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June 2009 Archives

Toby Cosgrove, Tim Hagan, and Chris Kennedy talked about the Medical Mart at the City Club yesterday. MMPI President Chris Kennedy said that the four- or five-story structure will be built at the northeast corner of Ontario Street and St. Clair Avenue. He also said that the renovation of Public Auditorium will begin late this year and finish next year. Audio of the forum is available (MP3, 50.9 MB) from the City Club.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is promoting a fix-it-first philosophy for infrastructure investments, but a new report from Smart Growth America identified Ohio as one of only five states to allocate over half of its federal stimulus road budget to new construction.

The Ohio EPA is offering financial assistance for the design and construction of methane extraction systems at City View Center in Garfield Heights.

A Bainbridge Township Trustee said that the Township would be willing to reconsider the proposed JEDD for the Marketplace at Four Corners area, if the City of Aurora will pay the entire $1.2 million sought by the McGill Property Group.

Update: Aurora leaders remain interested in the JEDD.

Congressman Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania wants a Pittsburgh to Cleveland route added to the federal list of high-speed rail corridors. It would connect the Chicago Hub Network with the Keystone Corridor. Pennsylvania officials are concerned that their planning for high-speed rail lags behind other states.

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance launched the City Bikes program today. The bicycle rental program begins with 17 bicycles and will operate seven days a week. It's based on East 4th Street, but next year could move to the planned bike station at the Gateway North parking garage.

The City of Middleburg Heights will convert a vacant gas station at the corner of Smith and Pearl roads to a new public park. A completion date has not been identified.

ParkWorks issued an RFQ (PDF) for a "design team to address the scale, accessibility, connectivity and feel of Public Square." It's intended to "translate the ongoing dialogue about opportunities to reconfigure or reprogram Public Square into a schematic design and budget estimate that can transform the Square into a healthy anchor for downtown."

Concrete crushing continues at the PMX site in Euclid. The resulting gravel will be used for new roads on the property and for the foundations of new buildings.

South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo, University Heights Councilman Kevin Patrick Murphy, and Cleveland Heights Councilman Mark Tumeo spoke at a panel discussion on regionalism last week.

Chagrin Falls Village Council is considering an ordinance that would establish a Village land bank.

The City of Lakewood is using a combination of nuisance abatement techniques and federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program dollars to eliminate blighted structures.

The K&D Group dropped its plans to redevelop the Ameritrust complex, citing issues with prospective tenants. Last fall, Cuyahoga County extended the developer's deadline for completing the purchase, but K&D was unable to make the project work. The County intends to put the buildings at East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue on the market later this year or next year.

The Plain Dealer looked at the farms operated through the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy and profiled the three newest farms in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. An additional farm will be available for lease later this year.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $311,000 to the City of Lakewood for the implementation of some components of the Detroit Avenue Streetscape Plan.

The board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority unanimously voted to issue up to $150 million in bonds to enable the move of Eaton Corp. from downtown Cleveland to Beachwood.

Cleveland State University's Board of Trustees appointed Ned Hill as Dean of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs today. He has served as Interim Dean of the College since October 2007.

The Brookings Institution posted the text of Bruce Katz's remarks at the recent Restoring Prosperity to Cleveland Mini-Summit.

The City Club of Cleveland will host a panel discussion titled "Building Sustainability in our City" on July 16. The event is part of the Downtown Quarterly Series.

On the 40th anniversary of the famous fire on the Cuyahoga River, some of those involved with its cleanup shared their memories with the Plain Dealer. Others appeared on WCPN's Sound of Ideas program this morning. The U.S. EPA praised Ohio for its progress in restoring the river, but declined to remove portions of the Cuyahoga from its list of Areas of Concern. The agency wants to see environmental recovery along the entire length of the river.

A Plain Dealer editorial recognized the anniversary and the cleanup of the river, while the paper's Joe Frolik cited examples of what makes the Cuyahoga's comeback a success story. Jeff Opperman said that "Cleveland must redouble its efforts to recast the burning river story" as "a symbol of hope" for the world. The U.S. EPA's Mark Moloney also added his thoughts. Chris Varley, on the other hand, said that we still have a long way to go and that there "is remarkably little to celebrate."

Update: NPR's All Things Considered also aired a report on the anniversary.

Brad Whitehead of the Fund for Our Economic Future encourages Northeast Ohio residents to participate in the EfficientGovNow grant program, which will open to public voting on July 1.

