As the major catalyst in the Reimagining Cleveland community revitalization vacant land re-use plan, Neighborhood Progress Inc. (NPI) was uniquely situated to tackle the issue of urban blight. Having operated as a community development corporation (CDC) with over 20 years of proven experience, leadership and credibility, NPI was and is equipped to be in the “forefront of the most critical issues confronting [greater Cleveland’s] neighborhoods.”
The major functions of NPI are to:
- Aggregate and distribute resources
- Advocate for neighborhoods
- Strengthen the community development system in Cleveland and
- Drive new ideas through visionary leadership [NPI Organizational Assessment (2012)]
Particular to this last function, NPI focuses on CDC’s neighborhood-based green infrastructure projects that turn vacant and blighted properties into “green” productive uses.
NPI acts as a central broker and facilitator among the 25 CDCs operating in different neighborhoods of the greater Cleveland area that are directly implementing the urban greening initiatives. Through its coordination of neighborhood stabilization teams, NPI brings together the resources of local government, local universities, funders and technical/tactical expertise of its own, to assist neighborhood CDCs in “on the ground” decision-making for action on blighted properties.
Through its own dedicated programs and funding, NPI directly supports 9 CDCs strategically located in the region, operating in neighborhoods of significant assets and which demonstrate a comprehensive approach to community revitalization. One of these is Slavic Village Development. A number of pilot projects in Reimagining Cleveland have been implemented here, including the Willow Elementary School Community Garden and a native planting park on a vacant Union Avenue lot with a giant rain garden at its center capable of absorbing water from the 1.5 acre lot.
“This is about building confidence, bottom-up, not someone coming in, buying up land and deciding what it will be used for,” according to Marie Kittridge, Director of Slavic Village Development. “This has enabled us to stop nibbling at the edges and work on re-creating green spaces.”
Through its grassroots approach, Reimagining Cleveland was recognized nationally by the American Planning Association in 2012 with a National Planning Excellence Award for Innovation in Sustaining Places, highlighting NPI’s collaborative effort and non-traditional approach to greeningCleveland’s neighborhoods. NPI continues to assess its own position as the CDC to CDCs in the region and its role in redefining the vision and strategy for neighborhood development in Cleveland.