29 May 2013
Mayor Summers of Lakewood and Mayor Clough of Westlake participated in a recent League of Women Voters forum (PDF) on regionalism. While they agreed on some aspects like service delivery, they offered different views on topics like tax-base sharing and the role of the central city.
Tony Hull, a planner helping to develop Cleveland's bike sharing plans, said that the City "can no longer claim the mantle of being first. At this point, it would be better served to get it right."
The Plain Dealer's Steven Litt drew connections between a series of seemingly-unrelated headlines to outline the "compelling overall narrative" of Northeast Ohio as a region "at odds with itself as it tries to figure out how to meet the 21st century."
Cleveland City Council approved transferring management of Cleveland Lakefront State Park to the Cleveland Metroparks (PDF). The 99-year lease agreement covers Wildwood, Villa Angela, Euclid Beach, Gordon, and Edgewater parks and the East 55th Street Marina, plus the transfer of $14 million in state funding to the Metroparks.
Update: the Cleveland Metroparks Commissioners approved a step toward completing the transfer. Endorsement of the final agreement is expected in June.
In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Jim Rokakis described the region's problems with abandoned houses and presented the arguments for a strategic demolition program.
The latest report on job sprawl by Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution said that the recession "helped drive a slight uptick in urban core job share in more than half of the nation's largest metro areas between 2007 and 2010." However, job sprawl was more pronounced in the five-county Greater Cleveland area (PDF) from 2000 to 2010. Of the nation's 100 largest metro areas, Greater Cleveland had the 19th-highest share of jobs located in outer-ring communities.
The Housing Research & Advocacy Center issued two of its yearly reports. The 2013 State of Fair Housing in Northeast Ohio (PDF) said that 2012 was the fourth consecutive year with a decline in the number of housing discrimination complaints, but estimated "that there are annually at least 33,690 instances of housing discrimination" in Greater Cleveland. Its Racial & Ethnic Disparities in 2011 Ohio Mortgage Lending (PDF) report said that "African Americans and Hispanics continue to have limited access to fair and equal credit."
Leaders in Strongsville hope that funding from the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission will be used to build more noise barriers along the Ohio Turnpike and Interstate 71. In addition, a Strongsville city councilman says that the City should pursue funding for a new highway interchange at I-71 and Boston Road.
While skeptics have questioned whether the phase two casino in downtown Cleveland will ever be built, City officials are confident it will proceed. Casino owner Dan Gilbert dismissed critics in a series of tweets and at a Positively Cleveland meeting. He said that it's currently in the design stage, but wouldn't reveal details.
27 May 2013
Voters in Broadview Heights and Solon passed zoning issues in the May 7 primary election. Issue 1 in Broadview Heights established a a conversion corridor along Royalton Road, and Issue 2 in Broadview Heights created the Town Center Special Planning District. (The Plain Dealer's Steven Litt recently critiqued the town center plans.) In Solon, Issue 8 rezoned a 2.5-acre parcel from retail to office and Issue 9 rezoned a 5.7-acre property for an auto dealer expansion. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has complete election results.
Meanwhile, Lorain County voters rejected a countywide transit levy. The County will return more than $1.5 million in unused federal transportation funding because it has not fulfilled its 20% local match.
The latest draft of Public Square redesign concept aims to unify the square. It calls for closing the section of Ontario Street that currently bisects the square, adding trees and grass, and creating new attractions. Landscape architect James Corner's Field Operations will continue to refine the plans. A Plain Dealer editorial supports the ideas, and Channel 5's Leon Bibb said he's "a fan of the proposal."
Update: The Architect's Newspaper described the proposal.
The Thistledown racino in North Randall officially opened to the public on April 9 as the state's second racino. It features about 1,150 slot machines. Plain Dealer columnist Mark Naymik said that the new facility is designed to appeal to a different audience than the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland. A relocation to the Green area in Summit County remains a possibility.
Work on the new Cuyahoga County headquarters building in downtown Cleveland began in early April with the start of demolition of the former P&H buildings at East 9th Street and Prospect Avenue. Demolition is scheduled to be finished by late June and the new building is slated to open by July 2014. The project's architect is striving for a subdued modernist design. The project is supported by $75.5 million in bonds from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.
