'5 Questions With' Cleveland Development Advisors President Yvette Ittu

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1. What tools does Cleveland Development Advisors offer to developers and what is the impact of such development tools to businesses and residents in Northeast Ohio?

Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA) is Northeast Ohio’s leader in providing real estate financing, technical expertise and specialized tools to developers, businesses and community groups. As an affiliate of Greater Cleveland Partnership, CDA identifies, positions, and invests in catalytic, strategic, and transformational projects that promote inclusive, thriving neighborhoods and economic growth. Our success is only possible with the vision and generous support of our investors and partners who have entrusted their capital in one or more of the CDA managed funds. In addition, as a certified development entity, CDA uses tax credit tools such as New Markets Tax Credits as available to support development projects.

Over the past 30 years, CDA has attracted substantial private sector investment to underserved markets within the city. To date, CDA has invested nearly $460 million in private-sector capital into over 150 urban real estate projects, leveraging over $3.9 billion in overall investment. Many of these projects have involved repurposing vacant buildings. In fact CDA investments have played a role in the conversion of over five million square feet of vacant space. 

2. As president of Cleveland Development Advisors, how has the pandemic impacted your mission to support and serve developers, businesses and community groups in Northeast Ohio?

CDA’s mission is to promote inclusive and thriving neighborhoods in Northeast Ohio by providing innovative financing solutions and technical assistance to catalytic real estate and business development projects.

Like everyone, our organization was faced with a uniquely challenging year in 2020 that made meeting these goals more difficult. Despite this, CDA stayed true to the spirit of its mission while pivoting to be responsive to community needs. Over the last 12 months, CDA’s investments in neighborhoods continued to produce catalytic and transformational impact to promote inclusive and thriving neighborhoods in Northeast Ohio.

In 2020, CDA successfully deployed $15 million into six capital projects in neighborhoods stretching from Buckeye to Fairview Park. These developments represent a total of more than $130 million in total investment that will result in nearly 500,000 square feet of new and upgraded space, facilities, and grounds. In addition these projects will result in 336 mixed-income housing units, 88 new and retained permanent jobs, and nearly 900 construction jobs.

3. How have you responded to the pandemic and what do you expect post-pandemic?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CDA pivoted from its lending focus and made $300,000 in Pandemic Response Grants to three Cleveland community development corporations that in turn provided critical support to small businesses. Our grant recipients have made clear just how important these funds were as they were faced with the fallout of the crisis. To date, more than 91 small businesses located in the Glenville, Kinsman, Buckeye and Clark/Fulton neighborhoods received support from this initiative.

Even as the pandemic forced many to pivot or a pause on some initiatives, other long dreamed of goals were achieved, including reaching 20,000 residents in Downtown Cleveland, making it a true “neighborhood” in addition to its role as our community’s central business district. CDA has been a proud partner in that effort with many, and our $3 million construction loan to the Public Square North project in 2020 will help continue the momentum.

Through and post the pandemic, CDA will continue to focus and invest dollars across all Cleveland neighborhood to promote equitable development. CDA is working on a collaborative effort with other local and national organizations to form and implement an Emerging Equitable Development Services Platform that would include professional capacity building, project consulting/advising and strategic partnership development to developers of color.  

4. What continues to be your greatest challenges in attracting and retaining businesses in Northeast Ohio?

While this is a very complex issue and there are many different variables companies analyze when determining to relocate or expand their business. One of the most significant factors is related to workforce and talent attraction. The demand for skilled workers is greater than ever. From an economic development standpoint, focus on workforce development and closing the skills gap is and should be among the highest priority for our community.  

5. If you had one ask of the Biden-Harris administration with respect to economic development, what would it be and why?

As the current President of the New Markets Tax Credit Coalition, I want to thank both Congress and those in the NMTC industry that supported the effort to get the largest extension ($25 Billion over 5 years) of the NMTC program this past December. This is a proven program that attracts private capital and economic opportunity to communities that need it the most. This program has created jobs, provided economic opportunity and helped to improve lives of Clevelanders and has done the same in many underserved communities across the country. With that said, the one ask that I would have to the Biden-Harris administration would be to make the NMTC program permanent. 

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