Four Cities Selected for Vacant Properties Technical Assistance Scholarships (Press Release)

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Dallas, Detroit, Gary and Trenton will receive guidance from the Center for Community Progress

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Dallas, Texas
Detroit, Michigan 
Gary, Indiana 
Trenton, New Jersey
News Release (PDF)
Technical Assistance at Community Progress

FLINT, Mich. – Groups of local leaders in Dallas, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; and Trenton, New Jersey are the recipients of the Center for Community Progress’ second round of the competitive Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP). Through TASP, the Center for Community Progress (Community Progress), a national nonprofit, will help these cities develop new strategies to address property blight, vacancy and abandonment.

The four cities were chosen through a competitive Request for Applications (RFA) process. Through the application process, each city requested assistance in one or more of TASP’s key issue areas. These include topics such as strategic code enforcement, data and information systems, and vacant land maintenance and reuse strategies. Proposed projects are reviewed on a range of criteria, including the potential for innovation that other cities can learn from, demonstrated leadership to implement reform and overall need.

“The teams in Dallas, Detroit, Gary and Trenton all demonstrated strong leadership and a heartfelt commitment to developing new approaches to problem properties,” said Tamar Shapiro, president and CEO of the Center for Community Progress. “We’re just as committed to supporting their efforts and excited for these new partnerships to get underway.”

Each city will receive assistance from a team of national experts. Technical assistance will take place throughout the first half of 2015 and may include, for example, staff training sessions, legal and policy analysis, and tailored reports with recommended changes. Grant funding from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation provides the majority of the program’s support.

“Many of our country’s great cities struggle to find effective solutions to the blight that stands in the way of their recovery,” said Janis Bowdler, senior program director for community development at JPMorgan Chase. “With support from JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Center for Community Progress will provide advice and assistance to help these cities develop customized plans to stabilize and revitalize their neighborhoods.”

Downtown Dallas - Credit Robert HensleyDallas, Texas

In Dallas, Community Progress’ work will focus primarily on evaluating existing local and state policies related to code enforcement. Based on its findings, the organization will offer recommendations for policy changes or strategies to help city government more effectively implement existing policies to prevent property deterioration and abandonment.

“Over the past year, the City of Dallas has aggressively pushed the development of inter-departmental strategies for tackling vacancies and the abandonment of properties. This effort also allows the City to partner more strategically with non-governmental entities working to reduce blight and improve quality of life in our neighborhoods,” said Kris Sweckard, director of the Dallas Department of Code Compliance. “The timing of the Center for Community Progress Technical Assistance Scholarship Program is perfect. It provides us with additional tools and strategies, primarily based upon data and policies, to help us reach our objectives.”

Downtown Detroit, Michigan - Credit Ian FreimuthDetroit, Michigan

In Detroit, work will focus on assisting Detroit Future City (DFC) and other stakeholders, including the City of Detroit, with the early development of a citywide open space plan. Community Progress will help to identify long-term land ownership models, financing strategies for land reuse, and existing examples of open space networks in other cities.

“The Center for Community Progress has been an important partner in several of our initiatives, and we are thrilled that the DFC Implementation Office and the city will continue benefiting from their support through the Technical Assistance Scholarship Program,” said Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr., executive director of the Detroit Future City Implementation Office. “The Center for Community Progress team can lend expertise and national best practices that will be critical to the DFC Implementation Office and our partners, as we work with stakeholders to develop an innovative open space plan for Detroit.”

Downtown Gary: Credit Samuel A. LoveGary, Indiana

In Gary, the focus is on data and how it can be used to inform policy and practice. Community Progress will examine, at a systems level, how property and other neighborhood-related data are being gathered. The organization will offer recommendations to the City’s Department of Redevelopment on how to improve data collection and how to use data to inform blight elimination and neighborhood stabilization strategies.

“The City of Gary’s designation as a TASP recipient is huge for us because it coincides with the many efforts we are currently employing to eliminate blight in our community,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. “The technical assistance that will be provided allows us to be more strategic with our initiatives and make visible impacts one neighborhood at a time.”

Downtown Trenton - Credit Blake Bolington Trenton, New Jersey

In Trenton, Community Progress will also provide technical assistance related to data and information systems. The organization will advise the city on how to more efficiently and effectively collect and share property data across city departments and recommend strategies for targeting efforts like code enforcement to promote neighborhood stabilization.

“The City of Trenton, in partnership with Isles, is honored to have been selected by the Center for Community Progress as a recipient of one of their technical assistance scholarships,” said Mayor Eric E. Jackson. “We are thrilled that our vacant property strategy and approach was recognized as innovative and noteworthy. And we look forward to working with the Center on taking the necessary next steps toward integrating our vacant property data across city departments, prioritizing the Inspections Department, and recommending how to target code enforcement efforts and other strategies.”

Since its founding in 2010, the Flint, Michigan-based Center for Community Progress has provided technical assistance to more than 100 communities across 22 states. Community Progress launched TASP in early 2014 in response to two needs: first, the need to develop fresh approaches to problem properties that could become models for cities to replicate, and second, the need to provide individual cities with affordable, high-quality guidance in the fight to remediate blighted, vacant properties.

More information about the Technical Assistance Scholarship Program is available on the Center for Community Progress website.

About Center for Community Progress

Founded in 2010, the Center for Community Progress is the only national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization solely dedicated to building a future in which entrenched, systemic blight no longer exists in American communities. The mission of Community Progress is to ensure that communities have the vision, knowledge, and systems to transform blighted, vacant, and other problem properties into assets supporting neighborhood vitality. As a national leader on solutions for blight and vacancy, Community Progress serves as the leading resource for local, state and federal policies and best practices that address the full cycle of property revitalization, from blight prevention, through the acquisition and maintenance of problem properties, to their productive reuse. Major support for Community Progress is generously provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Ford Foundation.