Annual Gathering Draws Record Attendees
For anyone interested in addressing blight in their community, there was no better place to be October 25-27 than the annual Thriving Communities Institute’s Ohio Land Bank Conference. More than 300 attendees from both the public and private sectors gathered at the Westin Cleveland Downtown, to learn, share and be inspired.
“The annual Ohio Land Bank Conference has grown into a must-attend event for those who share a passion for strengthening our communities,” said Jim Rokakis, Vice President of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Director of Thriving Communities.
This year’s conference highlighted nuts-and-bolts issues and operational best practices for land banks, among other topics. David Mann and Josh Mumen of the Lucas County Land Bank opened up the conference with a standing-room only Land Bank 101 session designed for new land banks. Issues relating to governance, property acquisition and disposition, and community engagement were discussed.
Mark McArdle, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, was a keynote speaker. McArdle, gave an encouraging update on the state of the Hardest Hit Fund Program, which provides funding to state housing finance agencies for foreclosure prevention efforts.
The second keynote speaker was Julian Agyeman, Ph.D., a professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. Dr. Agyeman discussed his “Just Sustainabilities” concept, which he defined as the full integration of social justice and sustainability.
As a model Ohio land bank, the staff of the Cuyahoga Land Bank was again involved in several well-attended conference sessions this year. The Acquisition, Disposition, Development Team, including Cheryl Stephens, Director of Acquisitions and Development; Jim Maher, Commercial Demolition Officer; Rosemary Woodruff, Senior Environmental Property Specialist; Deidre Lightning-Whitted, Demolition Inspector; and Jane Larson, Financial Analyst, presented a panel entitled Demolition 101. The panel discussion covered best practices in the areas of initial review, acquisition, and most importantly, the steps and details of the environmental and demolition work of a land bank.
Stephens also participated in a panel discussion with staff from the Lucas and Franklin county land banks entitled Platforms for Commercial Redevelopment – What’s next for Land Banks. The three land banks have begun to engage with businesses which has led to projects that have commercial redevelopment and job creation benefits for their communities.
Dennis Roberts, director of Programs and Property Management, served on a panel that examined innovative property solutions, and Michael Schramm, director of IT and Research spoke on making use of point-in-time surveys for action and research to forecast distressed areas into the future.
Sarah Norman, Records Manager and Jacqui Knettel, Executive Assistant, presented on the importance of records retention for land banks for compliance with Sunshine Laws and public records statutes.
Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel, participated in a conference session on the 2016 Ohio Fast-Track Foreclosure Reform, offering an insider perspective on the reform’s impact on land banks and their mission.
“The Ohio Land Bank Conference continues to provide a compelling opportunity for different land banks throughout the state to come together to share experiences, learn from one another, and address common issues that we all face,” according to Rokakis.