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February 2009 Archives

Forest City Enterprises yesterday presented simplified plans for building the Medical Mart and convention center at Tower City. Forest City estimates its plans will cost $398 million, $27 million less than than the current estimates for construction at the Mall site. Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. officials said the plans were unworkable, but the two companies will meet on March 10. Steven Litt described the process as "a tug-of-war like the early 20th-century battle over whether to put the city's main train station at the Mall or Tower City."

The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority will receive $35 million in federal stimulus funds, and eight other Northeast Ohio public housing agencies will receive an additional $18 million. Fifteen area cities and counties will also receive a total of $12.5 million in Community Development Block Grants. Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated $10.1 billion.

Republicans in the Ohio House want to wait until a study of the proposed 3-C Corridor is finished before pursuing the project. However, they lack the votes to delay it, and passenger rail supporters counter that waiting could hurt the state's chances of receiving federal stimulus funds.

Governor Strickland's proposed two-year budget suggests cutting $5 million from the Ohio Urban University Program, which would result in a $1.6 million reduction for the Levin College of Urban Affairs. Cleveland State University officials are lobbying the state to restore the funding or reduce the size of the cuts.

President Obama's proposed 2010 budget for the U.S. EPA includes $475 million for a new multi-agency Great Lakes restoration initiative.

Richmond Heights leaders remain dissatisfied with the planned runway extension at Cuyahoga County Airport, and City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday expressing its opposition.

Beachwood City Council, Eaton Corp., and two school districts agreed to a 30-year tax increment financing package for the company's planned new headquarters in the Chagrin Highlands. The State of Ohio has already committed $71 million in tax breaks and loans to facilitate the company's move from downtown Cleveland.

Update: The Plain Dealer reports that the combined incentives are worth more than $90 million.

The Shaker Heights Architectural Board of Review approved plans for a new Blue Line rapid transit station at Lee Road.

The credit crunch has affected plans to build a 240-unit apartment complex on Center Ridge Road in Westlake. Developer Flaherty & Collins has been unable to obtain funding for the project, and their option to purchase the site next to Porter Public Library has expired. The company remains interested in building the apartments.

The recent shootings at Perk Plaza in downtown Cleveland illustrate how urban design can contribute to the creation of unsafe environments. First proposed in I.M. Pei's 1960 Erieview urban renewal plan, the park was completed in 1972. A 2003 plan for redesigning the plaza was not implemented due to a lack of funding. The City of Cleveland plans to proceed with a more modest renovation this year.

The Cleveland Clinic plans to build a national reference laboratory on an unidentified site at its main campus in Cleveland. Construction on the 100,000-square-foot, $25 million lab is expected to begin by midyear.

Update: WKSU and MedCity News have more information.

North Ridgeville City Council is expected to stop considering proposals for planned community developments. The decision would make permanent the moratorium on their construction.

As of last Friday, Ohio officials had received nearly 7,500 proposals for federal stimulus funds, adding up to about $28 million in requests. The state expects to receive about $8 billion. By yesterday, the number of requests had topped 10,000. GreenCityBlueLake has suggestions for greening the stimulus investments. The list (XLS, 8.3 MB) is available at the state's stimulus website, and also posted the database.

GreenCityBlueLake's Marc Lefkowitz notes that the recently-released draft of the AMATS regional transportation plan makes no mention of climate change. He then names some areas where the plan could address the issue.

Oberlin College Professor Anne Trubek did not find what she expected when exploring East 73rd Street in Cleveland. Through the efforts of organized residents, some areas hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis remain viable neighborhoods.

The Northeast Ohio Four County Regional Planning and Development Organization appointed Maia Peck as its first watershed coordinator for the Middle Cuyahoga River. She will advocate for and build partnerships around a 12-mile stretch of the Cuyahoga River and its tributaries in Summit, Portage, and Stark counties.

The Cuyahoga County Office of Sustainability launched a new website today. It features information about the County's climate change initiative.

Ohio passenger rail advocates are urging the Ohio Department of Transportation to apply for federal funding of high-speed and intercity rail projects. ODOT must submit a strategic plan before April 18.

Update: WKSU has more information.

