Mapping out how Detroit is tackling a mountain of blight (mlive)

No one who has driven through Detroit is surprised by what confronts city residents: More than 84,600 properties are blighted by one estimate, a staggering number that means more than one in five parcels citywide is tainted by a dilapidated structure.

With decay running across almost every neighborhood, perhaps the most daunting task was deciding where to start. Thus this dilemma: Detroit could spend tens of millions of dollars across every neighborhood and make no visible dent in many places.

See which Detroit neighborhoods get blight relief first in this interactive map

So city leaders have made hard choices since Mike Duggan became mayor in January of last year, picking a handful of targeted areas in which to spend the first wave of $50 million in federal money. This includes, for instance, parts of the west side but not all of Brightmoor, an area that’s been rocked by foreclosure and abandonment. It also includes East English Village and Jefferson-Chalmers on the east side, but not all of the area in between, much of it a pockmarked landscape of urban prairie.

In the past eight months, more than 3,700 structures have been demolished or are in the process of getting knocked down, according to the city. Duggan spokesman John Roach said that before the mayor took office the city was demolishing 50 structures a week. Roach said the goal is 200 a week (about double the city’s current pace), which would take care of 10,000 structures a year. Even at that hoped-for rate, it could take up to 10 years to clear all properties currently marring the city.

Detroit is burning through $100 million in federal funding for demolitions, but it needs hundreds of millions more. The Detroit Blight Task Force, which oversaw the mapping of the entire city to get a handle on the blight problem, estimated the total bill could hit $850 million.

When he was Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr initially outlined a plan to take some of money Detroit would save through bankruptcy and spend $520 million on blight removal over the next decade. But Roach, the city spokesman, and city Chief Financial Officer John Hill are less specific.

If the city cannot find additional savings or new revenues, there is no additional city money slated for blight removal, Duggan warned told local leaders in February. He told the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Policy Conference the city is looking for more federal money. The mayor is “hopeful they’ll be able to find additional funding by the summer,” Roach said.

Better neighborhoods get priority

The city has drawn hard lines surrounding which neighborhoods get help first. More densely populated areas that are just beginning to fray with abandoned homes will get the bulldozers first. Areas that are already largely abandoned will have to wait. That means dozens of demolitions and clean-ups can take place on one street, while a block away homes are left to wither, their windows broken out, foundations cracked and garbage strewn around.

“It became pretty simple: Where are you going to do the most good with the money you’re spending,” said Craig Fahle, director of public affairs for the Detroit Land Bank Authority. “Where is the money going to have the biggest impact on the most people?”

Working with the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, the land bank has flooded the chosen areas with money to knock down houses, taken owners of vacant homes to court and sold the abandoned home in the best condition at auction.

The city based those decisions on where they felt a dollar invested could bring the greatest return, trying to identify “tipping point” neighborhoods that could be saved.

A review of census data shows the areas getting immediate attention are indeed those with the most people. These priority neighborhoods also have the highest rates of owner-occupancy, with higher household income and lower vacancy rates.

While the administration of former Mayor Dave Bing stumbled in its initial call for a sweeping renovation of city neighborhoods (Bing met fierce resistance when he urged residents to move to the city’s “population centers,” warning that those in abandoned neighborhoods would receive fewer services if they stayed put), Duggan has been careful to avoid any rhetoric that suggests forced relocations.

Still, there are lines, and they divide.

Asked what the city’s message is to residents outside the targeted demolition neighborhoods, Fahle said, “We’re not in your neighborhood – yet,” and adding, “But we want to get there. It may take a while but we want to get there.”

‘Winners and Losers’

Jim Rokakis is well aware of the problem Detroit leaders face. As a one-time Cleveland city council member and later treasurer of Cuyahoga County, Rokakis saw what blight was doing to Cleveland and he became an instrumental leader in creating the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. He knows what triage means for a city.

“It means there’s winners and losers,” he said bluntly.

But like battlefield triage is designed to treat those most in need, Detroit’s efforts have their own logic. By pouring finite resources into finite areas of the city, Detroit can show visible, momentum-building results. Detroit’s scattershot approach of the past left the city looking pretty much the same.

“You can nibble away at the edges but you will always be nibbling at the edges,” Rokakis said, who supports Detroit’s efforts to target specific areas.

In 2013, the Detroit Blight Authority, a private nonprofit group, targeted 14 blocks in the northwest neighborhood of Brightmoor for blight removal and added 21 more last year, creating a template now on display across the city.

A number of blight removal advocates traveled to New Orleans and Baltimore to witness efforts in those cities. Though the scale of the problem there is dwarfed by Detroit’s, the lesson was the same from both.

“It became very clear,” said Chris Uhl, vice president of social innovation for the Skillman Foundation, who was on the blight removal task force. “You absolutely had to target.”

Attacking vacancies

In addition to the more than 3,700 demolitions or planned demolitions since last year, the Detroit Land Bank has taken action on another 2,852 vacant properties, citing the owners for vacancy and demanding they remedy the problem or lose the building, the city reports. Of those, 1,762 went to court, leading to 440 consent agreements and 362 default judgments. Hundreds of other owners have simply donated their property to the city.

The city has not lost any of its nuisance abatement cases in county court, Fahle said.

The goal is to use the court’s authority to force owners to turn a vacant structure into an occupied one. And for those well-kept properties the city already controls through donation or tax foreclosure, the city is turning to the auction block. Although just 79 have been sold, 182 have been closed upon and another 1,464 are in the auction pipeline, according to the city.

Combined, the auctions, demolitions and citations are part of the three-pronged effort in the targeted neighborhoods. “If you want to do this comprehensively, you had to do it all,” Uhl said. “You have to have a lot of different solutions.”

Out in the neighborhoods, those efforts may be difficult to see at first glance.

On Runyon on the east side, one block of 30 parcels in the Osborn targeted area had just 21 homes. Only seven appeared occupied. Several blocks east, outside the targeted area, more homes were occupied though some would benefit if others nearby were knocked down. Yet two blocks west, most homes were occupied, the lawns managed.

On one of those blocks of Barlow, James Pureifoi, 43, was changing a tire recently. He’s glad he’s moved from the Harper and Gratiot area to Barolow, where most of the homes still stand and are occupied. But he lives just outside the Osborn area that is being targeted for home demolitions and he chafes when he learns he’s on the wrong side of the line. He can see three boarded up homes from his porch and he said he deals with the crime that pervades the area.

“I don’t like that (one area is) being picked because everywhere needs help,” he said.
From ‘apathy to excitement’

Uhl, Fahle and others hope the targeted approach will invigorate residents. In the neighborhoods receiving help now, neighbors will be more prone to pick up a shovel or rake and tend to their own corner of the world. “It turns (people) from apathy to excitement,” Uhl said.

With time in short supply – the city got just 18 months to spend the first $50 million – the city is focused on leveraging that excitement. And, according to Fahle, the mayor is leading the charge, peppering housing officials with questions during weekly sessions about specific blocks and lots.

Research has shown that demolishing blighted homes in troubled neighborhoods can raise the property values for those still occupied. Research funded by Cleveland area nonprofits showed that demolitions add value, depending on the overall quality of the neighborhood and the proximity of the affected homes to the demolition.

That same study, though, also showed that some neighborhoods are too far gone to see values rise. Not that those residents don’t deserve attention, Rokakis said. It’ll make the neighborhoods safer and points to the value of tackling the issues earlier. “We should have staunched the bleeding earlier,” he said of Cleveland. “We’re in mop-up mode.”

Detroit’s leaders say they are anticipating a day in which the city’s strongest neighborhoods, scattered across Midtown, the northwest side, and east near the border with the Grosse Pointe communities are thriving again; when the appearance of a “for sale” sign indicates a future resident is coming, not a backhoe.

“We can envision a day in East English Village, when the only time a home is empty is when the owner has moved and it’s waiting for the new owner to move in,” Fahle said.

Until then, the demolitions will continue, court cases will be filed and the auction block will be full of Detroit properties, a couple neighborhoods at a time.

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Fun Fact

The new downtown Heinen’s in the historic Cleveland Trust Building is now open! HeiLand Bank Staff nen’s grocery story chain, based in Warrensville Heights, invested ten million dollars in the renovation of 900 Euclid Avenue. Meanwhile, at the Heinen’s food production facility in Warrensville Heights, the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s demolition crews have been working to clear blight for the expansion of the facility.


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Helping Keep School Kids Safe

Every once in a while, the Cuyahoga Land Bank gets to partner in a project that not only enhances a neighborhood, but keeps its residents safe as well.
Joseph Giuliano had just started his job as program manager with Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) when a particularly troublesome property

Land Bank Staff landed on his desk. The property was an abandoned home on West 69th Street, owned by an absentee landlord.  Such cases are routine for the Cuyahoga Land Bank, but another factor complicated this project. The property sat across the street from a neighborhood elementary school.

It was a tempting, dangerous space for school kids to explore.  The vacant property was attractive to draw drug dealers and other criminal activity, besides being a safety and health hazard for the community.
“We felt an urgency to move forward,” Giuliano says. The owner was willing to donate his property so that it could be demolished—but first, multiple outstanding liens had to be removed for clean title.”
“Red tape stalled the project for three years and built up the accumulating of delinquent taxes,” he explained.  But finally, all of the liens were released and the Cuyahoga Land Bank was able to accept the property and create clean and marketable title for the property.
It didn’t take long for DSCDO to find an owner-occupant to buy the property. “The buyer had a background in home construction,” Giuliano says. The property will put the buyer’s skills to work considering the large renovation specification list that he has to tackle to bring the property back to code.
But the project has a happy ending. The new owner is working with DSCDO to ensure his restoration is done correctly. His sister already has purchased the house next door, and he’s looking to invest and rehabilitate more homes in the neighborhood.
“We were fortunate to find this buyer,” Giuliano says. “And it feels real good to wrap this project up, knowing the property is now in good hands!”
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Did You Know

This past fall the Cuyahoga Land Bank founded CLB Services, an environmental services company. Kenneth Tyson became the first Executive Director of CLB Services after leaving his position at the Cuyahoga Land Bank. The company currently offers Hazard Evaluation Surveys (asbestos surveys) and has plans to roll out additional services later this year. With the increasing demand for demolition throughout Ohio, there is a growing opportunity in the environmental services industry. Kenneth ran several businesses before his work at the Cuyahoga Land Bank and becoming the Executive Director of CLB Services. The company sees a great deal of potential for growth by increasing its services and expanding its client base to include more organizations and municipalities in Cuyahoga and surrounding Counties. CLB Services works in collaboration with the Cuyahoga Land Bank, to create higher production and better efficiency with every asbestos survey job that they complete. If your organization or community is in need of asbestos surveys, please reach out to Kenneth Tyson, Executive Director, at 216-307-6001 or for more details.

