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March 2008 Archives

The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin says that the planned Opportunity Corridor through Cleveland is the most important highway project in Greater Cleveland, and that the project's champions need to make it clear to state officials that further delays are not acceptable.

A new house in the Ludlow neighborhood of Shaker Heights may become the first in the state and the 25th residential development in the nation to obtain LEED Gold status. The 1,754 square foot, three bedroom home is named the Dandelion House.

The Plain Dealer took a brief look at the history of the Sidaway Bridge in Cleveland.

Budget shortfalls have delayed the planned renovation of League Park by one year. Ken Silliman, Mayor Jackson's chief of staff, said that "It's every bit of a project as it was last summer. It's just set back a little in time."

The Plain Dealer began a series on water issues with a piece on the Great Lakes and water diversions.

The Cleveland Museum of Art is almost halfway through its construction project, and the first renovated portions will reopen to the public on June 29. The reopened galleries are on the second floor of the museum's 1916 building. The first floor is scheduled to reopen a year later.

In order to make the Cleveland Trust Tower more attractive to prospective developers, Cuyahoga County will invest up to $4 million in additional asbestos abatement.

The Akron Beacon Journal examined the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's aspirations to begin handling containerized cargo. It notes that "Cleveland and Toledo are uniquely positioned to be spokes on such a hub system because they are as far as a ship can get into the United States without beginning a time-consuming loop up and around the Michigan peninsula to reach other Great Lakes ports."

The Tudor Arms in University Circle and Strongsville's Old Town Hall were recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Cleveland City Planning Commission viewed revised plans for the enlarged Flats east bank development. Office space in the project has roughly doubled to 975,000 square feet, and the number of residential units has increased from 300 to about 430.

Yesterday, Google Maps added Street View coverage for much of Cuyahoga County and a portion of Medina County. The feature offers 360° panoramic views of streetfronts across the County.

The City of Maple Heights is dropping out of the regional Northeast Ohio Sourcing Office. It's the first government entity to leave the group, which was co-founded by former Mayor Michael Ciaravino.

Work on the West Creek Confluence Project in Independence is scheduled to begin this summer, and the restoration of the site should be completed by 2010. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is also involved in several related projects in Parma and Brooklyn Heights.

Brooklyn officials will lobby federal lawmakers with the hope of securing funding for a proposed $15 million replacement of the I-480 interchange at Tiedeman Road.

The City of Solon and the Coral Co. are negotiating a development agreement for the proposed Central Parc mixed-use development. Issues include control over tenants, construction of a new road, lower-density buffer areas, greenspace requirements, and control of the property.

Visconsi Companies has begun site preparation for the Plaza at Southpark, a retail development on 53 acres on Royalton Road near I-71 in Strongsville. The company would not comment on the project, but City officials say it will be anchored by a Costco.

This week's Twinsburg Sun asks many questions about Twinsburg Fashion Place, the proposed lifestyle center in Twinsburg and Twinsburg Township. Representatives of the developer will appear at the Twinsburg Township Zoning Commission meeting on Monday.

The last tenants in the South Euclid side of Cedar Center will leave by the end of May, and demolition might begin in June or July. The shopping center will be replaced with a 240,000 square foot mixed-use district with retail, office, residential, and civic space.

The Cleveland Clinic must revise its plans for a Twinsburg medical campus because of a technical error in the plans.

A group of Highland Heights residents formed Love Our Green Space and are working to protect City-owned parkland. They are collecting signatures for a referendum issue that would prohibit resource extraction or development in parks.

A report by the City of Westlake's Economic Development Department says that tax abatements have led to the creation of 746 jobs and the retention of another 367 jobs over the last nine years.

Chagrin Falls Village Council voted to change the Board of Zoning Appeals from a decision-making body to an advisory one. In Chester, the Township Trustees voted to create a five-member architectural review board.

With the Great Lakes Theater Festival poised to move to the Hanna Theatre when renovations are complete, the Plain Dealer looks back at the history of its current home, the Ohio Theatre.

The Ohio Department of Transportation announced that the already-delayed West Shoreway reconstruction project has been pushed back even further, and that construction will not begin before 2013. The latest delay is intended to avoid simultaneous construction on the West Shoreway and the Innerbelt Bridge.

This week's Free Times looks at the rise of the local food movement in Greater Cleveland, using the City Fresh program and the new LEAF initiative in Lakewood as examples.

