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December 2007 Archives

Brian Reilly, Cleveland's Director of Economic Development, resigned today. He had been director since March 2006, and the City says he is leaving to "pursue other opportunities". Assistant Director Belinda Pesti will serve as interim director.

The Ohio Department of Development gave 11 more awards through the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program, including six in Cleveland. The largest tax credit in Cleveland, valued at an estimated $1.4 million, went to the Scott A. Rogers Co. Building, part of the University Lofts development near Cleveland State University. The Capitol Theater in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood received a tax credit worth an estimated $1.1 million.

Steven Litt of the Plain Dealer recaps Northeast Ohio's top art and architecture stories of 2007.

On Friday, Governor Strickland signed an executive order that extends the E-Check program in Greater Cleveland through June 30.

The Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District is giving free trees to residents along streams in the Rocky River watershed. The Rocky River Backyard Buffers Program, which was funded by an Ohio Lake Erie Commission grant, is intended to restore riparian buffers on private property.

Attorney Pam Hanover, the City of Solon's bond counsel, provided advice to City Council's Finance Committee about preparing for the proposed mixed-use developments and a possible TIF.

Designers are planning a 3,500 seat baseball stadium in Avon, part of a recreation complex funded by an income tax that voters approved last month. Mayor Smith says that negotiations with the Frontier League are nearly finished and a team should begin play in 2009.

Kent State University and the Chagrin River Watershed Partners will prepare a land use plan for Auburn Township in Geauga County. The plan will focus on the Auburn Corners area, and a public meeting will be held on January 17.

A press release from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority says that the Port's planned move to an East 55th Street site should result in "expanded maritime capacity, a dynamic and accessible waterfront, and the potential redevelopment of more than 500 acres of underutilized inner-city land".

Yesterday, Avon City Council approved a tax increment financing package for the area along Chester Road between Center and Nagel Roads. Revenues from the 30-year TIF will be used to pay for roughly ⅓ of the planned Nagel Road interchange. Another third will be funded by municipal bonds, and the final third by the Jacobs Group.

The newly formed Tri-City Joint Recreation District will not have a tax levy on the March ballot because the board has not yet held a meeting. Its first meeting will be held on January 14.

The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail continued to grow in 2007. To date, 78 of the trail's planned 101 miles have been built.

Tuesday's Plain Dealer pointed out air quality concerns about the I-90 interchange at Nagel Road in Avon that was approved in October. Greater Cleveland must reduce air pollution to meet federal standards, and some are concerned that continued urban sprawl will create more problems.

The Wolstein Sports and Entertainment Group is still interested in building a soccer stadium in Macedonia, which may be possible without a Summit County sin tax. The company is also looking at sites in other counties.

The K&D Group's plans for renovating the former Atrium Office Plaza on lower Euclid Avenue include the demolition of the adjacent former Continental Savings headquarters building.

Although it's too early to judge the full impact of Steelyard Commons, the shopping center appears to be having a successful first holiday season.

The Akron Beacon Journal looked at the status of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact in Ohio. Obtaining approval for the Compact from the Ohio Legislature is expected to be a priority for Governor Strickland in 2008. State Rep. Matt Dolan of Novelty will discuss the Compact on January 8 at a quarterly meeting of the Northeast Ohio Watershed Council.

The Plain Dealer's Becky Gaylord examined the Genesee County Land Bank in Michigan and how a similar land bank proposed for Cuyahoga County could help Cleveland.

A Stark County Common Pleas Judge ruled that the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Joint Solid Waste Management District can ban landfills in their District from accepting trash from Cuyahoga and Summit Counties if they recycle less than the counties in the District, but postponed implementation of the rule from January 1 until June 1, 2009. The National Solid Wastes Management Association is considering an appeal.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said that the stalled West Shoreway redesign is one of his highest priorities. Construction has been delayed by several problems, including rising price estimates and a controversy about the design of its western end.

Update: Saturday's Plain Dealer has more details.

This morning, the board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority unanimously designated a site in Lake Erie north of East 55th Street as the port's future home. Creation of the proposed 200 acre peninsula cannot proceed without approval from the City of Cleveland. Neighbors of the proposed site were not pleased by the announcement.

Because the Innerbelt Bridge is deteriorating faster than anticipated, the Ohio Department of Transportation has revised its construction plans. Instead of building a parallel bridge and then repairing the existing bridge, ODOT officials want to reverse the order. Rehabilitation of the bridge is scheduled to begin in March 2010.