Independence officials say that the proposed Hemlock Trail could be completed in the next few years. Federal and state funding will cover most of the costs, with the City paying for ecological and environmental studies.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that Mayor Jackson "is right to be skeptical" about the the Ohio Department of Transportation's promises to replace diverted federal transportation stimulus dollars. The projects funded by the shifted funds are not in the Cleveland area, which the editorial says "reveals the depth of the state's neglect of its urban economic engines in favor of spreading political peanut butter for votes."

GreenCityBlueLake reports that the Downtown Cleveland Alliance plans to launch a bike rental program by the end of this month. The Plain Dealer has more details about the organization's efforts to renew the Downtown Cleveland Special Improvement District for a second five-year term.

On Thursday, Judge Pianka of Cleveland Housing Court issued a preliminary injunction against Wells Fargo Bank, ordering the bank to repair or demolish distressed houses it owns before it sells them. Wells Fargo is considering an appeal.

Proposals in a draft of the new Solon master plan would enlarge the City's commercial areas. Meanwhile, Giant Eagle hopes to double the size of its Solar Center store to 99,900 square feet. Six parcels on Aurora Road must be rezoned by residents in order for the expansion to proceed.

The City of Strongsville is requesting proposals for planning and design services to assist in the development of an architectural identity.

Westlake's Planning Commission and City Council approved the development plan for the first phase of Cuyahoga Community College's planned Westshore campus at Bradley and Clemens roads. The College plans a fall groundbreaking, with the first of three buildings scheduled to open in January 2011.

Mark Falanga of MMPI said that the company has cleared most of the challenges to building the planned Medical Mart in Cleveland, and that it soon will begin marketing the project to medical suppliers.

Of the $220 million in federal stimulus funds awarded to Cleveland transportation projects, the Ohio Department of Transportation has diverted $135 million to projects elsewhere in the state. While ODOT has pledged to replace the shifted funds with other state and federal highway dollars, Mayor Jackson is worried that the State will be unable to fulfill its commitment. On Tuesday, he outlined his concerns in a letter to Governor Strickland.

Update: an ODOT spokesperson said that the agency remains committed to the projects.

The Plain Dealer looked at the combination of innovative tactics employed by Cleveland Housing Court Judge Raymond Pianka to maintain the quality of the City's housing stock.

Monday, June 22 will mark the 40th anniversary of the last fire on the Cuyahoga River. As part of the Year of the River celebrations, a variety of events will be held along the River on Saturday, from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Settlers Landing in the Flats. At 9:00 this evening, WVIZ will show Walking the River, an hour-long documentary first aired in November.

Update: Jim White of the Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization spoke about the cleaner river on WCPN.

Architect Mehrdad Yazdani presented his design concept for the new University Circle rapid transit station at a recent public meeting in Cleveland Heights. Construction of the $10 million project is scheduled to begin in fall 2010.

The Plain Dealer published another editorial about funding for the Ohio Urban University Program, and again urged Ohio legislators to keep the program alive.

The U.S. EPA plans to redesignate the eight Greater Cleveland counties as being in compliance with federal ozone standards. While the region's air quality is improving, it is not expected to meet tougher ozone standards adopted last year.

Update: additional details are available from several local news sources.

At the request of federal transportation officials, the Ohio Department of Transportation reassigned $57 million in federal stimulus funds from highway planning and design work to shorter-term construction projects, including the $20 million that had been designated for the Opportunity Corridor in Cleveland. ODOT officials said that the planning projects will be supported with non-stimulus funds. In April, ODOT redirected $115 million of the $200 million in stimulus funds initially assigned to the Innerbelt Bridge project.

A Plain Dealer analysis of the recent Ohio Supreme Court decision on municipal residency requirements described the ruling as "the whack of a gavel pounding another nail -- perhaps the final one -- into home rule's coffin."

A Cincinnati Enquirer editorial says that the foreclosure reform measure passed by the Ohio House last month deserves fair consideration by the Ohio Senate.

(via ReBuild Ohio)

The Cuyahoga River's water quality and fish populations are improving, and it also is increasing in popularity as a recreation destination. The middle Cuyahoga's Class IV rapids attract whitewater kayakers.

Valdis Krebs used network mapping to illustrate the connections between individuals and organizations involved in illegal house flipping in Slavic Village.

