Mar 8, 2023 - Politics

Cleveland eyes an ROI roadmap for city projects

Blaine Griffin in brown suit with orange tie, standing next to Kevin Kelley in 2021.

Council president Blaine Griffin on the campaign trail for Kevin Kelley in 2021. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

Cleveland City Council introduced legislation this week to ensure that residents receive tangible benefits when City Hall awards public subsidies to developers.

Why it matters: Even though city officials have awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in public grants, loans and tax relief to real estate projects in recent decades, the projects haven't moved the needle on Cleveland's persistent racial disparities in social and economic outcomes.

Driving the news: The proposed legislation would make public financial assistance for developers contingent on a set of trackable outcomes, including diversity, equity and inclusion measures.

How it works: In the new legislation, community benefits agreements would go into effect when City Hall awards at least $250,000 to a developer.

  • All projects receiving that level of aid would be required to establish a plan to meet minority and women-owned business enterprise and low-income resident employment goals, which the city would establish on a project-by-project basis.
  • For projects involving $20 million or more in subsidies, developers would be required to work from a "menu" of community benefits tailored to the project, possibly including affordable housing units, neighborhood infrastructure and community investment opportunities.

Plus: The legislation requires that developers provide mentorship and internship opportunities and "meet periodically with community stakeholders.

What they're saying: "I believe this is one of the most important ordinances, as we outlined diversity, equity and inclusion as a priority for this council," Council president Blaine Griffin said at Monday's council meeting.

  • "We want to ensure the people of Cleveland get a return on their investment," he told Axios. "This ordinance aims to include our residents and provides more neighborhood resources, expands opportunities, and increases job demand for Clevelanders as we grow for the future."

What's next: Griffin promised a series of council committee hearings, where real estate developers, business executives and labor leaders would be invited to discuss the legislation before a final vote.


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