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January 2009 Archives

When the Cuyahoga County Commissioners made the preliminary selection of the Mall site for the planned Medical Mart and new convention center last week, the estimated costs were a major factor. Developer Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. calculated that construction costs at the Mall could be substantially reduced by reusing the foundation of the existing Cleveland Convention Center. Cuyahoga County may hire Osborn Engineering to evaluate the concept.

Reactions to the announcement were varied. Frank Jackson supported the proposal, but took a cautious approach. The Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers Association endorsed Mayor Jackson's approach (PDF). On the other hand, Forest City Enterprises and the Greater Cleveland Partnership called for further public review of the decision, and a Plain Dealer editorial asked for increased transparency. Meeting planners simply want a new convention center. Participants in the selection process discussed the issues on WCPN's Sound of Ideas earlier this week.

The Cleveland Carbon Fund was unveiled on Wednesday. Organizers are billing it as "the first community-based, open-access carbon reduction fund in the United States." It provides an way for Northeast Ohio residents and businesses to reduce their carbon footprints by investing in local carbon reduction projects.

In a new survey, the Pew Research Center asked Americans if they were happy with the city in which they live, where they would like to live, and why. Almost half of the respondents said they would like to live somewhere else. The top 10 cities were all in the South or the West, while the bottom five were in the Midwest. Cleveland finished second to last in the list of most popular cities.

Environmentalists want to remove the canal diversion dam on the Cuyahoga River in Brecksville in order to improve the river's health. However, the dam supplies water to the Ohio & Erie Canal, a National Historic Landmark. The Ohio EPA and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are studying ways to remove the dam and keep water flowing through the canal. A Plain Dealer editorial supports their efforts.

The Cleveland City Planning Commission unanimously approved the Train Avenue Greenway Plan last week. The plans call for creating a 2.5-mile trail and greenway along the Train Avenue corridor between West 65th Street and the Towpath Trail. The project will cost an estimated $2.6 million.

Ohio officials do not intend to join California and 13 other states in their effort to set strict new automobile emissions standards.

In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Dominic LoGalbo questions the need for the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority to move to proposed new facilities and the process used to reach the proposal. Meanwhile, a Plain Dealer editorial encourages the Port Authority to be less secretive.

Mayor Jackson proposed using $14.5 million of the $25.5 million that the City of Cleveland received in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to demolish 1,700 structures. He also wants to allocate $1 million for a program to convert vacant properties into community gardens and other uses. On February 12, the City will hold a public hearing (PDF) about uses for the funding.

The Plain Dealer has more details about how Ronn Richard will help to coordinate the distribution of federal stimulus dollars.

The tight credit market may prolong the mixed-use reconstruction of the north side of Cedar Center in South Euclid. The Coral Company, the project's developer, has modified its plans to include market-rate apartments in place of condominiums.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the hillside subsidence problem above Irishtown Bend in Cleveland needs to be addressed now.

Greater Ohio's Gene Krebs, a member of the Ohio 21st Century Transportation Priorities Task Force, feels that ODOT does not need an increased gas tax and instead requires "greater accountability and performance criteria on infrastructure investments".

Following hours of private meetings yesterday, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners announced that the new convention center and Medical Mart will be built at the Mall in downtown Cleveland. The facility will be built on the site of the existing convention center and three other buildings, and will incorporate a renovated Public Auditorium into its design. Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. estimated that the project will cost $425 million. Construction could begin by the end of the year.

The Mall location was selected over the Tower City site and a site in the Flats. MMPI estimated that construction behind Tower City would cost an additional $108 million, contradicting an earlier study by the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Developer Scott Wolstein offered a last-minute proposal to build the facility north of a scaled-back version of his stalled Flats east bank project. He continues to advocate for the Flats site.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has begun considering whether to replace the state's gas tax with a mileage tax.

Michael Wager, the outgoing chairman of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, said in his parting remarks that "Cleveland and Ohio need bold initiatives." Vice Chair Steven Williams will be the Port Authority's new chairman.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director James Beasley will retire at the end of the month. He has held the post since February 2007. Governor Strickland appointed Jolene Molitoris as his successor. She is the current ODOT assistant director and the former head of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Update: passenger rail advocates hope that she will be supportive of commuter rail projects.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership is promoting a list of regional infrastructure projects for federal stimulus funding.

Ken Silliman, Frank Jackson's chief of staff, told a Cleveland City Council committee that closing the Innerbelt Bridge for a year would be unacceptable, and called on ODOT to build the two-bridge configuration from earlier plans. City officials also announced that they will meet next week with state and federal officials about the planned Opportunity Corridor. A Plain Dealer editorial says that Cleveland must demand promised funding from ODOT.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Development's 2008 Annual Report (PDF) highlights its programming, partnerships, and accomplishments.

