About Thriving Communities Institute

The Need is Real

In Cuyahoga County alone, there are more than 15,000 vacant properties and more on the way. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank takes in over 100 new properties each month.

In March 2011, Western Reserve Land Conservancy launched Thriving Communities Institute, a region-wide effort to help revitalize our urban centers, and named nationally known expert Jim Rokakis as its director.


Today, Thriving Communities is working with communities and organizations throughout the region to transform vacant and unproductive properties into new opportunities to attract economic growth, add green space to our cities and support safe, beautiful neighborhoods.  Our cities have thrived in the past, and we believe they will thrive again in the future.


One important focus of Thriving Communities is to establish and support county land banks throughout our region. We are convinced that these land banks, technically called county land reutilization corporations, are an essential tool for stabilizing our fragile cities. These land banks give our counties the much-needed ability to quickly acquire foreclosed and vacant property. Land banks can safely hold a distressed property, clean its title and prepare it for a better day.  The goal is to secure vacant properties – which would otherwise attract crime, lower neighboring home values, and incur public services costs – so that they can be put to better use in the future.


In working with community leaders in our region, we have learned that urban revitalization is a process, one with many steps supported by great partnerships. We believe Thriving Communities will play a role in returning our cities to a strong, healthy state.


Jim Rokakis and the Thriving Communities’ staff are uniquely qualified to deliver this support. Jim served as Cuyahoga County Treasurer for 14 years and became nationally known for his work on urban housing and land issues. He was instrumental in creating the legislation that enabled this new type of land bank in Ohio, and he founded the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp, the first county land bank in the state.