to adjacent property owners through the “side lot program” that City Council passed in 2012, with four of those parcels having been sold so far.

“We’re trying to get the whole list online, with a picture and an explanation about the status,” Vice City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil told City Council at Monday’s (Aug. 10) Committee-of-the-Whole meeting.

Four of those lots have been sold so far, with one of those having been split between neighbors on either side along Cleveland Heights Boulevard. In those instances residents have to hire their own surveyor.

And another 19 residents have filed applications. In all, there are 195 vacant lots in Cleveland Heights, counting those that are privately owned or property of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.

In a second piece of the strategy, there are parcels that the city wants to retain and possibly consolidate for larger development, such as lots on Superior Road near the Cleveland Heights Community Center, as well as North Coventry Road, Altamont and Desota avenues, and Sycamore Road.

“Right now, our lots are more scattered on North Coventry, but we do have some attractive land that we can assemble and ‘bank’ on Superior Road,” City Manager Tanisha Briley noted.

City officials also retain the right to hold on to any vacant lot that abuts a commercial area.

As for the 62 lots classified as “available,” city officials want to send letters out to neighboring property owners letting them know about the side lot program, although Councilman Kahlil Seren asked if they could hold off for a week so he could take a look at them.

Councilwoman Mary Dunbar said that this amounted to “micro-managing,” while Vice Mayor Cheryl Stephens also felt that Seren’s suggestion to post all 195 vacant lots — not just the ones owned by the city — was unnecessary.

“That’s like trying to sell somebody else’s car,” said Stephens, who works for the county Land Bank. “We don’t want to tie up city staff time doing other people’s due diligence.”

Seren said the focus should be on all lots in the city that are being under-utilized, not just the ones that the city owns, adding that referring people to multiple places and websites is an ordeal.

O’Neil said the objective at this point is “simply to find out if there’s any interest in the side lots,” in hopes of making them “more productive, with no lag time,” and adding that cataloging them has already been “labor-intensive” up to this point.

“Go for it,” Seren said. “This is the first time I’m looking at a list of the city’s vacant lots.

“I obviously don’t have any support on this — although I don’t see why a week is such a problem,” Seren added.

A little over a year ago and before Seren’s appointment to replace Janine Boyd, council voted 5-2 in favor of a townhouse development at the city-owned lot on the corner of Cedar and Coventry roads, a proposal that since has yet to clear the City Planning Commission.

In other business, City Planning Director Richard Wong said that a second home to treat eating disorders could mean another $1 million in payroll for a 12-bed facility for adolescents.

The new center would open up next to the existing one for adults on Overlook Road, where the projected payroll is already $1.7 million.

City Public Works Director Alex Mannarino said that with repaving projects set to go next year on both Cedar and Lee roads next year, work on Coventry Road will probably have to wait until 2017.

And on the heels of last week’s “Town Hall Telephone Meeting” involving more than 900 residents to discuss the city’s one-quarter percent wage tax increase appearing on the November ballot, city officials have another one planned for Aug. 25 at 6:30 p.m.

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Despite cities’ efforts, vacancies persist in South Euclid, Mayfield Heights: The House Next Door (cleveland.com)

MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Driving the streets of Mayfield Heights can be like a real estate time warp.

Rows of near-identical bungalows with window awnings sit on tiny square lots. In 1951, the year Mayfield Heights was incorporated, those bungalows cost about $7,000.

A half century later, styles have changed, but a large part of Mayfield Heights’ housing stock hasn’t. That’s in part why the housing crisis hit the city — like neighboring South Euclid, Lyndhurst and Richmond Heights — especially hard.

Further east in more affluent communities including Gates Mills, Highland Heights and Mayfield village, foreclosed homes take care of themselves. They generally fly off the market before they can become a nuisance.

Nearly a decade after the housing crisis began here, the inner-ring suburbs, the ones that touch Cleveland, still have hundreds of vacancies.Here’s how the numbers looked in the Sun Messenger communities in the last quarter of 2014 and 2010, according to a Western Reserve Land Conservancy analysis of data from the Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing:

  • South Euclid: 413, up from 401 in 2010.
  • Richmond Heights: 129, up from 115 in 2010.
  • Mayfield Heights: 126, up from 91 in 2010.
  • Lyndhurst: 95, up from 94 in 2010.
  • Highland Heights: 48, up from 44 in 2010.
  • Gates Mills: 74, up from 57 in 2010.
  • Mayfield: 15, down from 24 in 2010.

Mayfield Heights and South Euclid have introduced new inspection and registration rules that allow city officials to track problem homes, crack down on owners who don’t clean them up or demolish them as a last resort. South Euclid has acquired millions in grants and developed programs to market its neighborhoods, while Richmond Heights has used grant dollars to try and save a street abandoned by the developer.

South Euclid city officials point to a 6-percent increase in home sale prices in 2014, according to data from Keller Williams realty. Mayfield Heights notes a new violation complaint system and four demolitions last year as signs of success. While Richmond Heights has invested in a new economic development director who hopes to tackle vacant commercial and residential real estate.

Mayfield Heights tamps down on negligent owners

The house on Longwood Drive in Mayfield Heights is engulfed in overgrown foliage, shingles are missing from the roof and weeds sprout from cracks in the driveway. In a couple months it will likely be a plot of green space.

The owner stopped caring for it and ignored the countless violations the city delivered to the doorstep, so the city, in partnership with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has decided to knock down the decrepit structure.

Mayfield Heights began partnering with the land bank, formally the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., last year to tackle eyesores. They demolished four homes in 2014, and in July, City Council approved plans to tear down the Longwood bungalow and another on Mayflower.

Eddie Bednar, who has lived across the street from the Mayflower home since 2006, said it’s been vacant for about four years, with 20-30 cats living inside at one point.

Building Director Tom Jamieson said neighbors like Bednar and concerned council members, who let the city know when there’s a problem, are often the first line of defense against problem houses.

“If there’s a house that’s getting bad, we hear from the neighbors,” said Building Commissioner Tom Jamieson.

Earlier this year a city rolled out a new online reporting system on its website where residents can go to notify the city of misfit properties. The city also registers and tracks foreclosures.

And in an effort to tamp down on flippers who buy deeply discounted, dilapidated homes and sell them to irresponsible owners who exacerbate the problem, council recently increase the amount sellers or buyers must agree to pay to correct violations.

Instead of $15,000, the parties must set aside money equal to the cost of repairs to receive a point-of-sale inspection. 

South Euclid beefs up marketing, community spirit to boost housing stock

Around 2008 Mayor Georgine Welo began building a team to battle the foreclosure crisis that decimated large portions of the bedroom community. South Euclid has founded dozens of programs, raised millions in grant money and partnered with multiple county-wide organizations to deal with the problem.

To market the city as a whole, the city has branded neighborhoods with signs, started a glossy magazine to promote the community, spiffed up streetscapes with planters andcommunity gardens, and is constantly promoting its efforts through other agencies and associations, both regionally and nationally.

The city adopted stricter inspection and registration policies and founded a community development corporation, One South Euclid, with the primary goal of finding permanent owners for abandoned homes.

The city received $1.3 million in grant money in 2009 from the First Suburbs Development Corp. and the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. It used the money to fix up five homes, equipped with environmentally friendly amenities including rain barrels, pervious pavement and rain gardens. Some of the funds also went to building community gardens and creating green space.

“The idea was to take a vacant/foreclosed property that would have to be demolished,” Community Services Director Keith Benjamin said. “So we not only saved a home, but in essence we saved a neighborhood.”

Using the newly renovated homes as a sales pitch to potential owner-occupants and investors who promise to sell to owner-occupants, One South Euclid began acquiring and selling vacant houses through the land bank.

“The public money was used to show private investors they can come in and do the same thing — make a profit and help stabilize the neighborhood,” Benjamin said.

The organization offers potential homeowners five-year, 75-percent tax breaks to those who plan to build new, revamp or expand their lots by buying up adjoining parcels where the land bank helped tear down homes too far gone to repair.