Local developer David Lewanski's proposed Pinecrest development in Orange would replace a 76-acre residential area with retail, offices, and housing. If Village officials and voters approve a rezoning, it would add 390,500 square feet of upscale retail, 30,000 square feet of office space and 266 residential units (PDF) to an area near the Chagrin Highlands. Lewanski said he has acquired has long-term purchase options on most of the area's existing houses and that he will not seek development incentives for the project.
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park received 2,299,722 visits in 2012, keeping it among the nation's most-visited national parks. A National Park Service report said that visitors in 2011 spent $51,473,000 in communities surrounding the park and supported 728 jobs.
The Westlake Planning Commission approved plans for civic space at Crocker Park. Its Market Square will be a flexible one-acre paved area with a loggia and a stage. The area could host events, a farmers market, and an ice rink. The adjacent Crocker Commons will be a one-acre grassy park. Construction is expected to begin next year. Westlake leaders are optimistic about the delayed American Greetings headquarters project at Crocker Park.
Playhouse Square leaders unveiled a plan for $16 million in streetscape, signage, and lighting improvements. The plan's centerpiece is a 20-foot-tall LED chandelier that will hang over the intersection of Euclid Avenue and East 14th Street. A Plain Dealer editorial called it "a bold and logical next step in the establishment of a vibrant theater district downtown."
The cities of Westlake and Lakewood continue to advance their bicycle planning initiatives. Westlake's draft Citywide Bike Plan (PDF, 10.3 MB) was approved by the Westlake Planning Commission, and identifies potential on-road and off-road routes for a citywide bicycle network. Lakewood is implementing its Bicycle Master Plan (PDF, 4.7 MB), adopted last year, by introducing a Bike Rack for Business Program and making infrastructure improvements. At the regional level, NOACA recently adopted an update to its Regional Bicycle Transportation Plan (PDF, 71.0 MB).
A local developer, a Cleveland CDC, and the Cuyahoga Land Bank collaborated in the low-cost conversion of a neglected house into a loft-style home. They are converting more houses through the Loft Home Rehabilitation Pilot Program (PDF). A Plain Dealer editorial called it "one way to make an impact in blighted neighborhoods."
Two new reports highlight the importance of the Clean Ohio program. An economic analysis conducted by the Trust for Public Land found that that the program returned $4 for every $1 invested in its land conservation portion. A second report by Greater Ohio said that the program's brownfield revitalization portion has "generated substantial direct and indirect economic impacts."
Following the successful installation of a pilot project last year in Ohio City, four additional bike boxes were placed in Cleveland neighborhoods this spring. The converted shipping containers provide safe, sheltered bike parking.
Construction of the new convention center in downtown Cleveland is ahead of schedule and about $10 million under budget. Officials anticipate that work will be completed by June 1. Crain's Cleveland Business published a series of articles about the project.
Update: a June 14 ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned.
The Parma Planning Commission approved plans for Parmatown Mall's new facade and for one of six proposed outbuildings. City Council passed 18 zoning variances for the construction of the outbuildings. The renovated mall will be renamed The Shoppes at Parma.
Cool Cleveland columnist Mansfield Frazier said that land-use decisions in Cleveland's east side neighborhoods haven't benefited their African-American residents, and followed up with an interview with Streetsblog's Angie Schmitt about the equity issues surrounding the planned Opportunity Corridor. The corridor is one of several local projects competing for funding from the new Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission.
30 April 2013
In the question-and-answer portion of his State of the City address, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson responded to a query about immigration by saying, "I believe in taking care of your own." He attracted criticism for Dan Moulthrop and others for his apparent anti-immigrant stance, but Mayor Jackson later issued a statement in which he said that "a Cleveland that 'takes care of its own' will ultimately attract people from all across the globe". At Cool Cleveland, Richey Piiparinen related his first-hand experiences about the power of immigration.
Soon after, members of the local business community expressed support for immigration policy reform at a Greater Cleveland Partnership forum. Some of the panelists discussed the issues on WCPN's Sound of Ideas. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "increased legal immigration may be the best way" to increase the region's economic and political clout, and an Akron Beacon Journal editorial said "it was heartening to see the gathering in Cleveland".
GreenCityBlueLake's Marc Lefkowitz examined the hurdles that the City of Cleveland is facing when implementing its complete streets ordinance, many from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Meanwhile, the City is continuing to develop its complete and green streets typology and design manual, intended to assist with the ordinance's implementation. Smart Growth America recently named its best complete streets policies of 2012, and gave Cleveland's ordinance a grade of C.