Neighborhood Progress, Inc. will hold six public workshops about the Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland initiative in June and July. The City of Cleveland set aside $500,000 of its Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds for the Re-Imagining Cleveland Grant Program, and applications are due by July 31 (PDF). Meanwhile, the Downtown Cleveland Special Improvement District, established in 2006, is up for renewal next year. The Downtown Cleveland Alliance is holding a series of forums and conducting a survey to gather feedback.

In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Tom Bier expresses his concern that the planning for the proposed Opportunity Corridor in Cleveland "is infected by the City Hall virus that stunts economic development and repels employers." Roldo Bartimole has a different perspective.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is conducting an update of its Noise Compatibility Program. Work on the 18–24-month noise study, last completed in 2000, began in January.

Advanced Hydro Solutions' Metro Hydroelectric subsidiary dropped its plans to reestablish hydroelectric power generation at a Cuyahoga River dam in Summit County's Gorge Metro Park. The company surrendered its preliminary permit (PDF) from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday.

Update: WKSU has more information.

Later this year, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park will begin work on a new trails plan. The current trails plan was prepared in 1985. Meanwhile, National Park Superintendent John Debo announced his retirement today (PDF), effective July 3. In August, he will become the chief development officer of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association. Debo has served as superintendent for 21 years.

Update: the Akron Beacon Journal and WKSU have more information about Debo's departure. The Beacon Journal also published a very positive editorial.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon announced that the two countries will update the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The 1972 agreement was last amended in 1987.

In a 5-2 ruling on Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a 2006 state law that eliminated residency requirements for local governments in the state. In his majority opinion, Justice Pfeifer cited Section 34 of the Ohio Constitution, which says that the General Assembly may enact laws for the general welfare of employees. The City of Cleveland and 137 other Ohio cities and villages had instituted residency rules for employees. Other states have also banned residency requirements.

Members of Cleveland's safety forces celebrated the ruling, but City officials were not pleased. Mayor Jackson said he was disappointed, but would abide by the decision. Cleveland City Council called the ruling flawed and was critical of state legislators who supported the law. A Plain Dealer editorial said that the decision was "horrendous" and that it "undermines home rule" and "sets a pernicious precedent." Local real estate experts do not expect to see a rapid exit of City employees, but a gradual migration is possible.

Solon Planning Director Rob Frankland told City Council that major local firms are interested in redeveloping Solon Square and Solar shopping centers.

Local municipal officials welcome the new Cuyahoga County Land Bank, viewing it as a good tool for combating housing abandonment.

Cuyahoga County is distributing $1.3 million in federal funds to suburbs with populations below 50,000. The money is being used to demolish distressed housing.

The fifth Lake Erie: Beyond the Surface special on Channel 3 looked at the ecosystems of Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.

The deadline for the owners to show progress at the condemned former Howard Johnson's hotel in Cleveland was extended until July 20.

Ohio EPA officials say that developer Jerome Osborne, Sr. has not cooperated in developing a plan to restore an 8,700-foot section of the Chagrin River's east branch in Kirtland Hills. The agency intends to refer the matter to the Ohio Attorney General's Office for enforcement action.

The redevelopment of the South Euclid side of Cedar Center is happening as fast as it can, said developer Peter Rubin. He expects the project will take about three years to complete.

Over 400 people attended the Restoring Prosperity to Cleveland Mini-Summit on Monday. Keynote speaker Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution made suggestions for improving Ohio's competitiveness through government reform, and urged state leaders to target investments in urban areas instead of spreading them around "like peanut butter."

Eaton Corp. shared initial plans for its new headquarters at a Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority meeting yesterday. The plans include a 470,000-square-foot headquarters building and 220,400-square-foot parking garage. Eaton wants the Port Authority to agree to a complicated financing deal that would enable the company to move from downtown Cleveland to a 53-acre campus in the Beachwood portion of the Chagrin Highlands.

Members of the Fund for Our Economic Future unanimously voted to continue with a third phase of the program. It will begin in February 2010 and end in February 2013. Leaders anticipate that the phase will be smaller than the first two phases due to the effects of the recession.

Governor Strickland and ODOT Director Jolene Molitoris were in Washington, D.C. yesterday to promote Ohio's high-speed rail plans. They're seeking $400 million in federal funds for the planned 3-C Corridor.

Update: the Columbus Dispatch offers more details.

The owners of two office towers on East 9th Street plan to renovate the downtown buildings. The investor group that owns the Schofield Building (also known as the Euclid Ninth Tower) intends to remove the building's 1960s facade and reveal its original face. They hope to obtain historic preservation tax credits and restore it as a boutique hotel and apartments. Meanwhile, Sovereign Partners LLC of New York plans to completely renovate the East Ohio Building at East 9th Street and Superior Avenue. Sovereign purchased the skyscraper in 2006.