One South Euclid sold at least seven homes under these programs, and 16 more are for sale on its website.

Richmond Heights partners with management of ailing mall

The city has been sliding for years, reflected by the financial woes at City Hall and in the school system, its increasingly empty mall and declining population. The housing stock is no exception — 129 homes were vacant in Richmond Heights in 2014 and new residential construction is a rarity.

Richmond Heights also received Neighborhood Stabilization Program dollars to install sanitary sewers in a neighborhood abandoned by the developer, and bought, renovated and resold several homes.

Like South Euclid, Economic Development Director Christel Best is hoping to turn the city’s real estate troubles through a new marketing campaign with Richmond Town Square Mall, which lost its anchor store Macy’s earlier this year and several national-brand stores.

The city will promote vacant homes it owns and is trying to sell and available commercial real estate at the mall event Aug. 26, 5-7:30 p.m.

It will also use $100,000 from Cuyahoga County’s property demolition program to tear down nuisance homes. Richmond Heights and South Euclid were among 20 communities to receive demolition dollars from the county earlier this year. South Euclid was awarded $400,000.

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Land bank helps college grads, students buy homes; KnowBase changes name: Local Business Briefs (cleveland.com)

New land bank program helps students, recent grads get discounts on renovated homes

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cuyahoga Land Bank is handing over the keys to the first home sold through the Buying and Retaining Academic Investment Now program to a Cleveland State University student.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank recognized an opportunity to play a role in retaining talent in Cuyahoga County by connecting students and recent graduates with affordable housing, reads a press release.

BRAIN offers eligible students and recent graduates the chance to purchase a newly renovated home at a discount of 15 percent off the purchase price and an additional 5 percent of the purchase price to be applied to closing costs.

To participate in the program, students must either be currently enrolled in a college or post-graduate degree program or submit a BRAIN application within two years of graduation.

Not only do CSU students learn about the BRAIN program, but they also gain information about how to prepare for the purchase of a home. Outreach efforts on campus, including Smart Thinking workshops, put on in partnership with CSU student organization, Cleveland State Transfer Connection, and Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland, began this spring.

For more information on BRAIN, visit www.cuyahogalandbank.org/BRAIN.

KnowBase changes name to Roundtable Online Learning

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — KnowBase, an online learning solutions provider, has changed its name to Roundtable Online Learning.

According to a press release, the company’s new owner, Cleveland businessman Dan Grajzl, who founded Park Place International and Park Place Technologies, prompted a review of the company’s brand and name. The change, according to him, is a better reflection of the company’s evolution and online learning outcomes.

Roundtable Online Learning also has launched a new website,www.roundtablelearning.com, which features access to information about online learning and provides an experience that reflects the company’s approach.

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Lakewood, Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls vacant homes find new owners quickly: The House Next Door (cleveland.com)

LAKEWOOD, Ohio – Most vacant homes in Lakewood don’t stay empty for long, and the same can be said for Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls and Olmsted Township.

West-side mayors say the reason is a combination of strict code enforcement, in some cases financial assistance, and a strong housing market.

“We’re fortunate in Lakewood that our real estate market is very brisk and has been for the last couple of years,” said Dru Siley, Lakewood’s planning and development director. “There is a demand for all houses regardless of their condition. There is a buyer who sees an opportunity.”

More than 22,000 homes in Cuyahoga County were vacant last fall, years after the end of the housing crisis. The severity of the problem varies, worse in the inner ring suburbs, especially on the east side. But abandoned homes affect everyone in the county, based on the proportion of the tax burden and the millions of tax dollars thrown at the problem.

Determining the number of vacant homes is each city is difficult, but U.S. Postal Service numbers analyzed by the Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing and Western Reserve Land Conservancy show trends.

  • Fairview Park’s vacancies remained fairly steady between 2010 and 2014, with 108 vacancies in the fourth quarter of 2010 and 111 in the fourth quarter of 2014.
  • Lakewood saw a decrease from 595 in fourth-quarter 2010 to 366 in fourth-quarter 2014.
  • North Olmsted saw an increase from 163 in fourth-quarter 2010 to 212 in fourth-quarter 2015.
  • Olmsted Falls stayed fairly steady at 57 in fourth-quarter 2010 and 63 in fourth-quarter 2014.
  • Olmsted Township stayed steady at 60 in both fourth-quarter 2010 and fourth-quarter 2014.

Nearly every municipality will step in when grass is overgrown, either cutting the grass itself or hiring a contractor to do the work. Likewise, they will secure homes by boarding up broken windows. The municipalities then bill the owners.


The inner-ring suburb is dense with an old housing stock. Half of the city’s homes were built before 1920. Once the housing crisis struck in 2008, foreclosures created more empty and neglected houses.

While NEOCANDO estimates that in the fourth quarter of 2014, there were more than 360 vacant houses in the city, Lakewood city officials say those numbers appear too high. The city estimates the number of homes empty six months or longer is closer to 100. Four years ago, the number of long-term vacant homes was approximately 200, according to the city.

In 2011, the city launched a proactive approach for neglected houses, Housing Forward, a code enforcement program using a carrot-and-stick approach to bring houses into compliance.

Code enforcement inspectors went to each of the city’s 13,000 single- and two-family homes to identify maintenance code violations. The initial survey found 14 percent — or about 1,800 homes — needed obvious exterior repairs. Today, the city has reduced that number to only about 350 to 400 homes at any one time, Siley said. About 40 of those homes are long-term vacancies; most are occupied.

City inspectors then work with owners to fix violations. The problems could range from overgrown grass to a collapsing garage. If homeowners, frequently senior citizens, need assistance, the city tries to connect them with help. Sometimes LakewoodAlive, a private economic development group, will find volunteers to paint or make minor repairs to a house. The city also can help homeowners find financial assistance for repairs. Funding sources include federal Community Development Block Grant dollars and private lenders.

“That’s really the core to Housing Forward – proactive code enforcement and connecting homeowners to resources,” Siley said.

If homeowners refuse to cooperate, the city law department and Lakewood Municipal Court Judge can force owners to repair their homes or face fines.

If homeowners simply walk away from a house or die without heirs, the city can step in to protect the house until ownership issues can be sorted out and the house put back on the market.

“If no owner or lender will fix the issues, we will make sure the house is secure and weather tight,” Siley said. “We may put a new roof on the house to make sure no damage is occurring to the house, and then we mothball it. We put it in a position where it can withstand a few seasons of being abandoned before someone can buy that home.”

Lakewood has stepped in about 20 times in the last five years to make emergency repairs to a house it doesn’t own, Siley said. It puts a lien on the property to recoup the money eventually.

“We would rather spend $6,000 to $7,000 to put a new roof on a house rather than spend $12,000 to tear it down in a few years because of weather damage,” Siley said.

As a last resort, Lakewood, working with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, can declare an abandoned house a public nuisance and demolish it. However, that’s only happened about 25 times in the last five years, in large part because of the city’s proactive approach to keep properties from deteriorating.

The city can also buy an abandoned property, fix it up, and then sell it to a new buyer. The city has taken this approach about a dozen times in the last three years.

The most recent example is a 91-year-old house on Quail Street in Birdtown. The property was tax delinquent when the city bought it with federal money in 2013 and paid off the tax lien. The city repaired the house inside and out and in July sold it to a refugee family.

The city paid $57,000 for the house, spent $50,000 on renovations, and sold it for $90,000. In the end, the city spent $17,000 subsidizing the renovation, but it prevents an empty house from sitting on the block, where it would damage property values and affect quality of life of other residents, city officials said.

Neighbor Mark Eschenbach, who used to cut the grass when the house sat abandoned, credited the city improving the condition of the property.

“It looks a lot better than it did,” he said. “They kept it pretty well maintained, including putting a new roof on it.”

Olmsted Township

The township hired James McReynolds in June 2014 as the township’s first full-time building commissioner in about five years, and he is working with township trustees to address abandoned and neglected homes.

The township is aware of at about a dozen vacant homes. Township trustees in June created a three-member volunteer nuisance abatement committee – a group of private citizens who patrol the township in search of dilapidated properties.

