Ohio CDC Association announces 2015 member awards

Ohio CDC Association announces 2015 Member Awards

Seven outstanding community development winners recognized during OCDCA’s 31st annual conference in Kent

KENT – The Ohio CDC Association today announced its 2015 Member Awards during the Association’s 31st annual conference at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center. The two-day gathering, Oct. 1-2, convened 250 community development leaders from around Ohio under the theme, Igniting Collaborative Innovation.

The 2015 winners and their awards are:

  • St Clair Superior Development Corporation, CDC of the Year
  • Ian Beniston, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, CDC Staff Member of the Year
  • Over-the-Rhine Community Housing – Beasley Place, CDC Project of the Year
  • Olajuwan Smith, G.O. Community Development Corporation, CDC Community Leader of the Year
  • Tiffany Sokol, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, Stephanie J. Bevens Award Winner
  • Heather Sturgill, Ned D. Neuhausel Award
  • The Raymond John Wean Foundation, CDC Partner of the Year

“This year’s award winners inspire us all to step up our revitalization efforts,” said Nate Coffman, executive director of the Ohio CDC Association. “Their dedication and hard work give us examples of what’s possible in each of our communities. On behalf of the Board of Trustees and our members, we congratulate them for their outstanding achievements.”

The Ohio CDC Association is a statewide membership organization of Community Development Corporations that engages in capacity building, advocacy and public policy development that fosters socially and economically healthy communities. 

Information on 2015 OCDCA Member Awards:

St Clair Superior Development Corporation, CDC of the Year

St Clair Superior Development Corporation serves the many neighborhoods of St Clair Superior, one of Cleveland’s most diverse and historic communities. In its mission is to drive neighborhood development & transformation, SCSDC has worked to engage its residents, businesses, and all of Northeast Ohio through its efforts. Trying to bring attention and support for a long-struggling and disinvested neighborhood, the staff at SCSD has started innovative programs to change the conversation about what is possible in Cleveland and other Rust Belt cities. From simple strategies like Urban Lambscape – using sheep to maintain vacant land in the city at a fraction of the cost of traditional mowing, to more complex approaches such as UpCycle St Clair – a comprehensive arts-based strategy showing how creative reuse can lift an entire neighborhood – SCSDC has challenged traditional notions of the scope and limits of Ohio’s community development agencies. As it now unrolls its ag[re]culture project, SCSDC is exploring new ways to engage its constituency through establishing a food culture in one of Cuyahoga County’s worst food deserts. In every program SCSDC undertakes, they begin by changing the conversation: from one of decay or lack of resources into one of possibilities. They then work with their well-developed network of partners to drive those possibilities until they become reality.

Ian Beniston, Executive Director, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, CDC Staff Member of the Year

Ian Beniston is the Executive Director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) located in Youngstown, Ohio. Prior to becoming Executive Director, Ian spent five years as YNDC’s Deputy Director. Ian is responsible for the organization’s consistent achievement of its mission and financial objectives. He is also responsible for the day to day operations of the organization. His duties include management of program staff, development of innovative programming, resource development, budgeting and finance, marketing and communication strategies, development of strong partnerships and relationships among diverse stakeholders, and organizational development.

Ian brings nine years of urban planning and neighborhood development experience in the private, non-profit and public sectors. Previously, Ian served as Director of Policy for the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative. As Director of Policy, he served as a consultant to YNDC’s Board of Directors where he played an integral role in the creation and development of the organization. Ian also spent several years working for the nationally recognized urban planning consulting firm, ACP Visioning and Planning now known as planning NEXT. He began his career as an intern in the City of Youngstown’s Planning Department during the early stages of the award winning Youngstown 2010 planning process. Ian’s involvement with community initiatives includes serving on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Youngstown Redevelopment Code, steering committee of the Mahoning/Youngstown Vacant Property Initiative, and the executive committee of APA Cleveland. Ian also serves on the Board of Directors of the Community Corrections Association.

Ian was selected as a 40 under 40 award recipient in 2009, a 25 under 35 award recipient in 2013, and a Next City Vanguard, 40 under 40 making an impact in cities across America in 2014. Ian holds a Master of City and Regional Planning from The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Youngstown State University. He has studied the European approach to reinventing older industrial cities at the Technical University of Dresden in Dresden, Germany. He is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and has obtained Housing Development Finance Professional certification from the National Development Council.

