Advancing Urban Policy:
Community Development  
February, 2014 


This edition of Advancing Urban Policy, the monthly e-newsletter of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, features research and thought leadership from across the country related to Community Development. It highlights articles on foreclosures, housing preservation, rebirth of neighborhoods, legacy cities, "placemaking," historic preservation, the roles of public gardens and the arts, and more... Future editions of Advancing Urban Policy will feature topics related to Nonprofit Management (March), City Management (April), Environmental Policy (May), and Public Finance & Budgeting (June). Your ideas and submissions are welcome. They may be sent to:


Edward (Ned) W. Hill, Ph.D., Dean  



Housing and Neighborhood Development


Responding to Foreclosures in Cuyahoga County: 2012 Evaluation Report 


In 1999, there were 4,900 residential foreclosure filings in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. That number doubled to about 10,000 by 2005 and peaked in 2007 at close to 14,000. While foreclosure filings dropped across the country, in Cuyahoga County, the number actually increased slightly from 2011 to 2012 to almost 12,000 residential foreclosure filings. A 2012 state mandated reappraisal of Cuyahoga County property for tax purposes reflects an overall decline in property value of 9 percent.   


In early 2006, Cuyahoga County became one of the first places in the nation to respond to the rapid increase in the number of foreclosure filings with a comprehensive foreclosure prevention initiative. The Cuyahoga County Foreclosure Prevention Program (CCFPP), which includes counseling to help struggling homeowners, continues to adapt to the rapidly changing nature of the crisis. Local and national research has demonstrated that the centerpiece of this model program, face-to-face foreclosure prevention counseling resulting in loan modification, is an effective option in terms of helping homeowners stay in their homes.


Since 2006, the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University has been gathering data to help the county track progress, understand the successes and barriers of the initiative, understand whether the program was accomplishing its goals and objectives, and improve the program going forward. This report by Levin's Center for Community Planning & Development is the seventh annual report on the progress of the initiative and covers calendar year 2012.


Editor's Note: EngagedScholarship@CSU promotes discovery, research, cross-disciplinary collaboration and instruction by collecting, preserving and providing access to scholarly work created at CSU. The repository also provides access to journals, reports, conference proceedings, student scholarship, primary source materials, and relevant documents created by administrative offices, departments and programs.

For more on community development:




Affordable Housing Preservation


The articles featured in this issue of Evidence Matters explore a range of strategies designed to promote affordable housing preservation at the national, state, and local levels. The lead article, Preserving Affordable Rental Housing: A Snapshot of Growing Need, Current Threats, and Innovative Solutions, reviews the economic and demographic trends prompting increasing demand for affordable housing, the threats to the existing housing stock, and the programs and tactics used by governmental and nonprofit organizations to preserve affordable housing.


How Research Tools Are Assisting Communities to Preserve, Plan Affordable Housing considers the efforts of New York University's Furman Center and the University of Florida's Shimberg Center to map affordable housing subsidies and availability to better target areas most in need of preservation. And, In Practice: Models for Affordable Housing Preservation examines the role that preservation compacts and state housing trust funds play in protecting affordable housing and economic diversity.    



The Latest on Vacant, Abandoned and Problem Properties


Community Progress Blog features the latest headlines on vacant, abandoned and problem properties. In the month of January, the top stories on community progress highlight creative reclamation of its vacant properties, federally funded blight removal, land banks, purchasing foreclosed housing stock, mergers, and more.


 Developing Choice Neighborhoods


The overarching goal of the Choice Neighborhoods program (Choice) is to redevelop distressed assisted housing projects and transform the neighborhoods surrounding them into mixed-income, high-opportunity places. Choice builds on lessons learned during HOPE VI, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) long-running program to replace or rehabilitate distressed public housing. It maintains the emphasis of HOPE VI on public-private partnerships and mixed financing for replacing or rehabilitating assisted housing, but extends eligibility to privately owned federally subsidized developments. It requires that grantees build at least one subsidized replacement housing unit for every assisted unit demolished in the target development.


It also continues the emphasis of HOPE VI on protecting tenants during the redevelopment process and heightens aspirations to give existing tenants the opportunity to live in the redeveloped project upon its completion. It differs most from HOPE VI by providing funding for projects that create synergy between renovation of the target development and revitalization efforts within the neighborhood surrounding the target development. Beyond providing funding for neighborhood investments, Choice also fosters partnerships among organizations, agencies, and institutions working throughout the neighborhood to build affordable housing, provide social services, care for and educate children and youth, ensure public safety, and revitalize the neighborhood's commercial opportunities and infrastructure.