The site plan for proposed retail development at West 117th Street and Clifton Boulevard in Cleveland's Edgewater neighborhood shows a suburban-style shopping strip and includes the demolition of the former Fifth Church of Christ Scientist. A neighborhood group is seeking "good urban design promoting a pedestrian-friendly plan well suited for a historic district" and the rehabilitation of the historic church.
Update: the Sun News looked at a previous attempt to redevelop the church.
Plans for skywalks in downtown Cleveland remain controversial. Rock Ohio Caesars may purchase the Higbee Building in an effort to advance its plans to build a skywalk connecting the casino to its parking structure. Meanwhile, Cuyahoga County leaders plan to renovate an existing skywalk that would link the County's new headquarters building to a parking garage. A group of young professionals is urging County Council to demolish the skywalk and the City to reject the casino's plan. They a released video showing the negative impacts of skywalks in Detroit. A Plain Dealer editorial also encouraged County officials to remove the skywalk. The Atlantic Cities looked at the debate, and said that "it seems like a step backward in time."
Update: Rock Ohio Caesars will buy the Higbee Building for $79 million.
Update 2: on appeal, the National Park Service upheld its earlier rejection of the casino skywalk plans.
Two sites in University Circle have the potential to attract luxury residential towers. An unidentified developer is exploring the feasibility of a 28-story, 300-unit tower at Euclid Avenue and Stokes Boulevard. In addition, the Cleveland Institute of Art's Gund Building site could be redeveloped as high-rise residential, although no plans have been presented. Charles Belson, the president of AIA Cleveland, dislikes the idea, saying that it "could be a big step in the wrong direction."
The Cities of Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland will use funds from a mortgage fraud settlement to raze distressed houses and apartments in the North Coventry neighborhood. The properties will remain as greenspace. A Sun News editorial said the effort represents "regional collaboration at its finest".
In this year's County Health Rankings, Cuyahoga County again finished in the bottom third of Ohio's 88 counties, ranking 67th in health outcomes and 45th in health factors. Geauga and Medina counties were again ranked highly. Cuyahoga County health officials are working to improve health issues through the Health Improvement Partnership. Nationally, residents of the unhealthiest counties died at more than twice the rate of those in the healthiest counties. Previous rankings: 2012, 2011, and 2010.
The Cleveland Metroparks recently acquired two wetland properties. A 26-acre site on Engle Road in Middleburg Heights is now part of the Big Creek Reservation, and the 20-acre Heron Rookery wetland along the east branch of the Rocky River in North Royalton is now part of the Mill Stream Run Reservation. Funding for the Middleburg Heights purchase came from a legal settlement, and funding for the North Royalton conservation easement was provided by the WRSSP and NRAC.
The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual population estimates for counties and metropolitan areas. For the period between July 2011 and July 2012, population shifts returned to pre-recession patterns, with the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the South and West, and the slowest-growing in the Northeast and Midwest. The Cleveland metropolitan area was the slowest-growing large metropolitan area in the country, and Cuyahoga County's loss of 4,872 people was the nation's second-largest numeric population decline. However, the 0.38% drop in Cuyahoga County was its smallest annual decline in 15 years. Franklin County's 1.38% growth rate was the fastest in Ohio, and Geauga and Medina counties also gained population.
The proposed Eastside Greenway would connect 14 communities in eastern Cuyahoga County through a network of parks, greenspace, and trails.
18 April 2013
The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy issued the BRT Standard 2013, which was "developed to create a common definition of bus rapid transit and recognize high-quality BRT systems around the world." It certified bus rapid transit corridors as basic, bronze, silver, or gold systems. RTA's HealthLine was the highest-rated line in the United States, and the only American line to receive a silver rating.
Update: participants on WCPN's Sound of Ideas discussed the corridor's impacts.
The Plain Dealer's Steven Litt described how Cleveland is becoming more welcoming to bicyclists and pedestrians, noting that it "echoes a rising national trend inspired by the new popularity of urban living".
At a March 7 auction, Drury Hotels was the high bidder for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District headquarters building in downtown Cleveland. The $4.83 million bid was well below the anticipated $8.5 million price, but the school board voted 5-3 to accept the bid. The new hotel will offer about 180 rooms when it opens in 2015, and is one of a number of proposed downtown hotels. The School District may move its offices into the former Eaton headquarters building on Superior Avenue.
