For more than 50 years, Robert Primm has lived in this home and built a life where he raised two sons and worked for 30 years at LTV Steel. A white picket fence holds potted petunias. A large screened-in gazebo in the back provides a gathering space for conversation when company comes around or neighbors drop by to say hello.
“Not everyone has to have the same idea about what makes a property nice,” said Primm. “But we can all look to improve the community and work things out together, face to face.”
Primm is part of a growing movement among Cleveland homeowners who weathered the housing crisis and stayed in their communities. Cleveland was hit hard by foreclosures and subprime lending; many residents, unable to afford the rising costs of their mortgages against the dropping value of their properties, simply abandoned their homes.
Statewide, it is estimated that 100,000 vacant and abandoned structures exist, with at least 2,000 in Cleveland alone. For those who stayed, the vacant properties lowered their home values even further, attracted criminal activities and illegal dumping, and became a manifestation of urban blight and decay. In neighborhoods like Buckeye-Woodhill, Mt. Pleasant, and Kinsman – predominantly Black and historically redlined neighborhoods – these abandoned properties were a constant reminder of a neglected community.
Yet Primm and many others were able to find a silver lining in the midst of these challenges, and convert liabilities into neighborhood assets. Primm took advantage of a program to acquire the vacant land next to his home to create a huge side yard, nearly doubling the size of his property, and turning blight into beauty. His motivations were simple: make the street look better, make residents feel safer, and provide a place for neighbors to connect.
“I wanted to give people the idea that if you want things to look good, you’ve got to keep up with the maintenance,” he said. “Don’t let things go too far in the wrong direction.”
Continue reading this story in our Winter 2023 edition of Landline.