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City of Cincinnati to announce urban revitalization deal Monday

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CINCINNATI -- Local officials will announce Monday details of a new initiative designed to increase home ownership and redevelop local neighborhoods hit hardest by vacancy and abandonment.

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, local architects and community leaders will officially unveil the Come Home Cincinnati initiative during a midday press conference at 3351 Woodburn Avenue in Evanston.

The goal of the initiative is to make vacant properties available to new home owners and residents.

Supporters will attempt to do this through establishing a loan guarantee pool in key focus neighborhoods to support community-driven redevelopment strategies. This will be achieved, proponents believe, through a partnership with the Hamilton County Land Bank, private lenders and community development corporations, according to Jennifer O’Donnell, spokesperson for Qualls and the initiative.

Since 2011, the city has worked closely with the Hamilton County Land Bank, most commonly known as the land bank, which was established to combat vacancy and abandonment and to remove obstacles to redevelopment in all neighborhoods throughout the county. The land bank is managed by the Port of Greater Cincinnati.

The land bank’s "focus neighborhoods strategy" has identified 14 neighborhoods throughout the county that it will work with to reach community-identified housing and redevelopment goals. Eight of the neighborhoods are located in the city. They include Avondale, College Hill, Evanston, Madisonville, Northside, Price Hill, South Cumminsville and Walnut Hills.

The noon press conference will be held in front of a land-bank-owned property in a key area identified for redevelopment, according to event organizers.

The Moving Ohio Forward demolition grant program allows the land bank and the city to address the worst blight in many of these neighborhoods.

Announced by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in February 2012, the grant program helps stabilize and improve communities by removing blighted and abandoned homes with funds from the national mortgage settlement reached earlier this year. While an exact total of abandoned homes is not available, the estimate from the attorney general's office places the number of vacant and abandoned properties in Ohio in need of immediate demolition at 100,000.

But the land bank is doing more than tearing down properties. It partnered with preservation groups to save historic properties in distress. It hired Building Value LLC to “deconstruct” homes in a way that recycles building materials and trains workers in construction trades. It worked the with county’s mapping and data arm, CAGIS, to develop a visualization tool that helps developers find distressed properties surrounded by stable properties. This identifies “low-hanging fruit," or properties on which private investors are most likely to succeed.

And it’s trying to develop that public-private funding platform to help home buyers acquire homes that require more renovations than developers can recover on re-sale.

“In many cases, we’re just going to be a conduit to get to properties into the hands of somebody that asks us or they want to develop it,” Brunner told members of the land bank board July 25. “In other cases, there might be more of a market opportunity for us. We might be able to sell instead of just convey it, in which case we’d have assets to redeploy in other places.”

Supporters of the initiative believe the next step on the path to revitalization is to "incentivize the private market to invest in the residential core of these neighborhoods, and help to fill the once-abandoned homes with new owner-occupants."

9 On Your Side will provide more information after Monday's press conference.

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9 On Your Side business reporter Dan Monk contributed to this report.

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