Over-the-Rhine Community Housing – Beasley Place, CDC Project of the Year

Beasley Place, a newly renovated historic building located at 1405-1407 Republic Street, is a major and important step toward the goal of maintaining a diverse and inclusive community in Over-the-Rhine. Beasley Place is located just one block away from the newly renovated Washington Park and is in the heart of the area of the neighborhood that has seen millions of dollars of investment primarily in the high-income commercial and condo market. It is one of just a few new affordable housing developments done since the reinvestment in this area of Over-the-Rhine.

Beasley Place is impactful to the neighborhood because it is critical in helping to fight gentrification and is proof that high-income and affordable housing can co-exist and that the diversity in their coexistence improves the neighborhood rather than degrading it. Beasley Place is located next to a newly developed building containing ten condos that sold for between $150,000 and $290,000 and across the street from another high-end condo development as well as a single family home. Beasley Place in sharp contrast, houses thirteen individuals/families with monthly rents ranging from $288 to $613. All of the residents living at Beasley Place have income that are below 50% of the area median income, with three of the units reserved for tenants with income that are below 30% of the area median income. Beasley Place is also one of just a few housing options in Over-the-Rhine that are both affordable and accessible due to a newly constructed elevator in the courtyard of the building. Beasley Place was designed for both singles and families to live together with a mixture of unit types: six 1-bedroom units, four 2-bedroom units, and three 3-bedroom units. The building has a new elevator, laundry room, first floor commercial space, and an outdoor courtyard.

The property was completed in May of 2015 and was fully leased by August 1, 2015 showing the demand for quality affordable housing in the neighborhood. The project was also very unique in its funding structure because it did not utilize low-income housing tax credits or project-based Section 8 rental subsidy like many affordable housing projects do. The project received state and federal Historic Tax Credits, City of Cincinnati HOME funding, HDAP funding from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and a CRA tax exemption from the City of Cincinnati. The project has achieved Enterprise Green Communities certification and includes a number of energy saving upgrades including insulated exterior walls, new energy efficient windows in the rear and courtyard, and Energy Star lighting and appliances. The project is a complete renovation of an at-risk historic building with a long history of providing affordable housing for families in Over-the-Rhine. The building was built in 1897 and primarily housed families for the next century. The first floor contained a number of businesses over the years including a tailor shop, a salon, and even a Kroger’s grocery store in the 1930s. After over a decade of being vacant, the building is once again home to families who need affordable housing.

Olajuawan Smith, G.O. Community Development Corporation, CDC Community Leader of the Year

This summer Olajuawan Smith took the time out of his summer off from college to instruct classes at the G.O.C.D.C community center. These three hour classes ran for three months, three days a week. He devoted his time and skills to teach anyone who was interested in computer classes free of charge. He instructed a broad age-range of students, yet treated each student with the utmost respect. His teaching skills and presentations go well beyond his years. Not only does Mr. Smith give back to his community this way, he also works very closely with the center managing their website, newsletters and computer lab.

Tiffany Sokol, Housing Coordinator, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, Stephanie Bevens Award, honoring strong community advocates who have demonstrated commitment and entrepreneurial spirit

Tiffany Sokol is the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation’s (YNDC) Housing Director. Tiffany began as YNDC’s Office Manager in 2012. She was promoted to Program Coordinator one year later and promoted again to Housing Director in summer 2014. As a YNDC Program Coordinator, Tiffany began work in earnest to elevate the capacity of YNDC’s community lending and financial literacy services. She immediately began engaging local churches, schools, neighborhood groups, banks, community organizations, and other possible partners to increase awareness of YNDC’s services. This led to a significant increase in the demand for YNDC’s financial literacy and housing counseling and community lending. In her first year on the job, YNDC made nearly twenty first mortgages and YNDC has now originated more than fifty first and second mortgages. YNDC has also become a HUD-Certified counseling agency, achieved certification by the National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling, and developed a significant counseling pipeline of low to moderate income clients to position them for success in pursuing their goals whether it be to expand or begin a micro-business or purchase a home.

