German Marshall Fund

The Release of the Guidebook for Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities

In the wake of the mortgage foreclosure crisis and the long-term abandonment of older industrial cities and their regions, communities and neighborhoods have been increasingly burdened with vacant and abandoned properties. Organizations and municipalities are now more systematically addressing vacant residential properties. However, for years there was very little guidance for the redevelopment of commercial vacant properties, which are equally prevalent — especially throughout older industrial regions.

Commercial and residential vacancy at the county level for legacy cities. Data collected on the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013. Data source: US Postal Service. Data aggregates vacant and no-stat addresses.


Today, Greater Ohio Policy Center is releasing its new guidebook, Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization, which is the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive set of tools and strategies for redeveloping commercial vacant properties and business districts in legacy cities.

The guidebook, developed in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and with support from the Center for Community Progress, is designed as a “How To” manual for local leaders, identifying practices and policies that take advantage of the link between available commercial properties and needed economic re-growth strategies in legacy cities.

The tools and strategies provided can be used by local leaders and practitioners no matter where they are in the process of commercial property redevelopment, from data gathering and planning to real estate acquisition and redevelopment, and from tenant attraction and support to business district management.

The guidebook includes the following tools:

  • Guidance on planning & partnering for commercial revitalization
  • Methods for analyzing the market
  • Advice on matching market types & strategies for commercial revitalization
  • Legal tools for reclaiming commercial vacant properties
  • Funding sources for overcoming financial gaps
  • Menu of property reuse options
  • Ways to attract & retain business tenants
  • Methods and models for managing a commercial district
  • Strategies for building markets in legacy cities

While the tools, strategies, and policy recommendations within the guidebook are particularly relevant for legacy cities and their communities, they are also applicable to all cities and regions that seek to reuse commercial vacant properties with the purpose of enhancing community stability and economic development.

Click here for more information and to download the guidebook.


Around the World in Several Days: GOPC Travels to Philadelphia and Germany

This past week, GOPC traveled to conferences on both sides of the globe. Executive Director Lavea Brachman participated on panels at both the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference hosted by Center for Community Progress in Philadelphia and the Shrinking Cities in Europe conference held in Essen, Germany.

Brachman moderated a panel in Philadelphia titled “Aligning Financial Institutions and Community Development Goals: Building Strategic Coalitions to Move a State Level Vacant Property Revitalization Policy Agenda.” The panelists, including bankers and community development leaders from Ohio and Pennsylvania, discussed coalition-building strategies that they have used to leverage relationships between the private, non-profit and public sectors to generate a strategic statewide policy agenda that addresses the acquisition, demolition, foreclosure, redevelopment and prevention of vacant properties.

Shortly afterward, Brachman flew across the Atlantic to Germany, where she participated in the conference roundtable on “The global challenge of Shrinking Cities.” As a former Fellow of the German Marshall Fund and a delegate of the Cities in Transition initiative, Lavea contributed her knowledge of legacy cities in the U.S. while learning from other experts from around the world. The conference marks the conclusion of the 4 year European COST Action “Cities Regrowing Smaller” initiative.

GOPC’s involvement in these events has enriched our network of relationships as well as our working knowledge of how to address the challenges and promote the strengths of legacy cities.

Greater Ohio Featured in Youngstown Workshop

Expert panel (from left): Alan Mallach, Brookings Institution; Lavea Brachman, Greater Ohio Policy Center; Thorsten Wiechmann, TUD professor; and Ian Beniston, YNDC.

On March 28th, Greater Ohio Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, traveled to Youngstown, Ohio for the workshop “Policies and Strategies in Shrinking Cities: The Case of Youngstown, Ohio,” hosted by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) , German Marshall Fund (GMF) and Technical University of Dortmund, Germany (TUD). The workshop included site visits, an expert panel in which Brachman participated, and a presentation by the urban planning students of TUD on ideas for the regeneration of Youngstown’s riverfront and neighborhoods.

The Business Journal cited Lavea Brachman:

Lavea Brachman, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, said the city is pursuing the right course in its neighborhoods through organizations such as the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., targeting those areas that stand the best chance of turning around in the near-term.

"It's important to look at our redevelopment strategy," Brachman said. "One of the things we're talking about is a master plan for certain key neighborhoods, such as Wick Park, that provides a plan for the future and some comfort for investors."

Much of the redevelopment in the Ruhr Valley, Brachman noted, emphasizes the region's industrial heritage while at the same time brings to life new cultural amenities. "They used these old coal and mining facilities and they're now beautiful cultural designations."

It's an example from which cities such as Youngstown can benefit.

"That goes back to building on our assets," Brachman said, citing a tour of industrial sites she took just that morning. "They have fantastic beauty, and Youngstown should be capitalizing on that."


The following articles cover the workshop:

Vindy: German Students Propose Improvements for Youngstown

WKBN: German Students Offer Revitalization Ideas for Youngstown

Business Journal: German Students Offer Fresh Perspectives on Redevelopment