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Randall Park Mall Demolition Clears Way for New Investment

In 1976, the newly built Randall Park Mall was bustling and busy, teeming with shoppers. The new mall featured 200 retail shops and at that time, was the country’s largest mall, known for its high-end stores. Land Bank Staff
Today shopping in the Village of North Randall is a distant memory. The once glamorous mall is being demolished to make way for a new industrial park which will house manufacturing and potentially a distribution center.
“The Village of North Randall, Mayor David Smith, saw this as a challenge to re-energize the community.  For several years, he doggedly met with development officials, County Development offices and staff at the Cuyahoga Land Bank in order to assemble the site and now Mayor Smith has finally succeeded,” said Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel, Cuyahoga Land Bank. “We must be about turning these situations into opportunities. This will now become the venue for jobs and renewed retail activity in our Village. Redeveloping the land will help North Randall meet a growing demand for industrial space, while benefiting the community both aesthetically and economically,” Land Bank Staffsaid Mayor Smith.
The Industrial Realty Group (IRG) is taking on the new development.  With the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s help, IRG acquired the former Dillard’s department store land parcel while IRG acquired the remaining mall parcels.
On December 29, 2014, IRG crews began demolishing the abandoned Dillard’s department store and its attached buildings. The demolition provided an instant face-lift to the area. According to reports, the full development site could involve more than seven hundred thousand square feet of construction and the approximate addition of one thousand new jobs.Land Bank Staff
“The redevelopment of this land is a new beginning for the Village of North Randall,” said Charles Horvath, Building Commissioner for the Village. “I am looking forward to the area’s transformation into a vibrant area of growth.” Demolition of the site will take several weeks.
Watch video footage of the demo on YouTube.
Check out our Facebook page for more photos.

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Randall Park Mall Demolition | Keeping School Kids Safe- Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2015.3.1


Posted in 2015.3.1, Newsletter

More than 14,600 abandoned homes in Ohio razed with mortgage settlement cash (

More than 14,600 blighted homes around Ohio have been demolished during the past three years, thanks to $75 million from a national mortgage settlement, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Friday.

DeWine said his “Moving Ohio Forward” demolition grant program, which wrapped up last year, has helped to increase property values and eliminate houses used to deal drugs and commit other crimes. The cleared land is often transformed into parks or scooped up by neighbors to expand their yards.

“This program was vital, vital to our communities,” said Cleveland City Councilman Anthony Brancatelli, chairman of the Cuyahoga Land Bank board, at a news conference with DeWine Friday morning.

Cuyahoga County received nearly $13 million — the most of any Ohio county — in the program and combined the cash with $11.3 million in local funding to tear down 3,449 structures, according to DeWine’s office. Many were near schools, churches, and social centers.

Ohio received about $330 million from the 2012 national mortgage settlement, which ended disputes with mortgage servicers accused of acting illegally in foreclosure proceedings. Most of Ohio’s share went straight to borrowers, in the form of loan alterations or cash payments.

DeWine’s office received $94 million of Ohio’s share. Besides demolition grants, the attorney general spent most of the rest on children services and public safety.

About 15,000 abandoned structures in Cuyahoga County are still being considered for demolition in the wake of the national foreclosure crisis, Brancatelli said.

While all of the $75 million from DeWine’s program has been used up, he said, Northeast Ohio officials have $50 million in bond money, as well as other revenue, to continue the teardowns.

Forty-eight states also shared in the $25 billion national mortgage settlement.

Ohio was one of five states to use part of their settlement money on demolitions, said Matt Lampke, DeWine’s mortgage foreclosure counsel. The four other states — Michigan, Maryland, Kentucky and Wisconsin — spent far less than Ohio did.

In Ohio, every organization that applied for a piece of the money had to specify how it might assist those affected or at risk because of the foreclosure crisis.

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Fun Fact

Cleveland was ranked as one of the nations top travel destination in 2015!  Cleveland has been mentioned by New York Times, 52 Places to Go in 2015, Travel & Leisure, Best Places to Travel in 2015, Fodor’s Travel, Fodor’s Go List 2015, and Los Angeles Times, 15 Destinations for Travelers to Set Their Sights on in 2015. Check out these features that are spreading the word that Cleveland is the place to visit!


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There’s Safety In Numbers (Of Parking Spaces)

West-siders who have driven to Cleveland’s Second District Police Station to report a burglary or other crime can tell you: getting out of their cars hasn’t always been the most comfortable experience, especially after dark.
That’s because the parking lot usually is full to capacity and they have to find street parking, often some distance from the stLand Bank Staff ation. “There are barely enough spaces for staff’s cars,” says
Jamie DeRosa, Cleveland Commissioner of Real Estate. “Officers generally park in the driveway and residents have to park on the street. It’s definitely become a safety issue.”
That tense situation is about to change, thanks to quick action by Ward 14 Councilman Brian Cummins, the Cuyahoga Land Bank and the City of Cleveland.   A property at 3918 Daisy Avenue, adjacent to the station (which fronts on Fulton Road), went into tax foreclosure and “we saw an opportunity,” Cummins says. “We had been tracking that property for several years, because it was an eyesore and the need for additional parking had been identified.”
The Cuyahoga Land Bank acquired the property through tax foreclosure; because it’s located in a Historic District, it had to undergo the city design review process before the house could be demolished. Once the demo was approved, the property was transferred to the City of Cleveland and the land was cleared.
Soon, 11 new parking spaces will be created. “We’d like to add more, but for the short term, this will meet the need,” De Rosa says. But the improvements to the property won’t stop there. “We’re going to add a landscape buffer in front of the station as part of the Fulton Road enhancement,” Cummins says, “and they’ll be removing weeds and overgrowth around the station. It’s a win-win-win for the police, the community and the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
“Council and the local development organizations rely on the Cuyahoga Land Bank as an important partner in dealing with distressed properties,” Cummins adds. “We always take into consideration what the best use of those properties might be, and working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank is an important tool in site control for vacant and abandoned properties in our neighborhoods.”

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Gorgeous New Digs For The Children’s Musuem

The tycoons who built their mansions along Millionaire’s Row couldn’t have foreseen a day when one of their lavish residences would welcome more than 100,000 laughing kids a year—but that’s exactly what’s lined up for that famous stretch of once-stately homes.Land Bank Staff
The Children’s Museum of Cleveland acquired one of the last remaining manors available for repurposing, and no one is happier than Maria Campanelli, Executive Director of the museum.
“We’re going to take this gorgeous building and make it fun,” she says of the former Stager-Beckwith House, located on Euclid Avenue between East 36th and 40th Street. “It will be filled with rich memories.” Museum staff spent two years reviewing other properties and researching trends in children’s exhibits, and chose the Italianate and Second French Empire-style home for its spacious rooms and central location.
Originally a 10,000-square-foot dwelling, the Stager-Beckwith was built in 1866 by Anson Stager, General Superintendent of Western Union Telegraph Co., one of 40 such mansions along Millionaire’s Row.  Stager sold it three years later to interior designer T. Sterling Beckwith.  Over the next century it expanded to a 66,000-square-foot estate with an annex, carriage house and sports center, which housed the University Club.  Most recently, the house served as the main campus of Myers University.
“The old girl has a few wrinkles now.  The property had been vacant for five years,” Campanelli says.  “A pipe had burst, causing significant water damage.”  But, she adds, it’s an ideal new home for The Children’s Museum. “We will double our exhibit space and just brought in a new exhibit designer. We’re not eliminating the favorites that children have always loved, but those ideas will be presented in a new, fresh way.” A bank of north-facing windows brings plenty of sunshine into the sprawling ballroom, and both the green space in front and a huge patio behind the mansion will be used for additional programming.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank played a key role in the museum’s move. “We acquired the property, forfeited to the State of Ohio in a tax foreclosure,” says the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s,  Doug Sawyer, Special Projects and Policy Counsel. “The Children’s Museum was then able to purchase it from us for a fraction of the amount of taxes that had been owed.”
The Children’s Museum will be fully active in its current University Circle location until the home is renovated.  Once the new location is completed it will be, The Children’s Museum’s first permanent home after 37 years. “Within a 1-mile radius, you have seven organizations devoted to early-childhood learning,” Campanelli says. “That’s how much Northeast Ohio values its kids. We’re thrilled to be moving closer to our natural partners.”

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Plans for Greater Cleveland Fisher House rounding third (

The more than four-year effort to create a place where veterans and their families could stay for free while a vet is receiving medical treatment here, is rounding third and heading for home.

At least, “I hope so,” said Tom Sweeney, president of the Greater Cleveland Fisher House campaign.

The goal is to build a $6 million, 18-suite facility near the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center in University Circle.

The house would become part of a national and international network of 64 such facilities partially funded and built by the 25-year-old, nonprofit Fisher House Foundation, of Rockville, Maryland.

Thus far the local campaign has raised $2.3 million of its $3 million goal. The Fisher House Foundation would match that $3 million amount.

Financial support for the local campaign has ranged from gifts from such corporate donors as Lincoln Electric, KeyBank and the Eaton Corp., to small fund-raisers held by veterans service organizations throughout the area.

Sweeney said the need for a Fisher House here is well established. He noted that, “people from all over America are sent to Cleveland” because of the services offered by the VA’s medical center here – the third largest in the nation — and through its partnerships with other local hospital systems.

Susan Fuehrer, director of the Cleveland VA Medical Center, said about 520 veterans are referred here each year from outside the area to take advantage of treatment in such areas as open heart surgery, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injury and long-term care.

The VA has about 15-20 veterans or family members per day staying in a local hotel while a vet receives medical care.

“There is a demonstrated strong need for a Fisher House here, based on the number of vets and families who are here on any given day,” she said. “We have enough volume to satisfy two Fisher Houses.

“A Fisher House could be a huge benefit to veterans and their families, and a great thing for the city of Cleveland,” she added.

