Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation

GOPC Joins 1,000 Change Makers from Across the Country at the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in Baltimore

By Sheldon K. Johnson, GOPC Project Manager Last week, Greater Ohio Policy Center staff and Board of Trustee members attended the Reclaiming Vacant Properties (RVP) Conference hosted by the Center for Community Progress. The theme of the conference was “In Service of People and Place” and aimed to take a deep look at how innovative reuse of vacant properties can improve the well-being of residents and the communities where they live.

GOPC had the opportunity to learn from local case studies and best practices from around the country that will inform our work of championing revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio. We also were able to share our expertise with conference attendees. Board of Trustee member Ian Beniston, Executive Director of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC), sat on a panel about Community-Based Stabilization Efforts. He shared details about how YNDC organizes Neighborhood Action Teams to engage volunteers for vacant property clean ups.

GOPC’s former Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, spoke on a panel focused on creating state policy change to support innovative solutions to fighting blight. Brachman also joined current GOPC staff member Torey Hollingsworth to host a presentation and discussion on the report they co-authored about revitalizing small and mid-sized legacy cities. Representatives from several cities included in the study attended the presentation. Check out GOPC’s upcoming October newsletter for a more detailed summary of Hollingsworth and Brachman’s presentation. You can find the newsletter here.

In addition to a variety of informative panel sessions the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference also included several engaging plenary sessions. The second day of the conference opened with a breakfast keynote address by Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI). Rep. Kildee addressed the conference the day after Congress voted to provide $170 million in aid to address the Flint water crisis. Kildee, a Flint native, used his remarks to highlight the importance of water and sewer system upgrades (a key issue that GOPC focuses on in Ohio). He also discussed how landbanking and infrastructure investments are key to community revitalization.

dan kildee - ccp

Dan Kildee - Photo Credit: Center for Community Progress

The RVP conference closed with a keynote address from Dr. Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and author of the bestselling book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Desmond summarized the ethnographic study of low income renters and landlords in Milwaukee, WI that he wrote about in Evicted. He focused largely on the story of Arleen Beale and her two sons as they struggled to stay in safe and affordable housing. Desmond argued that Arleen’s story is representative of many people’s, and that concrete solutions for increasing affordable housing are needed.

matthew desmond - ccp

Matthew Desmond - Photo Credit: Center for Community Progress

The Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference was a great opportunity for GOPC to connect with partners doing similar work across the country and to reinforce the importance of our work. Attending conferences like these empowers our staff to be better prepared to continue advocating for and building a Greater Ohio!


US EPA Case Studies on Vacant Land Feature Ohio Cities

Re-posted from Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5 recently compiled current practices on vacant lot greening as a resource on issues of stormwater management, construction specifications, job training, property maintenance and funding. This research provides a snapshot of greening practices conducted by 11 spotlight cities including non-profit organizations, municipal offices, land banks and a sewer authority.

Spotlight cities and corresponding organizations include:

  • Baltimore, Md. – City of Baltimore, Office of Sustainability.
  • Buffalo, N.Y. – Buffalo Sewer Authority.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio – Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.
  • Cleveland, Ohio – Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
  • Detroit, Mich. – The Greening of Detroit.
  • Flint, Mich. – Genesee County Land Bank Authority.
  • Grand Rapids, Mich. – City of Grand Rapids, Economic Development Corporation.
  • Indianapolis, Ind. – Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
  • Philadelphia, Pa. – Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
  • Warren, Ohio – Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.
  • Youngstown, Ohio – Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation.

This research supports U.S. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities’ technical assistance to the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Mich., on vacant lot greening strategies. Later this year, individual cities will be speaking about their own greening programs in a series of webinars hosted by EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities. These webinars will provide current practices to other cities seeking to manage their portfolio of vacant properties.

GOPC participates in Roundtable on Small and Medium sized Legacy Cities

By Alison Goebel, GOPC Associate Director

Last week, GOPC participated in a Roundtable on Leveraging Local Assets in Small and Medium Sized Cities, sponsored by the Center for Community Progress.  This small Roundtable brought together leaders from a number of sectors who work in Flint, Dayton, Youngstown, and Syracuse. Through a neighborhood tour, presentations, and conversations over meals, GOPC learned about cutting-edge strategies that these medium sized legacy cities implement to accelerate their revitalization and return to vibrancy. At the beginning of the Roundtable, GOPC presented preliminary research findings generated from analysis of current conditions and trends of a number of small and medium-sized cities in the Midwest and Northeast. GOPC also described promising and innovative urban stabilization and revitalization strategies has found through collaborative research with CCP Senior Fellow Alan Mallach.  One of the most valuable components of the Roundtable was learning firsthand of incredible work underway in these four representative cities.

Flint has recently completed an amazing master plan, Imagine Flint, which includes 13 different zoning districts that acknowledge the reality of current land use and prepare the city to maximize its assets for the future.  The plan is sensitive to the current market and responds to what residents want for the future.  For example, during our neighborhood tour we visited a newly zoned site consisting of work and residential buildings.


Habitat for Humanity-Flint is helping a family rebuild a new home and retail space where people can play tabletop games, like Dungeons and Dragons.

Syracuse described a highly successful partnership between St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Care, a workforce development program, and community revitalization program.  Through St. Joseph’s leadership, the surrounding neighborhood is being revitalized, hospital employees are living in the neighborhoods, and the hospital is achieving an unprecedented retention rate among local residents who participate in the workforce program.

Dayton discussed the advantages of utilizing a non-profit, CityWide Development Corporation to direct redevelopment around key anchors in the city—including a new elementary school and a hospital.  CityWide, as the lead entity for this public-private partnership, is spearheading three major redevelopment projects that are tied to key anchor institutions.


Downtown Flint is revitalized and populated. The Flint Weather Ball is also visible in this picture.  It turns red when the temperatures are predicted to rise and blue when the temperature is expected to go down. The night of the picture, the temperature was remaining steady and so the ball was yellow.

Roundtable participants were excited by a new strategy Youngstown is piloting, which they call micro-planning.  The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) has identified key schools, churches, and other community facilities that can potentially be a catalyst for neighborhood regrowth and YNDC is now directing its resources to the blocks that surround these smaller institutions.

The challenges these cities have faced—and the ability to master and leverage these challenges into opportunities—was inspiring and reaffirmed the resiliency and strength of these places.

flint 3

Ridgway White, CEO of the C.S.Mott Foundation was our host for the Roundtable.  Over dinner we swapped stories and received advice and suggestions from peer cities on different revitalization strategies.

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.


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