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Land Banks Rock: A New Tool For Reinvesting In Our Community | Business

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Land Banks Rock: A New Tool For Reinvesting In Our Community
Land Banks Rock: A New Tool For Reinvesting In Our Community

A guest editorial by Guy Bazzani

The Kent County Land Bank has the potential to be a fabulous new tool for redeveloping vacant properties in Kent County. As a green urban developer, having chronically vacant properties in neighborhoods impedes our revitalization efforts. They lower property values, invite crime, and can quickly become an eyesore. I strongly encourage everyone to attend the Kent County Land Bank forum on March 23. This innovative idea could be a boon for our redevelopment efforts. Initially, it was hard for me to be enthusiastic about Land Banks. After some prodding from a friend, I did some preliminary research regarding this topic. Now, I am excited!

Over the last 10 years, we could have used this redevelopment tool to enhance the success of the revitalization of Uptown. Today, this tool can help other upcoming Grand Rapids neighborhoods and Kent County communities manage their blighted properties and hold key locations for future redevelopment. We would like to see other neighborhoods become as vital and successful as Uptown has over the last 5 years. By having the Kent County Land Bank as a community re-development partner, we can succeed in redeveloping our communities over the long term.

Land banks have been gaining popularity nationwide for their positive impact on reducing blight and reusing vacant properties to help neighborhood revitalization amidst the foreclosure crisis. Instead of selling foreclosed properties at auction, the County can put them into the land bank and maintain them until they are transferred to developers to be rehabbed and sold. The land bank provides numerous incentives for developers such as title clearance, forgiving back taxes and liens, holding properties tax free during development, providing access to Brownfield tax credits even for properties that are not contaminated, option for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and ability to assemble properties for large scale development.

The Land Bank could also work as an economic gardening tool. We could use ours to help grow local entrepreneurs from within our communities. Second-stage enterprises could use this tool to expand their capacity...

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