How a Land Development Fund is Ushering in a New Era for Cleveland

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How a Land Development Fund is Ushering in a New Era for Cleveland

Imagine a cityscape transformed. Vacant lots teaming with possibility, replaced by thriving businesses and vibrant communities. This isn’t a scene from science fiction; it’s the vision driving the newly established Cleveland Site Readiness Fund (SRF), a bold initiative to reactivate blighted and abandoned industrial properties in Cleveland in order to attract good jobs, build neighborhood wealth, and reduce blight.

Building on Foundation

Cleveland has grappled with underutilized land for decades, a legacy of industrial decline and shifting urban landscapes. Instead of succumbing to these challenges, the SRF recognizes them as untapped potential. By strategically assembling and preparing these underused sites, the Fund creates “shovel-ready” parcels primed for development, attracting businesses and generating much-needed jobs.

The SRF Fund, seeded with $50 million in federal pandemic-recovery cash pledged by Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration, aims to revive 1,000 acres of vacant or underutilized industrial land, focusing on sites of at least 10 acres. Proponents believe this will spur the creation of more than 65,000 jobs, including 25,000 at businesses on revitalized sites within the next decade.

More Than Bricks and Mortar

The SRF isn’t merely about bricks and mortar but building bridges — bridges connecting businesses to opportunities, residents to jobs, and communities to a brighter future. The Fund targets projects aligning with strategic economic development plans, prioritizing sectors with high growth potential, and focusing on creating quality jobs for local residents.

A Collaborative Canvas

The initiative isn’t a solo endeavor. Through a partnership with the Cuyahoga Land Bank, the Fund fosters collaboration, working hand-in-hand with government agencies, community organizations, and private developers. This synergistic approach ensures responsible development that enhances existing neighborhoods, respects environmental concerns, and prioritizes community input.

Brad Whitehead Tapped as Managing Director of Fund

Brad Whitehead, the former director and founder of the Fund for Our Economic Future, has been tapped as Managing Director of the new site fund. Whitehead is responsible for fundraising to augment $50 million in seed money from the city. He will also oversee efforts to find and prepare sites to lure manufacturers to city neighborhoods. Whitehead has a long track record of meaningful public service work focused on economic and workforce development and land use. He helped establish and provide initial funding for many of the region’s leading economic development organizations.

“People don’t want blight in their neighborhoods. They want safe, clean, and vibrant places for their families and an economic reason to stay and build a life,” says Whitehead. “This initiative is aimed at meaningful economic improvement in the lives of all residents.”

“The Site Readiness Fund is a proactive approach to an urgent problem,” says Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel for the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “We look forward to doing what we can to help turn the page on the past and transform these vacant lots and buildings into engines of prosperity.”