The City of Cleveland Heights is still looking to redevelop the Top of the Hill site at Cedar Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard, but officials are proceeding cautiously because of the poor economic climate.

At a committee work session in University Heights, John Carroll University officials shared a map that shows the University's envisioned footprint in five years. Neighbors of the University say that it's a step in the right direction. The University's expansion plans have been a source of friction with nearby residents, which can be seen in the disagreements over a recent request by the University to demolish six houses for a new athletic field and campus greenspace.

Stelex Equities dropped its plans to build Woodland Preserve, a proposed mixed-use development at Harvard and Brainard roads in Orange.

The McGill Property Group wants the Bainbridge-Solon JEDD to be expanded to include the company's Shops at Marketplace development in Bainbridge. The JEDD currently encompasses McGill's Marketplace North center.

Update: McGill also proposed establishing a new Aurora-Bainbridge JEDD.

Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases about residency requirements for government employees. A 2006 Ohio law banned the residency requirements, and the Cities of Akron and Lima sued to block the law. The state law was upheld in local trial courts, but was overturned by appellate courts. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last year, and the City of Cleveland joined Lima's defense as a friend of the court. 138 cities and villages in Ohio have residency laws.

The Chagrin River Watershed Partners is looking for municipal participation in a balanced growth initiative for the Chagrin River Watershed. Chardon City Council was briefed on the program on Monday.

The City of Shaker Heights is expected to approve designs for a $3.2 million replacement of the rapid transit station at Lee Road and Van Aken Boulevard. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2010. The new station will serve the transit-oriented redevelopment of the Shaker Town Center area.

Update: the Sun Press shares the reactions of some Shaker Heights City Council members.

Steven Litt likes the plans for redeveloping the Ivex complex in Chagrin Falls. He says that the "project looks like a no-brainer," and concludes that "it could make Chagrin Falls both a better place to visit, and a better place to live."

On February 4, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will present preliminary findings about the slope instability problems along the Cuyahoga River at Irishtown Bend. Mayor Jackson listed the area as one of his priorities for obtaining federal infrastructure dollars.

Update: WKSU has more details.

David Beach shares his thoughts about the recommendations recently identified by ODOT's 21st Century Transportation Priorities Task Force and what it will take to develop a sustainable transportation system.

While the E-Check program remains unpopular among Greater Clevelanders, U.S. EPA officials say that an automobile emissions inspection program for the region is required under the Clean Air Act. Strickland administration representatives would not say if they plan to continue E-Check, which is set to expire in June.

Update: a News-Herald editorial says that Ohio leaders must fix the program.

Governor Strickland appointed Ronn Richard of the Cleveland Foundation as Ohio's infrastructure czar. In the temporary, part-time position, he will guide the process to select projects and distribute funds from the federal stimulus package. Frank Jackson is pleased with the selection.

Meeting planner Bruce Harris told the Plain Dealer that he thinks the Tower City site is the best location for the planned new convention center and Medical Mart. The Plain Dealer also published editorials about the siting decision on Saturday and on Tuesday. Roldo Bartimole objects to the way the newspaper is handling the subject.

In a letter to Senator Voinovich, Cleveland City Councilman Tony Brancatelli asked area congresspersons to petition the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish distressed properties that it owns in the City.

Steven Litt critiqued the plans for the Towpath Trail through Cleveland, and was displeased with the design of the section at Steelyard Commons. He also commented on the way that bureaucracy is deterring creative solutions and the challenges in designing the stage 1 extension of the trail.

Congressmen Tim Ryan and Jason Altmire talked about the Cleveland to Pittsburgh Tech Belt Initiative at the City Club today. Congressman Ryan said that the collaboration will allow the region to leverage federal dollars.

Update: audio of the talk (MP3, 127 MB) is now online.

Cuyahoga County leaders are seeking federal stimulus money for the proposed offshore wind turbine demonstration project in Lake Erie. A European wind turbine manufacturer is willing to pay for half of the project, so the County is requesting $28 million to erect the turbines and $17 million for a warehouse that would be used to assemble and ship turbines.

The Fund for Our Economic Future's 2008 Barometer of Economic Attitudes survey included questions about regionalism. Of the 2300 Northeast Ohioans surveyed, 82% favored increased government collaborations, and 67% favored government consolidations. In March, the Fund will introduce a $300,000 grant program for government collaboration and efficiency programs. Area residents will be able to vote on the recipients. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the "investment will pay off if it sparks creative thinking among local governments and engages the public in the exercise." Earlier surveys were conducted in 2004, 2005, and 2006.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District may spend an extra $5 million to complete a sewer project in the Flats east bank. The District's board of trustees postponed a decision on the proposal.

On Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case about municipal residency requirements. Brent Larkin of the Plain Dealer says that if the Court strikes down the requirements, it will "essentially complete the exodus of the middle class" from Cleveland.

