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In Youngstown: Remembering MLK, volunteers put message of community to action

By Gerry Ricciutti of WKBN 27:

“Around the Mahoning Valley, volunteers put Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of peace and community to good use with a series of community service projects.

…Volunteers with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) boarded up vacant houses and cleaned up yards and streets in the Wick Park and Crandall Park neighborhoods.

“For the neighborhoods, it gets rid of trash. The people living next door, the neighbors who have to live with the trash every day… it improves their quality of life,” said YNDC volunteer Gia Cappabianca.

By noon, the YNDC group had already filled 200 bags of trash.”

Founded in 2009, YNDC is a member of the Ohio CDC Association.

Watch the full video here. 

A picture from YNDC of a previous service day’s volunteer power.


What’s next for ‘matriarch’ of Cincinnati neighborhoods?

Patricia Garry, long-time Executive Director of the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati a founder of the Ohio CDC Association retired last month. While she did much great work there, she continues her fight by advocating for affordable housing. We’re excited to keep working with her on that. Patricia is a great advocate for housing, access, and equity.

In August, she received the Diane Sterner Award from the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA).

Recently, The Cincinnati Enquirer featured a beautiful write up of her by Jeremy Fugleberg. Here is an excerpt:

“Fifty-one years ago, holding a baby on her hip, Garry marched into City Hall. She had rallied her Bond Hill neighbors against a nearby zoning change sought by developers. She carried a message for the planning commission: No. The planners listened and rejected the developer’s request.

“We beat ’em,” Garry said, telling the tale from her couch.

Garry had just shaped her neighborhood, and not for the last time. Over the following decades, she created, grew and led numerous community organizations dedicated to strengthening Cincinnati neighborhoods.

“She’s a matriarch,” said Kevin Wright, executive director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. “She started out when everybody was abandoning the city. And she’s leaving at a time when everyone is coming back in.”

At 76, Garry isn’t quite done helping communities thrive and grow. She’s already signed up to lead another organization, this one advocating for affordable housing.”

Read the whole article here.

OCDCA Annual Awards Ceremony, 2015. Patricia Garry, always ready to nominate someone for an award, introduced award winner Heather Sturgill for housing. L-R: Steve Torsell, Patricia Garry, Heather Sturgill, Rep. Kathleen Clyde, Judy Jackson.




Action Alert: Sign on to Tell Congress to Lift Harmful Spending Caps

Please take just five minutes to sign-on in support of federal community development (THUD) and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending.

Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD)

Groups concerned about transportation, housing, community development, and homelessness are working together to circulate a letter urging Congress to lift the caps on federal spending and to ensure affordable housing, community development, and transportation programs receive the highest allocation of discretionary funds possible for fiscal year (FY) 2018.

Request 1: Please sign your organization on today to support THUD!

Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) Funding

NDD United, a broad group of stakeholders interested in protecting federal non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding, is coordinating a sign-on letter urging Congress to end the harmful sequester caps which return in full-force for the FY18 appropriations process. These spending caps will force lawmakers to make deep cuts to community development programs.

Request 2: Please sign your organization on today to support NDD Funding!

The deadline to sign the letter is January 27. This sign-on letter is for national, state, and local signatures ONLY.

Request 3: Please share this message to encourage others to sign on!

Thank you for your advocacy!

Photo by kconnors at


Campus District is getting an at-home feel

By Jay Miller at Crain’s Cleveland Business:

It’s been a while coming for Karen Perkowski, but it’s looking like big things will be happening in the Campus District, the area east of downtown Cleveland.

It’s gotten to the point where community development planners have set in motion a plan to create a business improvement district to turn an area once home mostly to machine shops, electrical supply firms and the like into a real residential neighborhood.

“We’re very excited to see the changes,” said Perkowski, who with her husband Dave and their firm Tower Press Development, developed the Tower Press building at 1900 Superior Ave. 15 years ago and have added several additional buildings along Superior to their portfolio more recently.

The building, like others along Superior, was a part of a turn-of-the-20th-century garment district. In 1911, more than 2,000 members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union staged a strike here, seeking to improve working conditions by demanding things such as a 50-hour work week.