Solon City Council did not select one of the two competing mixed-use development proposals, which means a rezoning issue will not appear on the March ballot. Gross Builders reportedly may withdraw from a partnership with Stark Enterprises. However, City Council did approve a rezoning issue for the proposed senior housing development near Hawthorne Valley Country Club.

The City of South Euclid may create a mixed-use district in the Mayfield-Green commercial area. City Council's Planning and Zoning Committee will discuss the proposal at its January 28 meeting.

South Euclid's Notre Dame College is adding new buildings. Construction of a new residence hall will start in February or March, and President Andrew Roth envisions additional construction.

Bay Village City Council delayed voting on a riparian protection ordinance until March. The proposed legislation covers properties located within 75 feet of a creek or those within the 100 year flood plain, whichever is larger.

A 25,600 square foot medical office building is planned for a 12.4 acre site on Engle Road in Middleburg Heights. Construction is scheduled to begin in February.

The City of Shaker Heights will purchase and demolish six vacant houses in 2008. The properties will be added to the City's land bank.

Last month, John Carroll University held three neighborhood meetings about the campus master plan at the homes of nearby residents. University officials expect the plan to be finalized in spring 2008.

The Bentleyville Planning and Zoning Commission approved a preliminary site plan for the 14 home Wharton Woods development off of Holbrook Road.

The Cleveland Foundation awarded $21.2 million in grants, including $3.6 million to Case Western Reserve University for the Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation, $4 million to the Fund for Our Economic Future, $525,000 to ShoreBank Enterprise Group Cleveland, and $750,000 to the Great Lakes Theater Festival for the Hanna Theatre renovations.

The redevelopment of downtown Cleveland's East 4th Street was the subject of a talk at the City Club yesterday. The speakers were Deb Janik of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Mary Lessick of The Corner Alley, and Ari Maron of MRN Ltd.

Update: the discussion is now available as a podcast (MP3, 26.7 MB).

Construction of the Crocker-Stearns connector in North Olmsted and Westlake is stopping for the winter.

Fairhill Center and Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation announced that they have raised enough money to begin work on building a 29-unit Kinship Village in six buildings at Fairhill Center's campus. It's expected to open in 2010.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that the program makes sense.

Dennis Roche and Tamera Brown of Positively Cleveland were guests on Tuesday's Sound of Ideas on WCPN, where they discussed Cleveland's planned new convention center and Medical Mart.

On Friday, the NOACA Governing Board approved a strategy (PDF) to help Greater Cleveland comply with federal fine particle pollution standards. The recommendations will be forwarded to the Ohio EPA, which must submit a soot compliance plan by April 2008. If the area does not meet the standards by April 2010, it could lose federal transportation funds and face restrictions on business expansions.

Editorials in the Blade and the Plain Dealer are critical of Judge Eugene Lucci's decision in the Lake Erie property lines case. The Plain Dealer says that it was "a faulty ruling" that "essentially transfers the public trust in managing Lake Erie's shore", while the Blade says the decision "gives unwarranted life to the elitist claim of lakefront property owners that they can prohibit what an age-old line of legal reasoning has established - the right to walk along Great Lakes shores in front of private homes."

(via Great Lakes Blogger)

Update: an editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal agrees with the other papers, saying that the ruling lacked the "necessary legal precedent."

NOACA board members continue to discuss the weighted voting provision. Officials from Lorain and Medina Counties remain opposed to retaining the weighted vote.

A Plain Dealer editorial praises the Greater University Circle Initiative's homebuyer assistance program, concluding, "When local employers help workers put down roots and revitalize neighborhoods, that helps all of Greater Cleveland."

The Shaker Boulevard median trail in Shaker Heights was officially completed on Friday.

Plans for a ferry between Cleveland and Port Stanley, Ontario remain on the drawing board, despite several years of planning and nearly $1 million spent. Officials with the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority attribute the slow progress to complications on the Canadian side.

The LaSalle Theater on East 185th Street in Cleveland was recently acquired by its lender in a foreclosure sale. The Northeast Shores Development Corporation is seeking ideas from the public for the best use of the building's former theater space.

Cuyahoga County officials expect to receive as many as five bids on the Cleveland Trust Tower by their January 16 deadline. The County has spent $5.9 million on asbestos removal and architectural design for the tower.

