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State of the Arts: Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood reimagined

Mark Arehart of Ohio Public Radio:

“A new coloring book features public spaces in one Akron neighborhood. It’s a mural project called the Kenmore Imagineer and residents hope it will add a splash of color to Kenmore Boulevard.

The mural project, Kenmore, Ohio, will appear along Kenmore Boulevard.

“Kenmore gets a bad rap outside of Kenmore, and even sometimes inside of Kenmore,” Tina Boyes, executive director of the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance, said.

It was once its own city, with a bustling downtown full of shops and theaters and even streetcars running along Kenmore Boulevard.

“I think people have seen the decline of the neighborhood due to disinvestment of industry,” she said.

But she believes the neighborhood is coming back. It has several music venues, a barber shop, guitar shops, comic book stores and even an indoor skate park.

“Kenmore has so much life and so much vibrancy that you don’t see on the surface,” she said.”

Read more (and listen to the story) from Ohio Public Radio that talks about exciting work in the Akron neighborhood and one of OCDCA’s newer members Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance.


Empowering Communities RFP now open

Ohio boasts a strong reputation for innovation combined with heart. The diverse nature of the state includes eight urban centers, sprawling Appalachian counties, countless suburban towns, and rural communities. As a result, Ohio serves as an economic, cultural, and political microcosm of the United States. That translates into being a hotbed of activity for test markets and pilots of all kinds.

Social issues and solutions are the key to economic growth and community stability. We are eager to leverage more than 200 outstanding Ohio CDC Association (OCDCA) community development organizations to accelerate and implement next-generation social innovation.

Empowering Communities Grant Challenge

Ohio CDC Association and the CareSource Foundation are tackling this head-on by launching the Empowering Communities Grant Challenge.

The Empowering Communities Grant Challenge opportunity will provide funding for innovative solutions to unique community challenges that involve the social determinants of health. The process consists of three stages:

  • Request for Proposal (RFP) process
  • Concept Presentation including Q&A
  • Implementation Phase

Requesting organizations must be a nonprofit member in good standing of Ohio CDC Association, and applications are due by 4 PM EST on May 4, 2018.


A new revitalization model: demand creation

Guest article from Revitalization News:

“When you chat with your grandmother about urban revitalization, the words that you use and the images she has in her head are likely focused on brick, stone, or clapboard buildings; on tree-lined, brick-paved streets; or on walkable main streets teeming with local retailers, hung shingles, and small offices or apartments above.

It is all about saving places. And we do it for a host of good reasons, be they economic, emotional, or to take advantage of a particular underserved market that wants to move in, not out to the hinterland exurbs.

The strategies we have relied upon mirror those images and words that we use. We focus, and understandably so, on the buildings, streets, and public spaces that make up the neighborhoods we want to save. We wrap policies around these places like bubble wrap, hoping to stem the dis- or mal-investment that has plagued them for a half century.

Design codes and zoning overlays institutionalize the wisdom of previous eras that we seem to be losing, the intuition that allowed us to build great places for millennia. To bridge the gap between what a landowner can invest in a building and what she can reasonably expect in return through rents, we have created a competitive set of tax credits that can be swapped for cash to pour into repointing the brick, popping in new windows, restoring the tin ceiling, and patching the roof.

When successful, we do save the place. Blood, sweat, tears and years go into stabilizing and restoring the bricks and mortar. Retailers open up shop, people move back in, and selfies are taken with your restored neighborhood serving as the memorable backdrop.

But saving that street or adopting that overlay district does not automatically save the neighborhood and, even if it does, it does not necessarily jump the tracks to the next neighborhood even if it exhibits some of the same great buildings and streets that dot your newly revitalized district. The movement does not scale on its own. What is more, even as we have restored investment in the place, real and often valid concerns about how we are restoring investment in the people that for generations stuck it out in the that place grow.

Enter gentrification and displacement.

And when we ignore the movement’s ability to scale and resist the difficult conversations about racial, cultural, and economic inclusion, we expose the preservation movement’s broad side to criticisms about Disneyification and loss of authenticity while isolating the pursuit of revitalization to a narrowing class of advocates that have the resources to navigate the bureaucracy, planning, lending, and trade skills necessary to bring a place back from the brink. This threatens to slow and narrow the movement right when we need to accelerate and broaden it the most.

