In July 2023, the Ohio Legislature injected an additional $350 million into the Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program (OBRP) due to the success of the program in the prior two years. At the end of the first cycle of funding, the Program was significantly oversubscribed. Therefore, it was anticipated there would be more projects in the queue for the second cycle of funding in FY24 and FY 25. However, based upon information released by the Cuyahoga Land Bank, the first round of the OBRP was massively oversubscribed just from Cuyahoga County alone. The demand for grant funding continues to demonstrate the size of the brownfield issue in the State and how desperately needed grant funding is to help overcome barriers to redevelopment.
Funding Spread Over Two Fiscal Years
The Ohio Legislature largely left the OBRP unchanged from the first grant cycle. It infused the program with an additional $350 million in grant funding, but it split that funding into $175 million in FY 24 and a second $175 million available in FY 25. The Legislature also reserved $1 million in funding for each of the 88 counties for FY 24. This resulted in $82 million being available statewide in the first round of grant funding for FY 24 after the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) used 2.5% of the funding to cover administrative expenses. The full $175 million is available statewide for FY 25.
Significant Change to Process for Submitting Applications
The most significant change made by the Legislature to the OBRP was to modify the grant application process. In the first cycle, all grant applications were submitted directly to ODOD and all applications were evaluated on a first-come, first served basis. Therefore, applicants needed to ensure they submitted their applications to ODOD early in the grant application period in order to improve their chances for funding.
The Legislature modified the procedure for the submission of grant applications by requiring all applications to be submitted through a designated “Lead Entity” for each of the 88 counties. Procedures for naming the Lead Entities are spelled out in the Legislation. The significant change is that the counties were given discretion to choose their priority projects by deciding the order of submission from the Lead Entity to ODOD.
Cuyahoga County Overwhelms the Program with Applications
The Cuyahoga Land Bank was the designated Lead Entity for Cuyahoga County. In an aggressive move to try to secure the most projects possible for the County, the Landbank released its portal to begin accepting projects on September 29, well before ODOD released its guidelines in November. While it was never explicitly stated by the Land Bank, applicants believed that the submission of application to the Land Bank would reserve their place in line once the ODOD portal opened on December 5. As a result, Cuyahoga County applicants began submitting their project information in September as soon as the Land Bank portal opened.
However, in a webinar held on November 28 (one week before the ODOD portal would start accepting applications), the Landbank announced that the County Administration had directed the Land Bank to submit the “County Priority Projects” first, then the Land Bank would submit the applications in the order they were received. When asked to identify the County Priority Projects, the Land Bank stated they were not authorized to release that information during the webinar.
The Cuyahoga County Administration did not release any guidance on how it would prioritize projects. Even after the submission of applications on December 5, the County has not identified the County Priority Projects or how it determined which projects would receive priority. Hopefully, the County’s process for prioritization will be more transparent leading up to the second round of grant funding in FY 25.
On December 7, the Land Bank released information on the total number of projects submitted to ODOD. More than $100 million in grant funding was sought just from Cuyahoga County – $18 million more than the total funds available statewide. While the Land Bank did a remarkable job in submitting all 36 applications in under four hours, it is likely that a large number of projects will not receive funding. Below is a summary provided by the Land Bank of the applications submitted by Cuyahoga Land Bank.
- Cleanup/Remediation Projects 34
- Assessment Projects 2
Location of Projects
- Berea 1
- Brook Park 1
- Brooklyn Heights 1
- Cleveland 26
- Cleveland Heights 2
- Cuyahoga Heights 1
- Highland Hills 1
- Lakewood 1
- Middleburg Heights 1
- Warrensville Heights 1
- 3,978 new jobs
- 1,421 retained jobs
- Private/For-Profit 25
- Municipalities 6
- Nonprofits 5
Total Project Costs $240,720,280
Total Grant Funding Requested $106,855,142