The Brookings Institution published The Vital Connection, an update to The Vital Center, their 2006 report about the Great Lakes. The new report includes an analysis of the region's economy and "offers a short set of ambitious, necessary, and doable recommendations for how U.S. and Canadian leadership can help strengthen the bi-national economic relationship in the Great Lakes region".

The City of Avon has seen a great deal of recent retail development, and more stores are planned or under construction. Additional requests for retail rezonings (PDF) have prompted some observers to ask if the area is at a saturation point.

Parks across Northeast Ohio reported attendance increases last year, a statistic that runs counter to national trends of decreasing interest in outdoor activities.

Team NEO's shift from business retention to business attraction efforts has been very successful. The organization exceeded its goals last year by helping to land 10 projects and $46 million in new payroll.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that the organization "now appears to be on track to make a difference in the quest" to lure "jobs, business growth and investment from outside the region".

The City of Strongsville purchased an undeveloped 25 acre site on Lunn Road. The land is zoned for industrial development, and while the City plans to use it for recreation purposes, officials hope that it will eventually be developed.

The City of Parma will study the concept of creating a Ukrainian Village along State Road between Brookpark Road and Grantwood Avenue.

Channel 8 reports that the Westgate redevelopment in Fairview Park and Rocky River is nearly complete.

Steven Litt says that the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's planned move "is the kind of big, farsighted planning initiative that could dramatically change the city's future for the better." The Port Authority has begun planning for an international trade district surrounding the new port facilites, and the move also creates the opportunity for redeveloping the Port's existing facilities. He warns, however, that "an Oklahoma-style land rush on the lakefront could bleed the core business district of vital energy". The Port Authority launched a new website with information about the plans.

In a talk at the City Club on Friday, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones spoke about the reopening of bids for the purchase of the County-owned Ameritrust complex and about the recent Medical Mart agreement. He revealed that the Commissioners are considering a third potential location for the Medical Mart and convention center, a lakefront site west of Cleveland Browns Stadium. Download the speech (MP3, 55.3 MB).

Local economic development experts are upbeat about the recent Medical Mart agreement.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that the agreement looks promising.

Yesterday, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners awarded $40 million in contracts for the construction of the new juvenile justice center at East 93rd Street and Quincy Avenue in Cleveland. More contracts will be awarded this spring.

A proposal prepared by neighbors of John Carroll University says that when the University purchases houses near its campus, it creates a loss of municipal income tax revenue. Meanwhile, a study done for the University by CSU's Center for Economic Development says that JCU had a $115.8 million economic impact on Greater Cleveland over a recent one-year period.

By a vote of 5-2, Olmsted Falls City Council overrode the Architectural Board of Review's decision and approved the demolition of a bungalow in the City's historic district.

Some Solon leaders want to amend the referendum zoning section of the city charter. Rezonings currently need to obtain voter approval both citywide and in the site's ward. The proposal calls for eliminating the ward approval requirement. While this month's vote on a senior housing proposal passed citywide, the issue failed because a majority of Ward 5 residents voted against it.

Two rezoning requests are making their way through the approval process in Broadview Heights. Both properties are near the I-77 interchange at Route 82, and would be rezoned to general commercial, which would permit retail development.

Garfield Heights City Council approved the use of eminent domain for 20 parcels needed for the Bridgeview Crossing shopping center.

Six new single family houses for seniors are under construction at the Jennings Center for Older Adults in Garfield Heights. In Maple Heights, a developer has expressed interest in building apartments for seniors on a three acre site near St. Andrew Eastern Orthodox Church.

12 townhouses have been proposed for a 2.2 acre site across from Bay Middle School. The area is zoned for single-family houses, and a zoning change would require voter approval.

Construction of a 59,000 square foot addition to the Pearl Road Wal-Mart in Strongsville is expected to start this spring. When the expansion is complete, the store will become a supercenter.

Mayfield Heights City Council approved the expansion plans for Hillcrest Hospital, but tabled a decision on the proposed peace palace on Lander Road. Construction of the $162 million hospital expansion is scheduled to begin in early May.

Moreland Hills City Council has begun discussing the water main maintenance and no poaching proposal offered by the City of Cleveland.

Four Solon city councilmen will travel to Las Vegas in May to promote the City at the annual International Council of Shopping Centers convention.

The City of North Royalton received another one year extension to meet the job creation requirements of a 1998 CDBG grant that was used for the expansion of York Road industrial park.

