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What makes Cleveland a Next American City?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/18/10 @ 11:00am

It was an honor to write about Cleveland's growing land-based, self-help economy in "Cleveland's Comeback: ReImagining the city from the ground up," a feature in the spring issue of Next American City, a national magazine. The experience confirmed for me that Cleveland is truly on the vanguard, at least in the Rust Belt, for tweaking the old model that says bricks-and-mortar development is always preferred, no matter if the demographic trends point to the city shrinking for some time to come. Where some cities in the Midwest are still struggling to admit that they are shrinking, and that vacant land is an asset to be used to help its current citizens access healthy food and perhaps improve their economic situation, Cleveland-where adapting to a post-industrial economy led to decades of painful disinvestment-is learning to "ReImagine" a more sustainable use for land and natural resources, and bring the city in balance with nature.

Online, Next American City published three excellent companion pieces to the Cleveland article. In "Land Bank Legislation Poised for Passage in Ohio", Mara D'Angelo explains how a push by Cleveland leaders to form the state's first countywide land bank (in Cuyahoga County) has spurred legislation that would bring land banks (and, perhaps with it, some regional land-use planning) to 41 of Ohio's 88 counties.

In "The Silver Lining of the Foreclosure Crisis", Amy Smith looks at how cities struggling with foreclosures can respond. It cites a report from Living Cities that suggests cities establish a service-like The National Community Stabilization Trust-to encourage servicers to inform cities and counties of any foreclosed properties so community officials can purchase the properties within ten days of the foreclosure.

And in "Chickens in the City", Anthony Flint writes "Urban farming has brought Cleveland to the cutting edge in the trend of local food-and addressing the 'food deserts' recently publicized by First Lady Michelle Obama. A farmer's market has sprouted up in a neighborhood pockmarked with desolation, making eggs, vegetables, honey and other farm-fresh products from backyards and vacant lots available to residents."

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