GOPC Announces Finalists for the 2015 Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards

GOPC is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2015 Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards. Don’t forget to join us for the Awards Ceremony, where winners will be announced, on Wednesday, June 10th from 8am-9am, which will presented as part of GOPC’s Summit: Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions. Click here to register now!

The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio. We received nominations from around the state for many worthy contenders; working with an independent advisory committee, three finalists were advanced for each of the four awards.

Public Sector Leader Award

This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Public Sector Leader Finalists:

  • Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery and Preble Counties. He is Chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Workforce. He previously served as a member of Tipp City Council, where he was Council President. In addition to his legislative duties, Beagle operates his own small business. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Miami University and earned an MBA from Cleveland State University.
  • The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transit Needs Study examined existing transit services and quantified transit changes that might be needed. Looking at travel trends and demographics, ODOT found a rising need for both urban and rural transit and developed short- and long-term strategies to bring the most efficient and cost-effective improvements to transit riders and taxpayers. In addition to the study report itself, ODOT published focused study reports and initiative papers to inform citizens and decision-makers about Ohio's transit needs and proposed solutions.
  • Mayor Georgine Welo was first elected as mayor of South Euclid in 2003. She has spearheaded innovative community revitalization projects to transform neighborhoods hard-hit by foreclosure and vacancy. Under Mayor Welo’s leadership, South Euclid’s Green Neighborhoods Initiative used competitive grant funds and involved design students to remodeling postwar bungalows using green building techniques and universal design features. Vacant lots were transformed with the building of two “idea homes” and the creation of eight community gardens and three pocket parks, all designed to show the potential of South Euclid’s affordable bungalow housing stock and walkable community and to build neighborhood camaraderie. Since the launch of the initiative, South Euclid has attracted over $33 million in private residential investment and has been named a Top 10 Northeast Ohio Community by Keller Williams Realty.

Private Sector Champion Award

This Award recognizes a private sector individual or entity that has demonstrated a commitment to and excellence in investing in existing communities and strengthening local economies in Ohio. Their contributions foster a holistic approach to sustainable development, leading to environmental, social, and economic prosperity.

Private Sector Champion Finalists:

  • The Model Group is an integrated property development, construction, and management company with a passion for revitalizing urban neighborhoods. Founded in 1978, the company has grown into the preeminent affordable housing developer in Cincinnati. With the philosophy that affordable housing must be developed and constructed in a way that is indistinguishable from market rate housing, The Model Group partners with a variety of funding sources, local municipalities, and community stakeholders to build and redevelop housing and mixed-use developments that transform neighborhoods.
  • PNC Bank is a leading investor and partner in community development throughout Ohio and the country. Working closely with local and state partners, PNC has made significantly contributed resources, capacity, and leadership to urban revitalization efforts in Ohio’s large and small communities.
  • Wagenbrenner Development specializes in acquiring blighted and underutilized properties and redeveloping them to become community assets. The company’s expertise in brownfield redevelopment, from treating contaminated soil to structuring complex financing tools, has enabled it to take on major urban infill projects in Columbus. In addition to these residential and mixed-use projects, Wagenbrenner has been active in neighborhoods such as Columbus’ Weinland Park, where the company is engaging neighborhood stakeholders while building forty-one planned new single-family houses and renovating a line of row houses into 90 apartments.

Non-profit of the Year Award

This Award recognizes a nonprofit individual or entity in Ohio that works with communities to identify local needs and addresses them with efficiency and effectiveness. Open to 501-c3 designated non-profits and philanthropic institutions, this Award honors those organizations that are innovating community solutions and meeting local needs and opportunities with distinction.

Non-profit of the Year Finalists:

  • The Downtown Dayton Partnership works with downtown property owners, businesses, and residents, providing strategic planning, business development, advocacy, public space management, and marketing services to grow and strengthen Dayton’s downtown. A key partner in the community-driven Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, the partnership has helped guide successful implementation of the original plan launched in 2010 as well as the 2015 update. In addition to spurring public and private investment in downtown, the plan is bringing active living downtown, with a bike share program launched in May and the bidding process underway for the $4 million RiverScape River Run project, designed to transform the Great Miami River in downtown Dayton into a recreational destination.
  • Cleveland’s University Circle, Inc. development, service, and advocacy organization is responsible for the growth of University Circle as a premier urban district and center of innovation in health care, education, and arts and culture. University Circle, Inc. is creating a vital urban center by activating former land bank sites on key commercial corridors with dense, mixed-use development. The organization achieves that objective through land leases that shape development plans and a longstanding architectural review board that assures quality urban design. The new, infill developments join the neighborhood’s anchor educational, medical, and cultural institutions to attract residents, workers, students, and visitors. The Uptown neighborhood and its new apartments are a prime example of this.
  • The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation was launched in 2009 in partnership with the City of Youngstown and The Raymond John Wean Foundation to catalyze strategic neighborhood reinvestment in neighborhoods throughout the city in order to transform vulnerable, undervalued, and transitional neighborhoods into healthy neighborhoods of choice. YNDC uses a dual approach of strategic investments to rebuild market confidence in neighborhoods with strong assets and broader partnership strategies to strengthen Youngstown’s community development capacity and the citywide infrastructure supporting neighborhood revitalization. Over the past six years, YNDC has grown to provide neighborhood planning services, homeownership education and counseling, and lending services. YNDC carries out home repair and rehabilitation, has established a farmer’s market, and is an AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps State project site involving a total of 19 AmeriCorps members in strengthening program areas and cleaning up vacant properties.