“They go out and take notes and take photos,” McReynolds said. “We are looking for those houses that stand out as the worst in an area, and they typically are abandoned properties.”

The citizens report their findings to McReynolds, who verifies the violations, and then contacts the property owner with a notice of violation. Foreclosure cases, where a bank takes possession of a house, are especially difficult.

“We have found that banks are reluctant to do anything more than secure a property and occasionally cut the grass,” McReynolds said.

He tries to work with property owners, giving them time to correct violations. However, if they fail to respond, he resorts to correcting the problem, often sending out township workers to cut grass or board up broken windows. The property owner is billed.

“We are not punitive,” McReynolds said. “When we go after legal recourses, it is because it is our last resort.”

The township’s access to legal resources is limited. Unlike cities, which have law departments, the township must rely on the county prosecutor’s office or hire outside counsel for legal assistance with enforcement.

The township recently established a process by which trustees will hear nuisance complaints brought by the building department against a property owner. Trustees will try to resolve the conflict with the homeowner, but if they fail, the case could be referred to Berea Municipal Court for enforcement.

The policy is new, and no cases have yet been referred to the court, McReynolds said.

Fairview Park

In Fairview, Mayor Eileen Patton said the city tracks foreclosures when it becomes aware of them to make sure they don’t fall into disrepair.

Patton said she is not aware of any abandoned or neglected homes, but says the city puts pressure on owners to correct violations.

“When we do, it is a long and tedious process,” she says.

When a bank-foreclosed property is abandoned and falls into disrepair, she contacts the bank involved to demand repairs. She recounted one instance in which she was dealing with a banker from Dubai.

The city, working with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, demolished one dilapidated house about a year ago. Neighbors are now using the property for green space, she said. That is the only demolition case she could recall.

“We have been very fortunate,” Patton said, attributing the city’s success to its “reputation of not letting people get away with it.”

Olmsted Falls

The city is aware of nine homes that are neglected, Service Director Joe Borczuch said. It can’t say for sure whether they are abandoned.

Mayor Ann Marie Donegan believes problems with neglected homes spiked around 2011. In 2011, the city was aware of 105 homes in foreclosure. In 2014, there were 48.

“We, fortunately, are not on the same level as some inner-ring suburbs,” Mayor Ann Marie Donegan said.

The city tries tracking down owners of problem properties to make repairs. If necessary, the matter can be taken to Berea Municipal Court. In some cases, the city will hire a company to cut the grass, passing along the costs to the property owner.

The city is wrapping up a 10-year-old case involving not a home but vacant property where old buses, bulldozers, excavators, backhoes, and other pieces of equipment were stored. The case started in Berea Municipal Court and has worked its way up through the 8th District Court of Appeals. The city received a decision in late spring that will allow it to go in and clean out the property, Donegan said.

North Olmsted

The city doesn’t collect data on vacant homes, but has a comprehensive exterior maintenance program that applies to every house, said Planning and Development Director Kim Wenger.

When the city becomes aware of a house where the grass is not being cut and homeowners don’t respond to notices of violation, the city will send contractors to cut the grass and bill the property owner. If not paid, the bill is tacked onto property taxes, she said.

“I don’t think we pinpoint foreclosures and vacancies as major issues,” Wenger said.

Instead the city works with homeowners to correct any problems.

She could only think of a couple of instances in previous years in which houses had to be demolished because of their dilapidated conditions.

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Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights fight blight: The House Next Door (cleveland.com)

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio – On North Coventry Road, just a stroll from the famed Coventry Village, Cleveland Heights may try something it has never tried before – rebuild a neighborhood.

North Coventry, which runs from Mayfield Road north into East Cleveland, is dotted with empty residential lots. That’s because the city has been partnering with East Cleveland and Cuyahoga Land Bank to tear down more than 60 dilapidated, vacant houses.

Since late 2013, about 55 North Coventry houses have been leveled. Because of the large number of bare lots concentrated in one area, the city may sell the land to a residential builder or developer.

“It’s new ground, an aberration that came up due to the recession,” said Rick Wagner, housing programs manager for Cleveland Heights. “We want to clean up the blight, then look at redevelopment.”

The project is one of a variety of measures cities have taken to deal with older, deteriorating homes that have either been foreclosed on, abandoned or both.

More than 22,000 homes in Cuyahoga County were vacant last fall, years after the end of the housing crisis. The severity of the problem varies — it’s worse in the inner ring suburbs, especially on the east side.

But county government, through its new Property Demolition Program, has pledged $50 million — its biggest sum ever — to tackle the blight. In April, the program awarded Cleveland Heights $556,000 to tear down 49 vacant and dilapidated houses. Shaker Heights was given $885,000 to demolish 20 houses and commercial buildings, including the former Qua Buick dealership on Warrensville Center Road.

In North Coventry, about $2 million for demolitions came from the state and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. It was part of the settlement of a 2012 federal lawsuit against five mortgage providers that loaned money without vetting borrowers.

“It’s new ground, an aberration that came up due to the recession.”

All of these programs, along with an improved housing market, are making a dent.

According to U.S. Postal Service data, analyzed by the Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the number of vacant homes in Cleveland Heights dropped roughly from 834 in 2010 to 709 in 2014.

In Shaker Heights, the number of vacant homes fell from roughly 305 in 2010 to 215 in 2014, according to NEO CANDO. The number dropped from 151 to 87 in University Heights and from 56 to 47 in Beachwood.

Cleveland Heights

Cleveland Heights demolished 15 homes in 2008 and as many as 31 in 2012. Last year, the city knocked down 21.

The city doesn’t have to own a deteriorating house to bulldoze it. If the owner doesn’t respond to violation notices or show up in housing court, City Council can formerly declare the house a nuisance, which under state law and municipal code allows the city to demolish it. The city tacks the demolition cost onto the property owner’s tax bill.

Helping fund the demolition program is a one-time $2.3 million grant from the federalNeighborhood Stabilization Program. The city received the grant about five years ago and is still using the money. In addition to demolitions, the city obtained, rehabilitated and sold another 14 houses, thanks to the grant.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank also pays for house demolitions. Cleveland Heights first partnered with the land bank in 2011 in the DeSota Avenue neighborhood, where 16 houses have been taken down so far.

The land bank and city have shared demolition costs of larger commercial buildings, including the old Medic Drug at Noble and Glenwood roads and the former Clark gas station at Noble and Roanoke Road.

Taking ownership

Sometimes, cities like Cleveland Heights can take ownership of a house, then repair and sell it. Here’s how:

If a property falls into tax foreclosure, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office tries to auction it off. A property that doesn’t sell is forfeited to the state of Ohio.

The county Fiscal Office offers the property at two more public auctions. If the house doesn’t sell at the first auction, the county can reduce the price to rock bottom at the second – or transfer the property to its home city.

Once Cleveland Heights obtains a property, the city’s informal Vacant Lot Committee, made of Wagner and other administrators, decides what to do with it. The city can tear down the house, divide the lot and give the land to neighbors.

The city might also rehab a house, using federal money and following federal guidelines. The city hires the lowest-bidding contractor, which must correct all violations, install modern appliances and make the house energy-efficient.

“It’s as good as a new home,” Wagner said.

Then the city sells the house, at market price, to an owner-occupier.

Shaker Heights

Shaker Heights also rehabs and sells vacant homes through the city’s Shaker Renovator Program.

Kamla Lewis, Shaker’s director of neighborhood revitalization, said 19 houses have been renovated through the program since it started in 2011. Most have been sold, and three are now on the market. The renovator program has added more than $4 million of new residential tax value, Lewis sad.

“It was one of the key Shaker programs aimed at leveraging private investment into the housing stock,” Lewis said.

But the process in Shaker is a little different than in Cleveland Heights.

For example, CAP Construction LLC is now renovating a vacant house on Winchell Road. The city obtained the house after it fell into tax foreclosure. Lewis said the structure is sound but the interior was a mess, with several violations.

But the city didn’t hire CAP; it sold the house to the firm for $1.

