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July 2009 Archives

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jolene Molitoris spoke at the City Club today. She said that the (MP3, 51.1 MB) Innerbelt Bridge project is "the highest and most pressing transportation issue in the state."

Update: she also said that the decision to eliminate Innerbelt ramps at Prospect and Carnegie avenues may not be final. Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration approved the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Innerbelt project. The public comment period is open until August 31.

Today is the final opportunity to cast a vote in the EfficientGovNow program. As of yesterday, the Westshore Regional Fire District project was in first place.

Leaders in Orange are considering the installation of bicycle paths along seven roadways in the Village. Construction would cost an estimated $4 million.

Over 500 acres of the Geauga Lake property are still for sale, although Cedar Fair officials say that the company has not recently received offers for the land. A Bainbridge Township trustee wants to develop a plan for the area.

Great Northern Mall officials are planning a multimillion-dollar renovation of the mall, including updates to the interior and exterior.

For the second consecutive year, the Natural Resources Defense Council's annual Testing the Waters report ranked the water quality at Ohio's beaches as the second-worst in the nation. Bacteria levels at the state's Lake Erie beaches exceeded acceptable levels approximately 19% of the time in 2008. There were 783 health advisory days at Ohio beaches last year, up from 657 in 2007.

Citing financial difficulties, Timberstone Group of Toledo dropped its plans to build to build more retail at Renaissance Park in Strongsville. The company's other project in Strongsville, a partially-completed outlot at SouthPark Center, is facing foreclosure.

South Euclid City Council unanimously approved a new development agreement for the north side of Cedar Center. In order to obtain financing, the redevelopment project was split into four phases. Phase one construction could begin early next year. Councilwoman Jane Goodman said that it will be "a magnet for new residents looking to be part of a revitalized neighborhood and city, and a reason for longtime residents to stay."

Phase two construction of Rockport Square on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood is continuing. Work on six new townhomes recently started. A date for beginning the third phase of construction has not been established.

Cleveland State's Tom Bier disapproves of the plans to build a psychiatric hospital and subsidized housing along Euclid Avenue in Cleveland's Midtown neighborhood. Dr. Bier, Bill Denihan, and Chris Warren were guests on yesterday's Sound of Ideas program on WCPN, where they discussed the issues.

About 150 people attended the U.S. EPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative stakeholder meeting in Cuyahoga Heights on Monday evening. Agency officials heard feedback about the proposed $475 million restoration program. The EPA is also gathering suggestions online.

Update: Michael Scott of the Plain Dealer summarized the recurring themes of the meeting.

The Cleveland Stater explored the new Student Center under construction at CSU's downtown campus. It's scheduled to open in May 2010.

Next American City summarized the current state of the lawsuit by the Cleveland Housing Renewal Project (a Neighborhood Progress, Inc. subsidiary) against Wells Fargo.

Cleveland State University is demolishing the landmark Corlett Building on Euclid Avenue. Its site will be used for parking, greenspace, and possibly for a farmers market. An arts center has also been proposed for the site. Urban Ohio has a picture of the demolition.

(via Cleveland Design City)

To help balance its 2009 budget, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will eliminate its 12 community circulator routes and implement a 25¢ fare increase. RTA will also modify 12–15 other routes with low ridership. The fare increase will go into effect on September 1 and community circulator service will end on September 20. Transit agencies across the country are taking similar steps.

Update: RTA may adjust some of its bus routes to compensate for the loss of the circulators.

The owners of Solar Shopping Center are planning major renovations and an expansion of the plaza, including the construction of a 90,900-square-foot Giant Eagle supermarket. The proposal calls for rezoning several parcels. The City of Solon recently hired a law firm to assist in its negotiations.

Plain Dealer theater critic Tony Brown said that the Cleveland Play House's plan to move from Fairfax to Playhouse Square "looks like the best deal under the circumstances."

The owners of the former Howard Johnson's hotel near the East Shoreway and East 55th Street now have until August 20 to demonstrate progress in their plans to redevelop the tower. A Cuyahoga County judge extended the deadline for a second time on Friday. Two members of Cleveland City Council want the temporary restraining order lifted.

The Cleveland Clinic will purchase the 295,000-square foot Cleveland Play House and its 12-acre property at Euclid Avenue and at East 85th Street. The price was not disclosed, but the Plain Dealer reports it will be in the $13–15 million range. The agreement includes a two-year leaseback clause (PDF) that will allow the Play House time to arrange its planned move to the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square.

With two other local Hungarian Catholic churches scheduled to close by next summer, parishioners at St. Elizabeth of Hungary hope that the area's Hungarian American community will show a renewed interest in Cleveland's Buckeye neighborhood.