Author Charles Michener recently spoke at the City Club about a book he is writing (MP3, 52.5 MB) on the reinvention of Northeast Ohio. The Plain Dealer published an excerpt of his talk.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's $26.5 million request for stimulus funds would enable it to convert dock and warehouse facilities for use as a wind turbine manufacturing plant. The Cuyahoga County Commissioners also requested stimulus dollars for the proposed demonstration wind farm in Lake Erie. Meanwhile, the Port Authority anticipates a $661,000 drop in revenue due to cutbacks at ArcelorMittal's Cleveland plant.

The GreenCityBlueLake Institute unveiled its first State of Sustainability report at its Emerge event on Saturday. It includes "items from the many issue areas of sustainability, including arts and culture, building, economy, education, energy, food, health, land, transportation, and water." The Institute plans to annually update the report.

Volunteers and students with Case Western Reserve University are creating an inventory of the more than 2,200 abandoned houses in East Cleveland. The data will be used to prioritize demolitions.

Governor Strickland signed the county land bank bill in a ceremony at Cleveland State University on Friday. The bill, which creates a two-year pilot program in Cuyahoga County, was passed by the Ohio legislature in December.

The Ohio EPA intends to ask the U.S. EPA to declare the eight-county Greater Cleveland region in compliance (PDF) with 1997 federal ozone standards. The Ohio EPA will hold a public hearing on March 3 in Twinsburg. However, the U.S. EPA is also preparing to declare that the area does not meet stricter ozone rules adopted last year.

WCPN shared more details about the Fund for Our Economic Future's upcoming government collaboration and efficiency grant program.

Update: the Fund will launch the program on Monday.

Concrete crushing will soon begin at the former PMX site in Euclid. Concrete from the foundations of the site's old industrial buildings will be crushed for reuse in a new roadway leading into a planned new industrial park.

Update: WTAM's Bill Wills spoke with Mayor Cervenik about the redevelopment of the site.

Reactions to last week's presentation about plans for the Medical Mart and convention center were varied:

While most government agencies are waiting to learn what they will receive from the federal stimulus package, RTA officials know that their agency will receive $42 million. The funds will be used to build the East Side Transit Center, replace two rapid transit stations, and to overhaul Red Line rail cars.

Christopher Evans of the Plain Dealer praises an effort to establish an orchard on a vacant property in Cleveland's Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, calling it an example of "grass-roots revolutionary thinking".

Yesterday's Sound of Ideas program on WCPN was devoted to a discussion of the Ohio Department of Transportation's Innerbelt plans. ODOT also posted the presentation that officials made (PDF) to Cleveland City Council last week.

The Cleveland Heights Home Repair Resource Center will soon begin rehabilitating the first of 12 homes it plans to complete this year. The houses were acquired by the City from HUD, and will be sold when the renovations are finished. The City of Cleveland Heights also recently revised its downpayment assistance program.

Cleveland City Council members want the Ohio Department of Transportation to prioritize investments in urban centers.

Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. officials yesterday presented their planning studies for the Medical Mart and new convention center, first to Cleveland City Council and later at a public meeting attended by over 300 people. The presentations answered many of Steven Litt's questions about the proposal, but left other questions unanswered. Forest City Enterprises used the public meeting to urge officials to reconsider the eliminated Tower City site. Cleveland Magazine's Erick Trickey liveblogged the proceedings and provided other insights.

The Plain Dealer examined the unusual ownership arrangement described in the memorandum of understanding (PDF) between Cuyahoga County and MMPI, and County Administrator Jim McCafferty differed with the paper's portrayal (PDF) of the agreement.

Scientists continue to collect data for the proposed demonstration Lake Erie wind farm. They recently positioned a sonar device that will gauge the thickness of ice on the lake and used a LIDAR unit to measure wind shear above the lake. The Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force announced the receipt of $672,000 from the Cleveland Foundation and that Steve Dever will take a leave of absence from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office to serve as the Task Force's executive director.

Two commuter rail advocacy groups merged to form the West Shore Commuter Rail Task Force, and together will promote a proposed line that would run from Vermilion to Cleveland. The group has raised half of the $68,000 needed as a local match for a $343,000 federal grant obtained by Representative Sutton in 2007. Meanwhile, ONN spoke with NOACA's Howard Maier about the prospects for high-speed rail in Ohio.

Update: GreenCityBlueLake has a roundup of intercity rail news, and Greater Ohio's Gene Krebs spoke at a Columbus Metropolitan Club event about the Real Reasons for Rail.

A runway extension at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was officially opened at a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday. FAA grants covered 75% of the $44.2 million project.