Now, the demand for downtown living is spurring the activity. Developers see the Campus District as an opportunity to meet some of that demand at a lower rent level than downtown. At the same time, the successful conversion of older office buildings downtown to apartments and condominiums has created a class of office tenants expelled from those downtown buildings who want affordable office space.

Campus District Inc., the nonprofit community development corporation, has tallied a list of in progress development that totals $249.8 million, with additional properties either currently on the market or with development potential.

Bobbi Reichtell, the group’s executive director, said her group is forecasting that the resident population in the neighborhood, now about 5,200, will grow by 1,000, or 19%, in three years.

“Five years ago, no one could have predicted the demand that exists now,” Reichtell said. “It’s the success of downtown that has driven us and given developers the confidence to sink money into a neighborhood that was on the edge.”

A trigger for Perkowski’s and Reichtell’s optimism is the commitment of a local investment firm that is assembling a handful of properties along Superior Avenue. The firm, Global X, has been investing for the long term, with the intent of developing its properties as both residential and commercial space. Global X is a 16-year-old investment firm and tax credit adviser specializing in historic preservation.

It first invested in the Superior Avenue corridor in 2013, when it bought the building at 2498 Superior. It added five more the next year.

State and federal tax credits that encourage the preservation of significant older buildings are a key to the renaissance of the area.

Read the whole article here.


Apply for an AmeriCorps VISTA

Build your organization’s capacity with national service.

Ohio CDC Association (OCDCA) is accepting applications for organizations to become sub-sites to the OCDCA VISTA Project to begin summer 2017.

Apply to get an extra pair of hands with the work you are doing in the areas of economic opportunity, healthy futures, and/or environmental stewardship.

Selected project sub-sites must contribute a $1,600 fee, to be paid quarterly, which includes the registration fee for one sub-site staff member to attend the OCDCA annual conference.

RFP Opportunity Details

Funding for the OCDCA VISTA Project is provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) through the Ohio Housing Trust Fund (OHTF). Limited slots are available; therefore, this is a competitive process and some slots will be reserved for housing-only initiatives.

This will be your only opportunity in 2017 to apply for OCDCA VISTA support.

If your organization is interested in becoming a sub-site of the OCDCA VISTA Project, please complete the RFP by 5 PM Thursday, January 25, 2017.

Selected sub-site organizations must be current, good standing members of OCDCA. Membership dues are based on your organization’s program budget, and the membership application is accepted on anytime. By joining as a member now, your organization qualifies as a member in good standing for this application.

For questions or technical assistance on the RFP or with membership, please contact Melissa Miller at mmiller AT or by phone at 614-461-6392 ext. 209.

Need TA on the Application?

The below webinar will go through common errors in applications and what makes a great application. This is a great time to get all your RFP questions answered.

AmeriCorps VISTA RFP Technical Assistance
January 17, 2017
2:00 – 3:30 PM
Webinar Register Here!

Detroit Shoreway is ‘ahead of the curve’ when it comes to development

By Jay Miller from Crain’s Cleveland Business:

When the Westown Community Development Corp. set about looking for a development partner for the planned $15 million redo of the long-vacant Variety Theatre on Lorain Avenue, it turned to the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, a neighborhood community development corporation, or CDC.

When community development groups in several struggling neighborhoods on Cleveland’s West Side needed to find a partner to keep those organizations afloat in 2010, the Detroit Shoreway nonprofit was there to unite the groups under its umbrella. In July of that year, Detroit Shoreway opened its Stockyard, Clark-Fulton & Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office, now the Metro West Community Development Office on Fulton Road, with its own managing director.

And when the city of Shaker Heights was looking for a developer to help shape a new housing development along the Blue Line Rapid Transit, it turned to the Detroit Shoreway organization. The result is Transit Village — 33 attached, single-family townhomes along Van Aken Boulevard that will sell for between $275,000 and $350,000.

Reducing the number of CDCs has been encouraged by a number of funders in recent years, and Detroit Shoreway’s approach may be the most successful.