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank's site is now available. It includes information about the land reutilization corporation and its policies for demolition and vacant land, housing, property preservation, and land assembly.

The first apartments at the Residences at Six Six Eight are scheduled to open on August 15. The redevelopment of the 668 Euclid building in downtown Cleveland may be completed by April.

Michigan Radio looked at lessons that Detroit could learn from the Opportunity Homes program in Cleveland and from ESOP's foreclosure prevention actions.

(via Rust Wire)

Cuyahoga County officials say that negotiations for the purchase of the office building at 113 St. Clair have stalled. The County wants the downtown property for the planned Medical Mart. If an agreement isn't reached next month, the County will instead utilize the site of its current administration building at Lakeside Avenue and Ontario Street. The County recently began a formal search for new office space.

Monday's Plain Dealer included updates on the redevelopment of the former St. Luke's Medical Center campus in Buckeye and the plans to restore a portion of Doan Brook in Cleveland.

As the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority continues planning for its relocation to a site north of East 55th Street and for the redevelopment of its current downtown facilities, the Plain Dealer's Joe Frolik considered ways to enliven nearby Voinovich Park.

A Morning Journal editorial encourages public participation in the Great Lakes restoration meeting on July 27 at the Cleveland Metroparks CanalWay Center in Cuyahoga Heights. The U.S. EPA recently issued an outline of its restoration plan (PDF).

Ohio officials submitted applications for federal funding of the proposed 3-C Corridor passenger rail line. They indicated that income from the state's highway advertising program would help pay for its operation. 40 states and the District of Columbia submitted proposals. Meanwhile, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved $4 billion for high-speed rail construction, which would be in addition to the $8 billion in federal stimulus funds.

In order to address its budget shortfall, RTA leaders are considering service cuts and fare increases. General Manager Joe Calabrese recommended eliminating the community circulators and instituting a temporary 25¢ fare increase. The agency's board held a special meeting last week, but did not reach a decision. The board's next scheduled meeting is on July 28. A Plain Dealer editorial says that RTA "has no choice but to look at some combination of fare increases and service cuts."

The Ohio Department of Transportation now plans to build a new five-lane westbound Innerbelt Bridge that would open September 2013, and in 2015, open a five-lane replacement for the existing Innerbelt Bridge. The agency dropped its plans for a signature bridge and is now considering box and girder bridges and a design-build process. ODOT officials presented their most recent plans at an Aesthetics Subcommittee meeting late last month and at a Cleveland City Planning Commission meeting last week (PDFs).

Panelists Lindsay Baxter, Roger Chang, and Andrew Watterson discussed the state of sustainability in older industrial cities (MP3, 51.7 MB) at the City Club on Thursday. On Friday, author Storm Cunningham spoke about "what it takes to achieve rapid, resilient renewal" (MP3, 51.4 MB) in urban areas.

The Ohio Urban University Program based at Cleveland State University was not funded in the two-year state budget. Some of its programs will be funded by the University, at least temporarily.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that the program's "spirit should live on".

The six Cuyahoga County cities in the Westshore Council of Governments and the City of North Ridgeville hired Emergency Services Consulting International to study the proposed Westshore Regional Fire District. The proposal is one of nine finalists in the EfficientGovNow grant competition.

Moreland Hills leaders officially opened the new Forest Ridge Preserve on Sunday. The 124-acre preserve is the Village's first park.

Update: EcoWatch Ohio has more details.

A streetscape improvement project is underway along one block of West 6th Street in the Warehouse District. Construction began last week and is scheduled to end this week. Officials hope to replicate the work around the neighborhood.

Update: the Downtown Cleveland Alliance has more details.

A group of history teachers recently toured the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, and CSU's Center for Public and Digital Humanities documented the visit with stories, audio, and photographs. The local Albanian community intends to place a larger-than-life statue of Mother Teresa in the new Albanian Cultural Garden.

Plain Dealer columnist Margaret Bernstein shared more details about the Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland grant program. Neighborhood Progress, Inc. scheduled an additional workshop for applicants, to be held at Trinity Commons on July 20. The application deadline remains July 31.

Some Cleveland City Council members are closely watching the activities of the new Cuyahoga County Land Bank.

The U.S. EPA and Environment Canada jointly produced the State of the Great Lakes 2009 highlights report. It said that the status of the ecosystem is mixed, and that "trends of Great Lakes ecosystem conditions varied: some conditions were improving and some were deteriorating." Meanwhile, the U.S. EPA will hold a series of public meetings across the region to discuss the proposed $475 million Great Lakes restoration program. The Ohio meeting will be held on July 27 at the Cleveland Metroparks CanalWay Center.