Rick DeChant, treasurer of the local campaign, remarked, “We have this great mosaic of care for veterans in Northeast Ohio. All it’s missing is one tile – a Fisher House.”

Putting that last tile in place has come down to site selection and a primary contender is a 2.5-acre mostly vacant lot on East 105th Street, between Lee and Orville avenues. The site is within walking distance of the VA medical center’s Wade Park campus.

The site is made up of several parcels owned by the city of Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, and the Famicos Foundation (a nonprofit community development corporation).

All of those lots would have to be brought together in a single parcel and donated to the VA before a Fisher House could be constructed on the site.

“It’s all in friendly hands. All of us are working together to see that this happens,” said Gus Frangos, president of the Land Bank.

Frangos said there are no tax liabilities attached to the parcels, no zoning problems and no need for action by Cleveland City Council to combine and donate the parcels.

“The next step is for somebody from Washington (the VA), as well as a national Fisher House representative, to take a look at it one more time to make sure it’s a desirable site,” he added.

He noted that the facility would not only be a good addition to the neighborhood, but the area is good for a Fisher House, offering a variety of nearby University Circle attractions for Fisher House residents to visit.

Once the site is selected and donated, project permits and architectural renderings will go before the city’s planning commission, according to Frangos.

“Generally speaking those things should not be impediments,” he said. “Everybody is just very excited about this.”

Ward 9 City Councilman Kevin Conwell is also a big fan of the project, and said it could spark economic and commercial development in the neighborhood.

“Once I know the project is moving forward, I’ll sit down and talk to other developers,” he said. “This could be a great shot in the arm to stimulate the economy in that area.”

Derek Donovan, Fisher House Foundation vice president of programs and community relations, said the ball is now in the VA’s court.

“We’re working with the VA to make sure everything is acceptable to the VA,” he said. “At this point in time the VA has a bigger say than we do.”

Donovan noted that a Fisher House in Cleveland would meet a pressing need.

“The Secretary of Veterans Affairs gives us a list of locations with the greatest need for family lodging at (VA) medical centers, and Cleveland is on his list,” he said. “It’s the VA’s choice.”

Currently there are 26 Fisher Houses on VA properties nationwide. There are three Fisher Houses in Ohio, one at the VA medical center in Cincinnati, and two at Wright Patterson Air Force base near Dayton.

Donovan said that as soon as a final site here is selected and donated, work can start on site preparation including environmental inspections and plans for utility connections.

Construction would take about 12 to 15 months, so even if the site was finalized this year, the Greater Cleveland Fisher House would not open until 2016, according to Donovan.

The $6 million price tag is on a par with the cost of similar Fisher House facilities.

Building the facility is not contingent on the local campaign meeting its $3 million goal. “When a site is ready for us to start building, we’ll start building,” Donovan said.

He praised the efforts of the local campaign. “They’re doing great. It’s a very passionate group, doing a great job not only just raising money, but raising awareness about Fisher House,” he said.

Once the Greater Cleveland Fisher House is built, it will be run and staffed by the VA. Donovan said operating costs can typically range from $150,000-$200,000 a year.

The foundation stays involved with its facilities in terms of providing possible assistance for repairs, or costs associated with rehabilitation.

A Fisher House also heavily relies on volunteers to help make residents comfortable, Donovan said.

The local campaign will continue to collect funds to provide money for resident family outings and “just to make these people feel comfortable in Cleveland,” Sweeney said.

According to Donovan, the benefits of a Fisher House here also go beyond the projection that it will provide nearly 6,000 nights of lodging per year, saving veterans’ families in excess of $500,000 annually that would have been spent on hotels, meals and other costs.

“One thing a Fisher House always shows these families is that somebody cares about their sacrifice, not just of a veteran but the sacrifice of a veteran’s family as well,” he said.

“That, in and of itself, does some pretty remarkable things for these families.”

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Children’s Museum | Cleveland Police – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2015.2.1

2.1.15 NL

Posted in 2015.2.1, Newsletter

For Cuyahoga County demos, a strategic plan and code enforcement both needed: editorial (

Remember that $50 million demolition bond former Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald promised in his “State of the County” last February?

Well, thanks to some laudable examples of both bipartisanship and continuity, the administration of new County Executive Armond Budish – in cooperation with county council and the county Land Bank — has begun to roll out one of the most ambitious and comprehensive efforts to eradicate zombie properties in recent history.

Now the challenge must be to yoke those dollars to a carefully planned, strategic effort focused on neighborhoods where demolitions can make an immediate difference to property values and where properties can be bundled, either as mixed-use development, green space, urban farms or for another beneficial economic opportunity.

This program is also a time to take stock of deficiencies in local housing enforcement efforts to ensure that absentee owners keep their properties up to code and, if they don’t, that they are held accountable in Housing Court.

Last October, county council approved the Cuyahoga County Property Demolition Program. In December, council President Dan Brady created a Community Development Committee to oversee its implementation.

And on Monday — barely a month after Budish and many on county council took office — the first applications for demo dollars are expected to land at the county’s Board of Control, according to Gus Frangos, president of the Land Bank.

The Land Bank will be one of those applicants. The ordinance that describes the demolition initiative — underwritten by a county bond — provides three, one-time allocations of $3 million for the Land Bank. That money will be used to raze blighted properties the Land Bank received from Fannie Mae and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as from local tax foreclosures and tax forfeitures, Frangos said.

Frangos added that 16 municipalities already have contracted with the Land Bank to handle their demolitions — from Moreland Hills, Lakewood and Shaker Heights to East Cleveland. “Everybody has a little need,” Frangos said.

And some communities’ needs are bigger than others’.

Frank Ford, senior policy adviser at the nonprofit Thriving Communities Institute, broke down those needs for county council:

• Approximately 8,000 properties ready for demolition in Cleveland;

• An additional 1,013 properties in East Cleveland; and

• An estimated 1,000 properties in the rest of Cuyahoga County.

“We’re talking roughly 10,000 properties total,” Ford said.

The $50 million is not enough to tear down all of them. That would require $100 million — each demo costs about $10,000. But it will go a long way, as long as the money is spent wisely.

Even though Cleveland is home to 80 percent of the targeted blight, the money must also be aimed at achieving change on blocks or in neighborhoods where city and community leaders have documented both overriding need and urgency — and provided redevelopment plans that are funded and make sense.

How the demo money is going to be dispersed is still under review, said Budish for this editorial.

Obviously, cities should have to provide an economic development plan for the vacant land. But, Budish said, he wants to hire a deputy director of housing and community revitalization to oversee the process and work with communities to frame these projects in consistent and practical ways.

“If the county acts quickly and strategically some of these properties may be viable for renovation,” Ford said. “The issue isn’t that some of the properties can’t be rehabbed. It’s that the housing market is so distressed it’s not financially feasible to renovate them.”

Frangos agrees. “Once we start tearing down the worst of the worst, that’ll promote more rehabs.”

Cleveland city councilman Mike Polensek takes it a step further. “Why aren’t these slumlords in Housing Court for code violations? Hold them accountable. Enforce the code. Not everything needs to come down.”

That would be a good conversation for the new county deputy director of housing and community revitalization to have with municipal housing-enforcement officials.

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Cuyahoga County Council expected to give final approval to $10 million for lakefront bridge tonight (

Cuyahoga County Council tonight is expected to approve spending $10 million to help build a $25 million pedestrian bridge connecting the Cleveland convention center to the lakefront.

Council, which is meeting at 5 p.m., also is expected to approve a two-week extension to the county’s dog license application deadline, as well as a measure requiring  County Executive Armond Budish to disclose salaries in paperwork seeking council confirmation of candidates for high-ranking jobs or board appointments.

Northeast Ohio Media Group reporter Andrew J. Tobias will attend the meeting, and provide lives updates in the comments section of this post. You can also watch the meeting live on the county’s website.

Council also likely will approve giving $3 million to the Cuyahoga Land Bank to demolish vacant properties. The funding is part of a $50 million demolition program council approved last October.

Finally, council is expected to approve a new community development committee which will be chaired by councilman Anthony Hairston, who was appointed last year to fill a council vacancy. And, Budish will formally introduce a pair of nominations — Nailah Byrd for clerk of courts, and Eddy Kraus for director of regional collaboration. Both appointments are subject to council confirmation.

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2014 Year End Review-2015.1.1

Year End Review 2014

Posted in 2015.1.1, Newsletter

Fun Fact

The Cuyahoga Land Bank has a total of 27 municipal agency agreements out of the 59 municipalities in Cuyahoga County. The agency agreements allow the Cuyahoga Land Bank to act as the agent for each Municipality to take action on property requests for demolition, rehabilitation, and acquisition.



Posted in 2014.12.2, Fun Fact!, Newsletter

King’s Sons 820 partner on youth workforce development training program

How about this for a recipe for success? Take one of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s houses. Add in the youth of King’s Sons 820. Liberally seasoned with workforce development and character building, and in the end you have a renovated house ready for sale and newly trained and proud young men!
This is exactly what the Cuyahoga Land Bank and King’s Sons 820, Inc., cooked up last year when they partnered to help at-risk and troubled youth by providing workforce and life skills training.
In 2013, King’s Sons 820 founder, William Foster, approached the Cuyahoga Land Bank with a desire to expand  programming to include character building, financial literacy, spiritual guidance and workforce development. This programming will teach young men about discipline, hard work and construction skills. Foster worked with trained contractors to instruct and supervise the men in the renovation project, and the Cuyahoga Land Bank contributed a home for them to renovate.
In the program, men, age 16 to 24, learn the fundamentals of the construction trade from licensed professionals that donate their time to King’s Sons 820. They get paid $8 an hour during training and are offered tuition assistance to pursue higher training.
“This new workforce training program teaches our men to work with their hands, their minds, and their hearts,” said Foster.  “They learn the principles of construction, as well as how to work as a team, respect authority, follow directions and challenge themselves.”
Demetrius Harvey, 18, said, “I’m gaining an influx of knowledge on how to paint, lay down tile, and hammer correctly.  We are learning not just to get it done, but how to do it right. It’s great to learn a skill – no one can take it away from you.”
Harvey was one of the young men that renovated the first home last summer through the workforce development program. He is now a student at Cleveland State, he is OSHA certified, and is considering a career in project management or design.Land Bank Staff
“For me, this experience was about growth and training,” said Michael Booker, 22, who is studying to be an electrical engineer.  “I learned to be more outgoing and how to interact with people on the job.  When you work together in a close environment and you are all learning, you see your own flaws and those of others pretty quickly.  I learned it’s all about how you push each other to accomplish the goals for the day.”
The youth training program starts at 16. However, boys as young as nine joined King’s Sons 820 and got their hands dirty on this jobsite.  Eric Adams, 10, and brothers Jordan, 12, and Johnathan Medley, 13, worked together to plant flowers and shrubs around the property.
“The younger boys are learning that the principles you need to apply to be a good man are also the principles of a good worker,” said Foster.  “By participating, they are able to be a part of the overall bonding and learning experience and are excited about potentially going through the program.”
Land Bank Staff

