Ms. Geronimo called the effort a “sidewalk survey” that uses a
smartphone app or a tablet to quickly record data—including
whether a property is a vacant lot or the condition of an
existing home. The land bank has purchased 30 tablets to loan to
volunteers for the data collection. GPS technology and existing
property data are called up on the app and the volunteer only
needs to record a few details. 50 homes can be surveyed in an
“We’re looking for three things: occupancy, major problems, and
we’re asking the surveyor to give their opinion on the condition
of the property,” she explained.
There are five possible property classifications: very good,
good, fair, deteriorating, or hazardous. Properties deemed
hazardous present a safety issue and will be torn down.
The land bank has a $6 million grant to demolish 600 more houses
in Toledo, in addition to more than 850 that were taken down
over the past two years with another grant.
“We’re really extracting the ones that should come down—the
really unsafe, hazardous ones that are really dangerous to the
community,” said Ms. Geronimo. “They’re the ones that people can
wander in. They’re infested with crime.”
But even stable neighborhoods eventually will be surveyed by
volunteers to ensure they don’t degrade any further and become
so-called “tipping point” neighborhoods, where increasing crime
and dilapidated homes cause property values to plummet. One such
neighborhood is Library Village in West Toledo, where city
leaders have focused on home ownership efforts to keep it from
falling further into disrepair.
The land bank is using property tax data collected by the Lucas
County auditor’s office, as well as nuisance property records
from the city of Toledo inspections department as a baseline.
But the house-to-house survey will give the land bank an updated
condition on every property to determine what homes and
commercial buildings can be rehabilitated and which ones are
beyond repair and should be demolished.
“We want to collect the whole city of Toledo by the end of the
year. That equates to approximately 100,000 parcels,” said Ms.
Geronimo. “There is momentum building and people are excited to
be working on a project that will lead to change in their
neighborhood. I agree with the mayor that (fixing blight) has to
be citizen-led. People have to be vigilant about their
The land bank is even collecting data on vacant lots, because
those are properties that easily can be obtained by the land
bank and repurposed for other uses, such as an expansion of a
neighboring homeowner’s property.
“We want to know if the property is overgrown or if there’s
dumping going on,” she said. “Or whether it was demolished a
long time ago and there’s still a stairway leading to nowhere.
We want to know about that. We want to clean those things up.”
Ms. Geronimo stated one of the more important sections of the
Old South End to survey on July 26 will be the neighborhood
surrounding the former Libbey High School site. There is no
organized group in that area, so volunteers from other groups,
such as the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center, will
be sent across the Anthony Wayne Trail to gauge the condition of
homes in that neighborhood, which has 1,462 parcels of land.
The idea is to take the data gathered and share it with partner
agencies at the city of Toledo and elsewhere “to come up with
plans that work.” Ms. Geronimo stated that neighborhood groups
can look at the data and self-determine the future of their own
sections of the city by giving their input at upcoming public
“Our mission is not demolition, it’s to stabilize
neighborhoods—and that’s really to look at our housing stock,
securing the ones that we can and finding end users, whether
that’s owner-occupied or an investor who wants to provide a
really good rental,” she explained.
Staff members at the county land bank are looking at land
re-uses in other cities to help come up with good ideas that can
be replicated in Toledo. For example, some vacant lots in
Baltimore have been turned into passive recreation parks,
including horseshoe venues and old trees that were cut into
tables and chairs, painted and varnished into outdoor chess
boards for players to get fresh air while competing.
“We’ve talked with city council members who have said it can’t
just be community gardens,” Ms. Geronimo said. “What else can we
offer? You could even add a fruit stand to that community garden
to sell what’s grown in that neighborhood.”
Anyone interesting in helping to volunteer or obtain more
information on the initiative can call 419.213.4233 or visit the
agency’s website at