March's City Club forums included talks from Lee Fisher of CEOs for Cities and Joel Ratner of Neighborhood Progress Inc. Lee Fisher spoke about his vision for the future of cities and the forces affecting every city. He also blogged about the importance of civic disrupters. Joel Ratner spoke with the City Club audience about reinvesting in Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the Old Stone Church held its annual Hope for the City speaker series, starting with planner and author Jeff Speck. He talked about his latest book and the economic, environmental, and human health advantages of walkable communities. The series continued with Ann Zoller and Gregory Peckham, Jennifer Coleman, and Anthony Coyne.
The U.S. Census Bureau used American Community Survey data to publish commuting flow information, and reported that Cuyahoga County "has among the highest number of commuters coming from another county in the nation." The Census Bureau also noted that 80.3% of Cuyahoga County workers drove to work alone in 2011, higher than the national average of 76.4%. WNYC used the data to map average commute times, and The Washington Post mapped the commuting patterns.
Slavic Village Recovery, a new private-nonprofit partnership, intends to acquire, renovate, and sell or rent 50 vacant houses in the Cleveland neighborhood in its first year. The partners hope that the project can serve as a model for other neighborhoods.
Local housing news:
- The City of Berea will work with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to demolish three vacant houses.
- Chagrin Falls Village Council approved plans for phase two of the River Walk condominiums on West Orange Street.
- An Ohio City developer plans to rehabilitate the former Jay Hotel as market-rate apartments.
- The City of Highland Heights authorized the construction of 18 additional houses in the Aberdeen development.
- Construction of the Clifton Pointe townhouses in Lakewood is on schedule. The 17-unit first phase sold out, and developer Abode intends to proceed with plans for a five-unit second phase. Lakewood City Council is considering a request for a 10-year tax abatement. Some neighbors have concerns about the project.
- A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge upheld Olmsted Falls' zoning regulations, ruling that the City's refusal to rezone a 54-acre site from industrial to residential did not constitute an illegal taking. The property owner is considering his legal options.
- A New York developer plans to build a 125-unit apartment building for seniors on Huffman Road near Stumph Road in Parma. The Parma Planning Commission approved a rezoning for the property.
- The City of Parma plans to raze nine vacant houses that City Council recently designated as nuisance properties.
- The City of South Euclid and the One South Euclid community development corporation started three programs intended to address distressed housing issues.
- The Strongsville Planning Commission approved plans for 15 single-family houses in the Westwood Farms subdivision.
The Ohio General Assembly passed a two-year transportation budget bill that will allow the Kasich administration to proceed with its plans to issue up to $1.5 billion in bonds backed by Ohio Turnpike revenues. The Senate version of the bill included a provision that requiring that 90% of the bond proceeds be invested within 75 miles of the turnpike, while the House bill did not. The language was retained in a conference committee. A coalition called Ohioans for Transportation Choice urged legislators to increase the state's investment in alternative transportation options, but their proposal was not incorporated into the legislation. Governor Kasich signed the $7.6 billion bill at a ceremony in Warrensville Heights on April 1. The Ohio Turnpike Commission plans to raise tolls by 2.7% per year over the next decade.
A report from the Brookings Institution says that Amtrak ridership grew by 55% between 1997 and 2012, faster than other modes of travel. The report added that nearly all of the growth was on Amtrak's short-distance routes, and that its long-distance routes accounted for 15% of travelers and 43% of operating costs in 2012. Ridership in Greater Cleveland increased by 16.2%, and the two lines that serve Cleveland, the Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore Limited, also experienced ridership growth. However, both lines operated at a loss.
24 March 2013
The Literary Lots program aims to "brings books to life" in four vacant lots in Cleveland, creating summer programming spaces for children. In August, local artists will recreate places, concepts, or adventures from selected children's books. Project partners are raising funds through a Kickstarter campaign that concludes on March 30.
RTA began studying the feasibility of extending the Red Line rail line or HealthLine BRT line beyond the current terminus in East Cleveland. Its board hired AECOM Technical Services to lead a multi-year study on the potential of extending service to Euclid. RTA is also completing plans for its new Little Italy-University Circle Rapid Station.
The Green City Growers greenhouse, the third Evergreen Cooperatives company, celebrated its grand opening on February 25. The 3.25-acre greenhouse in Cleveland's Central neighborhood is the largest urban food production greenhouse in the U.S. It will grow an estimated 3 million heads of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of herbs annually, and its 25 workers are on their way to becoming employee-owners. Stakeholders discussed the company on WCPN's Sound of Ideas.