In exchange, CAP must correct all violations. The company must install new electrical lines, water pipes, heating and air conditioning systems, insulation, windows, landscaping and a security system. CAP must also rebuild the back porch.

The estimated cost of the renovation is $100,00-$125,000. When CAP is done, it must sell the house to an owner-occupier, under the company’s contract with the city.

CAP owner Anthony Paciorek, who has done five previous home renovations for Shaker, said people ask him if he’s going to flip the house – fix it on the cheap and sell it for a handsome profit. But the city contract won’t allow shortcuts, and that’s fine with him.

“I love doing it,” Paciorek said. “We’re doing the job like I’m moving my own family in here.”

Staying in front

Lewis said Shaker Heights, through interaction with residents, saw the foreclosure crisis happening long before it was declared.

In the early 2000s, when city inspectors issued housing violation notices, they became acquainted with the property owners. City officials learned some of these residents had mortgages involving subprime loans with high interest rates and unreasonable repayment terms.

So in 2006, Shaker performed a foreclosure and lending study. It showed that subprime loans were closely connected to refinancing and foreclosure. Alarmed city officials, seeing vacant houses on the horizon, believed they had to do something.

“Early action from the city was critical,” Lewis said.

The city already had some housing programs in place, including:

  • A homeowner education program. The city teaches homeowners how to handle, or stay out of, foreclosure.
  • A tenant-screening program. Many landlords don’t know that tenant-screening companies exist. The companies evaluate a prospective tenant’s ability to pay the rent and take care of a rental property. The city solicits proposals from tenant-screening firms and finds discounted rates for landlords.
  • A nuisance-abatement program. If gutters are hanging off a house, of if the grass is high, the city will repair and landscape, whether the house is occupied or not. The city bills the property owner directly, and if that doesn’t work, adds the cost to their taxes. To pay for the program upfront, the city borrows by issuing bonds.
  • Point-of-sale inspections. Before a title is transferred, an inspection must identify all violations, and either the seller must correct violations before the sale or the buyer must assume responsibility.

As a result of the foreclosure and lending study, the city:

  • Created a landlord-training program. Landlords learn to manage their properties, screen tenants and comply with fair housing laws and eviction procedures.
  • Passed a vacant-property ordinance. Criminals damaged or moved into some vacant houses. Neighbors complained but police were helpless – legally, they needed the owner or owner representative to say the criminal had no permission to be there. So City Council passed an ordinance saying that if the city declares a house a nuisance, and the owner is absent, the city has custody of the property and can protect it from, and prosecute, invaders.
  • Enacted a nuisance property law. If the owner doesn’t correct violations, the city can tear a house down and –like Cleveland Heights – give the land to neighbors. In one case the city obtained a lot and sold it to Heights Christian Church, which installed a community garden and labyrinth.
  • Hired a vacant property monitor. This full-time worker checks vacant properties for bushes that need trimming, grass that needs mowing or paint that is flaking. If the problem isn’t fixed, the property goes into the nuisance abatement program.
  • Established a foreclosure-filing fee. If a bank forecloses on a house, it must pay the city $150 — $300 if the money comes in late. The paper work gives the city a person it can contact to make sure the bank cares for the property while it’s vacant. The city then tracks the property and, working with the bank, determines if the house needs demolished.

“We have a history of being proactive,” Lewis said.

University Heights

University Heights, on its website, touts itself as the “city of beautiful homes.”

Eric Tuck-Macalla, building commissioner for University Heights, says the low number of homes in distress – only five or six properties in the city, he said – supports that title.

Nevertheless, those five or six homes are a concern for Macalla, who started with the city a year ago. He recently established a nuisance abatement program for University Heights.

Through the program, City Council can declare a house a nuisance, which allows the city to cut the grass or pick up garbage. If necessary, the city hires a contractor to make repairs, or the city can tear down the house.

So far, two University Heights residential properties have been declared nuisances. The Cuyahoga Land Bank tore down one of those houses.

Sometimes a company or investor buys a vacant house. Macalla doesn’t worry about the company flipping the property; he’s just happy the city has a contact person because it increases the chances the lot will be maintained.


Beachwood officials did not return calls. The city had 47 vacancies during the fourth quarter of 2014, according to NEOCANDO.

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Middleburg, Brook Park, Berea may demolish more homes (photos) (cleveland.com)

MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — Leaders of three southwestern suburbs expect soon to demolish more neglected homes.

Middleburg City Council voted last month to authorize demolitions if necessary of three homes on Engle, Pearl and Fowles roads. Building Commissioner Norm Herwerden says the Engle homeowner has made some repairs and might be able to save the house. Herwerden expects the other two to be razed this year.

Each of the three cities has demolished three or more decaying homes in the past few years. Mayor Gary Starr of Middleburg, where five homes were razed last year, says demolition “sends a message to owners that want to damage their neighborhoods: ‘We are going to protect against any collapse of our property values.’ Once your neighborhoods start deterioration, it’s impossible to go back and fix it. Let us be aware of what’s happening and stop it now.”

Officials say the typical demolished home had been neglected and vacant for a while. It might have belonged to a bank, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a dead owner’s estate or to an absent, unresponsive owner. It may have been beset with leaks, trash, mildew, vermin and more.

For the past few years, the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, commonly known as the Cuyahoga Land Bank, has demolished decrepit homes for Berea and Middleburg and tried to recoup the cost from the owner. Other decaying homes there have been razed by the owners.

In Brook Park, Mayor Tom Coyne returned to office last year and hired a private contractor to raze three homes for about $12,000 apiece. He says the city has about 300 endangered homes, and he hopes to raze six to eight more of them soon.

In Berea, new private homes have been created on three of the demolition sites and a neighborhood garden on a fourth. Developers have bought some of the cleared sites in Middleburg and expressed interest in Brook Park.

Coyne says the biggest hurdles are loans. “The interest rates are great, but it’s still very hard to get money.”

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What exactly is a land bank? Glossary for The House Next Door (cleveland.com)

 Confused about how exactly foreclosure works, or what a land bank does?

No worries. Northeast Ohio Media Group assembled a glossary of vacant home terms, to help you navigate the topic with aplomb.

Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp: The quasi-governmental nonprofit debuted in 2009 to acquire foreclosed and abandoned properties to reduce blight, increase surrounding property values and improve neighbors’ quality of life. Homes and properties flow through constantly, acquired mostly through tax foreclosures, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and government-owned housing lender Fannie Mae.

The land bank, as its commonly called, has helped renovate about 1,100 homes and demolish about 3,500 crumbling properties.

Mortgage foreclosure: If you can’t pay the mortgage on your house, your mortgage company or bank can file foreclosure.

Cuyahoga County saw more than 8,000 foreclosures filings in 2014, according to the Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing, a program of Case Western Reserve University.

Mortgage companies file foreclosures in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, and the court must send out a notification to the homeowner of the allegations against them. That could take months, because sometime the homeowner doesn’t live at the home, or doesn’t take mail.

After the notification is received the homeowner has 28 days to respond. If they do file a response, the case could go to mediation or be dragged through years of legal back and forth. If they don’t respond then by default, they admit that they owe the money, Cuyahoga County Chief Magistrate Stephen Bucha III said.

Without a response, a hearing is scheduled to hear the allegations, and a magistrate decides whether to recommend foreclosure. After a two-week window where the homeowner could file objections — Cuyahoga County waits three weeks, though, to allow for extra time — the case goes to a judge, who weighs the magistrate’s recommendation, and ultimately decides whether the bank can foreclose. That means the bank seizes the ownership of the home.

Tax foreclosure: The process is similar to mortgage foreclosures, but Cuyahoga County – which collects property taxes – acts as the bank. Typically, if you are at least two years delinquent on your property taxes, the county lists your name, and the amount owed against the property in the newspaper as a public notice in November. Then the county can file foreclosure proceedings in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

Board of Revision foreclosures: If a property overdue on its property taxes is certified as vacant, it becomes a candidate for a Board of Revision foreclosure. This special process fast-tracks the foreclosure procedures, and can shave between four to six month off the process, said Colleen Majewski, the supervisor of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Office tax foreclosure unit.

