city, npi and parkworks debut reimagining cleveland, $1m push to green city

The City of Cleveland, Neighborhood Progress Inc. (NPI) and ParkWorks recently launched ReImagining Cleveland II, a $1 million push to fund sideyard expansions, vacant lot beautification, and market gardens in Cleveland. They hope the program will improve vacant land, enhance local communities and further green the city.

"In a city like Cleveland, rebuilding the housing market really means taking down bad houses and reclaiming vacant land," says Bobbi Reichtell, Senior Program Officer with NPI. "We're focusing the sideyard expansions in areas where there are already a number of other things happening, such as Model Block programs and the Opportunity Homes rehab program, so that we can get a real impact."

Reichtell anticipates two-thirds of the funding will go to yard expansions, while one-third will go to stabilization projects like market gardens, wildflower gardens and vineyards. Over 50 applicants have already applied for sideyard expansions, while 16 stabilization sites have been identified. Funding will be used to clean, grade and fence properties before they are transferred to their new owners.

Reichtell also stressed that the city has a formal application process, and that it retains sites with critical short-term development potential. Owners with code violations or tax delinquencies cannot be accepted into the program. Applicants must also invest some of their funds to acquire a lot or create a project.

Lilah Zautner, Sustainability Manager with NPI, says the reaction to the program differs radically depending upon the individual and where they live. "Some view sideyard expansion as the suburbanization of the city, while others view it as homesteading -- they're adding gardens, pools, gazebos and more."

Since the program launched, there's been no shortage of applicants. "We've had an overwhelming response so far, but we are still accepting applications," she says.

Source: Bobbi Reichtell, Lilah Zautner
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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