Television audiences and land planners on three continents are learning about the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Crews from France, Germany, Japan and Canada came to Cleveland in the past year to witness the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s winning strategies firsthand, and an Italian professor interviewed Gus Frangos, president of the President Land Bank, for his upcoming book, American Rust Belt.
“Different organizations found different aspects interesting,” Frangos says. “One acre of land is worth so much in Europe and Japan, and they can’t countenance the idea of just giving it away. They’re fascinated with the role of commercial lenders in the land banking process, where these lenders pay the land bank to take properties.
“Or,” he adds, “they think land banks are a remarkable tool and want to learn how to set one up. Japan’s visit was in conjunction with the U.S. elections. They’re like Manhattan; they have no available land.”
The Canadians filmed here last fall for a CBC-TV program, “On the Road Ahead: Cleveland,” which aired November 14. Tony Brancatelli, chair of the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Board, escorted CBC host Paul Hunter through distressed houses, while Frangos visited the camera crew at a demolition-a sound the show’s narrator referred to as, “the Cleveland crunch.”
Click the image below to watch “On the Road Ahead” Cleveland”
Some of the homes were so devalued, Brancatelli noted, “they were for sale on eBay.”
Frangos compared Land Bank demolitions to “a root canal in the neighborhoods: you get rid of the garbage so you can stabilize the place…It’s one property at a time, but we’re doing it strategically.”
Former Cuyahoga County Treasurer James Rokakis, one of the Land Bank’s original organizers, conveyed the determination felt by everyone involved in the Land Bank to make it work: “We can’t give up,” he said. “[The housing crisis has created] a lot of innocent victims…people who have no exit strategy.” The show’s narrator ended on a positive note, clearly endorsing the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s efforts: “It’s not a guaranteed fix, either,” he told viewers. “But it’s a start. Click the image below to watch “On the Road Ahead” Cleveland”