“This program provides valuable workforce training and places renovated homes back on the market – a win/win,” said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos.  “However, for me, the real value of being able to make a program like this possible by providing the homes is the lifelong, positive impact the experience has on the lives of the young men in the program.”
King’s Sons 820 recently sold the renovated home in Euclid. They are holding the proceeds for the next house, which they hope to acquire soon. They have already recruited more eager men into the development program.  These men are just waiting for the next chance to cook up success on their next renovation project.
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Posted in 2014.12.2, Newsletter

Demolition makes way for Heinen’s expansion

On an early December morning, Cuyahoga Land Bank contractors began work to demolish a dilapidated 77,000 square foot structure for the future site of Heinen’s new food production plant in the City of Warrensville Heights.  The demolition process included the removal of the building, asbestos remediation, building cleanout, and fencing and debris removal which cost totaled at $610,000.
Heinen’s is purchasing the property from the Cuyahoga Land Bank and reimbursing all costs related to the demolition. Heinen’s plans to build a nine million dollar, 70,000 square foot food production plant. Land Bank Staff “The Cuyahoga Land Bank was instrumental in the acquisition and clean-up of this site, which is contiguous to our present warehouse,” said Heinen’s Director of Finance Daniel Musil.  “This allows us to build our new food production plant. It leverages the shipping and receiving infrastructure that we currently have in place at our present warehouse facility. It also grants access to future potential expansion.  The food production plant will be utilized to expand the wide array of meat, prepared food and bakery products, enhancing our selection for customers.”

“The Heinen’s expansion project has been a top economic development priority that the City of Warrensville Heights has been actively facilitating for a long time. Heinen’s forty year history in Warrensville Heights and Northeast Ohio demonstrates their commitment to revitalizing the region,”said Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers.  “Without the assistance of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, I can’t promise you this effort would have come to fruition as quickly as it did.”Land Bank Staff
The creation of a home for Heinen’s food production plant in Warrensville Heights began two years ago for the Cuyahoga Land Bank, when Warrensville Heights Economic Development Director Pequita Hansberry reached out for assistance.
“When Heinen’s approached the city regarding an expansion project in Warrensville Heights, I immediately reached out to the Cuyahoga County Department of Development and the Cuyahoga Land Bank for assistance,” said Hansberry. “The Department of Development and the Land Bank worked diligently to locate the owner of the vacant building and assisted Heinen’s, the city, and other parties with the acquisition. Now, two years later, expansion will spur economic growth and revitalization in Northeast Ohio.”  Heinen’s went through the Cuyahoga County’s Western Reserve Fund a revolving loan fund that offers gap financing to job creating and job retaining projects in the county.
Heinen’s wanted to expand their warehouse and had attempted to purchase the dilapidated property on approximately five acres adjacent to them with no success.  With some research, the Cuyahoga Land Bank discovered that the property in question had a $1 million lien on it and was significantly tax delinquent.  With this information, the partners reached out to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office to handle a foreclosure on the property.Land Bank Staff
“Because of a team effort between the County Development Department, County Prosecutor Office, the City of Warrensville Heights, and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, we were able to provide Heinen’s the opportunity to expand in Warrensville Heights. Thus bringing in new jobs and reducing blight,” said the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Director of Acquisitions, Dispositions and Development Cheryl Stephens.“Through a collective focus on jobs and economic development, this project is now a reality.”
This project is yet another example of how the Cuyahoga County Western Reserve Fund is a great financial resource that assists businesses with business growth and land reutilization,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. “The expansion of the Heinen’s food production plant will not only create additional jobs for our region, but it will also revitalize a blighted area that has been vacant for several years. I am delighted that we were able to collaborate successfully to keep a successful family-owned business here in Cuyahoga County.”
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Posted in 2014.12.2, Newsletter

South Euclid rehabs houses, offers tax breaks, tamps down on delinquencies: What programs could help you? (

In South Euclid, vacant properties signal opportunity. In an effort to stop foreclosed houses from deteriorating in the hands of negligent owners, the city uses grant money to refurbish neighborhoods and registry laws to keep rental properties in check.

The city’s community development corporation, One South Euclid, sells vacant homes and lots to buyers who agree to replenish them. The city earns grants to renovate homes and public spaces, and partners with outside neighborhood revitalization organizations.

South Euclid launched its housing programs in 2009 with the help $1.3 million in grants the city has been using to freshen up the neighborhoods where One South Euclid is trying to sell houses.

“South Euclid has been a leader in implementing programs, policies and practices to revitalize our neighborhoods,” Community Services Director Keith Benjamin said. “We used the [Neighborhood Stabilization Program] dollars in a unique way to manage the effects of the foreclosure crisis in a way that embraces sustainable green techniques.”

The city has built seven community gardens with the grants, revamped the streetscape on Mayfield Road, and renovated and sold five homes, equipped with environmentally friendly amenities including rain barrels, pervious pavement and rain gardens.

The result? The city points to countless awards and recognition, as well as a $1 million increase in residential construction from 2010-13.

In October, real estate firm Keller Williams listed South Euclid as one of the top 10 communities in Greater Cleveland. Building One Ohio named Mayor Georgine Welo its Visionary Leader of the Year in December, and the Center for Community Progress asked the city to present at its Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in Detroit in May.

“Since 2010 Mayor Georgine Welo has been seeking to transform the city into a ‘College Town for All Ages,’ a nod to South Euclid’s claim to fame, Notre Dame College,” Keller Williams wrote. “Over the last 12 months the average price of homes sold has increased to $71,000, up nearly six percent from a year ago, while selling 20 percent faster.”

So what programs does South Euclid offer? How do they combat blight, and who is eligible to participate?

Green Neighborhoods Initiative: This city has built community gardens,rehabbed five properties, adopted laws to promote environmental responsibility and refurbished streetscape under this program.

Local legislation: The city has an ordinance that requires rental-unit owners register their properties and enforces steep fines for building code violators.

In December, City Council added a provision that prohibits owners of properties with delinquent taxes from obtaining occupancy permits.

“This takes care of an issue we have been seeing and what other cities have been seeing around the region,” Benjamin said. “There are a lot of people who rent homes and pay every month, and in the mean time the landlord is not playing their taxes and the house goes into foreclosure and the renter has no idea.”

Build & Thrive: In all of One South Euclid’s “Thrive” programs, the non-profit sells vacant properties transferred from the Cuyahoga County Land Bank to buyers who promise to build anew, rebuild or expand in exchange for a five-year 75-percent tax abatement. One South Euclid sold at least seven homes under these programs and 14 more are for sale, Benjamin said.

In Build & Thrive, the city sells vacant land to owners committed to building new houses.

Grow & Thrive: Homeowners living next door to vacant lots are eligible to buy and consolidate with the empty properties.

Rebuild & Thrive: Existing homes are sold to “carefully vetted developers” who agree to rehab and resell the homes, or to owner-occupant buyers.

Purple Heart Homes: This program wasn’t founded by South Euclid, but the organization helped rehab a home in the city and transfer it to a permanent owner and veteran.

In Ohio’s first Purple Heart Homes project, the organization bought a vacant house from the Cuyahoga County Land Bank for $1 and donated about $50,000 toward renovations.

U.S. Army veteran Demond Taylor and his wife moved in in March, and are responsible for paying half the home’s market value. The second Purple Heart Homes project is now underway in Ward 3.

Heritage Homes: Through two separate Heritage Home programs, the Cleveland Restoration Society and First Federal Bank in Lakewood help buyers of vacant homes find financing for renovations.

The programs help owners of homes at least 50 years old prioritize renovations and secure financing; and grants low-interest loans for buying and renovating vacant properties.

Land Trust Program: An initiative of Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland, low- and moderate-income families can lease homes directly from the organization. NHS also picks up the cost of renovations.

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Cuyahoga, Lake Counties continue fight against nuisance properties (News-Herald)

Cuyahoga County Council members and the administration spent much of 2014 working out the details of a plan to remove blighted and abandoned structures in what Councilman Pernel Jones called the “foreclosure capital of the nation.”

It’s estimated there are 12,000 such properties in the county.

In October, County Council members approved a plan to make $50 million available to its communities to remove these structures. Both residential and commercial properties can be removed through this program.

Community representatives met with the county in November to learn how the program will work and are now creating lists of properties to include in their requests for demolition funding. The deadline for applications is Feb. 27.

To qualify for demolition, structures must be certified as vacant, abandoned and nuisance properties.

In Euclid, the housing department is asking for suggestions from City Council on which properties should be targeted for the program.

At a City Council meeting in December, Director of Planning & Development Jonathan Holody said he was unsure of the timeline for when the city’s application would be processed and when they would receive the funding.

“I know there is a lot of interest county wide for this program,” Holody said. “The county department of development has thus far been moving very quickly to roll out this program, so I would expect they’re going to get funding available as quick as possible.”

Holody said his hope is to see some activity by the spring or summer.

Structures on the recently acquired former Lakeshore Chevrolet site on 185th Street are among those being considered for the list.

In Richmond Heights, Economic Development Director Christel Best said the city will be asking for funds to demolish a Chardon Road gas station that has been abandoned since 2006. The city already has plans to remediate the site through a $200,000 EPA Brownfield Cleanup Grant.

The city is also planning on asking for funds for home demolitions. In the summer, five nuisance properties were identified. Three of the houses are on Highland Road, one is on Cary Jay Boulevard and one is on Richmond Park West.

The funding will be available to the communities in rounds. In the first round, municipalities can apply for up $1 million for projects, with no more than $100,000 being awarded for any individual structure. The maximum amount allocated per applicant may change in subsequent rounds, but will not exceed $2 million.

