Land Banking Re-Imagined

Repurposing dilapidated properties takes creativity, and Lilah Zautner has plenty! As the former Director of Sustainability and Neighborhood Greening at Neighborhood Progress, Inc. (NPI), Zautner oversaw the ReImagining Cleveland program, an initiative for productive re-use of vacant land.Lilah_pic
Which is precisely why the Cuyahoga Land Bank hired her earlier this spring. “She knows all the players,” says Gus Frangos, President of the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “Lilah has been very involved at all levels of the urban agriculture movement; she’s very skilled from both the community advocacy standpoint and the technical, scientific side. We thought it was time we had that kind of capacity in-house.”
To that end, a new Cuyahoga Land Bank position was created for Zautner. As manager of Special Projects and Land Reuse, she will reach out in a proactive way to collaborate with various organizations across the community whose missions intersect with the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “I plan to highlight the re-use aspect of the position,” Zautner says. “That’s really where my strength is, and where I can be creative.”
Much of her work will focus on one-time, unique projects that come to the Land Bank, either through constituent requests or nonprofit partners. “One example is helping to find a suitable space that will become a respite house for children in crisis.”
Zautner also will work with Cleveland and suburban cities on creative uses for newly vacant land—an opportunity that is the result of demolition. “Many will become parks; we’ll help the community plan the space and figure out how to adapt local ordinances to the plan.”
Bobbi Reichtell, Executive Director of Campus District Inc. and Cuyahoga Land Bank board member, was Zautner’s supervisor at NPI until a year ago. “Lilah embodies the best in a young professional who is passionate about the city. She works harder than anybody I know to help people achieve their visions,” says Reichtell. “She’s all about assisting residents to become community leaders. I have the highest regard for her.”
We welcome Lilah Zautner to the Cuyahoga Land Bank, and look forward to her leadership in creative land re-use across the county.

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