Solon City Council may select one of the two competing proposals for major mixed-use developments on Monday. Residents appear to be split on the proposals. The Coral Co. offered to donate land for enlarging a detention basin near North Huntington Drive if the City selects its proposed Central Parc development. Residents of the Solon Park Apartments who would be displaced by the Stark development continue to try to save their homes.

Medina County's NOACA representative does not support the agency's proposed fine particle pollution control recommendations.

The City of Cleveland will extended West 122nd Street to Berea Road in order to provide a route for truck traffic to the Elmwood Avenue industrial area. Their old route was closed due to the construction of Target and Giant Eagle stores on West 117th Street.

Updates on proposed residential developments:

The Cleveland Heights Planning Commission delayed voting on proposed design guidelines for the planned Top of the Hill mixed-use development because some members want to see more detailed guidelines.

South Euclid residents opposed to a recently enacted exterior point-of-sale home inspection ordinance are circulating referendum petitions, and hope to see an issue on the November 2008 ballot.

A team led by CSU professor Robert Simons recently completed a strategic industrial retention analysis for Bedford Heights. It says that the City should promote economic development incentives to attract and retain businesses.

Developers of the proposed retail center at Granger Road and Tuxedo Avenue collected enough signatures for a liquor referendum and are preparing to file the petitions with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. If the Board of Elections approves the petitions, the issue will appear on the March 4 ballot in Brooklyn Heights.

A senior housing issue will not appear on the March ballot in Independence. Although the City had planned on the March vote, Mayor-elect Kurtz said that the City was not yet ready to go to voters.

The conversion of a Bunts Road duplex to a single-family house has been completed. The property is being marketed for sale at $185,000. Lakewood officials hope that this pilot project will be replicated at other duplexes in the City.

The Ohio Senate approved extending the E-Check program in Greater Cleveland through a rider attached to an unrelated bill. Governor Strickland vetoed changes to E-Check in a June budget bill, and the program was set to expire at the end of the year. The bill will go back to the House for a concurrence vote before heading to the governor.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial calls E-Check "a fraud".

While Bedford officials consider the cleanup of the former Brush Wellman site a success, the City has two other brownfield sites in need of remediation.

Yesterday, the Ohio House passed House Bill 138, which would require county sheriffs to promptly file deeds after foreclosure sales. The bill is intended to eliminate the practice of postponing legal responsibility for a foreclosed property by delaying the deed filing.

A combination of several factors have put the City of Cleveland near its debt ceiling, which could prevent the City from borrowing additional money and impact major planned projects. Mayor Jackson proposed allowing early discounted repayments of UDAG loans, an idea that has been controversial in the past.

A Lake County Common Pleas judge ruled yesterday (PDF) that lakefront property along Lake Erie extends to the water's edge, a partial victory for a lakefront landowners group. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources had argued that property rights ended at the lake's historic high water mark, while the landowners argued that their rights extended to the historic low water mark, now about a foot underwater.

Yesterday, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's maritime committee unanimously recommended moving the Port's facilities to a new 200 acre site north of East 55th Street in Cleveland. The Port's Board of Directors is scheduled to discuss the proposal on December 21.

The Aurora Planning Commission has been categorizing the recommendations identified in the City's draft master plan, and will prioritize them at its next meeting. Streetsboro officials are not satisfied with proposals from consultants to prepare a new master plan, and may issue a new RFP.

The Plain Dealer is presenting a special series this week, in conjunction with WCPN, on Cleveland's Mount Pleasant neighborhood. The series tells stories about the area's history, residents, problems, and potential solutions.

Beavers have recently made a home at Whiskey Island near downtown Cleveland, a sign that environmental restoration efforts are showing progress.

Major University Circle employers cooperating (MP3) through the Greater University Circle Initiative will offer $5 million in grants and forgivable loans over the next five years to employees who purchase, rent, or renovate homes in University Circle and its surrounding neighborhoods. The program is an expansion of Case's Employer Assisted Housing Program.

The Gund Foundation awarded $6.5 million in grants, including $1.2 million to the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization for the Gordon Square Arts District and $1 million to University Circle Incorporated for the Bring Back Euclid Avenue campaign. The Foundation also gave $300,000 to Shorebank Enterprise Group Cleveland and $70,000 to Entrepreneurs for Sustainability.