Sheriff’s sale: A public auction where foreclosed properties are sold to the highest bidder. The money recouped from the sale goes to pay the liens against the property. If the property is in a bank foreclosure, the minimum bid must be two-thirds of the appraised value. If the property is in tax foreclosure, the minimum bid must be the amount owed in taxes plus court costs. It also wipes the property clean of most remaining liens.

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Trial for owners of of condemned apartments around Shaker Square could open July 2 (cleveland.com)

Municipal Court Housing Division officials are already impressed with the turnout of interested observers in the case of two condemned apartment buildings overlooking Shaker Square.

And up to now, that’s just been for the pre-trial conferences.

It’s a trend that Jay Westbrook with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute would like to see continue with the actual trial set to open Thursday (July 2).

“I was told that this has been the most organized, persistent community presence they’ve seen in the courtroom in 20 years,” Westbrook, a former Cleveland City Councilman, said at the June 25 Shaker Square Alliance meeting.

The buildings in question are located at 13020 Drexmore Road and 2804 South Moreland, owned by Shakertown Apartments, a limited liability corporation.

The limits of that liability could now be determined in the courtroom of Judge Raymond Pianka, where the owners have been presenting proposals to transfer the deeds or bring someone on board to finally fix the buildings up.

Shaker Square Area Development Corp. Board President George Palda remains unconvinced that this proposal is going to work.

“I’m troubled by the fact that Paul Gabrail was a willing buyer and was rebuffed,” Palda said. “Why wouldn’t you accept the offer with the most money?”

Gabrail owns the Shaker Square Apartments and said earlier he has made three offers on the buildings.

Ohio Fair Lending Coalition Director Chip Bromley explained that unlike cities such as Cleveland Heights, which can take neglected buildings into receivership, Cleveland pursues criminal charges and fines.

Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner and state Representative Mary Boyle noted that the buildings would probably qualify for tax credits and other funding possibilities for much-needed improvements — if an owner was so inclined.

The Shakertown trial will begin July 2 at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 13-B of the Cleveland Municipal Court Building, 1200 Ontario Street.

Meanwhile, over on Larchmere Boulevard, the long-vacant Sedlak building is in what is known as a 30-day “Redemption Period,” after no bids were received at a Sheriff’s Sale on June 8.

But at the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, they’re still saying it’s too soon to celebrate, because the property has not been conveyed to the county yet,” Bromley said.

The Redemption Period allows for the transfer of the property, and also provides incentive to involve a new purchaser.

“Then hopefully sometime in July we can jump up and down,” if the long-awaited transfer to the county Land Bank becomes official, Bromley added.

Bill Whitney, Chief Operating Officer for the county Land Bank, expressed guarded optimism shortly after the Sheriff’s Sale, saying that he has seen too much legal maneuvering over the past three years to claim victory yet.

And while it’s not a done deal yet, Shaker Square Alliance officials learned Tuesday that the proposed Woodland-Larchmere Commercial Historic District has been recommended by the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board for official designation.

Consultants Wendy Hoge Naylor and Diana Wellman said the Ohio Historic Preservation Office will now now forward documents to the National Park Service which will review the proposed listing over the next 2-3 months.

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Today’s Land Bank Boom Could Lead to the Extinction of Land Banks (Next City)

Frank Alexander wasn’t expecting his book, Land Banks and Land Banking, to wind up so big.How the Zombie House Crisis Mutated and What Cities Are Doing About It

“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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Rocky River to apply for $3 million state grant for Center Ridge Road traffic study (cleveland.com)

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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Survey of All Cleveland Properties Nearly Finished (WCPN)

by Nick Castele

A survey of every property in the city of Cleveland is nearing completion. The project will take a snapshot of the city’s housing seven years after the financial crisis.

For years, Cleveland has tried to estimate just how many houses and buildings in the city are vacant, abandoned or falling down—a legacy of the foreclosure crisis and the steep loss of population the city has experienced.

The 2013 American Communities Survey by the U.S. Census estimates 21.5 percent of Cleveland’s housing units are vacant. The non-profit Thriving Communities Institute set out to do its own count.

This summer, the group sent teams of people through the city to photograph and record the condition of each property. They’re expected to finish their survey this week.

“It’s not an entirely gloomy picture,” Thriving Communities director Jim Rokakis said. “There are some very stable neighborhoods in the city.”

He said surveyors found some neighborhoods were in better shape than the city predicted, and others were worse off.

“We’re also getting other information,” Rokakis said, “trying to overlay, do an overlay of crime data, an overlay of health data, to get a complete picture of just what all this housing data means.”

The full report will be finished in about a month, Rokakis said. The institute finished a report on properties the suburb of East Cleveland, and is also working on a survey in Dayton.

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Did you know?

This summer the Cuyahoga Land Bank has had the opportunity to host Joyce Pan Huang who was sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship Program.  Joyce is currently a graduate student of the Masters in Urban Planning, DLand Bank Staff esign and Development Program at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs.  Joyce’s work focused on mapping and research of vacant and abandoned industrial and commercial properties in the City of Cleveland.  Joyce also assisted with the Side Yard Program and greening projects at the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  Joyce  is pleased to be part of the team, she states, “Having an internship at the Cuyahoga Land Bank has been very enriching for me as a future planner who hopes to work in the non-profit sector.  Not only have I had a chance to practice my technical skills here, I’ve enjoyed working alongside people who are passionate about land reuse and maximizing the quality of life for Cuyahoga County residents.”  Joyce has been a great addition to the Cuyahoga Land Bank staff this summer.  We wish Joyce well as she continues her Masters Program and work in Cleveland!

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News Feature

The Cuyahoga Land Bank was recently featured in Cleveland.com The House Next Door. The article discusses the problem that Cuyahoga County is facing with abandoned and vacant properties following the housing crisis.  The feature discusses the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Demolition and Renovation process and how these functions combat vacancy and strengthen our communities.

NL Feature


Posted in 2015.8.1, Newsletter, Press Release

City of Euclid and Cuyahoga Land Bank Partner to Expand Golf Course

Briardale Green Golf Course is now able to expand with assistance from the City of Euclid and the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Briardale is an eighteen-hole Land Bank Staff course that is located between Babbitt Rd and East 250th.  The course had previously bordered two properties that had been deteriorating for several years.
Both the City of Euclid Land Bank and the Cuyahoga Land Bank were able to collaborate on the removal of these vacant properties.
The City of Euclid demolished the first abandoned house and transferred the property into the City of Euclid’s Land Bank in 2009.  In 2014, the golf course discovered a second home that was abandoned. City officials reached out to the Cuyahoga Land Bank for assistance in demolishing the home. The golf course was able to expand, once the property was acquired and demolished. Now the General Manager of Briardale, Matthew Baca, is able to create a more scenic course.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank utilized funds from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s Neighborhood Improvement Program to demolish the property. The land was then transferred to the City of Euclid.
“The Cuyahoga Land Bank is pleased to have removed a blighted influence and at the same time assist the City of Euclid with their golf course expansion,” said Bill Whitney, Chief Operating Office of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  Both golfers and the course managers are happy to now expand the grounds. The eighteen hole, par seventy course offers amenities and golfing for all skill levels.  To visit the golf course or for further information visit: www.briardalegreens.com.

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Fairfield County Land Bank Begins Demolitions (Lancaster Eagle Gazette)

LANCASTER — For the first time since its creation two years ago, the Fairfield County land bank has begun demolishing homes that were eyesores and rodent attractions in neighborhoods.

Four had come down as of Friday and another four will come down in the next three weeks.

“People in the neighborhoods have expressed how glad they are to see these buildings come down,” said Michael Kaper, executive director of the Fairfield County Land Reutilization Corp. “We are glad to see this start happening as well so the properties can once again be turned into something useful.”

The demolitions come after the land bank was able to obtain the properties through sheriff’s sales. Under the Ohio Revised Code, land banks operate as non-profit community land reutilization corporations.

One razed last week was at 523 Zane Ave.

