Requiem for a community development corporation
By Steve Lockwood
The collapse of the housing market has been hard on everyone connected with the business. It’s been slim pickings for realtors and builders, there have been layoffs of lenders, and it’s been slow for lumber yards and paints stores. It’s also been very stressful for community development corporations.
It’s within this context that the Cooper-Young Development Corporation (CYDC) has folded its tent. After many years helping rebuild this now thriving neighborhood, CYDC has filed for bankruptcy and is dissolving. After renovating dozens of dilapidated homes, primarily in the southeast quadrant, as well as constructing dozens of new homes, the CYDC is done. After, by my count, half a dozen directors, there is no longer a staff. In part, CYDC has become a victim of its own success. In part, it has suffered from missteps in a very dangerous real estate market.
There is not space here to do a full recounting of the work accomplished by the CYDC or to fully recognize the contribution that they have made to Cooper-Young. One of the objectives, early on, of the CYDC was to raise property values and jump start the market, particularly in the southeast quadrant of the neighborhood. They did a good job. Suffice it to say on the 1000 block of New York, property values would be very different without the numerous houses that the CYDC built or rebuilt there.
The CYDC bought in those areas of the neighborhood where dilapidated homes would otherwise languish; in areas with the least value and the lowest sales. There are virtually no such areas left in Cooper-Young. Over the years this made finding new projects harder and harder. There are few cheap fixer-uppers to be had now in the neighborhood. As I said, victims of their own success.
About 6 years ago, to carve out a new frontier and improve the western flank of the neighborhood, the CYDC ventured onto Seattle Street. Were it not for the housing collapse, this would have looked like a good decision. As it turned out, these houses never sold, continuing to sit empty to be periodically vandalized. This was a long, hard financial drain. A recent suit filed by Regions Bank for another long-standing debt was the final straw. Like many other developers, for-profit as well as non-profit, the CYDC could not meet its financial obligations.
Cooper-Young is better prepared than most older neighborhoods to live and flourish without a development corporation. The market here, in part due to the work of the CYDC, has been jump started and is generally very healthy. As in It’s a Wonderful Life, it is hard to picture where we would be without the CYDC’s work. Cooper-Young owes a debt of gratitude to all of the staff and board members who have served the CYDC for these many years. You are too numerous to mention. Many of you still live in the neighborhood.
It is gratifying that the CY Community Association was able, several months ago, to buy the office building that has been the home of the CYDC. The CYCA, as well as the CY Business Association, remain on the job, and I’m sure will at times be called upon to pick up the slack left by the CYDC’s departure.