The U.S. Census Bureau's annual release of county population estimates shows that Cuyahoga County continued to lose population to its surrounding counties and to other states. Between July 2006 and July 2007, the county lost 13,304 people (about 1% of its population). Between 2000 and 2007, it lost 96,213 people (6.9% of its total), the biggest drop in the country. Ohio led the nation with seven of the 34 counties with the largest population declines.

A memorandum of understanding between Cuyahoga County and Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. calls for the County to pay MMPI $103 million over 20 years to manage the planned new Cleveland convention center. The company could earn more if it meets performance standards. Cuyahoga County plans to sell the naming rights for the facility, and will retain all proceeds of the sale.

Update: the County Commissioners approved the MOU this morning.

RTA plans to implement a proof of payment (PDF) fare collection process on the Red Line and HeathLine routes later this year, and will hold public hearings about the proposal on March 25 and 26.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that air quality concerns in the neighborhoods surrounding the ArcelorMittal steel mill are "too big of a public health issue to ignore," and that the U.S. EPA, the Ohio EPA, and the City of Cleveland have a duty to investigate.

Environmental cleanup of the Cleveland Pneumatic brownfield site in Slavic Village has been completed, and the Ohio EPA issued a covenant not to sue. The property will be redeveloped for light industrial use and as athletic fields for South High School.

Forest City Enterprises proposed housing the Medical Mart in the Higbee Building and connecting it to a new riverfront convention center built on air rights purchased from the company. The Plain Dealer compared the advantages and disadvantages of the riverfront and mall sites.

Plans for the Twinsburg Fashion Place lifestyle center were unveiled yesterday. The proposed $100 million retail development would sit on 95 acres in Twinsburg and Twinsburg Township. Developers asserted that the project could create 1,200 jobs.

Update: the Plain Dealer gathered reactions to the announcement.

This week's Free Times recounts the saga of the recently-released CDC study about health risks in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, and takes a closer look at the sites in Northeast Ohio.

With the appointments to the Streetsboro Master Plan Commission nearly complete, the City is expected to soon issue an RFP for the preparation of a new master plan. Streetsboro voters approved the Commission's creation in November.

Earlier this month, New York became the fourth state to join the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. The Council of Great Lakes Governors maintains a page tracking the compact's implementation status.

At its Friday meeting, the NOACA Governing Board adopted a new Regional Bicycle Transportation Plan (PDF). It is an update to a 1997 plan, and will be incorporated into the agency's long range transportation plan.

The Ohio Department of Transportation intends to have more ITS elements installed along Greater Cleveland highways by summer 2010. The improvements include webcams, electronic signage, and advisory radio stations.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the public needs more information about last week's Medical Mart agreement. Bill Callahan also has questions.

The U.S. EPA weakened its new ozone standards after a last-minute intervention by President Bush. The agency also predicted that Geauga County will be one of only 28 counties in the nation that will fail to meet the new rules by 2020. Meanwhile, a Plain Dealer editorial says the limits will cause economic hardship in Ohio.

Update: local Republican politicians ridiculed the EPA report about Geauga County.

Cuyahoga County and Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. reached a tentative agreement to develop a Medical Mart in Cleveland. Full details were not revealed, but MMPI will contribute $20 million and operate the Medical Mart and new convention center. The complex should open in about three years.

The Medical Mart and convention center will be located in downtown Cleveland, and the County Commissioners will select a location in a month or two. The existing Convention Center and Tower City Center are considered the front-runners. The Greater Cleveland Partnership will hire a convention center expert to assist with site selection. Steven Litt says that the process should have public input and oversight.

Nine more properties in Cleveland received awards through the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. Locally, the largest credits went to the Higbee Building ($7.8 million), the Cleveland Institute of Art's McCullough Center ($5.7 million), the Hanna Building ($4.6 million), and the Union Gospel Press building ($4.4 million). It was the third and final announcement in round one of the awards. MyHometownOhio reports that there will not be a second round because the program reached its $120 million limit. The Plain Dealer listed the status of all local applicants.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved names for five tributaries of Euclid Creek yesterday: Claribel Creek, Redstone Run, Stevenson Brook, Verbsky Creek, and the East Branch of Euclid Creek.

The City of Solon may pay for portions of a proposed new four lane road that would connect the proposed Central Parc development to Route 422. Developer Peter Rubin of the Coral Co. is also scheduled to address the Solon School Board on Monday about tax increment financing for the development. Meanwhile, Solon City Council is examining a proposal to create a low-density multifamily zoning district on the south side of Bainbridge Road.