Cleveland City Council passed several ordinances prior to adjourning for the summer, including the allocation of $2.5 million from the Cleveland Convention Center sale for additional improvements to downtown's Perk Plaza.

The Plain Dealer's Year of the River series looked at the steadily improving health of the middle Cuyahoga River and the increasing quantity and diversity of its fish. Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District staffers conduct electrofishing surveys to assess the fish populations.

Local stakeholders differ in their visions for the future of the Euclid Avenue corridor in Cleveland's Midtown neighborhood. MidTown Cleveland Inc.'s master plan calls for redeveloping the area as a technology and health district, yet current development proposals are more heavily institutional and residential. The City of Cleveland is promoting the proposed Midtown Technology Center site as a location for a new state psychiatric hospital. MidTown Cleveland is not opposing the hospital concept, but objects to the Cleveland Housing Networks plans to build permanent supportive housing and Pirhl's proposed senior housing project. Carole Cohen considers the flexibility of master plans.

The Brookings Institution published "Addressing Ohio's Foreclosure Crisis: Taking the Next Steps," a paper by Alan Mallach. Greater Ohio issued a draft of the paper in April.

Inside Business explored the potential and reservations surrounding the planned Medical Mart in Cleveland, describing it as "a significant risk on a promising concept."

In a 4-3 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court overturned two lower courts, ruling that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has exclusive jurisdiction in the state on tree removal matters in utility easements and that the lower courts lacked the jurisdiction to decide the case. A Brooklyn couple had contested FirstEnergy's right to cut down a tree on their property.

The Ohio EPA awarded nine 319 grants, including a $329,208 grant to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health to restore an unnamed tributary of Tinkers Creek (PDF) in Hudson and a $249,984 grant to Metro Parks, Serving Summit County to restore sections of Furnace Run (PDF) in Richfield. Meanwhile, the Ohio Lake Erie Commission gave a $15,000 grant to the GreenCityBlueLake Institute for a land use planning project, and gave a $14,900 grant to the Chagrin River Watershed Partners to develop a clean water web portal.

A group of Brooklyn residents continues to oppose the plans to build a diverging diamond interchange at at I-480 and Tiedeman Road. City officials say they need to obtain an additional $6.5 million for the $12 million project.

The Ohio Department of Development will begin accepting applications for round three of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program on July 1.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more details.

Fairview Park City Council is considering a proposal to double the size of Nelson Russ Park by purchasing 2.3 acres from three property owners for $64,000. The purchase may be approved at the next City Council meeting on June 15.

President Obama appointed Cameron Davis as the nation's first Great Lakes czar. Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, will report to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. His official title is senior adviser on the Great Lakes.

About 60 people attended a Regional Prosperity Initiative meeting in Warrensville Heights today. Mayor Currin of Hudson said that the group hopes to introduce a revenue sharing and regional land use planning proposal by September.

A University of Pennsylvania epidemiologist says that there is a link between crime and vacant properties in urban areas. His research indicates that a rise in the number of vacant lots correlates with increased rates of aggravated assaults.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited the Cuyahoga Valley National Park yesterday and then spoke at the City Club of Cleveland. He said that the park annually generates $38 million for the local economy and helps create 1,000 jobs.

Update: the City Club posted audio of Secretary Salazar's remarks (MP3, 60.6 MB).

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis and Budget Director Sandy Turk disagree sharply about the projected costs (PDF) of the new Cuyahoga County Land Bank.

A Texas economic consulting firm is conducting an analysis of the Euclid corridor between downtown Cleveland and University Circle to determine whether it could support a biomedical industry cluster.

Cleveland Heights City Council candidate Toby Rittner asserts that the City needs a new comprehensive master plan and economic strategy, saying that it "should encompass all residential neighborhoods and commercial corridors and include specifics for physical and economic development, with benchmarks to measure the plan's success on a yearly basis."

The Home in the Heights subsidiary of the Home Repair Resource Center in Cleveland Heights recently sold its first renovated home, a house on Westover Drive that had been vacant for more than two years.

A Restoring Prosperity to Cleveland Mini-Summit will be held at Cleveland State on June 8. The event is part of the Restoring Prosperity to Ohio Initiative of the Brookings Institution and Greater Ohio. The Brookings Institution's Bruce Katz will be the keynote speaker.

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