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NECIC releases new goals for North End

Emily Mills of Mansfield News Journal: 

The North End Community Improvement Collaborative plans to update its goals for the North End to improve the neighborhood and create new opportunities.

NECIC representatives shared the new plan in the Blust Avenue Teaching Garden on Wednesday.

Volunteers working on the Blust Avenue Teaching Garden.

“Rather than it being a transportation plan or a law enforcement plan or a housing plan, this plan is from the standpoint of a resident,” said NECIC executive director Deanna West-Torrence. “It really brings together all of those things.”

The 157-page plan updates the organization’s previous 80-page plan, released in 2010 and adopted by Mansfield City Council in 2011, to see what changed and what didn’t over the last few years.

Starting in 2015, more than 350 people were surveyed to find out what they wanted to see in the North End, the area roughly north of Park Avenue between Trimble Road and North Main Street.

The new plan includes a community economic development plan with sections on land use, housing economic development, education, public infrastructure/transit, community spaces and health and safety.

The sections are the same as the old plan, save for health and safety.

“That was really driven by residents who told us the number-one concern right now was a lot of violence,” West-Torrence said.

The new section focuses on youth violence in the community, something the Mansfield Community Against Violence, or M-CAV, is trying to combat through mentorship, said NECIC community development manager Tony Chinni.

“They need mentorship,” Chinni said. “Somebody that cares about them, somebody, you know, that’s in their corner.”

One of the most significant recommendations in the 2010 plan, which remains in the new plan, was decreasing blight in the North End, something most residents requested.

Since 2009, more than 250 properties have been demolished in the North End.

Chinni said he was surprised to learn many residents are now upset so many homes are being demolished.

“It’s like you’re taking something and not putting something back,” he said. “We were just so happy to get this stuff torn down, sometimes I think you forget about the people that are living right there in the neighborhood.”

Read the full story here!


Realtors’ donation helps Community Development 4 All People rehab homes

By Jim Weiker of The Columbus Dispatch:

Great news this past week from Columbus-based OCDCA member, Community Development 4 All People.

“The charity’s efforts to buy and renovate South Side eyesores received a boost Wednesday when the Columbus Realtors Foundation announced a $300,000 donation to the group, the largest donation in the Realtors’ history.

“This donation is allowing South Side Renaissance to go to another level of scale,” said John Edgar, executive director of Community Development for All People, who welcomed a string of politicians and others to the announcement.

South Side Renaissance bought and renovated 15 homes last year, most of them in the struggling Hungarian Village and Reeb-Hosack neighborhoods, which are both just south of Merion Village. The group plans to renovate 15 more homes each of the next three years, at an average cost of about $80,000 a home.

White’s new home, on Innis Avenue, was one of the agency’s biggest challenges, said Nathaniel Towns, owner of Reliable Remodeling & Home Design, which has renovated many homes for South Side Renaissance.”

Read the whole article here.


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.


TNP lands federal grant of $225,000 for project, jobs

From Raymond L. Smith via the Tribune Chronicle:

“WARREN — A $225,000 grant will be used to renovate a Mahoning Avenue residence and carriage house that eventually will house offices for Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and serve as a training center for new employees of the nonprofit.

The funding will help create at least eight full-time positions at TNP under a program called Building a Better Warren, and TNP will hire low-income individuals to fill a majority of the positions.

“Those hired will be taught skills to work in modules that include reconstruction and salvaging, home rehabilitation, landscape installation and landscape maintenance,” Matt Martin, executive director of TNP, said. “This is an opportunity to put low-income residents to work.”

TNP will leverage some of its existing  demolition dollars with its work with the Trumbull County Land Reutilization Corp. to focus rehabilitation work on properties in the corporation’s current inventory.

“This program is all about putting our residents to work in quality, year-round jobs revitalizing our neighborhoods,” Martin said. “We have merged the need for blight remediation with the need for meaningful workforce development, and we have leveraged multiple resources and partnerships to create this opportunity. This is an exciting program for our community.”

Approximately $200,000 of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant will be used for the renovation project at 736 Mahoning Ave. About $25,000 will be used to purchase equipment. The federal dollars are being provided through the HHS Community Economic Development grant program.

“None of this money will be used to pay salaries or benefits,” Martin said. “We will  train people to salvage materials from properties scheduled to be demolished, as well as doing the landscaping and maintenance of properties that already have  been demolished.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called the HHS award a “win” for Trumbull County.

“By creating opportunities for residents to improve their own community, TNP is living up to its mission to empower citizens and serve every neighborhood,” Brown said.

Martin said he hopes to complete the renovation project sometime in 2017.  Once completed, the carriage house will be used for training  and storage.

Building a Better Warren already has two employees. It expects to build up to eight during the five-year grant program.

The HHS Community Economic Development federal grant program works to help low-income individuals and families become self-sufficient through employment and business development opportunities.”

Read the complete article here.