The City of Cleveland Heights intends to start searching for a developer for the Top of the Hill site within 40 to 60 days. The City's Planning Commission approved development guidelines (PDF) for the area in January.

Three neighborhood associations want to see leadership changes at the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation. Their actions stem from the recent firing of OBCDC's code enforcement manager.

A group of Solon residents opposed to the Southwoods subdivision filed a request for a temporary restraining order to halt the development.

Now that Brooklyn Heights voters have approved a liquor law, the Krone Group will begin preparing site plans for its proposed retail development on Granger Road.

Cuyahoga County Airport officials have been holding public meetings and making presentations (PDF) to city councils about the latest runway extension plan for the airport. Additional community meetings will be held over the next several months.

TransCon Builders is considering legal action against the City of Solon after losing a rezoning issue last week. The company hoped to build senior cluster homes on 62 acres of a site between Hawthorne Valley Country Club and the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation.

Representatives of the Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium met with Cleveland Magazine staff to discuss their concerns about the magazine's annual rating of Cleveland suburbs. Inner-ring suburban officials feel that the rankings unfairly favor exurban communities.

At the third and final public workshop last month, consultants for Shaker Heights presented a preferred redevelopment alternative for the 60 acre Warrensville-Van Aken commercial district. The plans (PDF) call for turning the six-way intersection into a four-way intersection, rebuilding the area as a mixed-use district, and relocating the intermodal transit center to a site south of Chagrin Boulevard.

Yesterday, the U.S. EPA announced that federal ozone limits will be tightened from the 1997 standard of 84 parts per billion to 75 parts per billion. The EPA's advisory council had recommended a standard as low as 60 parts per billion. The eight county Greater Cleveland area does not comply with the 1997 standard, and likely will require additional measures to meet the new rules.

Update: Friday's Plain Dealer has more details.

Under pressure from Congress, the Centers for Disease Control published 2004 and 2007 drafts of a study detailing health issues in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The agency also highlighted its concerns about the report, and asked the national Institute of Medicine to review the document.

A group of developers purchased the former Chippewa Lake amusement park in Lafayette and Westfield Townships and plan to redevelop it as a master plan resort community. The Lafayette Township Zoning Commission approved a zoning overlay district for the site.

The Gund Foundation's latest round of awards includes a $40,000 grant to the City Fresh program, a $90,000 grant to the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy for its farmland preservation efforts, and a $100,000 grant to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to evaluate the economic impact of the pilot Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit.

Officials from Merchandise Mart Properties were in Cleveland yesterday to update the company's proposal to operate the proposed Medical Mart in Cleveland. A Plain Dealer editorial says that "it is imperative that both sides work hard to resolve their remaining differences". The Thursday deadline remains in place.

The Maltz Family Foundation gave $2 million to endow a chair at the new Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation at Case Western Reserve University. It will aid its "efforts to recruit a prominent, internationally-recognized leader from key energy-related disciplines to the institute". The gift is in addition to a $3.6 million grant from the Cleveland Foundation in December.

Several area officials declared that plans for a soccer stadium in northern Summit County are dead.

At the request of the Fund For Our Economic Future, NorTech hired a consultant to assess its mission. NorTech President Dorothy Baunach said she expects that they are "going to be tweaking the model rather than totally dissolving it or disassembling it".

An editorial in the Morning Journal says that Governor Strickland's support for reviving the 3-C passenger rail corridor "gives a boost to the long-sought commuter rail service from Cleveland to Lorain and beyond."

The U.S. EPA has been investigating air pollution from the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Cleveland. Local activists want the company to reduce its emissions.

Case's Baker Nord Center for the Humanities continues its explorations of the cityscapes theme at this year's Humanities Week, which runs March 24-29. It includes a film series at the Cinematheque, lectures, and a National Cityscapes Conference on March 27-29.

The News-Herald looked at the role of NIMBYs in Lake County and eastern Cuyahoga County.

The Coral Co.'s plans for the mixed-use Central Parc development in Solon include building a new four-lane public road. The City hired hired Wells + Associates to conduct a comprehensive traffic study. Planning Director Rob Frankland also suggested three options for providing "a smooth land use transition from the commercial-office portions of the proposed Coral project to the existing single-family residential subdivisions".

Neighbors of the planned Southwoods subdivision in Solon object to the City's approval of the development. They assert that Southwoods is part of an existing subdivision, and therefore needed consent from residents. In the meantime, DiSanto Enterprises has begun clearing the site.

