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Published: Wednesday, 10/5/2005

Toledo: Local Initiatives celebrates 25 years

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

There was a big celebration for Toledo and 32 other communities around the country last week, but few people heard about it.

But that's just the style of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. The national organization, which raises money to fund neighborhood housing and economic development projects around the country, celebrated its 25th birthday in Washington, D.C.

LISC's quiet handy work can be seen in the efforts of Toledo's active community development corporations over the past 15 years since LISC has been present in the Glass City.

"We've helped produce 1,400 homes and . . . economic development space in the most depressed areas of Toledo," said Hugh Grefe, the senior program director for Toledo LISC. "Prior to the existence of LISC it was difficult for the private sector to join with the public sector to get of these things done."

Some of Toledo's most noticeable projects - like the development of The Docks next to International Park, Washington Village Estates off of Collingwood Boulevard, the revitalization of St. Clair Village near Fifth Third Field, and the construction of Starboard Side Condominiums - were all catapulted with LISC funds, Mr. Grefe said.

"The CDC's have been able to use the money that we've given them and leverage it to receive other funds," Mr. Grefe said. "We also have a network of people around the country, some who may have been working the same problems we have here. We've been able to look at best practices in other cities and introduce people to new ideas and people in other areas, states and nationally."

Community development directors, like Terry Glazer, longtime head of Lagrange Development Corp., said LISC has been an invaluable tool for Toledo neighborhoods.

"I think LISC has had a significant impact and I think it goes beyond housing and community safety," said Mr. Glazer said. "They have helped with many things that have aided in neighborhood revitalization. They have given some money for operations."

Deborah Younger has worked with LISC in former mayor Carty Finkbeiner's administration and currently as the executive director of Organized Neighbors Yielding Excellence.

She said LISC's technical support and the ability to gather information from other agencies around the country has been as valuable as its financial contributions.

"They can bring consultants and other people together that we don't have on staff," Ms. Younger said.

"I don't know the dollar figure, but they are often willing to put money upfront when no one else will."

She said the LISC pre-development expertise has given life to many projects that others thought were doubtful and are not fixtures in Toledo neighborhoods.

Kim Cutcher, executive director of the NorthRiver Development Corp., said LISC financial help has allowed community development corporations and city departments to go into Toledo's oldest neighbors and build new homes.

In many instances, the work represented the first constructions of new homes in those neighborhoods in 40 to 50 years.

Mr. Glazer said over the past 25 years LISC has become a voice for neighborhood and community groups in government as well.

"LISC has been a real advocate for [community development corporations] at city hall," Mr. Glazer said.

"They have been able to organize support on Capitol Hill for Congress not cutting as much of the Community Development Block Grants, low income tax credits and those things."

Through it all, Mr. Glazer said, few people know the work LISC has done in the name of neighborhood and economic development for urban residents.

"I don't think the general public knows what LISC stands for," Mr. Glazer said. "We're still trying to get them to understand what CDC stands for. They have played a prominent role in the communities but it has been behind the scenes. I think they understand more with the City of Toledo gives money."

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughews@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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