Behind the Scenes: Strategic Land Assembly

We are often asked about the day-to-day work of the Cuyahoga Land Bank from curious residents and community leaders.  In this ongoing Behind the Scenes series, we take a look at the strategic land assembly work performed by the Cuyahoga Land Bank team. Chief Operating Officer Kim Kimlin recently sat down to answer some frequently asked questions:

What is land assembly?
Land assembly involves uniting a number of parcels of land into a single development site. This allows for developments of greater scale to be built than what could be built on a single parcel.

Why does the Cuyahoga Land Bank engage in land assembly?
Land assembly is a key tool that we offer in achieving our mission of strategically returning non-productive, vacant and abandoned properties to productive use and improving the quality of life for Cuyahoga County residents. By supporting developments of scale, we see greater positive impact on communities than piecemeal development and opportunities to significantly improve the income tax base.

How are you innovating in this area? 
The Cuyahoga Land Bank has deep research capabilities that allow it to identify areas that have the best opportunities for assembly. For example, using database records and GIS tools, we can identify areas that offer the optimum number of parcels that are either already owned by us or a municipal land bank, eligible for tax foreclosure, and/or listed on State forfeiture. We can also identify which of these parcels are likely vacant and abandoned. By combining these parameters, we can outline clusters of parcels that can be readily aggregated in the most cost-effective manner.

Are you focused in any particular areas in Cuyahoga County for this work?
We have assisted in land assembly efforts across the County, but better opportunities lie in areas where there has been more abandonment as these properties often fall into tax delinquency. Assemblies may consist of a few parcels within a residential neighborhood for a cluster of infill homes up to assemblage of large and/or many parcels for major commercial development. 

Besides commercial and housing development, are there other uses for these parcels?
Yes, we have assembled land to create new greenspace, to expand parks and trails, and for the development of urban farms and community gardens. For example, we acquired and demolished a house on Beyerle Road and then transferred the lot to Cleveland Metroparks as it lies adjacent to the park system’s Washington Reservation. This is the first transfer facilitated by an on-going research collaboration with Metropark’s planners to identify such opportunities.

How does strategic land assembly lead to economic development?
Strategic land assembly allows for developments of scale where major commercial development can occur. In 2017, in partnership with the Village of North Randall and Industrial Commercial Properties, LLC, we acquired and passed through certain tax foreclosed parcels as part of assembling the building site for a new Amazon distribution facility that spans 18 acres and now houses 2,000 jobs. This project was particularly revitalizing for the community as it occurred on the site of a once prosperous regional shopping mall that had declined for many years and finally closed in 2009. The developers demolished the blighted mall and brought in a use for the land that is in sync with the way people now prefer to shop and that has, for the Village,  substantially improved its income tax base.

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