Parma and Parma Heights leaders continue to work with Baldwin-Wallace College on a proposal to combine the cities' fire departments. The College is expected to present a recommendation within 30 days.

Solon leaders do not want the City to be part of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's proposed regional stormwater management program, saying that the City is already working control flooding. Macedonia officials had expressed a similar sentiment, but now appear to be more open to participating in a regional effort.

The City of Euclid has joined the City of Cleveland in asking HUD to demolish distressed houses it owns instead of reselling them. Euclid intends to use its $2.6 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Funds award to rehabilitate 24 homes and demolish 65 others. Meanwhile, South Euclid City Council authorized officials to purchase properties at up to $25,000 without prior approval from City Council. Officials say that they will use only dollars from grants for the purchases.

Now that the Lower Big Creek Valley Greenway Redevelopment & Restoration Plan has been adopted by the City of Cleveland, backers have begun seeking funding for the implementation of the $11 million plan.

University Heights City Council's Committee on University Affairs is considering the proposed footprint (PDF) offered by John Carroll University. The committee will hold its next meeting on March 5.

Some neighbors of the proposed townhouses at Lorain Avenue and West 47th Street in Cleveland are resisting the development. Councilman Santiago supports it.

The 83 housing starts in Berea last year were the most in Cuyahoga County. Municipal officials credit the City's new tax abatement policy with encouraging the construction.

ODOT District 12 Deputy Director Bonnie Teeuwen updated a Cleveland City Council committee on the status of plans for a new Innerbelt Bridge. The agency had been considering a single-bridge option that would have required closing the bridge, but abandoned the concept after Mayor Jackson objected and a study concluded that other arterial roads would be unable to absorb the traffic. The two-bridge plan is again the preferred design. ODOT is considering whether to repair the existing bridge and then build a second parallel bridge, or whether to build the second bridge and then repair or replace the existing one. The agency also intends to spend $10 million on repairs to the old bridge this year, and says that the closed lanes and entrance ramps will reopen this year.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial applauds the announcement and ODOT issued a press release about the upcoming repairs.

Foreclosure statistics released by the Ohio Supreme Court show that Ohio experienced a record high number of foreclosures in 2008. It was the 13th consecutive year with an increase. However, the rate of increase slowed to 3.1%, the smallest figure in the 13-year period.

The U.S. EPA is suing the City of Akron for violations of the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit alleges that combined sewer overflows from Akron sewers have been releasing excessive pollution into the Cuyahoga River, Little Cuyahoga River, and the Ohio & Erie Canal since the City was reissued a wastewater permit in 1997. Financial penalties could be as high as $100 million. Akron Department of Public Service officials defend the system.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that "it is time for Akron to move more aggressively to meet the goals of the Clean Water Act."

A group of American and Canadian environmental organizations is urging President Obama and Prime Minister Harper to rewrite the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which was last updated in 1987.

Cuyahoga County's $420 million wish list for federal stimulus dollars includes gray and green infrastructure projects, green energy initiatives, and social service programs. The State of Ohio is accepting suggestions for stimulus projects at a special website.

Update: this week's Sun Newspapers have more details about the requests made by Euclid and Broadview Heights leaders.

The City of Cleveland may place a moratorium on the installation of digital billboards so that municipal officials can develop new rules. Earlier billboard legislation was tabled this month. Executives at Clear Channel Outdoor are angry at Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins, who has been active in the deliberations.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that building a disposal dike north of East 55th Street would cost between $250 million and $300 million. The site has been proposed as the new home for the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners will revisit the Cuyahoga County Airport master plan at their meeting on Thursday. The plan was tabled last April following opposition to runway extension plans from residents and politicians in Highland Heights, Richmond Heights, and Willoughby Hills.

Update: the Commissioners unanimously voted to submit the development plan to the FAA.

Seven Summit County communities have signed a pledge to not steal businesses from each other. Summit County made the agreement more attractive by tying it into the scoring system for awarding public works funds.

CPC Director Paul Alsenas and Frank Greenland of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District were the guests on yesterday's Sound of Ideas show, where they discussed the District's proposed stormwater management plan.

At the public meeting on Thursday, Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. officials are expected to explain that the Mall site is the only option for the planned Medical Mart and convention center. Cuyahoga County Administrator James McCafferty issued a statement (PDF) saying that the Flats site is not a backup, and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority issued a statement saying that Port land in the Flats is unavailable for the development.

