By Bruce Checefsky
The City of Cleveland Land Reutilization Program (Land Bank) is one of five legacy land banks in the United States. It was established in 1976 to foster the return of nonproductive land in the City of Cleveland to productive reuse.
The program acquires vacant land and markets it to individuals, developers, and non-profit organizations for redevelopment. Proposed improvements are subject to the design review process. The City of Cleveland Land Bank, managed by City Hall, is different from the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., which is a private entity.
Over 13,000 parcels are for sale in Cleveland. The Hough neighborhood accounts for close to 1,000 land parcels of the total. The list includes properties that stretch along E. 55th Street from Euclid Avenue to Superior Avenue, cuts through E. 71th Street to Chester Avenue, then north to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Land banks are located in areas with low or declining housing costs. In a development project, the land is vital. Developers invest in land that promises financial gain. Profits generally override neighborhood needs like grocery stores or service industries that help sustain residents. Hough is no different.
Sheila Wright’s Frontline Development Group acquired land for six homes on East 65th Street. The initial phases of the project, expected to start in spring 2022, would include townhomes and mixed-use apartments over the retail buildings. City Council approved a $3 million forgivable loan for the project. The homes will consist of two layouts: 1,800 square feet and 2,200 square feet.
Jeff Crawford, President of Cleveland Custom Homes, purchased land near League Park to build 100 homes between 1,300 and 1,700 square feet, costing about $250,000. The $12 million development, ARPI Apartments, 1865 E. 93rd St., will offer 42 units of mostly studio and one-bedroom apartments, with a small number of two-bedroom units. All apartments in the four-story building will have first-floor patios or upper-floor balconies. ARPI Development’s second project in Hough is Lumos apartments at 1866 E. 93rd Street.
Critics argue that developers used to build homes and apartments for ordinary Americans. According to The Progress-Index, a neighborhood data tool developed by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University, Hough poverty rate hovers around 49%. Life expectancy is 72 years, the Infant Mortality Rate is 18.2%, and Income is 75% below the national median household level.
Nearby University Circle rents increased in 2019 over the prior year by 44.28 percent, resulting in average rent for a one-bedroom apartment of $1,853. The spillover effect meant a 7.74 percent rent increase in Hough, resulting in average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the neighborhood of $1,415, as recently reported by Rent.com.
“Development can be good. You have to do it in a way that is inclusive of those that have been in the neighborhood for years,” said newly elected Ward 7 Councilwoman Stephanie Howse in an interview with The Cleveland Observer. “I look forward to ensuring that anyone who wants to live in the Hough neighborhood can live here, whether you have zero dollars or a million dollars.”
Councilwoman Howse vowed to create new policies at City Hall to address tax abatement and rising property taxes for long-time city residents. She insists that banks need to lend homeowners money to repair their homes.