Edna Friend, who lives across the street from the property, said she had lived there for 50 years and knew the owners for years.

“At one time it was a beautiful house with knotty pine ceilings and had a great big beautiful tree out front,” Friend said. “But it was left to rot. They took the pine out. It’s been a magnet for roaches, snakes and river rats. Definitely glad to see it come it down.”

For a blighted property to fall into the land bank’s hands, it has to go through the foreclosure process, either by the mortgage holder or the county board of revision. After that process is complete, the land bank can take the title to the property and sell it at a sheriff’s sale or demolish it. A land bank also can transfer the deed to a local government. A delinquent property owner could stop the proceedings by paying the back taxes and agreeing to improve the property.

The land bank is funded through an additional 5 percent fee on all delinquent real property tax collections along with delinquent manufactured and mobile home taxes and assessments. In 2014, the Fairfield County land bank was also awarded a $642,500 Neighborhood Initiative Program grant from the Ohio Hardest Hit Fund Project.

Donna Fox-Moore, program coordinator for the Lancaster-Fairfield Community Action Agency, said the land bank’s demolition program, coming on the heels of the Ohio Moving Forward demolition grant program last year, will help clean up eyesores in neighborhoods.

“With the money we have from the current grant, we should be able to bring down around 30 homes,” Fox-Moore said. “As conditions of the grant, the homes need to be in targeted areas and must be graded and seeded before we leave.”

The land bank had acquired a total of 11 homes in the initial round through sheriff’s sales.

“By next Wednesday’s sheriff’s sale we will have purchased a total of 24 houses,” Kaper said. “Most are in Lancaster but there are some in other parts of the county.”

For Mike Sasso, who has lived next to the demolished home on Zane Avenue since 2009, the program is a success.

“I knew the guy who used to live there, but it can’t be repaired. There are foundation problems. It’s simply not reparable,” Sasso said. “It brings in mice and rats and it’s time to come down. Now maybe something nice can come out of it.”


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Cleveland Council of World Affairs visits the Cuyahoga Land Bank

The Cleveland Council of Worlds Affairs (Council) through its Assistant Program Officer, Katie Ferman, contacted the Cuyahoga Land Bank to host a meeting for Sylvain Barfety of Bordeaux, France. The Council sponsors a International Visitors Leadership Program in which the they host hundreds of current and emerging leaders from around the world.Land Bank Staff The Council coordinates meetings for international visitors to build the bridges of understanding between local citizens and their foreign counterparts.
On July 17th, Sylvain arrived in Cleveland as a guest of the Council and began his visit with a trip to the Cuyahoga Land Bank to meet with Bill Whitney, the Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Barfety, a young developer engaged in the sustainable redevelopment of a large brownfield site in Bordeaux, was eager to hear about the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s operations and assistance to sustainable reuse projects in Cuyahoga County.
Mr. Barfety was most excited to hear about the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s assistance to the multifaceted redevelopment of the Foundry Project, a sustainable redevelopment in its infancy at E.71st and Platt in Cleveland. The Cuyahoga Land Bank assisted in the acquisition and transaction of the property to the future developers.
Ms. Ferman and Mr. Barfety were able visit the Foundry Project and get a tour of the future development site. According to Ms. Ferman, Mr. Barfety was extremely excited about his visit to the Cuyahoga Land Bank and that touring the Foundry was “thoroughly exhilarating for Sylvain! He kept saying that he wished there were more buiLand Bank Staff ldings like that in Bordeaux because of its potential.”

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Posted in 2015.8.1, Newsletter

Cleveland Council World Affairs | Euclid Golf Course Expansion – 2015.8.1

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Posted in 2015.8.1, Newsletter

Village of Glenwillow Acquires Vacant Lot for Future Park Site

Thanks to the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 172 (SB 172) in June of 2014, local government agencies now have the option to conduct important environmental surveys before they acquire a vacant property that has been forfeited to the State of Ohio.Land Bank Staff
SB 172, co-written by Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos and Cuyahoga Land Bank Staff Attorney Doug Sawyer.  It helps local government agencies remove and repurpose blighted, vacant and abandoned properties more efficiently.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank was able to practice the new legislation recently on a property with the Village of Glenwillow that is being planned for a new park trail and a park service center to the community.
“Under SB 172, Glenwillow was able to conduct environmental testing before they acquired the property through the Cuyahoga Land Bank,” said Sawyer. “It’s gratifying to see the Village easily re-purpose once vacant land for its residents.”Land Bank Staff
Together, Glenwillow and the Cuyahoga Land Bank successfully acquired a ten acre site that had been forfeited to the State of Ohio, and then transferred it to Glenwillow.  The property will enhance Glenwillow’s park system through the potential addition of a trailhead for a proposed multi-purpose trail along Tinkers Creek and allow for a Service Department building to house park maintenance equipment and vehicles.
“Even though both of these exciting projects are still in the planning stages, the acquisition of this property gave us the incentive to move forward on these improvements for our community,” said Mayor Mark Cegelka. “We are grateful for the professional assistance and cooperation from the staff at the Cuyahoga Land Bank in seeing this project to fruition.”

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Posted in 2015.7.2, Newsletter

The Possibilities of a Community Garden

On a drizzly Saturday in May, an assorted group of friends, neighbors and community volunteers came together to nail together boards, rake leaves, mow grass, shovel dirt and put in plants on two vacant plots of land where houses once stood on East 117th street near Buckeye Avenue in Cleveland. Age groups ranged from seniors to toddlers; they differed boLand Bank Staff th racially and economically. Everyone was laughing, sweating and getting dirty.  They were building a garden!

Diana and Daniel own the house on one side of the East 117th Street Community Garden and Liz owns the house on the other side.  Liz previously had applied to the City of Cleveland Land Bank to acquire the vacant lot adjacent to her house for property expansion.  Diana also had purchased the vacant lot next to her house from the City Land Bank and then recently acquired the lot adjacent from the Cuyahoga Land Bank Side Yard Program, which had previously been a vacant and abandoned house that was demolished by the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  Once Diana acquired the side yard, Liz suggested forming the lots into a community garden for the neighborhood.

“Thanks to Liz these lots are now a community garden,” said Diana.  “When we began gardening on her side yard, the neighborhood kids came out to help and it inspired her to start a conversation about making it a community garden.”

Land Bank Staff

Liz has been a part of the block since 1986.  She believes that creating a sense of community by having people involved with the garden can have a positive impact on the neighborhood.  She’s been putting up posters and knocking on doors to convince people to participate.
“I think it brings life to the street because people in passing see that we want to contribute something positive,” said Liz.  “If other people see we are doing something, they may want to be involved.”
With the help of Lilah Zautner, Manager of Special Projects and Land Reuse at the Cuyahoga Land Bank,  Diana took ownership of the second lot and then the duo was on their way to making their vision for a community garden a reality.
“We are excited to see how this side yard is being transformed into an asset for the greater community,” said Lilah Zautner.  “It is great to see Clevelanders reimagining their private spaces as community places for the betterment of the neighborhood.”
Thriving Communities Institute (TCI) is supporting Diana in obtaining a Cleveland Climate Action Fund Grant.  Special Projects Manager for TCI, Jay Westbrook, joined the garden kick-off in May.
“At Thriving Communities Institute, we love projects like this that pull the community together and return formerly distressed properties back to productive use,” said Westbrook.  “It was really great to see the City and the Cuyahoga Land Bank work hand in hand to make this garden possible.”

Diana and Liz envision a community orchard, a working greenhouse, an edible forest garden with native trees like paw paws, hazelnuts, serviceberries and persimmons; along with perennial berry, bushes, herbs and flowers.

“I am looking to create a space that is healing, welcoming, educational, inclusive, and nourishing,” said DianaLand Bank Staff , who has again expanded her vision for the East 117th Community Garden.
The raised beds will belong to the people that plant them and other areas of the garden will remain open for the entire community to use.  Diana and Liz are hosting regular community meetings to ensure that everyone benefits from the space!

