Dollars for demos: editorial

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Dollars for demos: editorial

May 13, 2012 [The Plain Dealer]

Payback is a beautiful thing — especially when those bankrolling neighborhood revitalization in Greater Cleveland are the carpetbaggers who fueled the foreclosure crisis.

On May 4, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that Cuyahoga County was eligible for just shy of $12 million from a nationwide settlement with five of the largest mortgage lenders. The state had received $335 million, and DeWine set aside $75 million for demolition of condemned properties. Cuyahoga County — cratered by the crisis — is entitled to the largest share of demo dollars.

Cuyahoga County also has the perfect entity to administer the demolition grant: The Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. The nonprofit land bank, created at the start of the local mortgage meltdown by then-Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, has a proven ability to manage the demolition of condemned eyesores to shore up afflicted neighborhoods and attract economic development.

All but $500,000 of the $11.85 million grant must be matched dollar-for-dollar but the land bank promises $6.3 million out of its own funds and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason has committed $5 million from his office’s share of delinquent property tax collections, according to Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli, chairman of the land bank.

Cleveland is an epicenter in the foreclosure crisis that littered Cuyahoga County with a reported 25,000 vacant and abandoned properties. With the grant and its match totaling about $23 million and the average demolition cost at $10,000, according to Brancatelli, that should cover about 2,300 tear-downs.

It’s a start.