“There are fewer resources around and our industry is evolving,” said Jeff Ramsey, the executive director of Detroit Shoreway. “The model we are creating here is using an organizational infrastructure of successful organizations to deliver grassroots community services.”

That means turning into a profit center the development expertise gained in the neighborhood by developing market-rate and affordable housing, and then the $30 million Gordon Square Arts District that includes the Capitol Theatre, the new Near West Theatre and Cleveland Public Theatre. Assisting places like Shaker Heights and the neighboring Westown, and earning development fees that support other services, like neighborhood housing inspections and workforce development programs, also is critical.

It also has meant merging four CDCs — Brooklyn Centre, Clark-Fulton and Stockyards, in addition to Detroit Shoreway.

Both Detroit Shoreway and its Metro West office, which serves the three outlying neighborhoods, have a managing director, Ramsey said. The two offices share a central staff for services such as human resources and information technology. So what had been four standalone organizations, each with small staffs serving 10,000 to 15,000 resident neighborhoods, is now one organization with a combined staff of 28 serving an area with a population of 40,000 people.

“That’s an example (of merging CDCs) where it has worked really well,” said Bobbie Reichtell, executive director of Campus District Inc., a CDC serving a neighborhood east of downtown. “It’s perfect that (Ramsey) is there because the previous organization was very good at community organizing, but not at development.”

Reichtell, a former senior vice president for programs at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, an umbrella organization for local CDCs, said Detroit Shoreway’s development expertise will help rebuild the Metro West area, which abuts the upcoming redevelopment of the MetroHealth campus across West 25th Street.

A segment of the nonprofit world that grew out of the late 1960s, community development corporations, or CDCs, were a response to the struggles of urban neighborhoods with aging housing, including the reluctance of banks to make mortgages in minority and changing neighborhoods and the flight to the suburbs.

Initially funded by churches and foundations, CDCs rescued abandoned homes, rehabilitated them and then filled them with families using lease-purchase agreements. When the young U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development created the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, Cleveland and other cities funneled CDBG money through these community development groups for low-income housing and housing code enforcement services.

At one time, each traditional Cleveland neighborhood, more than 40 of them, had a CDC. But declining populations and waning federal funding have cut that number in half and forced them to find new ways to stay financially solvent.

Now, Detroit Shoreway’s financial statement shows a $10 million operating budget with three equal funding streams: one-third from development fees, like it’s getting from the Variety Theatre and Transit Village; one-third from foundations and donations; and the rest from the CDBG dollars channeled through the city of Cleveland.

“They’ve gotten ahead of the curve,” said Colleen Gilson, vice president of CDC Advancement at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress about Detroit Shoreway. “Why not export their talents? They’ve been so successful at development.”

But like other CDCs, its services are broadening. Now, looking beyond its strength in housing and commercial development, Detroit Shoreway sees its mission, according to Ramsey, as “effective neighboring.” That includes offering programs like financial literacy to help low-income people build wealth, engaging with other neighborhood groups — like the Hispanic groups in the Clark-Fulton area — as well as workforce programs and even a tax preparation service. As Ramsey sees it, every dollar saved by making sure residents take all of their tax deduction, and the preparation fee of an outside preparer, comes back to the neighborhood.

Even if CDCs can’t find ways to merge (two East Side groups failed at it), Gilson sees CDCs combining resources in other ways, such as developing joint marketing programs or doing long-range planning together. So while the Shaker Square Area Development Corp. and the Buckeye Area Development Corp. couldn’t find their way to a merger, Ohio City Inc. and the Tremont West Development Corp., two relatively strong CDCs, are seeking to fund a shared safety coordinator position.

“I think the future is in partnerships and collaborations,” Ramsey said.


State Rep. Debbie Phillips to work for Rural Action after term expires

Samantha Nelson of The Athens Messenger:

As Debbie Phillips’ eight years and four terms as representative for the 94th District of the Ohio House of Representatives comes to a close this month, she prepares to take on the role of a new staff position at Rural Action.

Rural Action is a member-based, regional sustainable community development organization with a mission “to foster social, economic, and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio.”