The City of Euclid published the Euclid Harbor Preliminary Marina Feasibility Analysis (PDF). The report prepared by JJR, LLC "summarizes the current status of the planning, design and permit application efforts for a new marina in Euclid, Ohio and offers an evaluation of the current design program."

Update: the News Herald reported on the release of the study.

Democrats in the Ohio House have proposed foreclosure prevention legislation that includes a six-month foreclosure moratorium and would allow judges to rewrite mortgage terms when homeowners owe more than property is worth, among other provisions. A Morning Journal editorial says that the moratorium "makes sense in the current economic crisis."

Update: WKSU has additional reactions.

Eleven River is a proposed luxury riverfront condominium development in Rocky River. Its developers are also working on the 27 Coltman condominiums in Little Italy.

Update: the West Shore Sun has more details.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2007 Census of Agriculture, the number of farms in the nation increased by 4% between 2002 and 2007, but the number of farms in Ohio fell by 2.5% over the same period. While Ohio now has fewer family farms, more of them are operated by women.

The Cleveland City Planning Commission today unanimously approved the Lower Big Creek Valley Greenway Redevelopment & Restoration Plan (PDF, 79.1 MB). It calls for investments of nearly $11 million in a trail network and environmental restoration projects. The new trails will connect Brookside Reservation and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo with the Towpath Trail.

Update: the Plain Dealer published more details.

Terry Schwartz of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative was one of the guests on this week's Smart City Radio show. She discussed the strategies for re-imagining shrinking cities that are being employed in Cleveland.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District board did not vote on the proposal to take responsibility for managing stormwater at a regional level. District staff will continue to promote the concept in the 61-community service area, and the board may pass the proposal in late summer or early fall. A Plain Dealer editorial agrees with their conclusion.

Prompted by a request from Councilman Brancatelli of Cleveland, George Voinovich asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to "demolish its condemned and distressed properties that it owns in Cleveland's Slavic Village and throughout the city." Carole Cohen has many questions about the suggestion.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers shared findings about the Cuyahoga River slope instability problem above Irishtown Bend in Cleveland. This summer, the Corps will offer several plans for addressing the problem.

Mayor Longo of Garfield Heights said that a new developer is partnering with Snider-Cannata Interests on the troubled Bridgeview Crossing shopping center, but did not name the developer.

The Ohio EPA will monitor construction at the closed Matousek landfill in Garfield Heights. Developers have proposed building a second phase of the City View Center retail development, as well as a quarter-mile extension of Transportation Boulevard to Rockside Road.

The Sun Courier has more details about the proposed downtown zoning overlay district that will appear on the May ballot in Independence.

The City of Lakewood may join Cleveland in allowing residents to raise chickens in their yards. City Council discussed the proposal on Monday.

Update: the Lakewood Observer has more details.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture anticipates that Brecksville will see a rise in the gypsy moth population this year. The agency will spray 99 acres (PDF) through its program to suppress the invasive species.

Channel 3 followed up yesterday's story about creating a sustainable transportation system with a report about transportation choices that individuals can make. The station also examined proposals for commuter rail in Ohio.

A draft recommendation by the Ohio EPA identifies 31 counties as nonattainment areas under federal ozone standards adopted last year. The list includes Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, and Summit counties. The Ohio EPA will hold a public hearing about the recommendation in Columbus on February 12. The Greater Cleveland counties also fail to meet older, less stringent standards.

Conceptual designs for the new University-Cedar (PDF) transit station were presented to the RTA board's Planning and Development Committee on Tuesday.

(via Urban Ohio)

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners and Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. said that they would consider the Flats east bank site as a fallback if building the planned convention center and Medical Mart at the Mall is impractical. The Plain Dealer answered questions about the project.

Update: WCPN and WKSU offer more information about next week's public hearing.

Governor Strickland's proposal to fund new road construction through tolls has raised the possibility of building the Opportunity Corridor in Cleveland as a toll road.

Eleven Greater Cleveland cities made requests for federal stimulus dollars through a report compiled by the United States Conference of Mayors. The Plain Dealer lists their proposals. Ohio leaders have been actively lobbying for funding, and the state may receive $6.8 billion.

Leaders in Strongsville want the City to have an architectural identity, and may encourage one style for future construction and renovations.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park will rehabilitate four structures in Boston Township for use by the Park's volunteer support organizations. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association has raised over ⅔ of the funds (PDF) for the $855,000 project.