 The Rebirth of the Neighborhood


This essay argues that new urban residents primarily seek a type of community properly called a neighborhood. "Neighborhood" refers to a legible, pedestrian-scale area that has an identity apart from the corporate and bureaucratic structures that dominate the larger society. Such a neighborhood conveys an indigenous identity created by the efforts of diverse people over time, rather than marketing an image deliberatively contrived to control the perceptions of customers. At its best, a neighborhood provides a refuge from the ennui of the workplace and the idiocy of consumer culture, substituting for churches (or synagogues), labor unions, and ethnic clubs that structured earlier urban social life.


Changes in land use law have contributed to or supported this transformation to neighborhood-based living and helped provide the context for the revival of neighborhoods. This brief essay highlights those aspects of land use law that have supported this new urbanization. These reforms have supported neighborhood revival primarily by securing the physical environments people want to live in. The three chief legal tools for neighborhoods have been zoning for urban form, historic district preservation, and environmental protection. 



Placemaking and Livable Communities


Placemaking in Legacy Cities: Opportunities and Good Practice


Placemaking in Legacy Cities: Opportunities and Good Practices, prepared for the Center for Community Progress by New Solutions Group, LLC, explores how residents and leaders in Legacy Cities have used placemaking principles to transform blighted public spaces into revitalized community assets. The report uses case studies to explore placemaking in four different Legacy City settings: downtowns, anchor districts, neighborhoods, and corridors/trails. Featured placemaking sites are: Over the Rhine in Cincinnati, Ohio; Midtown, the Georgia Street Community Collective, and Clark Park in Detroit, Michigan; Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, New York; and the waterfront development and associated trail system in Pittsburgh, PA.


Legacy Cities are former industrial hubs, largely in the Northeast and Midwest, that experienced industrial and population declines during the latter half of the century. This report examines how placemaking can be adapted to these settings, which often include high vacancy rates, a shrinking property tax base, and other challenges that differ from those of cities experiencing high growth rates and development pressures. In addition, the authors explore how residents and leaders in Legacy Cities have used placemaking principles to transform blighted public spaces into revitalized community assets. 



Places in the Making: How Placemaking Builds Places and Communities


Placemaking today is ambitious and optimistic. At its most basic, the practice aims to improve the quality of a public place and the lives of its community in tandem. Put into practice, placemaking seeks to build or improve public space, spark public discourse, create beauty and delight, engender civic pride, connect neighborhoods, support community health and safety, grow social justice, catalyze economic development, promote environmental sustainability, and of course nurture an authentic "sense of place." Many of these attributes have been well documented and well theorized over a half-century of research into what makes a great public place. While these efforts are valuable, the tendency to focus on the physical characteristics has created a framework for practicing, advocating for, and funding placemaking that does disservice to the ways the placemaking process nurtures our communities and feeds our social lives.


The intense focus on place has caused us to miss the opportunity to discuss community, process, and the act of making. The importance of the placemaking process itself is a key factor that has often been overlooked in working toward many of these noble goals. As illustrated by the cases* highlighted in this report, the most successful placemaking initiatives transcend the "place" to forefront the "making." The importance of process over product in today's placemaking is a key point that cannot be overstated - and it is pushing the practice to a broader audience and widening its potential impact. In placemaking, the important transformation happens in the minds of the participants, not simply in the space itself.


*Cases include Cleveland, OH; Queens, NY; Norfolk, VA; Shreveport, LA; Houston, TX; Fargo, ND; Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; Detroit, MI; New York City, NY; Moorhead, MN; Gaithersburg, MD; and Menlo Park, CA.


Livable Communities Projects in Greater Cleveland Get Nearly $1 Million in Funding


Communities and planning groups across Greater Cleveland, OH, were awarded nearly $1 million in grants aimed at making neighborhoods more vibrant places where people will want to live, work, and visit. The grants from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) range from $40,000 to $118,000, with most pegged at $75,000. NOACA began offering the Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative grants in 2006. The money helps communities and public agencies with integrated transportation and land use planning that strengthens community livability.