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Posted in 2015.7.1, Newsletter

Larchmere Community Award

The Cuyahoga Land Bank was recently recognized by Larchmere Merchants Association, Larchmere Community Association, Shaker Square Development Corporation, and Shaker Square Alliance for their work with the Larchmere community in the redevelopment and acquisition of the Sedlak Building on Larchmere Boulevard.  Bill Whitney, Chief Operating Officer and Doug Sawyer, Special Projects and Policy Counsel were recognized for their efforts.

Posted in 2015.7.2, Didja Know?, Newsletter

Thriving Communities: And Then There Were Twenty-Five!

Incredibly, the smallest mustard seed can grow into one of the largest and most sturdy trees at full growth.  In 2009, legislation was passed in the State of Ohio for the creation of county land banks. This legislation planted the seed in Cuyahoga County and led to the growth of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  Six years later, that seed has turned into a powerful and effective countLand Bank Staff y land bank movement throughout the State of Ohio thanks to the work of Thriving Communities Institute (TCI).  The Thriving Communities Institute, directed by the former Cuyahoga County Treasurer James Rokakis, has  helped counties establish their own county land banks, and facilitates training throughout Ohio.  There are now twenty-five land banks and four more on the way thanks to TCI’s work.
TCI is the convener of quarterly meetings held in different parts of the State where all county land banks come together, share best practices, address new issues and share success stories.
“The beauty of land banking is that one size does not fit all,” said Trumbull County Treasurer and Board Chairman Sam Lamancusa.  “We board-up, renovate, demolish and improve properties throughout the County in ways never before possible thanks to the creation of county land banks.”  That was the message at the most recent TCI land bank quarterly conference in Columbus in mid-June of this year.
Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel, Gus Frangos, Chief Operating Officer, Bill Whitney and Staff Attorney, Doug Sawyer, attended this quarterly meeting.  They discussed proposed legislative changes  to the tax foreclosure process and land banking statutes.  Doug Sawyer outlined some of the more important changes that were on the horizon.Land Bank Staff
Speakers talked about new greening techniques and progress with the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s (OHFA) Hardest Hit Funds designed to assist with  blighted and vacant properties in communities.  Clark County Executive Director, Tom Hale, explained how the Clark County Land Bank is taking the lead on securing an Internal Revenue Ruling establishing special non-profit status for county land banks in Ohio.
Robin Thomas, Land Bank Program Director for TCI facilitated the meeting and reminded all those present of the upcoming Ohio Land Bank Conference this October.  Thomas explained that “the conference allows all land banks, city officials, elected officials and community development non-profits to come together and learn about some of the newest tools available for engaging in neighborhood stabilization and community development work.”  Just six years since county land banks first formed in Ohio, there are now twenty-five in total and Rokakis believes that by the summer of next year, nearly half of Ohio’s counties will have their own county land bank.

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Posted in 2015.7.2, Newsletter

New Cuyahoga Land Bank program provides students and recent graduates with up to a 20% discount on newly renovated homes

The Cuyahoga Land Bank is excited to be handing over the keys of the first home sold through the BRAIN (Buying and Retaining Academic Investment DSC_1254Now) program to Cleveland State University (CSU) student Peter Camba.


“Brain gain” – the attraction and retention of young professionals with higher education degrees – has long been touted as an economic development driver and affordable housing is one of the factorsto retaining young talent. With several well-respected universities in the area and an inventory of vacant homes ready to be renovated and returned to productive use, the Cuyahoga Land Bank recognized an opportunity to play a role in retaining talent in Cuyahoga County by connecting students and recent graduates with great, affordable housing.  With this goal in mind, BRAIN was created.


“The long term success of our community is reliant upon the success of the future generation,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank Director of Programs and Property Management Dennis Roberts. “We realized that we have the ability to increase those chances by connecting young graduates with low-cost affordable housing, giving them a jumpstart on building a productive future, and that’s why we decided to create BRAIN.”


Thanks to this collaboration CSU and the Land Bank, Organizational Leadership Major, Peter Camba realized that homeownership was within his reach.  Originally from California, Camba likes living in Greater Cleveland and wants to stay beyond college.  Through BRAIN, he was able to purchase a three bedroom, red brick colonial with a deck and a fireplace in Cleveland Heights at a significant discount.


“I think it’s amazing that there are programs out there like this to help students,” said Camba.  “My new place is close to school, University Circle, Little Italy and plenty of retail.  I love the location.  As soon as I saw it, I thought, this place is perfect.”


BRAIN offers eligible students and recent graduates the chance to purchase a newly renovated homeat a discount of 15% off the purchase price and an additional 5% of the purchase price to be applied to closing costs.  To participate in the program, students must either be currently enrolled in a college or post graduate degree program or submit a BRAIN application within two years of graduation.


With the help of CSU Board Trustees Dan T. Moore and June Taylor, the Cuyahoga Land Bank cemented a memorandum of understanding with Cleveland State University, whereby students get the opportunity to learn not only about the BRAIN program but also gain valuable information about how to prepare for the purchase of a home.


“The BRAIN program offers the student who is ready, willing and able an opportunity to purchase a quality home at an excellent price with guaranteed equity,” said Taylor.  “This is a win for both the student as well as for the community at large, which will ideally benefit from retaining bright and talented professionals.”


Outreach efforts on campus, including Smart Thinking workshops, put on in partnership with CSU student organization, Cleveland State Transfer Connection, and Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Housing Services, began this spring.


“The collaboration between CSU and the Cuyahoga Land Bank around the BRAIN program provides our students with the opportunity to gain practical DSC_1259education about homeownership and build wealth through owning real estate,” said Moore.  “BRAIN provides an incentive for students to invest in this community by owning a home and hopefully launching a career right here in Cuyahoga County.”


For more information on BRAIN, visit www.cuyahogalandbank.org/BRAIN.




Posted in Press Release

Did You Know

The Cuyahoga Land Bank was recently awarded the Community Impact Award by the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS) and American Institute of Architects Cleveland (AIA). The award was given to the Cuyahoga Land Bank for their work with Famicos Foundation Historic Homes project. CRS and AIA Cleveland recognize organizations annually to celebrate local historic preservation projects that have made a significant investment in revitalizing Northeast Ohio.

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Posted in 2015.7.2, Didja Know?, Newsletter

Land Banks and Land Banking-The second edition by the Center for Community Progress

The Center for Community Progress recently released its second publication that discusses new research and resources for land banks to carry out their mission to improve blighted properties and strengthen communities. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is featured as “the largest and most productive land bank in the country.”  Please see the link below to order a copy!

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Posted in 2015.7.1, Media Alert, Newsletter

Did ya Know

The Cuyahoga Land Bank partners with Court Community Service which supervises community service work crews to assist with property maintenance for the Cuyahoga Land Bank properties. Here is an overview of the outcomes from the partnership in 2014:
Hours Worked: 3,523
Bags of Litter: 3,979
Tires Collected: 167
Cubic Yards of Debris: 305

Posted in 2015.7.1, Didja Know?, Newsletter

American Dream

“You know you have truly become an American when you dream in English.”  That was the anecdote used by Dr. Akram Boutros at the annual banquet of the International Service Center (ISC) held earlier this year.  Metro Health CEO, Akram Boutros, immigrated to the United States from Egypt when he was a child.  He was the keynote speaker at the annual banquet.  ISC is part of a national collaborative that provides services to refugees throughout the world who come to the United States to escape oppressive conditions, whether they be war, dislocation, political repression or natural disaster.

Executive Director of ISC, Karin Wishner, spoke with passion about the urgent need to assist refugees coming to this country who very often have not experienced the simple conveniences of running water, a roof over their head and freedom from daily fear of violence.  Dr. Boutros also praised the work of ISC at a time when the world has experienced so much chaos and war.
The United States authorizes entry into its borders where oppressive conditions can be shown.  Such showing, however, can often take years, sometimes more than a decade for a family to be approved for entry and still only about seventy thousand refugees are admitted annually into the United States.
Dr. Boutros explained that as a nation of immigrants and the leading world democracy, the United States is and should remain the inclusive, welcoming bastion of freedom that it is known for.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank and ISC partner together in identifying and providing housing for refugees that come through ISC’s doors.  “We seldom find partners like the Cuyahoga Land Bank, so willing to embrace our work.  Bringing families into the United States, for them, is sometimes a matter of life and death,” said Wishner.  Currently, the Cuyahoga Land Bank and ISC have completed the placement of forty four refugees (nine households) in seven homes supplied by the Cuyahoga Land Bank. ISC has experienced almost no turnover for this housing.

