Port Authority to focus new land banking powers on demolition

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is moving forward with its new land bank program. Instead of focusing on existing undeveloped land, however, the Port Authority has decided to partner with Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine (R) to launch a $11.1 million demolition and redevelopment program which will focus those efforts in 14 communities throughout Cincinnati. More from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The Port Authority-managed land bank, officially known as the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corp., is overseeing distribution and use of the funds. The Port Authority is finalizing its demolition contract this week, and had hoped to start demolition in July, but needed more time to work with city, county and neighborhood councils and development groups to develop a strategy.

The selected neighborhoods were based on the number foreclosures, abandoned and blighted properties – there are 2,394 vacated residential properties in the city alone – and whether an individual community pledged funds to be matched through the state’s demolition grant program.

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  • I’d like to hear more about this “strategy” because it might be presumptuous for me to expect that it is a malicious one.

    • I too am interested in hearing more about this, but it sounds as if they’re going to use the money the State received from the Feds for the foreclosure crisis to tear down buildings in low occupancy neighborhoods. From there I would assume they will try to land bank those properties and market them for redevelopment.

      While not a terrible idea, it might put historic structures at risk, and may only kick the can down the road for the larger housing problem.

    • It does put historic buildings at risk, but in the long run I think this could also be used as a great strategy towards keeping our city’s housing stock fresh and diverse. In effect pruning the bad blighted properties out of otherwise solid neighborhoods and banking them until the economy rebounds and new housing can be incorporated into old neighborhoods. The housing recession has left urban cities with a great opportunity to selectively clear out the old, inefficient, and functionally obsolete housing stock that people have left behind as populations moved away into the suburbs for newer homes. One might even argue that part of the reason people moved to the suburbs was because that was where the newest, most efficient housing stock was being built. Now cities can finally prune the bad ones out in preparation for the next urban building boom as the suburban housing stock ages and gets even further away from the center. Cities have inherent advantages and people will keep coming back to them. Only when they can’t get what they want will they go somewhere else. But we must be ready to capture that next boom and capitalize on it.

    • You’d think this would be the case, because this is how it SHOULD work, unfortunately though this is not how it works.

      The reason people moved to the suburbs are myriad, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the housing stock. The ‘newness’ of it, yes, the quality, no. My 100 year old home is in better shape than too many 30 year old homes, and when my home is 170, the 30 year old homes of today will be taking up space in a landfill.

      The overwhelming majority of Cincinnati’s historic housing stock is NOT functionally obsolete, and nothing that could be built under today’s economics could shake a stick at what was created 100 years ago.

      Too many of our houses ARE decrepit past the point of no-return, but that number is much much fewer than you would think, if accounting for the long-term net gain to communities that historic housing stock imparts.

      Additionally, new single family residential construction does not happen on infill lots. The economics of scale aren’t there to entice a developer to build homes this way. So when a single house comes down, it will not be replaced, and if it could, it would not be with something better.

      The only place where the economics of development are in favor of something like quality new construction, are places where the existing housing stock is being maintained due to already-high land values. I would point to the Jose Garcia condo building at Erie and Shaw in Hyde Park as a prime example.

      Also, point of clarity, the decision to use the Port Authority to run the land bank, and to run the demolition program, are two separate but related items. The PA is pursuing the acquisition of vacant parcels for redevelopment, the PA is also operating the demolition program (outside the City of Cincinnati. the City is running it inside its limits). Some times these powers are used in conjunction, other times they are not. The article seemed to imply otherwise.

    • This is how it works, only it takes a long time. Generations, not decades. European cities have experienced it and many America cities are relatively much newer. Cars and vast virgin lands have enabled American cities to sprawl further from their centers before they need to turn inward and revitalize themselves. But it will happen. I would argue that it is one small part of why people have recently been moving back to the urban core.

      One of the top 3 qualities that attracts people to housing is ‘newness’ and they weren’t getting that in the city limits, or at least very little selection. In most parts of the city the housing stock is new enough still to be resold and not obsolete enough that people can’t make due living in it. In others like OTR, the majority are vacant, blighted, and functionally obsolete(we’re talking their HVAC system is only a chimney).

      In the former, a simple pruning of the buildings that have fallen into disrepair is all the help these neighborhoods need to keep from continuing their decline. Eventually refilling the gaps if the neighborhood can regain positive momentum. And otherwise more slowly going down before turning into the later type.

      In the later, large scale redevelopment needs to take place to re-infuse the newness and rebuild a base to grow off of. But because of the past pruning, the barriers are less towards a complete redevelopment.

      Infill lots do get built on again. It just takes a long time frame. The closer to the city’s center the more intrinsic value is already there to start with and clearing them in advance takes down another barrier towards the economics working out. And as more pile up it becomes easier to justify a major redevelopment, so it’s better to have them cleared and waiting than not, which is why this program is more than necessary.