The Catalytic Partnership Award

Communities are strengthened when sectors work together to meet common goals for sustainable development. This Award recognizes a cross-sector partnership that has had a measurable positive impact in a community or region in Ohio, and represents a model for creative and effective collaboration.

Catalytic Partnership Finalists:

  • Hamilton Mill and Regional Entrepreneurial Ecosystem of Southwest Ohio is a unique partnership in which the Hamilton Mill business incubator collaborates with the City of Hamilton so that start-ups can use the “City as a Lab” to test their concepts. Start-ups have immediate access to customers and expertise. The Mill introduces client start-ups to regional local partners that will assist and promote their success in the Southwest Ohio economy. In addition to garnering multiple awards for the incubator, this new approach has led to the creation of new companies and jobs in Southwest Ohio.
  • The Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Families initiative (HNHF) in Columbus’s Near South Side neighborhood is spearheaded by Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) and Community Development for All People (CD4AP). HNHF addresses affordable housing, health and wellness, education, neighborhood safety and accessibility, and workforce development on the South Side of Columbus. Partnering with the United Way and the City of Columbus, the initiative has resulted in repairs and renovations to over 100 homes, a community garden and farmer’s market, elementary school mentoring and enrichment programs, neighborhood infrastructure improvements, and investments in minority- and woman-owned businesses.
  • Kent State University and the City of Kent have joined together to revitalize downtown Kent by bringing together city, university, and business assets to catalyze economic revival. Together with the Portage Area Regional Transit Authority and private developers, the revitalization plan led to the establishment of a multi-modal transportation center, which spurred additional development. Redevelopment, including demolition of blighted buildings, repurposing of historic properties, and new construction, has connected the university campus to a revitalized downtown. To date, a total of $130 million has been invested, with additional projects still in progress.

Click here for more information about the Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards nomination process.


Reinventing Mansfield

Guest post by Jennifer Kime Concert

The revitalization challenges in downtown Mansfield are not unlike those of other mid-sized Legacy Cities where the struggle for right-sizing and redevelopment has been a harsh reality for decades.  While we have watched population, median income and property values plummet; we have only grown stronger in our resilience and commitment to a better future for our community. The process of reinventing our economic strategies here is unique in that it joins together commercial districts and neighborhoods where the programs and projects work together for the mutual benefit of the regional population, of which Mansfield is the urban center.

This community wide approach has allowed us greater flexibility and has enabled us to blossom in our revitalization years ahead of what we thought was possible. Because of our community’s size and lack of economic advantages available to larger cities, we began losing businesses and industry well before it was notable on the national scale. In fact, by the time the mortgage crisis hit, our business and retail environment had already been struggling for years, couple that with the manufacturing loss that we sustained with the closing of our GM plant and the loss of total income and resources to our community was nothing short of devastating. To many, it seemed impossible that we could come back from that loss and transition our economic fabric into a community with a downtown that is not only surviving, but is authentic, lively and thriving.

While the overall approach is multi-tiered, some of that success has been due to intense and relentless marketing and promotions, including entertainment programming aimed at showcasing the restoration of our built environment. The tipping point of community redevelopment is arguably the point at which the general public begins to believe that change is not only possible, but it is happening. The only way to change the stubborn, ingrained negative perceptions that flourish within the population of rust belt communities is to show them first hand. Through a combination of property tours (vacant, for rent, rented), shop hops, neighborhood block parties, car shows, farmers markets and free concerts, we bring thousands of people downtown each month. Those activities have spurred development interest from several new property developers, business owners, employees and mostly, the public, who are now coming to downtown for the first time to shop and dine.

While promotions and place-making are sometimes seen as the feel good neighbors of tax credits and fiscal incentives, their impact is real and tangible. When done correctly and sustainably, they create new businesses, new jobs and they retain the very community fabric that is at stake when the supply and demand of a region are not in our favor. It’s happening right now in Mansfield, Ohio.

For more information on the impact of the programs of Downtown Mansfield, Inc., see these recent news articles:

Downtown after dark: nightlife thriving” by Chike Erokwu for the Mansfield News Journal on Aug. 3, 2014

Final Friday Concert Series a raging success, spurs economic growth” by Emily Dech for the Richland Source on July 25, 2014

About the Author:

Jennifer Kime is the Executive Director of Downtown Mansfield, Inc. Currently, Jennifer's main focus areas are in long term planning, preservation based planning, new program and project development and community development for the downtown and near downtown neighborhoods of Mansfield, Ohio.