These shortcomings are due, in large part, to how we go about revitalizing places. In other words: the supply-only approach of property acquisition, tax credits, building stabilization and restoration, and protection policies limit the risks of doing it all. And its importance cannot be underestimated. But while doing all of that hard work with our right hands, it is critical that we do something just as important with our left.

That something is a strategy we’ve come to call Demand Discovery where, through targeted activation of overlooked spaces, programming, storytelling, and ongoing tweaking, we figure out where, how, who, and what to focus on while removing the market’s mental obstacles preventing it from coming to the place you are trying to save.

A central observation of demand discovery is that, over time, we have value engineered out of the building process two key steps. We are likely to still engage in some form of planning (be it in a church basement or in a boardroom) with the intended goal of sustained development and investment.

But the leap between the two is proving to be too vast. We are missing one step by which we test those planning ideas through quick, low-cost, low-risk activations of the idea. We miss another that makes permanent the early and most successful aspects of those activations through smart, small development of the amenities and other uses that virtually all plans wish to bring back to a place. This holds just as true for a coffee shop as it does for a walkable street and allows our bigger development to be more sophisticated, market-driven (ie smarter use of gap funding), and integrated into the fabric of a place.

It is not your grandma’s picture of revitalization but, in fact, more like how places grew when she was a little girl through small scale trial and error that incrementally evolves into an extraordinary place.”

Read the full piece here, which details work occurring in the Cincinnati member Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.


CDC Impact: Community Engagement

Over the last few years, Ohio CDC Association (OCDCA) has been working hard to quantify the impact of CDCs throughout Ohio. We’ve been collecting and analyzing data from our member organizations and are excited to share our findings – especially in digestible bits.

We are pleased to state that, each year, over one million people benefit from the work of Ohio’s CDCs.

This week’s theme is community engagement – a deeply critical component to all community development work. The central idea to the CDC industry is that local communities know their people and places the best and are best suited to enact change to their specific challenges.

Through local engagement, residents can take ownership of their community and are empowered to make lasting changes through grass roots efforts.  

Did you know that, in 2016, Ohio CDCs:

  • Hosted community events that were attended by over 159,000 people;
  • Recruited almost 37,000 volunteers of which nearly 6,500 were youth;
  • Organized volunteers that performed more than 559,000 hours of service in their communities.

For example, one CDC in northeast Ohio holds an annual day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and in 2016, countless volunteers helped board up 20 vacant homes in single degree temperatures.

Another community development group in southeast Ohio mobilized many residents to help bring a grocery store to their rural food desert.

Community engagement is inherent in community development work, as CDCs make a place at the proverbial table for all the voices in their community.


Place Matters gives residents tools to transform their communities

Hillary Copsey of Soapbox Cincinnati:

“Place Matters has spent the last decade giving residents the tools they need to transform their communities because they know the places we call home matter.

Place Matters tackles neighborhood health and safety through creative placemaking, often using art and events to bring people together. An example is Price Hill Will, the lead Place Matters agency in Price Hill on Cincinnati’s west side, which has successfully united its diverse families around MYCincinnati, a free youth orchestra program. The orchestra and its home, the Warsaw Avenue Firehouse, are the center of family life for every part of the community — new residents, the growing Hispanic community and longtime white and black residents. Some parents even have started learning instruments alongside their children, and other parents have formed clubs after meeting at MYCincinnati rehearsals and concerts.
“Price Hill does community engagement right,” says Tamara Thrasher, whose two children participate in MYCincinnati.

Whether through programs like MYCincinnati or community events like the Five Points Alley clean-up and mural painting in Walnut Hills, Place Matters initiatives have proven over the past 10 years that good things happen when you bring residents together to celebrate their community.

“It’s that one-on-one relationship,” says Walnut Hills resident Kathryne Gardette. “You see these people. You may not know what street they live on. You may not know all the details of their day. You may not even know their name. But you cross them in the neighborhood, and you can celebrate being neighbors.”

Place Matters also gives community leaders a chance to highlight positive aspects of their neighborhood. When a community needs improvement — if houses are vacant or crime is visible — residents tend toward complaints when they get together. Events and programs that take advantage of a neighborhood’s assets change that.

“It gives us the opportunity to have a different kind of conversation about Avondale,” says Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation board member Henry Brown.”

Read the whole story here.


How ‘Not in my backyard’ became ‘Not in my neighborhood’

Emily Badger of The New York Times:

In Seattle, the neighbors don’t want apartments for formerly homeless seniors nearby. In Los Angeles, they don’t want more high-rises. In San Jose, Calif., they don’t want tiny homes. In Phoenix, they don’t want design that’s not midcentury modern.