NOACA made 13 awards totaling $998,000. Among the recipients and the funding they received are: 

  • Avon Lake, $40,000, for a study on creating a 10-foot-wide multi-use corridor to improve connections throughout the city, to its Cleveland Clinic health center and to Avon. The analysis would be the basis for moving forward with land purchases for off-road paths to add to the bike system. 
  • Multiple East Side community development corporations, $75,000, to examine ways to reposition the former East 105th shopping center in the Glenville neighborhood as a mixed-use district; "reimagine" areas of southeast Cleveland to anticipate changes that could come with the proposed Opportunity Corridor, with an eye to improving pedestrian and bike access and safety; and other projects. 
  • LAND Studio, $115,000, to develop a master plan for the "Eastside Greenway," identifying trail alignments and trail heads on the East Side of Cleveland and eastern suburbs. 
  • University Circle Inc., $100,000, for a comprehensive evaluation of existing and forecasted conditions in the University Circle area, including auto, public transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities; intersections and traffic flows; workforce travel patterns; and way-finding signage.



Historic Preservation


An Indicator Framework for Linking Historic Preservation and Community Development


A community's history, as represented in the cultural and built environment, can serve as an important asset for economic development and sustainable stewardship. Historic preservation can serve as the basis for community economic development approaches. Challenges abound in linking historic preservation and community economic development, especially in communities at risk of losing their unique character and attempting to protect their special sense of place. This paper presents an indicator framework of four categories - gauging, protecting, enhancing, and interfacing - as a useful method for communities to conceptualize, address and integrate historic resources with community economic development and sustainability.


Considerations for using built resources include the amount and type of community historic structures (commercial, residential, or other), existing structures targeted for restoration or recreation, level of interest from the private sector in funding restoration efforts, and interest and capability in the public or nonprofit sectors. Whether or not community goals support historic preservation and the willingness of local government to implement supportive policy are among the other factors to consider.


When utilizing built resources, an indicators framework can help with gauging if progress is made towards goals and if policy, actions, investments, and other activities are on track or not. Regular ''progress'' reports can be made, with data and findings shared with the community. Looking to the past to create the future incorporates the idea of utilizing historic cultural and built resources for community economic development. The framework illustrates how communities can incorporate their historic and cultural resources to enable effective community economic development.


Note: Available for Purchase 


Editor's Note: The Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University is joining the Cleveland Restoration Society in hosting Historic Preservation in America's Legacy Cities: An Interdisciplinary Convening in June. This is the first event to bring together key stakeholders and decision-makers from cities where entrenched population loss and economic decline present difficult challenges for the future of the urban built environment. Urban planners and policymakers understand that demolition is a very pressing reality and often argue that it is the best course of action, yet these cities retain astounding historic resources and significant heritage. At this crucial juncture, there are difficult questions about what role preservation can and should play in shaping the future of Legacy Cities, how to identify and leverage historic assets, what benefits and impediments exist in integrating preservation into community and economic development, and how we make decisions about what we save and what we destroy. For more information: 



Public Gardens


Public Gardens as Sustainable Community Development Partners


Local governments are increasingly forging creative alliances to solve community problems and provide local services. The literature recognizes cultural institutions as partners for local community development, yet these alliances remain underutilized. This article identifies the contributions that local government partnerships with cultural institutions - specifically public gardens - make to community development through their services, presence, and location in urban America. Using data from a national survey and 96 expert interviews of public garden and government officials, this article explains why these alliances are forming, documents their potential to improve communities, and suggests steps that local governments might take to benefit from this vital partner. The conclusions offered expand the understanding of how nontraditional community development partners can provide resources to local governments to address urban challenges.


Note: Available for Purchase 

Economic and Community Development Benefits of Healthy Food Retail


This paper draws a connection between improved healthy food access and resulting economic and community development. For more than two decades, researchers have been gathering evidence to determine whether a correlation exists between access to healthy food and decreased obesity rates and other diet-related diseases. In general, research shows that when communities have access to affordable, healthy foods, residents purchase and consume healthier foods over time. But improving access to healthy foods, especially in lower-income communities and communities of color in both rural and urban settings, goes beyond improving diet and health outcomes: Bringing new food outlets into underserved areas also can provide an economic stimulus in communities that may need it most.