John Rogers, executive director of the Lake County Land Reutilization Corp., also known as the county Land Bank, said there are a still a significant number of foreclosures in his county.

“I don’t know if they are at the level they were when we peaked in 2011,” Rogers said.

He’s not certain exactly how many are abandoned, but across the state there are still a number of homeowners who are underwater with their mortgages — meaning they owe more than what their home is worth.

He said the Home Affordable Refinance Program available through the federal government has helped many homeowners who had their mortgages insured through the federal government.

But there were still many who took out more riskier or substandard loans and haven’t been able to be helped with their mortgages, Rogers said.

The Land Bank signed a contract Dec. 19 to demolish the last five homes paid for through funding from the state’s Moving Ohio Forward program, he said. That will bring the total to 63 homes demolished in Lake County through the program.

In total, the state will have provided $1.2 million to the Land Bank through the program, Rogers said.

A few sites that the Land Bank was able to assist in demolishing include the former Merrick Hutchinson School in Grand River, the former Holiday Inn building in Painesville and a former law office building in Painesville, Rogers said.

The Land Bank also has begun to acquire some properties and recently received $500,000 in state funding from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Rogers said.

A couple vacant parcels were already acquired through the foreclosure process, he said.

“We’ll either look to sell them outright or work with an agency to develop them such as Habitat for Humanity,” Rogers said.

He said communities that have structures that need to be taken down should contact the Land Bank to see if something can be done.

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Warrensville Heights demolition makes way for Heinen’s expansion (Freshwater Cleveland)

Last month, a collaboration between the Cuyahoga County Land Bank (CCLB), the city of Warrensville Heights and local grocery mainstay Heinen’s finally came to fruition — or demolition — depending on how you look at it.

Backhoes and bulldozers went to work taking down a 77,000-square-foot structure on South Miles Road to clear the way for Heinen’s new $9 million 70,000-square-foot food production plant. The facility, which is slated to open in 2016, will house food packaging and preparation functions, but no retail. It will be adjacent to Heinen’s existing warehouse at 20601 Aurora Road, which is just under 100,000-square-feet.

The effort began in 2012 when Heinen’s approached the city after efforts to purchase the 5.2-acre parcel, which carried a $1 million lien, came to no avail. In turn, the city contacted the CCLB.

“There were three businesses operating in the building when I took my first look at in December of 2012,” recalls CCLB’s director of acquisitions, dispositions and development Cheryl Stephens. “When I walked into the building, I saw a ton of code violations.” The property also had $208,000 in delinquent taxes incurred from as far back as 2009. When the owners declined to donate the property, CCLB started foreclosure procedures.

“We make sure legally we have dotted every I and crossed every T. We make sure we’re not relieving anyone of their property rights without notice and due diligence on either part to make sure that every offer has been made,” says Stephens. “Because property ownership in this country is recognized as a sacred right, we don’t relieve someone of it without doing every step that we can.” One of the three resident businesses, all of which were leasing, was already in the process of relocating. The other two vacated over safety concerns. The foreclosure, after which the CCLB took possession of the property, took about a year.

Other services provided by the county include demolition supervision and a level one environmental abatement on the property, which was essentially asbestos removal. Stephens estimates the demolition project will cost between $625,000 and $650,000.

“We don’t have final number yet,” says Stephens. “There are always change orders.” The CCLB is selling the property to Heinen’s for $50,000.

To further facilitate the deal, the county granted a $500,000 interest-free loan to Heinen’s, courtesy of the Cuyahoga County Western Reserve Fund, to cover the cost of the demolition. The loan is contingent upon Heinen’s creating at least 15 jobs at the new facility.

“This is one of those really good job retention stories where a mayor realizes that if he doesn’t do something, a company can expand and grow outside of his community,” says Stephens. “This is a good deal, not just for Heinen’s, but for the communities involved.

“This is quintessentially good economic development.”

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Heinen’s Demolition | Kings Son Workforce Development- Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.12.2


Posted in 2014.12.2, Newsletter

Randall Park Mall demolition under way, as crew tears into former Dillard’s store (

A trio of excavators surrounded the entrance to the defunct Dillard’s department store on Monday morning, starting the final chapter in the riches-to-rags story of Randall Park Mall.

When the mall opened in 1976, thousands of people flocked there to see the stores, the celebrities, the glitz and the glamour.

Only a few mourners huddled in the pockmarked parking lot to watch this week, as the wrecking equipment chewed into the old department store, stripping out steel and sending dust into the cold air. There wasn’t much left to grieve. The mall closed in 2009 but had been dying for more than a decade before that.

David Smith, the mayor of the tiny village of North Randall, donned a baseball cap and stood with his arms crossed over his chest as Dillard’s started to crumble. The fanfare, he said, will come after most of the mall is gone, when new property owners refashion the site as an industrial park.

Developers Stuart Lichter and Chris Semarjian have acquired much of the 100-acre property through tax foreclosures, traditional purchases and deals involving the village and the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., commonly called the Cuyahoga Land Bank. They plan to refurbish the former Sears department store and the old Magic Johnson movie theater as industrial buildings. The main mall, along with Dillard’s, will be razed over the next few months.

Semarjian and Lichter don’t control the former Macy’s store, which is tied up in tax-foreclosure and bankruptcy litigation; the Burlington Coat Factory store, which is still operating; or the old JCPenney store, which Ohio Technical College transformed into a training space for motorcycle mechanics.

The ultimate development of the site could involve more than 700,000 square feet of construction, in addition to the existing buildings, and upwards of 1,000 jobs. North Randall’s village council expects to take up rezoning legislation for the mall property in January.

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How the Cuyahoga Land Bank is helping refugees “Discover Home” (Community Progress Blog)

Land banks can work in concert with a whole host of private, public, and nonprofit partners, using those creative partnerships to help the communities they serve.

An example of one such partnership is the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation (Cuyahoga Land Bank)’s Discovering Home program–described in Take it to the Bank: How Land Banks Are Strengthening America’s Neighborhoods—which works to house refugee families in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

The program, which was created in partnership with International Services Center, a refugee resettlement agency, is a win-win-win. A refugee family is given housing, a vacant home is revitalized, and the community grows stronger and more diverse.

To learn more about this project, we interviewed Karen Wishner, the Executive Director of International Services Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Here’s what she had to say:

How many families have been served through the Discovering Home program, and what has the impact been on those families and the surrounding community?

Karen Wishner: In the last year, we have served 11 families through the Discovering Home program. A third (four) of those families were refugees who had recently arrived in Cleveland and were resettled by our agency. Those were their first homes in the United States after having lived in refugee camps for over 20 years.

The surrounding community was welcoming. One family had neighbors help shovel snow in the winter and get the lawn mower started so that regular mowing could take place. There is a neighborhood association that looks out for each other. That is the exception, but that family was fortunate to move into a home where so much support was available.

Others moved to areas that were relatively close to members of their ethnic community. Support came from staff from our agency as well as from community members who had been resettled in previous years.

The impact on the community is that homes are no longer vacant. The economic impact is that money is coming into the community because our refugee clients are more likely to shop within walking distance of where they live. They have no cars when they first arrive.

Can you share the story of one refugee family that’s found a new home through this program?

KW: One family that found a home through this program was a family of three from a camp in Nepal. They are Bhutanese. They were married in the camp and their child was born in that same camp. They had very little when they came to Cleveland. The husband and wife both got a job within the first 8 months after arrival to the U.S. They worked different shifts so that someone was home to take care of the child while the other worked. They also had support for child care from some family members already living in Cleveland. They saved as much money as they could and were soon able to buy a car. The wife planted flowers in the yard and a vegetable garden was put in the back yard. They maintain the home and yard and are good neighbors.

What advice would you offer a land bank, or a refugee services nonprofit, interested in creating a similar partnership in their city?

KW: Through the collaboration of International Services Center with the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, it has been possible for the ISC to acquire housing through the CCLRC’s inventory of foreclosed, abandoned and vacant properties. Housing is a critical component of integration in American society and as a result refugees will learn firsthand the obligation of tenants and future home ownership. Refugees are earnest, hardworking, and motivated to success when given opportunities they did not receive in their home county. The International Services Center is proud to be working with CCLRC to help rebuild Cleveland and make a positive impact on our economy and community through housing for refugees. I would encourage any organization to look to make those same impacts in their community and accept the challenge of rehabbing homes to rebuild communities.

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Cuyahoga County Land Bank Featured in National Study (Campus District Observer)

Land banks’ adaptability yields results for communities tackling vacant and problem properties, according to report.  Approximately 120 land banks exist in the United States. Their ability to adapt to local conditions and needs is helping communities address the negative impacts of vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties, according to Take it to the Bank: How Land Banks Are Strengthening America’s Neighborhoods, a new report from the Center for Community Progress.  Download the report here in the link below. 
“What we found confirms that land banks are not one-size-fits-all,” said Kim Graziani, vice president and director of national technical assistance at the Center for Community Progress, who oversaw the research.
The report also draws on research to clarify what characterizes effective land banking. The Cuyahoga Land Bank, for example, has balanced demolition, renovation by private investors and collaborations with other Community Development stakeholders to facilitate positive land repurposing. It has worked with CDCs, social service agencies, County government, municipalities and faith-based organizations to promote stable neighborhoods and human enrichment.
Other signs of effective land banking include transparency in terms of policies, financials, and operations, as well as strategic links to the tax foreclosure process. Tax-foreclosed properties are considered an important source of land bank property acquisitions.
Even the most effective land bank will still require some level of public funding, the report argues, because land banks take on properties with costly liabilities like delinquent taxes, unclear title, code violations, and severe disrepair, generally in neighborhoods with little to no responsible market activity.
In Cuyahoga County, working with the County Administration, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has been a leader in promoting best practices and policy leadership in the areas of land reuse and tax foreclosure.  The report studied 67 land banks from 2013-2014, and the Cuyahoga Land Bank is one of only seven land banks featured in an in-depth portrait. 

The Center for Community Progress is the only national 501(c)3 nonprofit organization solely dedicated to building a future in which blight no longer exists in American communities.

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Board of Omaha Land Bank has plenty of work to do before it can begin buying run-down properties for redevelopment (

The board of the newly created Omaha Municipal Land Bank expects to begin acquiring run-down properties in 2015 for redevelopment, but it has a lot of groundwork to handle before doing any groundbreaking work.