The U.S. EPA is scheduled to release new ground-level ozone standards by Wednesday.

The 203,000 square foot Wal-Mart supercenter on Rockside Road in Bedford opened on Friday. It is the company's second supercenter in Cuyahoga County.

Today the Cleveland City Planning Commission approved the demolition of the remaining buildings on the site of the planned Flats east bank development, and also approved the relocation of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority to a new site north of East 55th Street. Steven Litt suggests that the Port's move "could create immediate pressure on the city and the port to allow downtown corporations to abandon the business core for sites on the waterfront."

Update: Bradley Fink of the Design Rag has similar concerns.

Neighbors of John Carroll University in University Heights and Shaker Heights are concerned about the institution's plans for growth. The University intends to unveil its new master plan in May.

Governor Strickland asked Amtrak to study the 3-C Corridor, a proposed restoration of passenger rail service connecting Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. It would form the backbone of the proposed Ohio Hub system. The line has not existed since 1971. The study should be completed in 12 to 18 months.

Developer Greg Romes of Lake Pointe Construction plans to demolish the former Avon Center School on Detroit Road to make way for a shopping center. The one-room schoolhouse was built in 1910.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History shared an early conceptual model of its planned expansion. It includes a new glass lobby and a new parking garage. The project will aim for a LEED Platinum rating.

The Community Partnership for Arts and Culture will hold a day-long event titled "From Rust Belt to Artist Belt" on May 14 at CSU's Levin College of Urban Affairs. It will be an opportunity for community development professionals to "discuss how we can re-position our region as an ideal environment for artists." The keynote speaker will be Jeremy Nowak, President and CEO of The Reinvestment Fund.

(via Art Addict)

The Cleveland Clinic is free to demolish the Art Deco Carnegie Medical Building at Carnegie Avenue and East 105th Street, now that it has obtained permission from the University Circle Design Review Committee. The Cleveland Planning Commission approved the demolition last month. By 2009, the eight story building will be replaced by a 206 space parking lot.

The deadline set by the Cuyahoga County Commissioners for reaching an agreement with Merchandise Mart Properties regarding the proposed Medical Mart passed earlier this week, but the company requested and received a one week extension. The Commissioners now expect to have an answer by March 13. A pair of Cleveland councilmen, meanwhile, want the Commissioners to rescind last year's sales tax increase.

Steven Litt critiqued City Architecture's preliminary plans for the Upper Chester development near University Circle and found much to like, although he feels that the firm "needs to settle down with a simpler, stronger and cleaner approach" for the project's first apartment building.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership published its 2008-2011 Strategic Plan (PDF). Among its suggestions is lobbying for funding of three major projects: the Port of Cleveland's relocation, the Opportunity Corridor in Cleveland, and a new runway for NASA's Plum Brook Station in Erie County. It also calls for closer ties with Akron.

This week's Free Times looks at the pending legislative reauthorization of the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway and the progress on the extension of the Towpath Trail through Cleveland.

Election recap

Broadview Heights
Issue 16 (residential rezoning): passed

Brooklyn Heights
Issues 17-25 (liquor law): passed

Fairview Park
Issue 31 (church rezoning): passed
Issue 32 (office rezoning): passed

Seven Hills
Issue 43 (Rockside Road rezoning): passed

Issue 44 (senior housing rezoning): failed

Issue 46 (Cook Avenue rezoning): passed

For complete Cuyahoga County results, visit the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections or

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the Strickland administration "must commit the resources to back up its rhetoric about urban areas," and in a second editorial, says that Parma would be wise to enact a proposed assessment to maintain the City's infrastructure.

With Rob Briggs of the GAR Foundation stepping down as chairman of the Fund for Our Economic Future, David Abbott of the Gund Foundation was elected to succeed him. The fund also awarded several grants.

State Senator Tim Grendell continues to promote his rewritten version of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. The original version has gathered broad support in most Great Lakes states, and a Plain Dealer editorial lambastes the Ohio Senate for its stance.

Several large foundations are considering programs to address the foreclosure crisis, and may fund projects in Cleveland.

In his third annual State of the City address last week, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson highlighted a revenue sharing opportunity with the City of Youngstown and his plans to strengthen the city's transportation infrastructure. The speech did not impress some Cleveland councilmen, while a Plain Dealer editorial said it was "remarkable, in part, for what he didn't say." The address, titled "Confronting our Reality Head On: Turning Challenges into Opportunities," is available as video, audio, and text (PDF).

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