Grocery stores often serve as anchors that spur local economic development by creating new jobs, revitalizing commercial districts, improving nearby housing values, and generating additional tax revenues. Local healthy food retail outlets also serve to capture local consumers' dollars that may otherwise be spent outside of the neighborhood; and at a larger geographic scale, the increased distribution of local healthy food can be a significant positive influence on regional economies. Most obviously, economic benefits include jobs and tax revenues, but the full extent of the added values is much broader - including attraction of other businesses and services to underserved areas, increased home values, and reinvestment of profits and in-kind support in the community.


 The Arts


When Words Arrive: A Qualitative Study of Poetry as a Community Development Tool


Poetry, among the arts, remains understudied as a means for community development. To address this scarcity, this paper considers the use of poetry as a community development tool and discusses its uniqueness in this role. It offers a description and analysis of an exploratory, qualitative research study carried out with 12 respondents in Montreal, Canada, who participated in community-based creative writing groups. Evaluation suggested that, overall, the poetry groups made a positive contribution to community building and development. This paper locates the study in the context of community development and the arts and includes references to poetry therapy and social action-based creative writing. It also raises questions as to why poetry has not found its place on the agenda of arts-based community development.


Note: Available for Purchase  



Solutions to Poverty


Investing in What Works for America's Communities


One in six Americans lives in poverty - the highest level in 50 years - and where a person lives remains one of the most powerful influences of their life chances. Moreover, nearly half of children born into poverty will remain poor throughout childhood. And nearly one-third of poor children will remain impoverished into adulthood. Investing in What Works for America's Communities: Essays on People, Place, and Purpose, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund, attempts to address these stubborn challenges by highlighting entrepreneurial solutions for addressing poverty from leading experts in community and economic development, academia, government policy, health, and philanthropy.


Proposed solutions include:

  • Integrating programs and funding streams to create multifaceted approaches.
  • Busting silos in government programs and creating innovative financing for investments in hard-to-serve communities.
  • Investing simultaneously in both places (buildings and infrastructure) and people (education, health  services, and job creation).
  • Investing in cradle-to-career education and supportive public and health services.
  • Creating accountability for community development investments through benchmarks, data, and outcomes measurement.
  • Connecting communities in broader regional economies and through transit and anchor institutions.



Shared Valued


The Future of Community Development Programs and Why Brands Should Pay Attention


In December, 2013, an article was published on what factors are causing a shift in how business and nonprofits approach community development. The article focused on the convergence of three trends that are rapidly reshaping how businesses and nonprofits together strengthen the locales in which they operate:


1. Nonprofits are shifting their focus towards outcomes rather than process.
2. The private sector is recognizing the business value of community progress.
3. There is a growing expectation by professionals that their work have a positive social impact.


This article offers other factors that are contributing to this shift and suggests that there is an opportunity in 2014 for nonprofits and brands alike to better define and report outcome metrics. A second trend involves companies donating a portion of profits or products/services to address societal issues in effective community programs - there is a lot of potential benefit in sharing programs with consumers. Lastly, many of today's professionals want their work to have a positive social impact, prompting investment in community development across all sectors. The convergence of these trends recognizes the effectiveness of the "shared value" model of community development.



Locality, Social Capital, and Measuring Development


Measuring Community Development: What Have We Learned?


Several lessons can be learned from the approaches to measuring community development examined in this article. Models that are primarily universal or contingent can guide decisions by community development practitioners regarding local changes. However, they involve differences in costs and the extent to which policy changes are based on unique characteristics in a community. Financial or technical assistance from external sources is often necessary for a measurement system to succeed. Without this support, community development organizations may not deem the cost of measurement worthwhile. Fortunately, much work has been done to make outcome measurement systems more accessible in terms of relevance to policy and cost-effectiveness. Community leaders interested in monitoring the effects or results of their intervention programs have the technical resources available. There is no question that monitoring results and outcomes will become a growing part of community and economic development efforts especially during continued fiscal austerity. Linking the progress toward goals into policy changes will always be difficult but, many agencies exist to help with these efforts. 


Advancing Urban Policy: Community Development was created with counsel from W. Dennis Keating, Ph.D., and Sharon Bliss, MLIS; compiled by Jessica Murphy, graduate assistant; edited by Roslyn Miller, consultant. Inclusion in Advancing Urban Policy is for informational purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs or Cleveland State University. 


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