Update: WCPN has more information about the case.

The City of Fairview Park reached an agreement with the owner of the Cleveland Motel. The owner will demolish the Lorain Road building, and the City of Fairview Park will purchase the site for $120,000. The City also bought the Country Inn Motel last fall. Both were acquired for future redevelopment.

Update: Fairview Park City Council approved the agreement.

The McGill Property Group says that it is unable to reimburse the City of Parma Heights for the $133,000 in fees it incurred as part of the Greenbrier Crossing development. The City will attempt to recoup the money in court, and will also proceed with property maintenance violation charges.

Neighbors of the former Ivex mill in Chagrin Falls are concerned about the potential impacts of its proposed redevelopment. Residents will vote on a rezoning issue for the project in a special election on February 3.

Independence City Council is considering legislation to put a downtown zoning overlay district on the May ballot. The overlay would permit retail and multi-family development, including senior housing. Multi-family housing is not currently allowed in the City. Last year, the City surveyed Independence seniors about their preferences.

Update: the overlay district will appear on the May ballot.

Preliminary work on the I-77 widening project in southern Cuyahoga County is nearing completion, and the first phase of construction is scheduled to begin in March.

Senators Voinovich and Levin yesterday introduced the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, a $20 billion plan for restoring the Great Lakes. President-elect Obama supported a smaller $5 billion plan as a candidate. Similar implementation acts were introduced in 2006 and 2007.

An amendment to the recently-adopted land bank bill requires Ohio port authorities to conduct master plans and hold public hearings. It is known as the Hauser amendment, in recognition of the late Ed Hauser, who had promoted the language.

The final version of a controversial report by the Centers for Disease Control concluded that there is insufficient data to link health risks to pollution in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The report recommends further study.

(via Green Buckeye RN)

In addition to the other requests for anticipated federal infrastructure stimulus dollars, Environment Ohio compiled a list of 100 renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable transportation projects in Ohio.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that Mayor Jackson should include more green projects in his wish list and develop a "cohesive plan that pulls together a variety of initiatives to 'brand' Cleveland as a green city and help to establish it as the world center of freshwater wind-power development, engineering and manufacturing."

Frank Jackson traveled to Chicago on Tuesday for a meeting with Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. officials about plans for the new convention center and Medical Mart. The meeting alleviated the mayor's concerns about the project, and he declared that he was impressed by MMPI's thoroughness. Scene Editor Frank Lewis, on the other hand, remains unimpressed.

MMPI continues to evaluate the Tower City and Mall sites, and company executives are scheduled to share their analysis with Cuyahoga County leaders next week. Commissioner Jones discussed the project's status on Channel 3 yesterday.

RTA's ridership numbers grew last year, the sixth consecutive year with an increase. The 2008 ridership was 57.9 million, a 1.1% increase over the 57.3 million figure recorded in 2007.

The Village at 115 residence hall complex at Case Western Reserve University was awarded a LEED Silver rating by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Cleveland Metroparks agreed to buy a 10-acre wooded site adjacent to the North Chagrin Reservation for $405,000. The purchase is contingent upon receiving a grant from the Clean Ohio Program.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is considering a plan to replace the deteriorating Innerbelt Bridge with a basic concrete or steel girder bridge instead of building a planned signature bridge. Construction could begin as early as late 2010. In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Mark Filippell urges ODOT to quickly replace the bridge. Meanwhile, Cleveland firefighters want ODOT to to indicate which zones on the existing bridge are safe for parking emergency vehicles.

Kent State University's Urban Design Collaborative will become the first tenant in the Cleveland District of Design in July when it moves from its current home in the Pointe At Gateway to the Cowell & Hubbard Building at Playhouse Square.

ODOT reports that it remains on schedule to begin operating Intelligent Transportation System elements on Greater Cleveland highways by summer 2010. Implementation across Northeast Ohio should be completed in 2013.

The Hudson Library and Historical Society is sponsoring three programs on regionalism in January and February. The first event will be held on January 29. It is titled "What is the economic future for Northeast Ohio?" and will include an overview of the Advance Northeast Ohio initiative. The programs are free and open to the public.

Cuyahoga County awarded a $1 million brownfield redevelopment loan to Mitchell Schneider's 79th Street Properties for cleanup of the Shoreway Industrial Park, the former White Motors plant on East 79th Street in Cleveland.

The Flats Connections Plan, a new proposal from ParkWorks, Cleveland Public Art, and Building Cleveland by Design, shows how a greenway could link the Towpath Trail to the west bank of the Flats and Whiskey Island.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority has begun planning for the 1,000-acre international trade district it envisions near its proposed new facilities in Cleveland, and intends to complete the plans this year.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson unveiled an updated urban agenda (PDF) today. It identified four priority projects for which he hopes to obtain federal and state infrastructure stimulus dollars. In letters President-elect Obama and Governor Strickland, he requested $730 million for the Innerbelt Bridge, Riverbed Road, Opportunity Corridor, and West Shoreway projects. His entire list includes $1.56 billion in infrastructure investments.