Work will begin next summer in restoring a 10 acre site at the confluence of West Creek and the Cuyahoga River in Independence. The City of Independence and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are also planning Hemlock Trail, a 1.5 to 1.7 mile long multi-purpose trail through Independence and Valley View that would connect the Towpath Trail to Brecksville Road.

Developer Bob Stark's ambitious plans for a $1.5 billion Warehouse District development will require significant public investment, and he wants to explore non-traditional public financing options. The Plain Dealer's Steven Litt says that Stark's big idea "ought to get a full and fair hearing". Mayor Jackson likes the development proposal, and is keeping an open mind about Stark's financing ideas.

At a public hearing on Monday, Solon residents shared their thoughts about the two proposed mixed-use developments. Developer Bob Stark says that respondents to a phone survey prefer his project. Solon City Council is expected to move their deadline for selecting one of the projects from December to January, which means that a rezoning issue would appear on the November ballot instead of the March ballot.

The Treadway Creek Trail in Old Brooklyn recently opened to the public. It links Harmody Park to the Towpath Trail, and will be formally opened in the spring.

South Euclid officials intend to focus on greenspace issues next year. They plan to adopt a greenspace plan, update the City's master plan, hire a consultant, and investigate the best uses for several undeveloped City-owned properties.

At a press conference today, officials from Merchandise Mart Properties said that they have narrowed their list of potential Medical Mart sites from 13 to three: a downtown location, a site in Midtown, and one near University Circle. Local leaders prefer a downtown location for the Medical Mart and convention center. The Greater Cleveland Partnership posted the slides from the press conference.

Update: the GCP also provided audio of the event.

This month's issue of Inside Business looks at the revival of East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland.

The Cleveland Clinic submitted plans for the Cleveland Clinic Twinsburg Medical Campus, which will be reviewed by the Twinsburg Planning Commission on December 17. Plans for the first phase show a four story, 144,000 square foot building on 38 acres. Construction is expected to begin in 2008 and end in 2009.

Cleveland Chief of Regional Development Chris Warren presented Mayor Jackson's regional economic development platform. Speaking before a City Club audience, he said that the keys to a strong region are a supporting a strong central city, helping cities cooperate for economic growth, making certain not to overlook individual talents, and protecting the environment. Channel 3 has video of the event.

Update: the City Club posted a podcast of the talk (MP3, 24.2 MB).

On Monday, an Ohio appeals court upheld Lima's residency requirements. Frank Jackson praised the decision, which affects 17 counties in western and northwest Ohio. The state is expected to appeal the ruling (PDF), and most predict that the issue will eventually be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial supports the decision.

A new report from the Brookings Institution on walkable urban places ranked Greater Cleveland 29th of the 30 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Washington, D.C. was ranked first. Under the survey's criteria, University Circle was the only walkable place in Cleveland.

Update: the Plain Dealer provides additional analysis.

The Fund for Our Economic Future will provide $2.1 million to Team NEO over the next two years. The grant will cover about a third of Team NEO's budget in 2008 and 2009.

This week, the Columbus Dispatch is running a special report that explores the problems facing Ohio's major cities, including a lack of support from the state legislature. The series also takes a closer look at individual cities, including an examination of Cleveland's challenges and assets.

Planning for the seven city southwest Cuyahoga County Fire Services Efficiency Project continues to move forward, but the high level of complexity means that a plan will not be ready as soon as some had hoped.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners intend to sell the 106 acre MetroHealth Center for Skilled Nursing Care site in Highland Hills to Cuyahoga Community College. The Commissioners had hired a real estate broker to market the property after rejecting a $11 million offer from Tri-C last year.

The Plain Dealer reports that the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority narrowed its list of potential relocation sites to two: a man-made island north of Whiskey Island and a man-made site north of East 55th Street, and they appear to favor the East 55th Street site.

The Cuyahoga County Soil and Water Conservation District will hold public meetings today and tomorrow to discuss the results of recently completed environmental assessments of Dike 14 in Cleveland.

The Northeast Ohio network of the United Nations Global Compact held an introductory meeting last week at Case Western Reserve University to bring together "the leaders of the NEO region with other corporate leaders from N. America in order to solidify sustainability as the region's core strategy."