Meeting Monday for the first time, the board elected officers. Tom McLeay, a real estate developer and attorney, will be the chairman. The vice chairwoman will be Jamie Berglund, an Omaha Housing Authority board member and senior director of community development with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

The treasurer will be Spencer Danner, community reinvestment officer for Mutual of Omaha Bank.

The board voted unanimously, 7-0, to name the officers.

The other voting members are: Ken Johnson, president of his own consulting company and former Omaha economic development manager; Randy Lenhoff, CEO of Seldin Co.; Scott Semrad, co-founder and manager of Urban Village Development; and Cathy Lang, COO and vice president of Accelerate Nebraska and former head of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Department of Labor.

The board also has five nonvoting members.

On Monday, the board appointed committees to work on creating its bylaws and policies and procedures, and to lay the groundwork for searching for an executive director.

Berglund said the board will have workshops, possibly in January, with three entities with expertise and experience in land banks.

Those are the Thriving Communities Institute and Cuyahoga County Land Bank from Cleveland, and the Center for Community Progress, a national nonprofit.

Berglund told the board that a donor is willing to fund the workshops. She declined to identify the donor.

Berglund said the groups are technical experts, some of whom helped craft Nebraska’s land bank legislation and Omaha’s ordinance.

The Omaha City Council passed an ordinance in July creating the land bank. It is aimed at dealing with the chronic problem of vacant, dilapidated houses and lots in Omaha neighborhoods.

Mayor Jean Stothert, who appointed the board, budgeted $150,000 in city funds for the first year of operations.

The land bank will have authority to buy or accept donations of tax-delinquent, run-down, abandoned houses, vacant lots and other problem properties, then sell them for redevelopment.

It will have to raise money, including from donors, for those purchases, at least initially.

Stothert and City Councilmen Ben Gray and Pete Festersen addressed the board Monday.

The board will be subject to Nebraska open meetings and public records laws.

The board plans to meet regularly at 9 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center, 1819 Farnam St. The room is yet to be determined. The next meeting will be Jan. 14.

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Children’s Museum of Cleveland gains control of Euclid Avenue mansion in $50,000 deal (

A quiet real estate deal that closed Tuesday augurs a second chance for a small Cleveland cultural institution and an expansive house on the city’s onetime Millionaire’s Row.

A company tied to the Children’s Museum of Cleveland paid $50,000 this week for the empty Stager-Beckwith mansion, which slipped into foreclosure in 2012. Now the historic home, at times a residence, a private club and a university, will enter yet another life cycle as a playground and classroom for infants and young children.

There are two story lines here, converging in new opportunities for a museum with growth aspirations and a troubled property that begs for care.

The house, built in the 1860s and long occupied by the private University Club, was renovated a decade ago for Myers University. Since 2008, when Myers went belly-up, the 66,000-square-foot mansion has been sitting vacant, deteriorating.

Then there’s the museum, crammed into an old Howard Johnson restaurant in University Circle, underperforming its peers in other cities and staring down a deadline to move. The museum’s current site, leased from nonprofit group University Circle Inc., could be cleared in mid-2015 to make way for a high-rise apartment tower.

“This location has always felt a little transient, a little like a temporary facility,” Maria Campanelli, the executive director, said of the museum’s longtime location. “We need to move this institution. We don’t have a lot of money. We have a very constricted timeline.”

Small museum thinks big

Marrying the museum and the mansion offers a creative — though still challenging — path forward. The nonprofit needs to raise roughly $8 million to renovate the house and build new exhibits, no small goal for an institution of its size. During the fundraising and construction period, the museum might have to move to short-term digs. Or close for a stretch.

“There is absolutely the potential that we may be without walls, but still may be able to provide a community and public benefit,” Campanelli said. “I don’t think the dark time is going to be years and years and years. We would like to believe that we could keep it at a year.”

Developer Michael Chesler, who has teamed up with the museum, said he’s exploring ways to tackle the mansion renovations in phases. That approach might allow the museum to move in sooner, even if the final project isn’t complete.

“Our idea is to try to keep their lights on,” said Chesler, president of the Chesler Group of Russell Township. “We’re working breakneck. … Our plan is to do some interim, stabilization construction within the next 90 days. Literally [Wednesday] morning, there are going to be men in that building.”

The museum, which focuses on children from birth to 8 years old, serves an average of 100,000 people each year at its building or through outreach programs. Demographic data show those children and families hail from a wide array of backgrounds, including many low- to middle-income households. Museum visitors are roughly split between east and west siders and between Cuyahoga County residents and people who live further afield.

Our plan is to do … stabilization construction within the next 90 days. Literally [Wednesday] morning, there are going to be men in that building.

With only 6,000 square feet of exhibit space in an 11,000-square-foot building, the museum is much smaller than its counterparts in Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and other peer cities. Campanelli believes that, based on conservative estimates, the museum could increase traffic by 30 percent with a larger space, new exhibits and some marketing.

That’s where the Stager-Beckwith house, at 3813 Euclid Ave., comes in.

The museum could more than double its footprint, to 25,000 square feet, with nearly half of that allocated to exhibits and the rest for birthday parties, events and basic necessities, such as parking for strollers. Other parts of the building might be rented out to nonprofits or businesses focused on early childhood development.

Rocky road for gilded real estate

Cuyahoga County initiated foreclosure proceedings on the mansion in late 2012, after unpaid property tax bills piled up. The city of Cleveland, which lent money it will never recoup for the Myers project, tried last year to structure a deal involving Chesler and the museum.

But that plan fizzled after a pipe burst during last winter’s brutal cold snap. Water damage and flooding added to the renovation costs for the mansion and cut into the price the developer was willing to pay. An out-of-town investor looked at the building but didn’t make a compelling offer, said Tracey Nichols, the city’s economic development director.

So the foreclosure case moved along. And the mansion hit the auction block, with little fanfare, at two sheriff’s sales last summer. The minimum price was $750,000, but nobody bit. Blame the tax delinquencies, water damage, roof problems and a protective easement on the building that would prevent a developer from knocking it down or modifying the façade.

After the failed auctions, the property headed into forfeiture. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank, formally known as the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilitzation Corp., recently picked it up. On Tuesday, a for-profit company formed by museum board member Doreen Cahoon and her husband, Dick, acquired the mansion for $50,000.

That’s a far cry from the $1 million purchase price the city proposed in 2013.

“If you have to pay $1 million before putting a shovel in the ground, you’ve basically taken a hard project and made it into an impossible project,” said Gus Frangos, the land bank’s president. “The laws were designed specifically to allow land banks to act as this intermediary to make properties that are otherwise near-impossible become productive.”

Cleveland is out more than $4.5 million on the decade-old Myers loan. Cuyahoga County won’t see those back taxes. But the mansion, the only remaining 19th-century house of its kind on Euclid Avenue, won’t linger in limbo.

“The city is glad that this beautiful historic landmark may be saved and put to good use,” Nichols wrote in an email earlier this year. “While the city’s loan is a loss, our reserves will cover it. In the end, our goal has always been to restore the building and bring new jobs and vibrancy to the area.”

Timetable remains unclear

Campanelli wouldn’t put a firm timeline on the museum’s move. The museum still plans to work with Chesler to pursue federal and state historic-preservation tax credits for renovating the mansion – a process that takes time, since the state credits are limited and competitive. Cahoon and her husband have pledged $1 million to the museum’s campaign for its new space, but there’s a lot more fundraising to do.

“I feel confident,” said Cahoon, who lives in Cleveland Heights and has been involved with the museum for 14 years. “Until now, since we didn’t actually have the building, the best we could do was talk to people and say ‘If we did this, would you contribute?’ Once this happens, we can go back to everyone.”

Chris Ronayne of University Circle Inc., the museum’s landlord, said the nonprofit neighborhood group hopes to take possession of the current facility this summer. Local developers Mitchell Schneider and Sam Petros are working on schemes for an apartment tower that would replace the museum and occupy a 1.9-acre site at Euclid and Stearns Road.

“University Circle Inc. is very interested in making sure that the children’s museum has a suitable permanent home but also, if it seems appropriate, a swing space, an interim home,” Ronayne said, adding that empty space at the Western Reserve Historical Society might be a possible short-term location.

“We all know that the current facility doesn’t meet modern needs for a children’s museum, and everybody’s rooting for a children’s museum in Cleveland.”

Read it from the source.

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Heinen’s is building a $9 million expanded bakery, meat-cutting and prepared-foods kitchen in Warrensville Heights (

Demolition crews from the Cuyahoga Land Bank are clearing the future home of Heinen’s Fine Foods’ $9 million expanded bakery, meat-cutting facility and prepared foods kitchens on South Miles Road in Warrensville Heights, just west of the 85-year-old grocer’s current warehouses.

Scheduled for completion in early 2016, the 70,000-square-foot food production facility will be more efficient than Heinen’s current buildings, enable the company to offer products it doesn’t have the space for now, and provide full-time jobs for another 20 to 25 people, in addition to the current 50 employees.

It will also enable the grocer to better supply its now 20 stores, including four in Greater Chicago, as well as its downtown Cleveland store opening next spring, and a Chagrin Falls store for which co-Presidents Jeff and Tom Heinen have signed a letter of intent.

The $610,000 demolition project, which includes tearing down a dilapidated 77,000-square-foot building, remediating asbestos on the site, and removing fences and debris, will go on for about another month or so. Heinen’s plans to buy the 5.1-acre site from the Land Bank. New construction will begin in the spring.

“The Cuyahoga Land Bank was instrumental in the acquisition and clean-up of this site, which is contiguous to our present warehouse,” said Heinen’s Director of Finance Daniel Musil, in a statement.

“This allows us to build our new food production plant, leverages the shipping and receiving infrastructure we currently have in place at our present warehouse facility and grants access to future potential expansion.The food production plant will be utilized to expand the wide array of meat, prepared food and bakery products, enhancing our selection for customers,” Musil added.

Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers said in the same statement that “The Heinen’s expansion project has been a top economic development priority that the City has been actively facilitating for a long time. Heinen’s 40-year history in Warrensville Heights and Northeast Ohio demonstrates their commitment to revitalizing the region.”

Heinen’s now has two warehouses across the street from each other in Warrensville Heights, including about 80,000 square feet of refrigerated space for dairy items and frozen foods, dating from about 1970.

