The property at 1609 Woodward Avenue in Springfield was previously occupied by two vacant homes. It was recently redeveloped into a little library and disc golf area through a partnership with local non-profit, The Conscious Connect. CONTRIBUTED

Clark County Land Bank shifts focus to property rehab

The Clark County Land Bank has demolished 127 dilapidated structures, transferred 126 vacant parcels back into productive statues and invested more than $2.1 million in Clark County since its inception five years ago.

The land bank, also known as the Clark County Land Reutilization Corp., was formed in May of 2014 as a way of acquiring blighted, foreclosed, vacant and other non-performing property that can be revitalized and brought back into productive use.

“We are continuing to do demolition but the market is changing,” said Ethan Harris, community engagement manager for the Clark County Land Reutilization Corporation. “The need to demolish buildings is slowing, while the need to rehab is increasing.”

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Harris said this means that the land bank has moved to turning its attention to rehabilitating properties as opposed to tearing them down.

The county also uses the land bank as an economic development tool, Harris said, acquiring properties and preparing them for development, like the old National Guard Armory and the Upper Valley Mall.

Clark County Commissioners agreed in 2017 to tear down the armory, located near Interstate 70 and Ohio 41 next to the Clark County Fairground, and are still in the process of deciding what to do with the land.

The land bank purchased the Upper Valley Mall in May of 2018 for $3 million and, “plan to breathe fresh life into the property,” county officials said at the time of the purchase.

Nothing has been officially announced for the future of the mall either, however Northwestern Local School Board voted in March to authorize the district’s superintendent and treasurer to begin engaging in “serious communication” with MMG Sports Complex, the investor they say is planning to purchase the Upper Valley Mall.

Home Plate Sports Academy, located in Upper Valley Mall, posted a rendering of what it said is the sports complex on Facebook earlier this year and potential mall owners had spoken with some of the tenants about plans.

Those plans according to Northwestern school officials and Home Plate Sports Academy include developing the mall into a, “sports complex,” complete with soccer, basketball, pickleball, basketball, go karts, volleyball, a trampoline center, a movie theater, restaurants and more.

County officials will only say that they own the property and negotiations are ongoing, but will not say who they are negotiating with.

“We are still in charge of and own the mall,” Harris said. “We have no information to share, but it is an active property.”

In addition to the mall and armory investments, the land bank has been awarded more than $2 million in Neighborhood Initiative Program funding from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. The funding has allowed the land bank to acquire property, demolish single-family structures and turn properties into green space.

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It has transferred more than 50 side lots to neighborhood partners who have transformed them into community green spaces.

Other projects developed over the last five years include the Clark County Park District’s Mad River Gorge Rock Wall Park, a new recycling center for the Clark County Solid Waste District and the Sunflower Field on Euclid Avenue.

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