Michelle Decker, chief executive officer of Rural Action, recruited Phillips as the development director. Phillips will join {span}21 staff members in five offices across Athens, Perry, Morgan and Tuscarawas counties. The organization also hosts the Ohio Stream Restore Corps, with 26 AmeriCorps members.

In the position, Phillips will work to reinforce the membership and support base of the organization through engaging existing and potential members in its work, and growing its membership and donor base. Phillips will reach out to members and other people who have been involved in the various programs of Rural Action to encourage them to invest into the organization.

Decker said that this will require the position holder — in this case, Phillips — to have face-to-face conversations, organize member meetings and sit down with existing and potential donors to ask and gain an understanding of what they care about and what they want to see Rural Action do.

Although the position has existed within the organization under the umbrellas of other roles in the past, the full-time position stands by itself this time. The organization is “more ready for this position than ever before,” Decker said, and having someone with a “robust skill set” like Phillips will benefit the organization.

Decker said that the development director position was created because of the decision by the board of directors of Rural Action to invest the organization’s funds into development. The board sees the organization growing, and they want to make sure that the organization will keep up with that growth, Decker said.

With Phillips’ term as representative set to expire soon, Decker said Rural Action saw a “special opportunity” for Phillips to work with them.

Phillips said she is excited to work for Rural Action. “I love the work that Rural Action does and the way they do the work,” she said.

Phillips said that although she loves the work she has done as the district’s state representative and considers it an honor to have served in the position, she acknowledged that the position can be frustrating because of gridlock and partisanship that occurs within the Statehouse. Phillips said that she looks forward to working with an entity operated by local members who are all working toward “positive community development.”

She is also excited to learn about projects and other work that more recent members of Rural Action are doing, particularly the younger members.

“A lot of young leaders have gotten a great start through Rural Action,” she said.

Phillips has worked with Rural Action in the past, during and prior to her service as the district’s state representative. In 2001, Phillips started working with the organization as the founding executive director of Ohio Fair Schools Campaign, which was hosted through Rural Action.

Phillips’ term as state representative will end at the end of December, and her position as development director for Rural Action will start at the beginning of January, 2017.

Read the whole article here.


Call to action: share your housing success story

From the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JANUARY 6: There’s still time to share your housing success story for a new national report.

Housing advocates are developing a report to highlight the positive impacts of federal housing programs across the country. 

We have our work cut out for us in the coming years. The threats to critical affordable housing programs that serve the poorest households are real and significant. President-elect Donald Trump has already proposed cutting federal spending for everything but defense over the next ten years—a plan that could decimate affordable housing programs and likely increase housing poverty and homelessness.

It is now more important than ever for NLIHC and our partners to continue to advocate for the extremely low income families in our communities and to ensure that their voices are heard.

Submit your affordable housing success story today!

NLIHC and the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding are preparing a national report on the broad, positive impacts created by HUD and USDA’s affordable housing programs to share with Members of Congress. Our hope is to feature a wide range of success stories to demonstrate how these programs have helped low income families living in rural, suburban, and urban communities across the nation. The report is slated for publication in early 2017.

As part of this effort, we would like to encourage state and local organizations, as well as individuals, to submit a Success Story to be included in this publication. Please only submit one success story per organization.

It is especially important that we collect success stories from Republican-led congressional districts—especially if they are on our target list for the House and Senate. See the target list. (OH-14 & OH-15 districts are top priorities on a national level).

Submit a success story! 

The deadline to submit a success story has been extended to January 6.


OTR developers push $128M affordable housing plan

From Bowdeya Tweh from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“Familiar names in Over-the-Rhine’s real estate market could help chart a new course for 240 low-income apartments in the neighborhood.

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) and Walnut Hills-based Model Group want to buy the Jan and Senate Apartments and transfer 101 federal housing subsidy contracts to other low-income housing managers. With the help of the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, residents are being relocated from those properties.

Also, the developers are working to close a purchase of 18 buildings that hold 140 apartments in Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton from Denver-based Mercy Housing. 3CDC wants to upgrade the properties and keep half of them affordable for families at 60 percent of the area median income. The other half of units would be converted to market-rate; commercial spaces would also be upgraded. Model has already started managing Mercy Housing’s properties.