In 2014, YNDC began offering micro-business services in partnership with other community organizations. These services include training classes, counseling services, and lending. Tiffany has spearheaded their counseling services for micro-business development, which have proven to be a critical component of the infrastructure needed to develop successful low-income entrepreneurs. The first class of entrepreneurs includes a car detailing business, new restaurant, party rental and urban farm. All of the first class of clients are low-income and minority residents of Youngstown neighborhoods.

Tiffany also expanded her responsibilities to management of all YNDC housing development efforts in 2014 to include the rehabilitation of vacant and occupied units. She has worked relentlessly to continue to refine YNDC’s methods and build our capacity and we are now rehabilitating more homes than ever. We are rehabilitating more than two dozen vacant homes in transitional neighborhoods without subsidy, which many said would never be possible five years ago.

Tiffany’s effort and the entrepreneurial mindset has increased YNDC’s impact and ability to rehabilitate more homes and has created real jobs for low-income residents of city neighborhoods, who are now employed on YNDC’s construction team. Tiffany continues to work hard to further grow our construction team and operations. Tiffany’s diligence, hard work, entrepreneurial spirit, and passion for the success of her clients have resulted in growing opportunities for low-income residents of Youngstown neighborhoods.

Heather Sturgill, Ned Neuhausel Award, honoring housing developers who demonstrate a lifelong commitment to people with disabilities

Heather Sturgill’s work as a consultant focuses on addressing barriers to community living. Heather was instrumental in advocating for the City of Cincinnati to offer tax incentives to home builders who provide a “Visitable Home,” featuring an accessible entrance and exit, an accessible first floor restroom, and wider halls and doorways. As a result of this successful advocacy, for the first time in its history, three of the model homes in the 2014 CitiRAMA offered the feature of “Visitability” which made them welcoming to ALL visitors, regardless of age or ability!

The Raymond John Wean Foundation, CDC Partner of the Year

Founded in 1949, the foundation has served the Mahoning Valley for 66 years, supporting the community where the business flourished. In 2006, the Wean Foundation partnered with PolicyLink to refine a strategy for effective grantmaking in the Mahoning Valley, particularly in the challenged urban centers of Warren and Youngstown. The resulting effort created six strategic funding priorities – engaging residents, promoting inclusion, fostering leadership development, striving for social equity, strengthening connections, and promoting community investment. The new priorities represent an effort to build capacity and leadership in the Mahoning Valley.

In 2008, the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative (MVOC) was created as an innovative community organization that brings together neighborhood, faith-based and labor groups in the Mahoning Valley to build the capacity necessary to create sustainable change. MVOC continues to identify and develop grassroots leaders, cultivate healthy neighborhoods, and build power to address inequality and promote racial, social, and economic justice. The Foundation and MVOC noted quickly that Youngstown and Warren lacked sufficient community development capacity. In 2009, the Wean Foundation partnered with the City of Youngstown to launch the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) to address that gap. YNDC’s efforts have leveraged millions into Youngstown’s neighborhoods and developed successful programming to address issues from food deserts to alternative models of homeownership. In 2010, the Wean Foundation helped launch Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership (TNP), Warren’s first CDC. TNP immediately began addressing issues diminishing the quality of life in Warren neighborhoods. TNP has empowered residents and promoted sustainable community development through projects and programs that increase the quality of life in Warren’s neighborhoods. TNP has successfully leveraged millions in funding to create a more vibrant community through home ownership, blight remediation, and increased access to fresh local foods. TNP also manages the Trumbull County Land Bank, which serves as a successful model and unique strategy for addressing the high level of vacant homes and lots throughout Warren and Trumbull County.

Though the Wean Foundation can be commended for a wide variety of reasons, perhaps the most significant achievement has been their unfailing commitment to the residents of Mahoning Valley as manifested by the long-term strategic commitment to support a cohort of organizations all engaged in the increase of quality of life for residents. The Foundation has continued to emphasize the value and strength of the residents of this Valley, despite significant economic struggles, rampant poverty, and deep segregation. The Wean Foundation has often been a driving force in efforts to combat such issues. Many community development partners can boast commendable initiatives toward this same end, but often those organizations were founded for such purposes alone. The Foundation redirected its focus with great intention and has continued, without fail, to stick to the plan and back up their financial commitments with support at all levels from resident engagement to national leadership and strategic giving that allows residents of the Mahoning Valley to realize effective, lasting change.

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