East Liverpool, Ohio
Features of the Project:
- Strategic Plan
- Feasibility Studies
- Strategic Project Implementation
After years of neglect and disinvestment, the City of East Liverpool hired Better City to develop a strategic plan and implement strategic revitalization projects in the downtown area.
East Liverpool’s potteries of the late 19th and early 20th century made the city the center of ceramic production in the United States. During this time of prosperity, blocks of architectural gems were constructed in downtown East Liverpool in a compact urban environment. Today, many of the buildings still stand. Those that have been renovated and restored are remarkable examples that deserve regional and national attention.
The decline in manufacturing jobs in the late 20th century was detrimental to East Liverpool’s pottery industry, leading to population decline as the manufacturing industries collapsed. The business exodus resulted in a hollowed-out downtown core and deteriorating neighborhoods.
In 2013, the city enlisted the expertise of Better City to spearhead the revitalization efforts in the downtown area. The catalytic project identified was the recruitment of the New Castle School of Trades. Yet, the project faced significant financial intricacies to achieve economic viability, necessitating a mix of federal and state historic tax credits, new markets tax credits, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and tax increment financing. Better City played a pivotal role in orchestrating this challenging yet remarkably impactful project, bringing together local, regional, and national partners. A state official referred to it as “one of the most complicated projects ever undertaken in the state of Ohio.”
Local community-minded investors, including Lionmark, LLC, and the Megafund, played a crucial role in securing the buildings, providing initial seed funding, along with a predevelopment grant from the Finance Fund. Commercial funding came from PNC and the Development Fund of the Western Reserve. The Ohio Department of Development, the City of East Liverpool, Port Authority of Columbiana County, Columbiana County, and the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County also played vital roles in realizing the $8 million project. The vocational school project even became one of the four semi-finalists for the National Development Council’s 2017 Innovative Project Financing Award.
In 2019, the City of East Liverpool again turned to Better City to continue its downtown revitalization efforts. Better City successfully secured $2.7 million in grant funding for various community projects, including blight remediation, a riverfront trail, a downtown master plan, an athletic center, and the preservation of an iconic historic building.
The iconic Thompson Building, situated on a high-traffic corner lot in downtown East Liverpool, became a focal point for redevelopment efforts. Despite its beauty, both the exterior and interior had deteriorated significantly, and redevelopment was urgent — since water damage from missing windows and a caving in roof meant that there was a small window within which the building could be saved before the structural integrity was compromised and it would have to be torn down. Better City played a key role in securing a grant for an architectural study and subsequently authored the historic tax credits application to facilitate the building’s redevelopment.
Beyond individual projects, Better City formulated a comprehensive Neighborhood Stabilization Plan for East Liverpool. This plan analyzed the impact of blight and abandonment on residential areas throughout the city, guiding various initiatives to support the city and its residents in blight reduction efforts. These initiatives included strategic demolitions and rehabilitations of abandoned houses, community cleanup events, and measures to curtail shadow rentals and slumlords through policy enforcement and code adjustments. Leveraging the insights from the Neighborhood Stabilization Plan, Better City assisted the City of East Liverpool in obtaining NCCC AmeriCorps assistance and state funding to further bolster blight remediation efforts.