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Posted in Newsletter

Ohio Land Banks | Glenwillow – 2015.7.2

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Posted in 2015.7.2, Newsletter

East 117th Community Garden | ISC- 2015.7.1

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Posted in 2015.7.1, Newsletter

Home Owner Feature

Christopher Saddler became a first time home owner when he purchased a Cuyahoga Land Bank property in the City of Garfield Heights.   “Because of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, I was able to purchase a residential property for me and my family,” says Christopher.  He had such a good experience in purchasing his first home, that he returned to purchase a rental property for additional income through the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Deed-In-Escrow Program. We wish Christopher well as he begins the path as a new homeowner.

Posted in 2015.6.1, Home Owner Feature, Newsletter

Did You Know

The Cuyahoga Land Bank would like to welcome our new Board of Directors for 2015.  This years new members include Armond Budish Cuyahoga County Executive, W. Christopher Murray II Cuyahoga County Treasurer and Dan Brady President of Cuyahoga County Council.  Also joining is Edward Rybka, Chief of Regional Development for the City of Cleveland.  The Board Chair for 2015 is Anthony Brancatelli City of Cleveland Councilman and Vice Chair, Brad Sellers, Mayor of Warrensville Heights. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is pleased to have our Board Chair and Vice Chair returning.

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Posted in 2015.6.1, Didja Know?, Newsletter

From Foundry to Fish Farm

Everyone cheers when an abandoned industrial property can find new life – but it takes money, savvy and, most importantly, a vision.
Those qualities came together for the Central and Fairfax neighborhoods with the launching of The Foundry Project, an innovative project in its infancy slated for a mixed-use re-birth on East 71st Street and Platt Avenue. Thanks to assistance from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, the former T&B Foundry, a former metal casting plant, will hopefully transform from a boarded-up factory to a sustainable fish farm and a groundbreaking data center. It’s owner, J. Duncan Shorey envisions all sorts of possibilities: an orchard, a fine arts incubator and an educational center for fish farming.
The unusual brownfield redevelopment is the brainchild of Land Bank Staff Shorey, an environmental attorney, consultant and geothermal expert. He sees a synergy between the proposed functions of the eight acre property. “We are looking to accomplish a lot,” he says. The property had been vacant since T&B closed in 2012 and was starting to deteriorate. There were legal hurdles to overcome and the property was weighed down with almost two million dollars in liens. Shorey credits the Cuyahoga Land Bank for clearing away those enormous obstacles and acquiring the property with a clean title. This allowed Shorey to purchase the property in March to begin his plans.
Initial focus is on the fish farm and data center. The fish of choice is Branzino, also known as Mediterranean sea bass, a mild-tasting, quality fish that is high in healthy Omega-3 fats and currently farmed in Europe. Growing them in Cleveland will mean fresher, healthier fish for restaurants and markets across the Great Lakes Region region and Ontario. The farm will use a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS), a process in which water is cleaned, filtered and recycled to the fish tanks without hormones or antibiotics, creating a low-stress environment.  According to Shorey, he has collected letters of intent from several seafood distributors, as well as endorsements from Cleveland chefs Karen Small of Flying Fig restaurant in Ohio City,Land Bank Staff  and Doug Katz, owner of Fire Food and Drink in Shaker Square.
“We did a lot of market research,” Shorey says, “and asked what restaurants would buy.  We had to ask, is this fish agreeable to being managed? Across all types of farming, that is a consideration.”
Another important factor was the cost of generating energy to run an aquaculture site that proposes to produce ten thousand pounds of fish per week. According to Shorey, the solution is an underground, bunkered data center that will use three 100-gigabit per second fiber networks located next to the adjacent rail lines to provide customers with one of the world’s fastest internet connections. The data center will generate “waste heat” that will power and heat the fish farm which in turn will produce fish waste to feed the planned orchard and other crops. “We will use geothermal technology – it is not new,” Shorey says, “but it is off-the-shelf technology used in an innovative way.”
“We will have twenty thousand square feet of computer space,” ShoLand Bank Staff rey adds, “a massive array that will be an economical data center for some of Cleveland’s biggest companies.”
In total, The Foundry Project will cost between fifteen million and twenty million dollars, including about six million dollars for asbestos removal in the old foundry building. Shorey says he plans to develop the property in stages; over time it will generate jobs as well as education.
“We hope to grow sustainable fish, create good jobs for both inner city and other residents and bring good food choices to the neighborhood,” states Shorey.
His timeline is ambitious: Shorey says, the data center will happen pretty quickly and “we will be growing fish in the next year.”

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Posted in 2015.6.1, Newsletter

Vacant Homes in Slavic Village Transform into Works of Art

With cleaned out vacant properties as their canvas, local artists transformed four homes in Slavic Village into spectacular temporary artLand Bank Staff  exhibits. The art exhibition was part of the second Rooms to Let: Cleveland held on May 16th and 17th.
Hundreds of people from the community and Greater Cleveland gathered to enjoy the free event. Members of The Cleveland Orchestra performed as Factory Seconds kicked off the live entertainment that included music, art activities and local food.
Slavic Village Development brought the event to Cleveland as a way to further the conversation about the foreclosure crisis and its effects on Cleveland’s neighborhoods. Participating artists were invited to visually interpret their views on the impact of the foreclosure crisis and the community’s path to recovery by using four Cuyahoga Land Bank owned homes to host their work.
“Seeing the transformation of these vacant properties, while temporary, is amazing,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel, Gus Frangos.  “The Cuyahoga Land Bank is proud to participate in such an innovative event impacting our community.”Land Bank Staff
The vacant homes were a unique medium for the artists. “Each house and space within is original. There were almost no limits to what could be created,” said Dana Depew, an artist and one of the event curators.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank provided assistance to Slavic Village Development along with support from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture for the exhibition.

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Posted in 2015.6.1, Newsletter

NEON Collaboration Provides Housing for Veterans and their Families

A crowd of residents, local elected officials and community partners were welcomed last month to the launch of the Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NEON) Veterans Housing Project by brightly colored green and blue balloons, garnishing project boards and a waving American flag.Land Bank Staff
NEON and the Cuyahoga Land Bank collaborated to launch the initiative to renovate ten residential units to provide permanent affordable housing for veterans.
The units are part of a row house and a four unit apartment building across the street from NEON’s Collinwood Health Center, off St. Clair Avenue and East 152nd Street.  This location allows for easy access to the health services that NEON will provide to future residents of the housing complex.
“Our veterans and their families deserve to live in a safe, supportive and healthy environment,” said Willie F. Austin, NEON’s President and CEO. “This project provides 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.”Land Bank Staff
The Cuyahoga Land Bank helped NEON acquire the properties that were vacant and abandoned for their development entity, Community Integrated Services which will renovate and manage the properties at a cost of more than five hundred thousand dollars.  The Cuyahoga Land Bank also invested fifty thousand dollars and is an equity partner in the project.  All of the homes will include green amenities, such as energy efficient furnaces, energy-saving double-pane windows and insulated doors.
“The men and women who serve our Country have made many sacrifices,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President and General Counsel, Gus Frangos. “Providing veterans with affordable housing and support through programs like this is just one way of saying thank you.”

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Posted in 2015.6.1, Newsletter

NEON | Rooms to Let | Foundry Project – 2015.6.1

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Posted in 2015.6.1, Newsletter, Uncategorized

Cuyahoga Land Bank

The mission of the Cuyahoga Land Bank is to strategically acquire properties, return them to productive use, reduce blight, increase property values, support community goals and improve the quality of life for county residents.

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