Thriving Communities Institute and Loveland Technologies receive major Ohio mapping grant

Cleveland-based Thriving Community Institute and Detroit-based Loveland Technologies have received a major grant from JP Morgan Chase for comprehensive property mapping to aid revitalization in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

As written in Lee Chilcote’s Next City piece of Jim Rokakis from Thriving Community Institute, an OCDCA member:

“Our hope is that by getting the data, we’ll be able to present a really clear and coherent picture of urban Ohio,” says Rokakis. “For most cities in Ohio, it really is a very, very difficult time that requires drastic and immediate action.”

This has been getting a decent amount of press, including in the Washington Post and Next City. Really exciting stuff.


Building a big dream on a tiny slip of land

OCDCA member, LakewoodAlive has been doing some pretty great work in affordable housing as of late. From Karen Connelly at Freshwater Cleveland:

“Three years ago, the Cuyahoga Land Bank took over a tiny abandoned house on a 35- by 95-foot parcel in Lakewood’s Scenic Park neighborhood.

As the Land Bank razed the 348-square-foot house, cleared the property and laid grass seed, LakewoodAlive, a community-centered non-profit organization focused on maintaining vibrant neighborhoods in Lakewood, took notice.

“We identified this vacant property in March 2015 while knocking on doors to introduce ourselves and our Community Engagement Program,” recalls LakewoodAlive executive director Ian Andrews, adding that the program focuses on the Scenic Park and Birdtown neighborhoods to make sure everyone has the resources to create healthy and safe homes. “We saw this vacant property and thought: what can we do with that?””

What can be done with that? Read more here.



Slavic Village’s Rooms to Let 2016 – Photos

Last weekend, May 21-22, OCDCA member Slavic Village Development Corporation in the Slavic Village neighborhood of Cleveland held their annual Rooms to Let. The organization released an RFP for local artists to utilize four houses on E. 54th Street, known to many as the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis. These four houses were transformed using installation and performance art, many of which was interactive and inclusive for the community.

Two of the houses are slated for demolition, while another one is set to be resold by Slavic Village Recovery. The fourth’s future is yet to be determined.

FreshWater Cleveland’s Bob Perkoski did a great photo feature of last weekend’s project. Check it out here.



Land banks can offer pathway to homeownership: Matt Martin, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership

Recently, Matt Martin of OCDCA member Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership published a reasonable opinion piece about land banks on Read it below and read the original here.

“Decades of disinvestment and job loss, suburban sprawl, and more recently the profound impacts of the foreclosure crisis have left Northeast Ohio with a glut of derelict vacant properties that litter our neighborhoods  and diminish the quality of life for residents. These vacant houses are not just unsightly- they are havens for criminal activity and they destroy the property values of those around them.


This crisis has affected our entire region, and most acutely urban centers like Cleveland, but this problem is not just for big cities. Warren, Ohio, a small city of 39,000 people 52 miles southeast of Cleveland, has over 1,500 vacant houses. Nearby Youngstown is plagued with almost 4,000 vacant houses and 10,000 vacant lots, and there are at least another dozen smaller communities with the same issue including from inner ring suburbs like East Cleveland to small cities like Lima.  Add Cleveland and Akron to the equation and the regional tally is staggering.

There is no shortage of data, opinion, studies, or anecdotes about whose fault this is, and all of them matter for a variety of reasons, but the fact remains the burden of this travesty falls squarely on the shoulders of the next door neighbor, the block, the neighborhood, and the community.

The advent of county land banks in the last decade has afforded our communities with a huge tool in the fight against blight. Created by state level legislation that offers a means to fast tracked tax foreclosure of walk-away or “zombie” properties, and a means for their disposition that adds value to neighborhoods by instilling parameters that protect the community from slumlords and promote owner occupancy.

Land banks, famous for demolition, are facilitating home ownership throughout our region in ways that not only help families achieve the dream of home ownership, but help our communities restore the fabric that once made them great. The recent re-allocation of Federal Hardest Hit Funds for the purpose of demolition of blighted properties is significant in scope and size, but also as a statement that this is a problem that must be addressed. I know there are folks that say you cannot demolish your way to prosperity, but everything we’ve learned in the last few years proves that demolition is a crucial component to the prosperity we seek.

Here in Warren, we have been able to couple an aggressive demolition and land use program with a robust home ownership program and have had great success.

My friend Jim Rokakis, who runs the Thriving Communities Institute and leads the way for land banks throughout the region, often reminds me that the people that have left our community in large numbers have not taken their houses with them- this means we must face the stark reality that our housing inventory is not proportional to our population and won’t be anytime soon.

In our Garden District near downtown Warren, we have torn down two houses to save a third, and made sure that third house represented the kind of high quality home ownership opportunity our residents deserve. We’ve also supported dozens of land uses in that neighborhood, everything from yard expansions for existing homeowners to urban gardens to mitigate food insecurity and promote a sense of community.”




Ohio misses out on millions to prevent foreclosures, tear down homes

Despite Ohio ranking within the top five states with highest foreclosure rates in 2015, Ohio missed out on approximately $155 million in federal Hardest Hits funding for foreclosure prevention and blight remediation.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency requested $250 million from the US Department of Treasury, but only $94 has been granted. Ohio may be eligible for more funding if it becomes available.

Read and watch more as reported by WKYC – Channel 3 in Cleveland, with an interview by Roz Quarto, executive director of ESOP, an OCDCA member.