Turn Cleveland Into Farms? What a Droll Idea!

No folks, we are not making this up and it isn’t April 1st either, but when we turned on the ol’ computer this morning, there it was big as life. A post by Steven Litt, the architectural critic of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on Cleveland.com, describes a plan whereby the local government would acquire land in Cleveland, raze any structures on it and convert it into a large  “land bank” devoted to gardening and farming. If you want the details, such as they are, go to

and check it out for yourself, since we don’t quite feel up to the task of doing justice to this loony scheme. Suffice it to say that the money for it would come from inter alia the federal government, like HUD, Freddie and Fannie and — what else? — the stimulus funds, which is to say from your pocket. Just how converting Cleveland into gardens would stimulate the economy, where repeated redevelopment schemes pursued over a period of decades have failed, goes without explanation. Your tax money at work, as it were.

          We resist the temptation to probe the unintetionally humorous aspects of this caper, and we only note that for many years Cleveland has been a near-basket-case as American cities go. After the crash, the old blighted conditions have been exacerbated by mass foreclosures and mass abandonments of homes in the city. Now this.

          What caught our eye is that the use of eminent domain to accomplish this feat has been suggested, but under the Ohio Supreme Court’s Norwood case and new Ohio legislation forbidding takings for economic development that option would appear to be out. So what? Such trifles have never stopped the folks in city hall from giving condemnation a shot, nor has it stopped some judges from going along with the gag.

         So let’s stay tuned on that one and see if these folks are actually going ahead with it. If they are, that will only be another landmark in the decline of American cities.