By Nick Carey
CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Orchards and vineyards may soon spring from the blight of thousands of abandoned buildings in Cleveland, a city struggling to rise from years of decline and home foreclosures.
Once a proud manufacturing powerhouse, Cleveland has lost nearly 10 percent of its population since 2000, the fastest drop of any U.S. city except for hurricane-hit New Orleans.
The city which was once America's fifth largest now ranks 41st in the U.S. Census with a population of 433,748.
"The first thing we must do is stabilize our housing market," said Jim Rokakis, treasurer of Cuyahoga County which includes greater Cleveland. "Then we'll need to work out what to do with all the vacant land we'll be left with."
The county has 36,000 abandoned homes that are a magnet for crime. As many as 18,000 must be demolished at a cost of several hundred million dollars. Proposals for the empty land include orchards and vineyards to help property prices recover, as few expect the city's population decline to reverse.
"This isn't a market for new housing," said Mark Seifert, executive director of local nonprofit the East Side Organizing Project. "And it certainly won't be in my lifetime." …