An Initiative A Day 1.4: Prioritize Public Subsidies to Projects within NEO’s Established Communities

BEST PRACTICE: Re-Imagining Cleveland: Alternative land use strategies used in this initiative to return vacant land to productive use in ways that complement the City of Cleveland’s long-term development objectives and empowers residents to reclaim their neighborhood.

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.



Initiative 1.4: Continue development throughout the region in accordance with local zoning requirements and preferences, but prioritize public subsidies to projects within the region’s established communities.

WHAT THIS MEANS. A host of public subsidies exist for communities to incentivize development within their boundaries, some of which are documented in detail in initiative 1.1. Direct subsidies are often necessary for redevelopment and infill projects to offset the higher transactional friction that developers encounter. This friction, which manifests in complicated financing, difficult interactions with regulatory authorities, conflicts with neighbors and neighboring uses, environmental remediation, and so forth, drives up costs and dampens market activity in the city. Such factors are not prevalent in greenfield development contexts, where transaction costs are lower and capital more readily obtainable. Subsidies are intended to correct inherent imbalances between these location choices; when used without sensitivity to location, subsidies fail to achieve their purpose and can actually facilitate the reverse.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. The research and analysis conducted in support of the Vibrant NEO 2040 visioning process indicates that continued patterns of outward development and migration bodes ill for the future fiscal health of the region as a whole. Even so, the general public and stakeholders expressed early in the process a distaste for “hard” development controls such as urban growth boundaries, a tool that some regions have used to direct development inward. Rather, the same objective of achieving development intensification in established communities can be facilitated by truly prioritizing public subsidies to those types of projects.

GETTING IT DONE: This initiative will absolutely require collective action from local governments, though it will ultimately be applied in local practice. A pledge or compact would be a useful instrument for structuring the collaborative action component of the initiative. Summit County’s Intergovernmental Agreement on Job Creation and Tax-Sharing is a good conceptual precedent for this initiative. The agreement is entirely voluntary, with signatories agreeing to share tax revenues if they attract a business to their community from another community within the county. While the substance of the Summit County agreement might not be replicable at the regional scale, counties and local governments could sign onto a compact that pledges to use public subsidies only in the region’s established communities. This initiative could be led by NEOSCC and consortium partners such as MPOs, COGs, and economic development authorities. It may also be possible to make accession to such a compact a qualification for bonus points to communities’ application for various state and federal incentives. The State of Ohio has already upheld in principle the enforceability of such provisions have already occurred for Summit County’s agreement.

POLICY: Support redevelopment of vacant and abandoned properties where infrastructure and services are already in place: Local and county governments should prioritize redevelopment of vacant and abandoned properties over development of greenfields. Local governments should also incentivize development of vacant land-or rehabilitation of existing structures-in areas where infrastructure and services are already in place. The incentives should focus on substantial rehabilitation/improvement of abandoned properties. Prime locations for infill development include downtowns, transit corridors and locations near employment, shopping, and recreational and cultural amenities.

BEST PRACTICE: Re-Imagining Cleveland: Alternative land use strategies used in this initiative to return vacant land to productive use in ways that complement the City of Cleveland’s long-term development objectives and empowers residents to reclaim their neighborhood.

BEST PRACTICE: Regenerating Youngstown and Mahoning County through Vacant Property Reclamation: Reforming Systems and Right-Sizing Markets – In partnership with the Youngstown-Mahoning County Vacant Properties Initiative, the National Vacant Properties Campaign designed a work plan and proposal for a regional assessment of vacant properties in the City of Youngstown and Mahoning County in Ohio.


Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Councils of Governments

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity