June 23, 2010 15:13 Age: 4 yrs

Professor's Project Goes National

Professor Frank Alexander has worked at the local and state levels

Professor Frank S. Alexander is working to turn “… vacant spaces into vibrant places” through the new Center for Community Progress, a nonprofit organization focused on revitalizing vacant and abandoned properties.

Given the state of the national housing market, the timing for this venture could not be better.

“The requests for this kind of work and this form of assistance have continued to grow each year and then exploded exponentially in light of the mortgage foreclosure crisis,” Alexander says. “This initiative creates a national organization with considerably more capacity to provide this assistance to communities.”

For more than 20 years, Alexander has worked on the local and state levels to identify and eliminate legal barriers that prevent converting vacant and abandoned properties back into productive use.

He and his colleague Daniel T. Kildee, former treasurer of Genesee County, Mich., launched the center in March.

The organization’s goal “is to create a model of holistic revitalization in the nation’s communities and reverse the abandonment that has escalated with the current economic crisis,” Alexander says. The center has offices in Washington, D.C., and Flint, Mich.

The project has received nearly $2 million in grants from the Charles Stewart Mott and Ford foundations—the largest amount of funding secured by an Emory Law professor.

Alexander serves as general counsel and director of policy and research, while maintaining his responsibilities at Emory Law and Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion. Kildee is the organization’s president.

The project’s success will be measured by how local and state governments reform existing law and policies and how they reduce the number of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties, Alexander says. A key component is the land bank, a governmental entity that acquires these properties and converts them into productive use.

He and Kildee established Flint’s Genesee County Land Bank in 2002, one of the most efficient and productive land banks in the country.

Additionally, the center will support and conduct research related to unlocking the value of vacant and abandoned properties.

Alexander has been a central figure in land revitalization policy-making since founding cslr’s Affordable Housing and Community Development Project in 1987.

“For me, where law and religion lead is the call to respond in service to those who are facing really tough issues, and to do so with all of the resources of legal and religious traditions,” Alexander says.

At the federal level, he has been highly influential during the mortgage crisis, consulting with congressional leaders and testifying before congressional committees and subcommittees.

At the state level, he drafted improved mortgage legislation in Georgia and post-Katrina Louisiana. Alexander regularly testifies before the Georgia General Assembly and frequently speaks before housing authorities, conferences and university-led symposiums. At the city level, his work has led to real estate reform in Baltimore, Baton Rouge, La., Indianapolis, Detroit and Flint, Mich., among others.

“Frank is an outstanding scholar and teacher who, at the same time, is driven by a deep social commitment,” Emory Law Dean David F. Partlett says. “I applaud this new opportunity for Frank to be a champion on the national stage in the crucial task of stabilizing and restoring neighborhoods and communities throughout the United States.”

April Bogle, director of public relations and information for the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory, contributed to this article.

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