Homeowners in each of these places share a common conviction: that owning a parcel of land gives them a right to shape the world beyond its boundaries.

The roots of this idea are as old as nuisance laws that have tried to limit how one property owner can harm another. Over the decades, though, homeowners have expanded their claim on the world beyond their lot lines. This means they look out for schools and streets in ways that are vital to American communities. But increasingly it also means the senior affordable housing, the high-rises and the tiny homes — also arguably vital to the larger community — are never built.

“One of the reasons why we always justified the mortgage interest deduction was we wanted people to be rooted in their communities,” said Vicki Been, the faculty director of New York University’s Furman Center and a former commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development in New York City.

The idea was for people to be invested in the quality of nearby schools, the safety of neighborhood parks and the outcomes of local elections. In one sense, the triumph of this idea should be celebrated, she said. But the danger of it is becoming more apparent, too.

“Communities always need to be changing,” she said, “and we can’t have a process that gives every individual sort of a veto over change.”

Read the full piece here, which details NIMBYish and how it has changed over time.


Lakewood Grocer Donates To Needy Family

Chris Mosby of Patch:

Constantino’s may still be new in town, but the family-owned grocer is already making an impact for local families. LakewoodAlive‘s Housing Outreach Program identified a family in-need this holiday season and Constantino’s donated $150 of groceries.

“We are so happy to provide this gift to one of our Lakewood residents and thankful for the commitment Andrew Revy and Constantino’s has already shown to the Lakewood community since opening last week.” said Allison Urbanek, LakewoodAlive housing outreach program director.

Constantino’s opened Dec. 6 at the site of the former Nature’s Bin grocery. Co-owners Andrew and Anna Revy are both Lakewood High School alum and current residents. Andrew told Patch at the ribbon cutting event on Dec. 5 that he wanted to be the “perfect embodiment of a local grocer.”

Andrew also said he and his family wanted to serve their own neighborhood. The Revys already operate four other stores around the Cleveland area. The Lakewood location is the first Constantino’s store in a Greater Cleveland suburb.

Read the whole story here.


Working to end homelessness in Lima

Via Your Hometown Lima Stations:

“Work is continuing to address the homeless problem here in Lima Allen County.

The Lima Rotary Club is teaming up with the West Ohio Community Action Partnership to bring awareness, education, and hopefully a solution to the homelessness situation in our community. The Rotary Club has started a fundraising campaign to provide the help needed for the chronically homeless that want a way out. It’s essential to connect individuals with the resources available to them on a 24/7 basis.

CEO of West Ohio CAP, Jackie Fox says there will be a phone number that can be called that will connect to a live person that will help find the services needed, including a warm bed for the night.”

Watch the full news story, including the interview with Jackie Fox, here. 



CareSource Foundation makes significant contribution for social determinants of health

(Front, L to R) Emily Seibel, Judy Jackson, Cathy Ponitz, Jamar Doyle, (Back, L to R) Steve Torsell, Nate Coffman

On October 6th, Ohio CDC Association announced a major gift from and exciting new partnership with the CareSource Foundation for the new Empowering Communities initiative. 

Community development organizations need a mechanism to synthesize ideas and neighborhood feedback to develop innovative, homegrown solutions to their unique challenges. In doing so, they empower their communities. Community development organizations not only listen to their community, but work directly with their neighbors to respond to these pressing problems. Working collectively and inclusively to solve problems results in diverse and truly innovative solutions.

The Empowering Communities program will encourage groups to test and pilot innovative, community-driven solutions to some of their neighborhood’s most pressing problems. This inaugural cohort of the program will provide implementation grants to OCDCA members to test innovative solutions to pressing community challenges related to the social determinants of health. While testing their solution, they will receive technical assistance from OCDCA and undergo an outside evaluation.

We are so excited to work with the CareSource Foundation and see what projects will come from this work.

Since 2006, the CareSource Foundation has awarded almost 1,200 grants to nonprofits who are working to eliminate poverty, provide much-needed services to low-and moderate-income families, encourage healthy communities, develop innovative approaches to address critical health issues and enhance the lives of a diverse array of children, adults and families.

Empowering Communities will begin in the first part of 2018, and we are more than excited for our new relationship and partnership with the CareSource Foundation to bring this program to realization in Ohio. Thank you, CareSource Foundation!