The K&D Group has filed for $1.1 million in loans from Cuyahoga County for the redevelopment of the 668 Euclid building in downtown Cleveland, which also recently received $16.4 million in state tax credits. The company does not yet own the building, but the sale could close in January. They want to redevelop the vacant structure as 47,000 square feet of retail and 215 apartments.

In March, Maple Heights voters will be asked to approve a tax issue to raise $53.5 million for the proposed school construction project, which calls for replacing the high school, the middle school, and three elementary school buildings. A pair of public meetings will be held this week.

Plans for the development of the 917 acre Cleveland Quarries site in South Amherst will be unveiled on December 18. The plans will focus more heavily on residential development than on commercial development, and are more modest than the dropped proposal from Trans European Securities.

The City of Solon has begun developing a long-term stormwater management plan. The City's director of public works says that the process is "going to take a long time."

Positively Cleveland published Characteristics of a Successful Convention Center (PDF), a compilation of "the most current information on the elements of successful centers." It includes suggestions about hotel space, siting, size and expandability, and green building.

As Solon's December 17 deadline approaches for selecting one of the two competing proposals for mixed-use developments, one council member feels that the process is moving too quickly. A traffic study showed that both plans will require significant road improvements (corrections), including a possible redesign of the Route 422 interchange (though it may not be necessary) and a potential widening of Aurora Road (though City officials say they have no plans to do so). Preliminary results of a stormwater analysis show that either development would require $5 million to $8.5 million in sanitary sewer improvements. Legislation was introduced in City Council to create a mixed-use zoning classification.

Peter Rubin revealed more details about his proposed Central Parc development, which could include a 22.8 acre property on Solon Road currently owned by University Hospitals. He also plans to buy and renovate Solar Shopping Center. Meanwhile, the Solon Board of Education is concerned that a TIF package for either development could harm the district's finances, and the City's finance director said that the income tax projections for both projects are overstated.

Construction of the Lake to Lake Trail in Middleburg Heights has begun, and it should be finished in November 2008. The Cleveland Metroparks project will connect Lake Isaac and Lake Abram. In Brooklyn Heights, the Eagle Glen Connector Bridge in the Village Park was installed. It eventually will be part of a trail linking Brooklyn Heights to the Towpath Trail. In Seven Hills, a new mile-long trail behind City Hall opened to the public.

At a public meeting late last month, residents provided input and ideas in the planning process for the Lower Big Creek Valley Greenway Redevelopment & Restoration Plan.

The West Creek Preservation Committee recently purchased five acres of forested land off of Parkhaven Drive in Parma. The area will be leased to the Cleveland Metroparks and used to expand the West Creek Reservation.

Demolition of the partially-built Cornerstone project at Pearl Road and West 130th Street is underway. Work should be completed in 30 to 40 days. Parma Heights City Council approved the preliminary development plan for Greenbriar Crossing, which will be built on the site, and the City's Planning Commission will review the final development plan this week.

Commercial to residential rezoning issues for portions of three properties on Cherry Hill Lane will appear on the March ballot in Broadview Heights.

In response to feedback from Village Council and residents, developers revised the plans for the proposed retail and office project at Granger Road and Tuxedo Avenue in Brooklyn Heights.

A rezoning issue for a 3.5 acre undeveloped property on Mastick Road may appear on the March ballot in Fairview Park. If City Council approves the measure, residents will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed residential to office rezoning.

Last week, South Euclid City Council unanimously voted to institute exterior point-of-sale home inspections. Residents opposed to the inspections hope to challenge the ordinance via referendum.

University Heights officials say that John Carroll University's decision to rent houses it owns solely to students is not consistent with the properties' current residential zoning.

The City of Brooklyn created a new part-time position for an economic development director. In Streetsboro, Planning Director Linda Kovacs will have to step down because she does not meet new job qualifications recently approved by voters in a charter amendment.

Last week, WCPN examined regionalism and spoke with local leaders, took a look at Louisville's model, and recapped Thursday's episode of Ideas. The station also had outgoing Mayors Michael Ciaravino of Maple Heights and Judy Rawson of Shaker Heights as guests on The Sound of Ideas, where among other topics, they spoke out against business poaching and tax abatement.

Another Sound of Ideas show earlier in the week was devoted to a discussion of the Brookings Institution's new Blueprint for American Prosperity, with guests Bruce Katz, Ed Morrison, and Mark Rosentraub.

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