The Cleveland Land Bank said efforts began two years ago, when Heinen’s asked the city for help buying the adjacent property to expand its warehouses. “I immediately reached out to the Cuyahoga County Department of Development and the Cuyahoga Land Bank for assistance,” said Warrensville Heights Economic Development Director Pequita Hansberry. The county development department and the Land Bank helped track down the owner of the vacant building and helped Heinens, the city and other parties acquire it.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank found out that the property had a $1 million lien on it, and was significantly behind on its taxes. It reached out to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office to foreclose on the property, and the Land Bank took over the title earlier this year. The county also gave Heinen’s a $500,000 loan toward the cost of the demolition.

“Because of a team effort between the County Development Department, the City of Warrensville Heights and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, we were able to provide Heinen’s the opportunity to expand in Warrensville Heights, bringing in new jobs and reducing blight,” said Cheryl Stephens, the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Director of Acquisitions, Dispositions and Development, in a statement.

The new space will create more space for Heinen’s custom-decorated cakes and pastries, and enable it to process larger quantities of beef and pork from its ranchers into the roasts, T-bone steaks and pork chops customers like, Musil said.

Heinen’s has in recent years expanded its selection of prepared and Grab-n-Go foods, from vegetable lasagnas to turkey meatloaf and chicken romano, and expects sales of those items to grow with its store expansion.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said: “The expansion of the Heinen’s food production plant will not only create additional jobs for our region, it will also make use of a blighted area that has been vacant for several years. I am delighted that we were able to collaborate successfully with several stakeholders to ensure that this project would become a reality and to keep a successful family-owned business here in Cuyahoga County.”

Read it from the source.

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Posted in Land Bank Coverage, Relevant News

Cuyahoga Land Bank demolition in Warrensville Heights makes way for Heinen’s expansion (Press Release)

release 1

Cuyahoga Land Bank demolition crews got to work early this morning, taking down a dilapidated 77,000 square foot structure in order to make way for a new Heinen’s food production plant.  The demolition is the culmination of a $610,000 effort to remove the building, which also includes asbestos remediation, cleanout, fencing and debris removal.

Heinen’s is purchasing the property from the Cuyahoga Land Bank and reimbursing all costs related to the demolition.  On threlease 5e site, they plan to complete a $9 million, 70,000 square foot food production plant, where Heinen’s will have a full bakery, cut and package
their Heinen’s Own meat products and prepare meal solutions for both Heinen’s Gourmet case and their Grab-N-Go section.

“The Cuyahoga Land Bank was instrumental in the acquisition and clean-up of this site, which is contiguous to our present ware
house,” said Heinen’s Director of Finance Daniel Musil.  “This allows us to build our new food production plant, leverages the shipping and receiving infrastructure we currently have in place at our present warehouse facility and grants access to future potential expansion.  The food production plant will be utilized to expand the wide array of meat, prepared food and bakery products, enhancing our selection for customers.”

“The Heinen’s expansion project has been a top economic development priority that the City has been actively facilitating for a long time. Heinen’s 40 year history in Warrensville Heights and Northeast Ohio demonstrates their commitment to revitalizing the region,”
said Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers.  “Without the assistance of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, I can’t promise you this effort would have come to fruition as quickly as it did.”
The creation of a home for Heinen’s food production plant in Warrensville Heights began two years ago for the Cuyahoga Land Bank, when Warrensville Heights Economic Development Director Pequita Hansberry reached out for assistance.

“When Heinen’s approached the city regarding an expansion project in Warrensville Heights, I immediately reached out to the Cuyahoga County Department of Development and the Cuyahoga Land Bank for assistance,” said Hansberry. “The Department of Development and the Land Bank worked diligently to locate the owner of the vacant building and assisted Heinen’s, the City and other parties with the acquisition. Now, two years later, Heinen’s will construct a $9 million warehouse and production facility on South Miles Road that will spur economic growth and revitalization in Northeast Ohio.”

Heinen’s wanted to expanrelease 3d their warehouse and had attempted to purchase the dilapidated property on approximately five acres adjacent to them with no success.  With some research, the Cuyahoga Land Bank discovered that the property in question had a $1 million lien on it and was significantly delinquent on its taxes.  With this information, the partners reached out to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office to handle a foreclosure on the property.

The foreclosure completed, the Cuyahoga Land Bank took title to the property earlier this year and an environmental analysis uncovered the need for asbestos remediation, which was conducted prior to today’s demolition.

“Because of a team effort between the County Development Department, the City of Warrensville Heights and the Cuyahoga Land Bank, we were able to provide Heinen’s the opportunity to expand in Warrensville Heights, bringing in new jobs and reducing blight,” said the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Director of Acquisitions, Dispositions and Development Cheryl Stephens.  “Through collaboration and a collective focus on economic development in our community we were able to acquire tax delinquent land, cleanse it of liens, demolish vacant and abandoned structures, finance acquisition and development costs and offer all of this to a private, for-profit business quickly.”

“This project is yet another example of how the Cuyahoga County Western Reserve Fund is a great financial resource that assists businesses with business growth and land reutilization,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. “The expansion of the Heinen’s food production plant will not only create additional jobs for our region, it will also make use of a blighted area that has been vacant for severarelease 1l years. I am delighted that we were able to collaborate successfully with several stakeholders to ensure that this project would become a reality and to keep a successful family-owned business here in Cuyahoga County.”

“This Cuyahoga Land Bank demolition will facilitate continued economic development by one of Cuyahoga County’s most su
ccessful local businesses, all while putting five acres of delinquent land to productive use,” said Cuyahoga County Council President C. Ellen Connally. “This project will be a boon to both Warrensville Heights and Cuyahoga County.”

Read the release here.

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Posted in Land Bank Coverage, Press Release

Fun Fact

The Cuyahoga Land Bank property inventory is constantly changing through our acquisition, disposition, sale and renovation of homes. Currently, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has a total of 60 homes for sale throughout the county. There are a total of 58 properties for sale that require renovation and are available through our Deed-in-Escrow Program and two properties for sale that are Move-in Ready. Please visit our website property listing page to view our homes for sale!

Posted in 2014.12.1, Fun Fact!

Advice for land banks from Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Gus Frangos (Community Progress Blog)

Our new report, Take it to the Bank: How Land Banks Are Strengthening America’s Neighborhoods, takes an in-depth look at how the Cuyahoga Land Bank serves the community in and around Cleveland, Ohio. It was established in 2009, has nearly 30 staff members and, as of March 2014, had more than 1,150 properties in its inventory. The Cuyahoga Land Bank’s operations — from robust data systems to efficient workflows to innovative homeownership programs – earn it the nickname “The Professional” in our report.

Those homeownership programs include the “Discovering Home Program,” which connects refugees to housing, and the “Homefront Veterans Home Ownership Program,” which helps veterans purchase rehabbed homes.

Strong leadership by President Gus Frangos has been a key factor in the land bank’s ability to establish a culture of efficiency and professionalism. In less than five years, despite working in one of the epicenters of the mortgage foreclosure crisis, Frangos has increased capacity from 8 to 28 staff members, established formal agreements with several major financial institutions to create efficient acquisition workflows, and has, on average, demolished more than 65 structures a month. In this excerpt from Take it to the Bank, Frangos shares advice with other land bank leaders:

– Stay on mission and execute in a professional, quality, and accurate manner

- Maintain a good and interactive office culture

– Deliver good customer service to the public, the land bank board, elected officials, and community stakeholders

- Be transparent and accountable

- Deepen public buy-in through communications, collaborations, and information

- Engage in statewide policy and advocacy efforts

- Engage in research advocacy

- Push the envelope and expand collaborations

Curious to know more about the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s story — as well as the stories of other land banks in the U.S.? Download Take it to the Bank: How Land Banks Are Strengthening America’s Neighborhoods here.

Read it from the source.

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Did you know?

The Cuyahoga Land Bank is currently launching a new Greening Program with supporHHF 4t from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP).  The program was inspired by the success of a similar nationally recognized program, Reimagining Cleveland.  Through the NIP Greening Program, the Cuyahoga Land Bank will be able to transform hundreds of formerly vacant and demolished properties into beautiful green space.  The program will coincide with the Cuyahoga Land Bank Side Yard Program to beautify the vacant lots adjacent to residents’ homes.  The lots eligible for the program will be improved through additional landscaping, trees and fencing. The program will not only beautify vacant lots but also add to the aesthetics of the street, stabilize surrounding properties, and offer the community healthy green space for passive and active recreation. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is excited that the NIP Greening Program is underway.  The program is a great opportunity to transform vacant lots into community assets!

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Posted in 2011.12.1, Didja Know?

Cuyahoga County Land Bank featured in national report (

The county land bank was featured positively in a recent report from the Center for Community Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based think-tank that advocates for policies to fight urban and community blight.

The report offered profiles of seven different land bank organizations across the country. A section about Cuyahoga County praises the land bank’s “strong leadership” and professionalism.

“As one of the fastest-growing land banks in the nation, the Cuyahoga Land Bank is well-positioned to continue posting gains in the fight against blight in one of the areas hit hardest by the fallout of the Great Recession,” the report states.

You can download a copy of the report here.

Read it from the source.

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An Instant Connection to Cleveland

Have you ever felt a calling to a particular place? That is how Bob and Judy Willard felt when they visited Cleveland for the very first time in 2010.  The Willards had visited several cities throughout the country, searching for the right place to fulfill their call to ministry. Land Bank Staff Once, the Willards found Cleveland, they took a leap of faith and moved without having established any residency. They instead chose to put most of their belongings in storage and live at extended stay hotels while they established themselves in Cleveland. While deciding where to live, Bob and Judy strongly believed, and their four children agreed, that they should reside in the neighborhood where they practice their ministry. This belief led the Willards to purchase on the East Side of Cleveland in November 2010.  Not long after, in Spring of 2011, the Willards met the International Ministry Network (IMN) and made a strong connection with the organization. IMN’s vision of establishing churches in inner-city communities around the country aligned closely with the Willard’s family goal of establishing their church in the City of Cleveland. IMN played an instrumental role in helping the Willards fulfill their calling.
The Willard’s founded their church, The Meeting Place, in Spring of 2011 just in time for Easter.  They established their church in inner-city Cleveland and devoted their mission to sharing love, hope and guidance to living a Christian life.
Recently, the Willards acquired the property next to their home through the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  “As soon as the Cuyahoga Land Bank sign went up oLand Bank Staff n the foreclosed house next door, we went on their website,” said Bob Willard.  “After contacting them, we met with Gus and started pursuing the property.”  The Cuyahoga Land Bank helped the Willards to smoothly acquire the home. Bob was very satisfied with the results “I thought it was outstanding.  They were helpful through the whole process, and you can tell they’re eager to get properties back into the system.”
The Willards intend to transform the property into rental space for their church staff.  Acquiring the property from the Cuyahoga Land Bank allowed the Willards to save money for renovation.  The cost savings will also allow the Willards to offer lower rent to the family who decides to join their ministry.
“It will be huge to be able to have more help, and the idea of being able to partner with another family in ministry will make a huge impact,” said Bob Willard.  “I can’t tell you how much I look forward to having the home occupied by staff.”
Since the Willards purchased the home in July 2014, they have launched their renovation work.  The repairs and upgrades to the property are being completed by both professional contractors and by volunteer Mission Teams. The Mission teams are comprised of six to eight men who will join the Willards for weekends to help out with tasks such as cleanup and painting.  With everyone working hard, the Willard’s hope to have the home completed soon!