The shared services/merger study for four east side Cuyahoga County communities may focus more on sharing services than a merger of the communities. Residents from Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere shared their thoughts with project consultants at four public meetings in February.
Local entrepreneurs continue to invest in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood and its Waterloo district. They plan to make the area a destination by opening several businesses in quick succession later this year.
CEOs for Cities looked at the potential for new transit-oriented development in Greater Cleveland, and predicted that in "10-20 years from now Cleveland's rapid transit system will turn some heads while possibly serving as a TOD beacon that helps stabilize the inner city population."
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald gave his third State of the County address on February 19. In addition to highlighting his achievements, he announced that the Medical Mart in Cleveland is now named the Global Center for Health Innovation. He also called on leaders to consider staging a second Great Lakes Exposition in 2016. The speech is online as video, audio (MP3, 53.7 MB), and text (PDF). His slideshow (PPT, 15.3 MB) is also available.
Under new executive director Grace Gallucci, NOACA is developing a regional transportation strategy for the agency's five-county region, and intends to conduct an 18-month inventory of area infrastructure assets and needs. At AMATS, Director Jason Segedy is calling for prioritizing maintenance of the region's existing infrastructure over expansions of highway capacity.
West side Cleveland neighborhoods are developing plans for the area's corridors. The final public meeting for the West 65th Street Corridor Plan was held in February. Its draft recommendations (PDF) call for implementing a road diet, while making streetscape improvements and increasing bicycle and pedestrian accessibility.
Meanwhile, Ohio City Incorporated and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization are leading a streetscape improvement plan for a portion of Lorain Avenue. They're currently conducting a survey. Further west, the Bellaire-Puritas Development Corporation is working to improve Lorain Avenue's streetscape, and will hold a public meeting on April 2.
Five buildings in Cleveland and three historic districts in Cuyahoga County were recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. The new listings include the East Ohio Building, the Globe Machine and Stamping Company on West 76th Street, the Kendel Building at 210 Prospect Avenue, the former Record Rendezvous building at 300 Prospect Avenue, and the Herold Building at 310 Prospect Avenue. The new historic districts are the Baldwin-Wallace College North Campus Historic District in Berea, the John Carroll University North Quad Historic District in University Heights, and the West 25th Street-Detroit Avenue Historic District in Ohio City.
HUD reached a new nine-month agreement with the Cuyahoga Land Bank, and will continue to sell low-value houses to the Land Bank for $100. Late last year, HUD announced it would end the program, but Sherrod Brown helped facilitate its extension. Christopher Evans of The Plain Dealer visited a distressed HUD-owned house in Cleveland to highlight the importance of the partnership.
The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals operate adjacent facilities near East 185th Street and Lake Shore Boulevard in Euclid. Some Cleveland leaders asked University Hospitals to sell its Euclid Heath Center to the Clinic, which operates the landlocked Euclid Hospital. University Hospitals does not intend to sell its property, and plans to replace its existing facility with a new medical office building.
Update: construction of the new University Hospitals building is scheduled to begin in June.
LEEDCo received the first installment of a $4 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, and has one year to develop detailed plans for its Lake Erie wind farm in Cleveland. The project is in competition with six other projects for up to $46 million in federal funding. Fresh Water interviewed Dave Karpinski, LEEDCo's vice president of operations.
A report from the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University examined the mobility of young and middle-age adults in Greater Cleveland. It concluded that the young adult population has grown in Cleveland's inner core, some second-tier neighborhoods in Cleveland, and in certain inner-ring suburbs. The Plain Dealer used the research as the basis of a January article, and the paper's Brent Larkin discussed it in the context of population decline.
27 February 2013
At its February 14 meeting, the Cleveland Landmarks Commission approved the demolition of the former Euclid Avenue Church of God at East 86th Street. The Commission had rejected earlier requests in 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, the City of Cleveland is pursuing redevelopment plans at West 117th Street and Clifton Avenue that include the demolition of the former Fifth Church of Christ Scientist.
Update: the Cleveland Restoration Society's Perspectives newsletter includes an update on the Fifth Church of Christ Scientist.
Update 2: Fresh Water said that the Fifth Church of Christ Scientist likely will be demolished.