Update: Sam Speck of the International Joint Commission spoke about the future of the Great Lakes at an Akron Roundtable luncheon.

Most retailers at First & Main in Hudson are surviving the recession. The mixed-use development will celebrate its fifth anniversary in October.

The Cleveland Memory Project scanned and posted the 17 volumes of highway Route Location Studies produced in the 1960s, plus the 1955 Comprehensive Arterial Highway Plan for Cuyahoga County. They detail plans for built and unbuilt sections of the county's freeway system.

Seven of the nine Medina County cities and townships in the Rocky River Upper West Branch watershed have adopted a balanced growth plan.

The multi-year renovation of the Terminal Tower is nearing completion, and the Plain Dealer published a large infographic about the history and restoration of the skyscraper, plus current and historic photographs. The building will turn 80 next year.

As support grows for the proposed 3-C Corridor, communities along the proposed route between Cleveland and Cincinnati are lobbying to be selected as stops. The communities competing for stations on the passenger rail line include Grafton, Wellington, Crestline, Gallion, Middletown, and Hamilton.

The Jacobs Group is seeking approval of a new road that would serve a possible future development at the southwest corner of Route 82 and I-77 in Brecksville and Broadview Heights.

Late last month, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved $5.7 million in federal funding for projects in Ohio, including $4 million for the purchase of more than 600 undeveloped acres at Blossom Music Center for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Wells + Associates, the engineering firm developing a master traffic plan for the City of Solon, recommends building a connector road to link Aurora Road to Route 422. The idea was first proposed last year as part of the Coral Co.'s since-withdrawn mixed-use development. The firm also suggests widening a section of Aurora Road.

Stanton Eckstut of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects recently presented conceptual designs for redeveloping the 100 acres of Cleveland's downtown lakefront currently used by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. He envisions a dense, mixed use area with public parks and a lakefront promenade. There would be three overlapping districts: the harbor, the piers, and the park river district. He said that development should begin in three to five years. The presentation is available online (PDF, 14.6 MB). Some of the participants in the planning process discussed the concepts on WCPN's Sound of Ideas.

The City of Mayfield Heights may create a new mixed-use zoning classification. The proposed change was not prompted by a development proposal.

City Architecture presented preliminary renderings of streetscape designs for Old Detroit Road in Rocky River to the Detroit Road Stakeholders Group.

The Texas Transportation Institute's 2009 Urban Mobility Report found that traffic congestion in American cities eased slightly in 2007. Greater Cleveland figures followed the national trends (PDF). Of the 29 large urban areas studied, the Cleveland area had the second-lowest amount of congestion per driver.

An Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the new Compact with Ohio Cities Task Force could generate recommendations to refocus and simplify state incentive programs to encourage reinvestment in urban areas instead of urban sprawl.

A New York Times analysis of state spending of federal transportation stimulus dollars "offered vivid evidence that metropolitan areas are losing the struggle for stimulus money" to rural areas. The article used the funding for the Innerbelt Bridge project in Cleveland as an example. A recent report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors (PDF) reached a similar conclusion, leading mayors to register complaints with the White House.

Update: the Columbus Dispatch also published an article on the subject.

Developer Lou Frangos said he can revive the suspended redevelopment of the Ameritrust complex. He owns a stake in a property below a building in the downtown Cleveland complex.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is conducting an environmental assessment for the second phase of the Tinkers Creek Aqueduct rehabilitation and replacement in Valley View. Phase 1, the construction of a pedestrian bridge and the routing of water through temporary pipes, was completed in 2007. The proposed phase 2 includes the installation of new aqueduct structure, and would be funded with $1 to $2 million of federal stimulus funds. The National Park Service will accept public comments until July 31.

Update: the Sun Courier has more details.

The City of Cleveland Heights has completed the conversion of three two-family houses into side-by-side condominiums through its East Derbyshire Road Rehabilitation Project.

The New York Times visited Cleveland's East 4th Street, and attributed its vitality to "15 years of work by the Maron family to turn a worn thoroughfare and its old buildings into a prime example of 21st-century urban redevelopment in the Midwest."

RTA's budget projections (PDFs) indicate that the agency's sales tax collections will be $15 to $16 million less than anticipated. RTA ridership figures also fell in April and May after several years of increases. Officials attribute the drop to rising unemployment.

Construction of an office building and parking garage to accompany the new Veterans Affairs Medical Center in University Circle may begin later this month, if the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority issues bonds to help fund the project.

Update: the Port Authority approved up to $115 million in bonds for the project.

