An update of the happenings at Cuyahoga Land Bank
East 117th Community Garden | ISC- 2015.7.1

The Possibilities of a Community Garden

On a drizzly Saturday in May, an assorted group of friends, neighbors and community volunteers came together to nail together boards, rake leaves, mow grass, shovel dirt and put in plants on two vacant plots of land where houses once stood on East 117th street near Buckeye Avenue in Cleveland. Age groups ranged from seniors to toddlers; they differed both racially and economically. Everyone was laughing, sweating and getting dirty.  They were building a garden!

Land Bank Staff

Diana and Daniel own the house on one side of the East 117th Street Community Garden and Liz owns the house on the other side.  Liz previously had applied to the City of Cleveland Land Bank to acquire the vacant lot adjacent to her house for property expansion.  Diana also had purchased the vacant lot next to her house from the City Land Bank and then recently acquired the lot adjacent from the Cuyahoga Land Bank Side Yard Program, which had previously been a vacant and abandoned house that was demolished by the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  Once Diana acquired the side yard, Liz suggested forming the lots into a community garden for the neighborhood. 
“Thanks to Liz these lots are now a community garden,” said Diana.  “When we began gardening on her side yard, the neighborhood kids came out to help and it inspired her to start a conversation about making it a community garden.”

Land Bank Staff

Liz has been a part of the block since 1986.  She believes that creating a sense of community by having people involved with the garden can have a positive impact on the neighborhood.  She’s been putting up posters and knocking on doors to convince people to participate.
“I think it brings life to the street because people in passing see that we want to contribute something positive,” said Liz.  “If other people see we are doing something, they may want to be involved.”
With the help of Lilah Zautner, Manager of Special Projects and Land Reuse at the Cuyahoga Land Bank,  Diana took ownership of the second lot and then the duo was on their way to making their vision for a community garden a reality.
“We are excited to see how this side yard is being transformed into an asset for the greater community,” said Lilah Zautner.  “It is great to see Clevelanders reimagining their private spaces as community places for the betterment of the neighborhood.”
Thriving Communities Institute (TCI) is supporting Diana in obtaining a Cleveland Climate Action Fund Grant.  Special Projects Manager for TCI, Jay Westbrook, joined the garden kick-off in May. 
“At Thriving Communities Institute, we love projects like this that pull the community together and return formerly distressed properties back to productive use,” said Westbrook.  “It was really great to see the City and the Cuyahoga Land Bank work hand in hand to make this garden possible.”

Land Bank Staff

Diana and Liz envision a community orchard, a working greenhouse, an edible forest garden with native trees like paw paws, hazelnuts, serviceberries and persimmons; along with perennial berry, bushes, herbs and flowers.  
“I am looking to create a space that is healing, welcoming, educational, inclusive, and nourishing,” said Diana, who has again expanded her vision for the East 117th Community Garden.
The raised beds will belong to the people that plant them and other areas of the garden will remain open for the entire community to use.  Diana and Liz are hosting regular community meetings to ensure that everyone benefits from the space!

American Dream

“You know you have truly become an American when you dream in English.”  That was the anecdote used by Dr. Akram Boutros at the annual banquet of the International Service Center (ISC) held earlier this year.  Metro Health CEO, Akram Boutros, immigrated to the United States from Egypt when he was a child.  He was the keynote speaker at the annual banquet.  ISC is part of a national collaborative that provides services to refugees throughout the world who come to the United States to escape oppressive conditions, whether they be war, dislocation, political repression or natural disaster.

Land Bank Staff

Executive Director of ISC, Karin Wishner, spoke with passion about the urgent need to assist refugees coming to this country who very often have not experienced the simple conveniences of running water, a roof over their head and freedom from daily fear of violence.  Dr. Boutros also praised the work of ISC at a time when the world has experienced so much chaos and war. 
The United States authorizes entry into its borders where oppressive conditions can be shown.  Such showing, however, can often take years, sometimes more than a decade for a family to be approved for entry and still only about seventy thousand refugees are admitted annually into the United States.
Dr. Boutros explained that as a nation of immigrants and the leading world democracy, the United States is and should remain the inclusive, welcoming bastion of freedom that it is known for.
The Cuyahoga Land Bank and ISC partner together in identifying and providing housing for refugees that come through ISC’s doors.  “We seldom find partners like the Cuyahoga Land Bank, so willing to embrace our work.  Bringing families into the United States, for them, is sometimes a matter of life and death,” said Wishner.  Currently, the Cuyahoga Land Bank and ISC have completed the placement of forty four refugees (nine households) in seven homes supplied by the Cuyahoga Land Bank. ISC has experienced almost no turnover for this housing.
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Land Bank Properties

Did You Know

The Cuyahoga Land Bank partners with Court Community Service which supervises community service work crews to assist with property maintenance for the Cuyahoga Land Bank properties. Here is an overview of the outcomes from the partnership in 2014:
Hours Worked: 3,523
Bags of Litter: 3,979
Tires Collected: 167
Cubic Yards of Debris: 305

Bid on this Home before July 3rd!

This home at 1485 East 248th requires minimal renovation and is now available under the Advantage Plus Loan Program. Minimum bid starts at $5,000!

Home for Sale in Cleveland Heights

This Colonial home at 1071 Quilliams Rd in Cleveland Heights requires renovation and is now available through our Deed-In-Escrow Program.
 

Renovated Home For Sale in Bedford

This home at 565 Westview Rd in Bedford was renovated in-house by the Cuyahoga Land Bank and is listed for sale.  For details on this property, please call 216-698-8853 and for a list of other homes currently under renovation, visit our website.

Land Banks and Land Banking-The
second edition by the Center for Community Progress

The Center for Community Progress recently released its second publication that discusses new research and resources for land banks to carry out their mission to improve blighted properties and strengthen communities. The Cuyahoga Land Bank is featured as "the largest and most productive land bank in the country."  Please see the link below to order a copy!

The mission of the Cuyahoga Land Bank is to strategically acquire properties, return them to productive use, reduce blight, increase property values, support community goals and improve the quality of life for county residents.

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