The NRP Group has proposed building 30 to 40 townhouses at Lorain Avenue and West 47th Street in Cleveland. A public meeting on the proposal will be held on February 11 at the Urban Community School.

Microsoft's Live Search Maps has been updated to include oblique aerial photography of Geauga County.

(via The Map Room)

Jason Boyd was selected to succeed the retiring Darrell Webster as director of the Lake County Planning Commission.

Partners in the Opportunity Homes pilot project are going door-to-door in six Cleveland neighborhoods to help homeowners in high-risk mortgages. They intend to visit nearly 500 homes and hope to prevent 100 foreclosures per year.

GreenCityBlueLake Institute Director David Beach appeared on Channel 3 this morning to discuss the state of Greater Cleveland's transportation infrastructure and the need to develop a sustainable transportation system.

Pat Conway of the Great Lakes Brewing Company and John Grabowski of Case Western Reserve University will participate in a discussion at the City Club on February 18, where they will talk about the role of water in the area's economy. It is the first event in a three-part series titled "Water - Our Region's Biggest Asset".

Update: audio of the program (MP3, 53.7 MB) is now available.

In a special election yesterday, Chagrin Falls voters approved a rezoning for the former Ivex mill. Developers plan to reuse the structure as a mixed-use facility.

Update: the unofficial final tally was 937-88.

In a pair of posts at, Ed Morrison lays out the challenges facing Greater Cleveland and offers suggestions for strengthening the region's economic development strategies.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners hired Osborn Engineering to analyze whether the Cleveland Convention Center's foundation can be reused. Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. representatives say that they will present their research and proposals on February 12.

Yesterday, Cleveland City Council passed legislation covering urban farming and the allocation of the City's Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds. The farming law, which passed by a vote of 18-3, will allow more residents to raise chickens, ducks, rabbits, and bees on their properties. City Council adopted Mayor Jackson's proposal for allocating the $25.5 million dollars from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program by a vote of 20-1.

Update: Cleveland City Council issued a press release about the allocation of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds.

Persisting Racial & Ethnic Disparities in Ohio Mortgage Lending, a new report from the Housing Research & Advocacy Center, found that upper-income African Americans in the state were denied home mortgages more often than low-income whites. It also found that they were more likely to receive high-cost subprime loans.

The transportation portion of Governor Strickland's budget proposal includes tolls for new road construction, support for commuter rail, and new funding mechanisms for road improvements, among other items. Meanwhile, AMATS unveiled a draft of its Transportation Outlook (PDF) for Summit and Portage counties. It will be open for public comment (PDF) through February 27.

Ned Hill and Fran Stewart of Cleveland State University call for a "New City Beautiful - a model of development that emphasizes urban design and the importance of public spaces as a way of creating and holding value in private places."

Yesterday's Sound of Ideas show was devoted to a discussion of residency requirements for municipal employees.

In an editorial, the Plain Dealer repeats its appeal for openness in the planning process for the Medical Mart and convention center.

On Thursday (PDF), the board of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District will discuss the regional stormwater management role proposed for the agency. The increase in responsibilities would be accompanied by new fees, which have been controversial, especially in light of the continued increases in sewer rates.

Update: GreenCityBlueLake answers questions about regional stormwater management.

Steven Litt considers the available information about the plans to build the new convention center and Medical Mart at Mall B. He identifies the advantages of the site as well as some concerns about the proposal.

In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Don Iannone says that "Cleveland leaders and citizens cannot afford to lose hope in downtown Cleveland" and urges local leaders to move quickly on the Medical Mart and convention center project.

Last week, consultants for the City of South Euclid presented an analysis of the City's market potential. They examined lifestyle indicators and determined that in the near future, the City will be most appealing to younger couples and childless singles. The methodology (PDF) and indicator descriptions (PDF) are available for download. South Euclid officials are also seeking funding for a concept for renovating the City's bungalows.

Developers in Garfield Heights are seeking permission to extend Transportation Boulevard south to Rockside Road. The proposal requires Ohio EPA approval because part of the route runs through a closed landfill.

The Tremont West Development Corporation's increased focus on code enforcement has been a source of controversy in the neighborhood. The CDC held its annual meeting last week.

The expansion of the Renaissance Park shopping center at Pearl and Whitney Roads in Strongsville is proceeding, but at a slower pace than anticipated. The expansion of the nearby Wal-Mart should be completed by late spring or early summer.

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