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Posted in 2014.12.1, Newsletter

Educational Garden for Urban Community School

The Urban Community School (UCS) recently collaborated with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to acquire land to develop a Learning Garden.  UCS will be partnering  with The Cleveland Botanical Garden, to offer unique educational lessons for students and teachers alike.Land Bank Staff
Since 1968, UCS has been educating children from preschool through eighth grade on Cleveland’s West Side.  Serving primarily low-income families, UCS has expanded to accommodate over 400 students per year. The school has been recognized as a model for urban education and was the first school in Cleveland to receive The Excellence in Education Award from the U.S. Department of Education.
The school has been acquiring parcels of land for its continued expansion since 2007. Chief Operating and Development Officer Thomas Gill, who once interned at the Cuyahoga Land Bank, was familiar with its innovative programs. Thomas connected with the Cuyahoga Land Bank and began acquiring lots surrounding the school’s campus. This past year, in addition to other renovations to the school, work began on “The Garden Initiative.”
UCS is hoping to fully integrate the half-acre Learning Garden into the 2015-2016 school year curriculumLand Bank Staff .  The Learning Garden will give students the opportunity to nurture plants as they grow from seeds.  The Learning Garden will provide a hands-on learning experience and an opportunity for children to literally see the fruits of their labor. A Cleveland Botanical Garden instructor will work with students and faculty on teaching the garden curriculum.
“The Cleveland Botanical Garden made sense as a collaborator because they understand how to design a curriculum to teach children life lessons,” said Gill.
The design of the gardens came from a visioning session made up of students and teachers with the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  “We want it to be a place that is imaginative and creative, while learning about gardening,” said Anne Juster, Director of the School Garden Partnership at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  “My hope is that it will be a model for other schools in the region.”
The Learning Garden will eventually be a year-round classroom that will provide opportunities for students to learn about plant life and vegetation throughout each session. It will have a diverse curriculum made up of history, business, and gardening skills including harvesting produce and managing food production.
In addition to the academic lessons, the garden will also teach students about patience and responsibility.  “It’s not enough to build a garden, you have to have the right staff in place to take care of it,” said Juster.  “Gardens take time.”
The Learning Garden will have many exciting features, including a natural fence of trees, motion sensitive lighting, a compost station, rain barrels, outdoor classroom space, a sunflower garden and a pumpkin patch.
For more information on Urban Community School and its programs, please visit its website.
For more information on the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the many learning programs it offers visit its website.

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Posted in 2014.12.1, Newsletter

Urban Community School | Connection to Cleveland – Cuyahoga Land Bank News – 2014.12.1

NL 12.1

Posted in 2014.12.1, Newsletter

Fannie Mae selling 44 homes to Detroit Land Bank (Detroit Free Press)

Fannie Mae, the national leader in providing money for the secondary mortgage market, said today it will sell 44 Detroit properties it acquired through foreclosure to the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

The land bank will demolish some of the properties and sell others to the public through its online auction site

“Vacant properties are a strain on the neighborhood and can depress property values for other homeowners,” said P.J. McCarthy, Fannie Mae’s vice president of Alternative Dispositions and Real Estate Asset Management. “We are happy to partner with the Detroit Land Bank Authority to help transform these properties into homes for local families, or new community spaces.”

Additional sales to the Detroit Land Bank are likely, he added.

“This deal with Fannie Mae is a very important piece of the Detroit Land Bank’s larger strategy to stabilize neighborhoods through our auction program, demolition, and side lot sales,” said Detroit Land Bank Authority Kevin Simowski. “The Detroit Land Bank is working with multiple financial institutions on similar deals so we can address every vacant house in our target neighborhoods.”

In a similar vein, Fannie Mae has been working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank in Ohio since 2009 to address the vacant property issue in Cleveland, efforts that involved more than 1,000 foreclosed properties.

Read it from the source.

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Fun Fact!

The Cuyahoga Land Bank keeps busy in acquisition and demolition of abandoned and nuisance properties throughout the county. After each property is demolished, the contractors are required to properly grade theLand Bank Staff lot. During demolition, inspections occur before, during, and after to assure that the site is properly finished. On average, the grading of a lot requires approximately 200 square feet of fill after demolition! Each Cuyahoga Land Bank demolition must comply with all demolition specifications and a full site finish must be achieved. These standards allow for each vacant lot to be a candidate for land reuse after demolition.

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Posted in 2014.11.2, Fun Fact!

Macon-Bibb land bank recognized as conduit for revitalization (Macon Telegraph)

A national nonprofit focused on combating blight is highlighting work from the Macon-Bibb Land Bank Authority in its latest report on land banking.

The Center for Community Progress referred to Macon-Bibb as “The Conduit” for the work it does with a range of partners in revitalizing neighborhoods and providing affordable housing while preserving historic assets. Macon-Bibb was one of seven land banks featured in “Take it to the Bank: How Land Banks are Strengthening America’s Neighborhoods,” which was released Tuesday.

“We are a conduit,” said Alison Souther Goldey, director of the land bank. “We’re not the silver bullet — we are just part of it. It’s a little like you take an assembly line approach of taking properties that are under-utilized, and we are the conduit to make that happen.”

The land bank’s biggest power is the ability to forgive delinquent property taxes on land it acquires. This can mean new life for vacant or abandoned property where unpaid taxes might exceed the value of the property and make it a harder sell for redevelopment.

“We have a lot of tools that local government doesn’t have,” Goldey said. “For instance, we are a conduit to be able to acquire property … and transfer those properties out to responsible developers, whereas a local government will have to put those properties out to bid.”

Nationally, there are about 120 land banks, and Macon-Bibb is one of the oldest.

Founded in 1996, the land bank has focused its efforts in targeted neighborhoods and uses tax sales, donations and purchases to acquire property.

The Center for Community Progress report highlights Macon-Bibb’s efforts in Beall’s Hill, Lynmore Estates and the River Edge Behavioral Health Center development off Emery Highway.

“Our focus now is going to be joining efforts with Macon-Bibb County and our other partners such as Habitat (for Humanity) to work on the blight plan — to be a part of the blight task force,” Goldey said. “That is going to be our focus on the upcoming years. … There is no way you can effectively tackle blight without a land bank.”

The report also features land banks in Atlanta; Genesee County, Michigan; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Syracuse, New York; Marquette County, Michigan; and Chautauqua County, New York.

“I am delighted because a lot of times when you hear about land banks, you hear about them being in a Detroit or Flint, Michigan … for them to feature the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority actually shows that land banks can work in many different environments and many different sized cities,” Goldey said. “Land banks can be a benefit in any community.”

Read it from the source.

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The City Mission

Michelle Mendez had a big dream – to find housing for her and her seven children.  In October, her dream became a reality when the ribbon was cut on the first Hope House, a collaborative project with the Cuyahoga Land Bank, The City Mission and Church on the Rise in Westlake, Ohio.Land Bank Staff
Michelle and her children were living at Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center when they were selected as the first family to occupy a Hope House. “When I was told about the home, I was overwhelmed,” she said. “I thought, this can’t be happening.  When Pastor Paul (Pastor of Church on the Rise) introduced me as the one who was going to be living in the home, that’s when I realized it was a reality.  I wanted to cry because it was actually happening!”
Hope House is part of New Horizons, an initiative of the Cuyahoga Land Bank and The City Mission partnering with a sponsoring church to identify, acquire and renovate a house for families moving from Laura’s Home, a ministry of The City Mission. The sponsor for the house was Church on the Rise of Westlake. With the help of volunteer tradesmen and church parishioners, the house was turned into a home.
The church committed to ongoing property management and The City Mission devoted services to aid and strengthen the Mendez’s family transition.
The ribbon cutting event included Mendez’s family,  friends, and members of The City Mission, Church on the Rise and Cuyahoga Land Bank Chairman and Cleveland Councilman Anthony Brancatelli. Speaking at the event, The City Mission CEO Richard Trickel said, “We have a vision for providing homes for families. This is just the start and it’s our hope that this house will be a shining example of what can be done when people work together to meet the needs of others in the community.”
During the ceremony Michelle reflected on the tough times her family endured and on her appreciation for Laura’s Home, New Horizons, and her family’s new Hope House.
Michelle’s joy and appreciation was so visible and the renovation results so convincing that Pastor Tim Walker of Church Alive in Brook Park surprised the gathering by committing his church to be the sponsor for the next Hope House. “We all understand that home ownership is foundational for families building a secure financial future,” said Walker. “The problem has always been financial sustainability. I’ve been so inspired by this program that I’m making the commitment on behalf of Church Alive to sponsor the next Hope House. Over the next few years I think we can make a major impact on homeless families in the City of Cleveland.”
The Cuyahoga Land Bank and The City Mission look forward to partnering with more churches to create more Hope Houses for families. “This is a fabulous experience for us at the Cuyahoga Land Bank because our mission is to repurpose properties and fix homes, but that’s not what really excites us. What excites us is knowing that when you fix a home, you’re investing in someone’s life,” Gus Frangos, President of the Cuyahoga Land Bank, said as he addressed the Mendez family and the crowd.  “There’s nothing better than having a place where you come home at the end of the day and know this is my home, this is home.”
Welcome home, Michelle!

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Posted in 2014.11.2, Newsletter

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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