Update: Henry Gomez posted Mayor Jackson's entire list and his letters.

David Beach, Director of the GreenCityBlueLake Institute, shared his thoughts about sustainability in Greater Cleveland. He noted that the economic crisis provides an opportunity for the area to become a leader in sustainable development.

In the last two years, Ohio officials have issued no fines for transporting firewood out of areas where a quarantine intended to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer is in place. Regulators say that they're focusing on education.

The City of Solon is updating its master plan. Next month, Planning Director Rob Frankland will share his recommendations for downtown Solon. The City's last master plan was completed in 1975.

The two developers who purchased portions of the former Ashbury Towers project in Cleveland hope to resume townhouse and apartment construction at the site.

The expected end of construction to enable the creation of railroad quiet zones in Brook Park has been pushed back to this spring. When complete, they will be the first in the state.

The City of Euclid demolished 23 neglected houses in 2008. City officials will continue the program in 2009.

The 15-member Ohio Commission on Local Government Reform and Collaboration held its first meeting on Monday. The panel is charged with developing "recommendations on ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of local government operations, to achieve cost savings for taxpayers, and to facilitate economic development in this state."

The Ohio 21st Century Transportation Priorities Task Force delivered its report to Governor Strickland today. The task force identified four strategies and made 13 recommendations. The final report (PDF) and its appendices (PDF) are available online.

Update: the Plain Dealer and the Blade have more information about the task force's recommendations, which include raising the state's fuel tax. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the report "intelligently addresses the state's transportation needs".

The January issue of Urban Land includes a look at redevelopment efforts in warehouse districts across the nation (PDF), including Cleveland's Warehouse District.

(via Downtown Clips)

Armond Budish, the new Speaker of the Ohio House, outlined his urban agenda yesterday, calling for the creation of a compact with Ohio cities. In exchange for providing special incentives for urban areas, he wants cities to participate in regionalism initiatives.

Update: three state legislators discussed the proposal and other issues on WCPN's Sound of Ideas.

Grants of up to $3 million are available to communities seeking to acquire land for preservation or recreation within Ohio's Lake Erie watershed. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will refer up to three projects to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for consideration. The application deadline is February 17.

Update: WKSU shares more details.

Mark Falanga of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. said that the company will not be rushed into a decision on the location of the planned Medical Mart. He added that the company is "getting close" to completing its evaluation. Meanwhile, Vornado Realty Trust, MMPI's parent company, is seeking federal bailout funds.

This June will mark the 40th anniversary of the best-known fire on the Cuyahoga River. In recognition of the ongoing environmental recovery of the River, the Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization declared 2009 as the Year of the River. A Plain Dealer feature explored the history of the Cuyahoga's pollution problems, its role in the dawn of the environmental movement, and its subsequent cleanup.

Deconstruction crews are learning how to dismantle old buildings more efficiently. Urban Lumberjacks of Cleveland crews were able to deconstruct two abandoned Glenville houses more quickly and inexpensively than in an earlier pilot project in Slavic Village.

Olmsted Falls Mayor Bob Blomquist and Olmsted Township Trustee Jim Carroll want to create a committee that would study a merger between the two communities. Mayor Blomquist hopes that a merger study will be placed on the ballot this year.

The poor economy is impacting area hospitals in different ways. It has not halted expansions by University Hospitals, Hillcrest Hospital, and the Lake Hospital System, but it has delayed construction by the Summa Heath System. The Cleveland Clinic plans to build health centers in Avon and Twinsburg, though it has not set time frames for construction.

The Dike 14 Preservation Committee opposes the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's plans to relocate their facilities to a new site north of East 55th Street. The group says that the move threatens the East 55th Street Marina, Gordon Park, and Dike 14.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners extended their self-imposed January 15 site selection deadline for the planned Medical Mart and convention center by one month. Mayor Jackson was not pleased about the delay, but still supports the project.

Update: the Plain Dealer examined Frank Jackson's role in the Medical Mart negotiations, and in an editorial, urged the County Commissioners to make a decision.

Planning for a 75-acre lifestyle center in Seven Hills is continuing. Formerly known as Rockside Terrace, the development is now named Sora Hill. Developer Steiner + Associates of Columbus became a partner in the project in 2007, and hopes to finalize the plans once the economy improves.

Runoff from increased exurban development around the Cuyahoga Valley National Park continues to cause erosion problems along the Cuyahoga River. Park officials are developing natural systems approaches to controlling erosion.

Darrell Webster, director of the Lake County Planning Commission, will retire on January 30 after 44 years of public service.

Demolition of the north side of Cedar Center was scheduled to begin earlier this week.

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