“There is broad consensus that as housing prices rise in the neighborhood, it will be important to deliberately incorporate high-quality affordable housing in future development phases that both protects a diverse community base, which makes OTR special, and provides for critical workforce housing to support Cincinnati’s growing economy,” according to a development plan summary provided to The Enquirer.

The Jan, Senate and Mercy Housing properties are part of a $128 million plan that involves affordable housing upgrades, developing more affordable housing and making some housing developments mixed-income. 3CDC and Model started the effort more than two years ago and the organizations have since worked with the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, Community Builders, McCormack Baron Salazar and Cornerstone Corp. for Shared Equity on various elements of the plan.”

Read the complete article here.


A last minute gift for urban agriculture from Ohio’s longest serving representative

From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog:

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture honored Cleveland’s Ohio City Farm by naming it a national model of successful urban agriculture. Spanning nearly 6 acres, Ohio City Farm is one of the nation’s largest contiguous farms and a prime example of how traditionally rural activities like farming can revitalize and reinvigorate urban areas.

Representative Marcy Kaptur, who has represented Ohio’s 9th Congressional district for thirty-two years, has witnessed first hand the emergence of the local food movement and interest in urban agriculture. Ohio has a thriving agricultural sector, but is also home to several large urban districts – including Cleveland and Toledo, both in Representative Kaptur’s district. Recognizing the potential to turn a seeming dichotomy into a symbiotic relationship, Representative Kaptur has long been a champion in Congress for farmers markets, entrepreneurial farming and urban agriculture.

Ohio City Farm

Urban agriculture gives city dwellers a chance to purchase foods from farmers not just in their state, but sometimes right in their very own neighborhoods. In addition to providing a local resource for fresh and healthy food, urban agriculture also creates prime opportunities for food and farm business development, skill training, and a way to educate urban communities about the realities of farming and life in rural America.

As the 114th Congress winds to a close, Representative Kaptur has one final gift for the urban agriculture community– on December 8, 2016 Rep. Kaptur introduced H.R.6481, the Urban Agriculture Production Act of 2016. Viewed as a starting point for discussions of how urban agriculture might be represented in the 2018 Farm Bill, Kaptur’s legislation seeks to address the unique needs of urban farmers while also building deeper connections between urban and rural communities.

The Urban Agriculture Production Act seeks to improve outreach and assistance to current and prospective urban agriculture practitioners by establishing a new Urban Farmers and Ranchers group within USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach. The Urban Farmers and Ranchers Group would be tasked with improving Department coordination, related outreach efforts and administering a new competitive grants program called the Urban Agriculture Outreach Program. The outreach program is designed to support infrastructure development, land acquisition and conservation, education and training and other similar urban agriculture activities.

Rep. Kaptur’s bill would also establish a new Urban Agriculture Research Initiative, which would provide $20 million a year in mandatory funding for competitive research grants for scientific and community-based research that promotes and enhances agricultural production in urban areas.

In addition, to the creation of new programs and initiatives, the Urban Agriculture Production Act would amend and improve a number of existing USDA programs to better support farmers markets and urban agriculture. The following are a few highlights of those provisions:

  • Expand credit opportunities by giving USDA’s Farm Service Agency authority to make loans and loan guarantees for the construction of new farmers markets, rehabilitation of existing farmers markets, acquisition of equipment and other related infrastructure, and the purchase or acquisition of land for use as a farmers market and other related activities.
  • Increase mandatory funding from $30 million to $35 million per year for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program.
  • Provide a major increase in funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, from $20 million to $100 million per year in mandatory funding.
  • Remove the stipulation that only projects with a one-time contribution are eligible for a Community Food Projects Grant Program award, and increase funding for that program from $9 million to $10 million per year in mandatory funding.
  • Amend the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program to include urban farmers and ranchers as an eligible group.

Earlier this fall, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, also introduced legislation to support the budding urban agricultural movement – S. 3420, the Urban Agriculture Act of 2016.

Safe and healthy food access is important for communities throughout Ohio.