Land Banks: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

During the 2008 housing crisis, few regions were hit as hard as the greater Cleveland area. An astonishing number of mortgage and tax foreclosures, among other factors, led to a multi-billion dollar loss in Cuyahoga County’s real estate tax base. The market was in a state of utter chaos, and the future looked grim.

In response, a dedicated group of community development leaders here in Cuyahoga County began searching for a solution to this devastating crisis. In 2009, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank was founded with the mission of strategically acquiring properties and returning them to productive use.

Cushman & Wakefield | CRESCO believes that these land banks are our economy’s MVP. They have made a substantial impact on the financial health of Cuyahoga County, and offer abundant opportunities for continuing to improve our real estate market in the future.

What Are Land Banks?

Land banking is the practice of strategically acquiring properties, rehabilitating them, and returning them to productive use for future sale or development. Vacant and abandoned properties are not just eyesores, they are a financial liability for their neighborhoods and surrounding communities. Land banking provides an opportunity to transform those liabilities into assets.

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank acts as a shepherd for abandoned properties by triaging them through the foreclosure process. Their mission includes raising property values and improving the economic conditions for surrounding neighborhoods. The Land Bank also aims to support community goals through collaborations with Cuyahoga County government leaders, and to improve the quality of life for all local residents.

For the commercial real estate industry, land banks can be an important partner in accelerating commercial property redevelopment. Locally, there have been several important land bank contributions, such as assembling land to secure an Amazon distribution center.

Land Bank Impacts and Opportunities

In 2019, the Land Bank celebrated its ten year anniversary by releasing an independent economic impact analysis—and the results are pretty extraordinary. 

In just 10 ten years, the Land Bank has facilitated more than 7,000 residential demolitions (for reference, that’s more demolitions than housing units in all of Bay Village, a suburb with a very healthy housing market), and rehabbed an additional 2,100 residential properties. 

These demolitions and rehabilitations have resulted in substantial increases in local property values and property tax revenues. They have also yielded hundreds of millions of dollars in local economic impact, and created more than 2,000 jobs. In terms of a benefit-cost ratio, every $1 of Land Bank expenditure results in $8 of economic impact—and they’re just getting started. 

With the unprecedented demand for industrial space, and a shortage of available sites close to the city center and workforce, land banks have a unique opportunity to significantly assist economic growth, using tools that are not available to the private sector. 

Here at Cushman & Wakefield | CRESCO, we are eager to witness the continued positive effects generated by land banks in terms of Cleveland’s commercial development, job growth, economic strength, and community pride.

To learn more about how CRESCO, Greater Cleveland’s leading commercial real estate company, can help you with your property needs, contact us at 216.520.1200, or fill out the form below. A CRESCO professional will contact you shortly.