Family Homelessness in Cuyahoga County, a new paper from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, examined data on families at risk of becoming homeless and on those using residential homeless services. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also released a pair of reports about changes in homelessness at the national level. The 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (PDF) found increasing rates of family homelessness in suburban and rural areas. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County were one of nine areas studied in the agency's first Homeless Pulse Project (PDF) report.

On September 10, RTA will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center at East 21st Street and Prospect Avenue. The $9.6 million facility near Cleveland State University is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010. It will include public art (PDF) and design elements to honor the late congresswoman.

Unlike Chrysler, General Motors intends to retain around 67% of its stores in the Cleveland-Akron area, including around 79% in Cuyahoga County.

The Plain Dealer examined the rise of urban farming in Cleveland, and also looked at the trends encouraging the practice and the different perspectives of its advocates. Marc Lefkowitz said that the articles highlighted "a need for government policy and scaling ideas being tested by nonprofit groups and farmers working on scattered sites."

Different groups have different visions for the best place to rebuild the 1909 Euclid Beach carousel. Northeast Shores Development Corporation and Euclid Beach Park Now want to install it near its original location and a planned recreation center and pier. They say it could be ready in two years. Another group, the Cleveland Carousel, is raising money to rebuild it elsewhere in Cleveland.

Panelists at an Urban Land Institute event last week spoke about collaboration in University Circle. At the Heights Observer, Cleveland Heights City Council candidate Mary Dunbar wrote about the the opportunities for Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights created by the rejuvenation of University Circle.

A noise mitigation pilot project is underway at sites along the Ohio Turnpike in Berea and Strongsville. A final report on the effectiveness of the sound barriers should be ready in September. Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Transportation is considering the installation of noise walls along I-90 in Tremont, and is gathering public feedback on the proposal.

Construction of the new Fulton Road Bridge in Old Brooklyn is 75% complete, but poor weather earlier this year may push back its opening from November 2009 to March 2010.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the U.S. EPA should delist portions of the Cuyahoga River, saying that "the insistence that delisting come only after all segments of the 112-mile river are pronounced pristine defies common sense." The paper also published historic photographs of the polluted river from the 1960s.

The City of South Euclid will use a $270,000 First Suburbs Development Council grant to purchase, rehabilitate, and sell abandoned houses. The City will concentrate on five streets north of Cedar Center and the Bexley-Rowland area.

The Ohio Department of Mental Health selected a site along Euclid Avenue between East 55th and East 63rd streets for the new $84 million regional psychiatric hospital. It will replace aging facilities at the MetroHealth campus on Cleveland's west side and in Sagamore Hills Township. The 14-acre site was previously targeted for redevelopment as the Midtown Technology Center. Meanwhile, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency awarded affordable housing tax credits to six projects in Cuyahoga County, including two controversial planned developments in Midtown. Emerald Alliance V, a permanent supportive housing development, received $1 million. A neighboring planned senior housing development received $915,122.

Judge Pianka of Cleveland Housing Court lifted his injunction against Wells Fargo Bank, and ordered it to post a $1 million bond if it wants to begin selling distressed houses it owns in Cleveland.

The U.S. Census Bureau's annual subcounty population estimates state that Cleveland's population was 433,748 in July 2008, which is 4,265 people below the 2007 estimate. The figures reflect similar changes at the county level and in other urban areas. Population losses slowed in urban cores and growth slowed in exurban areas. Cleveland lost 0.97% of its population, an improvement over last year's loss of 1.11%. The Plain Dealer chose to highlight a more negative angle, focusing on the estimated population decrease of 43,724 between 2000 and 2008.

Update: CSU's Mark Salling talked about the estimates on WCPN. Dr. Salling was also among the guests on the station's Sound of Ideas program devoted to the subject. Demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution examined the trends on a national level.

The Fund for Our Economic Future announced the nine finalists in the $300,000 EfficientGovNow grant program. Up to three of the governmental collaboration projects will be funded. The only finalist in Cuyahoga County is the proposed Westshore Regional Fire District. Public voting on the proposals opened today and will continue until the end of the month.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more information, and editorials in the Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon Journal say that area residents should cast a vote.

Yesterday, RTA's board of trustees approved several resolutions, including contracts for the design of the new Brookpark rapid station, for a study of the Warrensville Center Road-Van Aken Boulevard intersection in Shaker Heights, and for the construction of the new East 55th Street rapid station. The board also authorized spending to complete the overhaul of its light rail fleet and to purchase 6.7 acres for the expansion of the Westlake Park-N-Ride facility.

It appears likely that funding for the Ohio Urban University Program will be cut from the Ohio budget, which will lead to a loss of research programs at Cleveland State's Levin College.

The July issue of Cleveland Magazine features a set of articles about the 40th anniversary of the the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire.

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