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December 2009 Archives

Although it obtained federal dollars to preserve transit service, Lorain County Transit may reduce its number of routes from 12 to two. Officials in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties have begun to discuss the potential for a partnership between RTA and Lorain County Transit. Meanwhile, a coalition of organizations unveiled the Save Transit Now, Move Ohio Forward! campaign to advocate for public transportation.

Update: the Columbus Government Examiner has more details about the campaign's objectives. A Morning Journal editorial says that a Cuyahoga County-Lorain County public transit partnership is "worth talking about".

In a purchase facilitated by the Trust for Public Land, ParkWorks acquired 3.23 acres of a former rail corridor on the west bank of the Flats for the planned Lake Link Trail and Greenway. They secured a trail easement for another 1.75 acres, protecting 1.3 miles of the route that will connect the Towpath Trail with Lake Erie. Funding for the $1.2 million purchase came from a Clean Ohio Conservation Fund grant.

RTA plans to demolish the closed Rockefeller Avenue bridge in Cleveland. They do not intend to replace it.

Today's News-Herald has a brief update on the activities of the Ohio Commission on Local Government Reform and Collaboration.

The Chagrin Falls Region Alternative Transportation Study was one of the 13 projects awarded a TLCI planning grant earlier this month. The study will begin in January, and will develop a plan for a trail network in eastern Cuyahoga County and western Geauga County.

The Plain Dealer concluded its Year of the River series with a look at the Cuyahoga River valley as a living laboratory. Industrial design students at the Cleveland Institute of Art used biomimicry to develop proposals for creating fish habitats in the river's shipping channel.

Judge Anthony Russo shared his vision for the Cleveland Metroparks in a Plain Dealer op-ed: "As the advent of regionalism looms on the horizon, the time has come to develop and implement a master plan whereby the Cleveland Metroparks undertakes stewardship of all available public property on the lakefront, creating a new Cleveland Lakefront Metroparks."

As the Fund for Our Economic Future prepares to embark on its third three-year phase, Phil Ranney of the Kent H. Smith Charitable Trust and Brian Frederick of the Community Foundation of Lorain County say that the "collaboration is indeed making a difference in transforming the future of Northeast Ohio. And philanthropy remains committed to, and invites others to join, the mission we embarked on in 2004 to make our region great again."

A largely-South Asian community of international students is emerging around East 12th Street in downtown Cleveland. About 90% of the residents of the Chesterfield apartments are from India.

Cuyahoga County officials reopened talks with the owners of buildings on the west side of Mall B, and may sign an option to purchase the properties. It would allow MMPI to drop its controversial proposal to build the Medical Mart at Mall C.

The 2010 federal omnibus spending bill includes $500,000 for the reconfiguration of the six-way intersection at Warrensville Center Road and Van Aken Boulevard in Shaker Heights. It also includes $2.5 billion for high-speed rail projects, a compromise between Senate and House versions of the bill.

Lakewood City Council approved legislation that expands the City's historic preservation ordinance to include publicly-accessible building interiors. City officials say that it's not targeted at any particular building.

The U.S. Census Bureau released 2009 state population estimates today. Ohio's population grew by an estimated 189,505 between 2000 and July 2009, an increase of 1.7%. It was one of the nation's smaller growth rates. At the national scale, population growth slowed in the South and West over the last year. The recession has reduced domestic and international migration.

Last week, a team led by James Corner of Field Operations presented three concepts for a redesign of Cleveland's Public Square to a steering committee from ParkWorks and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. Each of the scenarios offers a framework for unifying Public Square's four quadrants: one would frame the square with a trellis, a second would forest the square and close Ontario Street, and the third would thread the square with a man-made hill connecting the quadrants. The thread concept has received the most positive responses.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial enthusiastically supports further pursuit of the ideas.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's board is expected to vote on the proposed stormwater management program on January 7. If the board approves the proposal, collection of a new impervious surface fee would begin in July. The district is also preparing for legal challenges of its authority to implement the fee. A Plain Dealer editorial calls it "a fair plan that the sewer district board should approve in January."

Update: the Bath Township Trustees oppose the initiative.

The City of South Euclid's Green Neighborhoods Initiative is underway. The program's first house is on Wilmington Road, and its renovations should be finished by spring.

Three local investors are purchasing and rehabilitating distressed houses in Cleveland's inner-ring suburbs. The partners have bought 38 houses since July.

A draft of the Ohio 2010 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report found that water quality of the state's rivers and streams has improved since the last report was completed in 2008. Some of the improvement may be due to a change in methodologies. The report is open for public comment until March 31. Panelists on the most recent NEOtropolis show discussed the importance of watersheds and the Great Lakes Compact.

Update: the Columbus Dispatch has more details.

On Monday, Euclid City Council unanimously voted to adopt the Euclid Waterfront Improvements Plan. The City will now seek funding for the $47 million project.

Akron City Council approved a series of sewer rate increases to pay for improvements identified in the settlement with the U.S. EPA. The first increase will be a 25% hike in 2010. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial said that while the higher rates will be painful, the work they fund will benefit the City.

Participants on Monday's Sound of Ideas program on WCPN discussed the status of major projects across Greater Cleveland. The guests were Tom Bier of CSU, Stan Bullard of Crain's Cleveland Business, and CPC director Paul Alsenas.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's trustees rejected a proposed 2010 budget and associated service reductions. The board passed a three-month budget, and the proposed cuts will be discussed at public hearings in January. A statewide coalition is organizing a campaign to advocate for increasing investments in public transit.

A group of Cleveland State University graduate students prepared the Birdtown Flight Plan, a guidebook for the historic Lakewood neighborhood. "It seeks to identify assets and build upon them, as well as introduce proposals that will highlight Birdtown/Madison East's historic uniqueness, and bolster the quality of life for those who call it home."

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health is leading a project to restore a tributary of Tinkers Creek near Hudson High School. Hudson City Council recently approved an agreement for the project.

The board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority officially approved the the master plan for the redevelopment of the current port facilities. The Port Authority posted the presentation (PDF) and agenda (PDF) from the meeting. A Plain Dealer editorial says that the Port Authority needs to keep its options open.

Update: William Yankow of the Cleveland Freight Association says that implementing the plan "will leave us with too few acres to expand for port logistics use."

The Cleveland Foundation awarded $15 million in fourth-quarter grants. One of the largest awards was a $1 million grant to Team NEO. The foundation substantially reduced its commitment to the Fund for Our Economic Future, awarding $300,000 for its third phase. The Fund had requested $10 million for the three-year phase. The Gund Foundation gave $4.9 million in grants, including awards to Entrepreneurs for Sustainability and ParkWorks. The two foundations distributed fewer dollars in 2009 than in 2008.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial expressed concern about the Cleveland Foundation's decision to give less to the Fund for Our Economic Future.

The inaugural issue of Forefront, a new magazine from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, includes an interview with UCLA economist Matthew Kahn that touches on green cities, urban growth, and environmental externalities.

The City of Cleveland is seeking proposals from companies interested in building a municipal Wi-Fi network for the Old Brooklyn area. The pilot project would cover 4½ square miles, and if successful, would eventually be expanded to other parts of Cleveland.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial calls it "an experiment that warrants both encouragement and scrutiny in the new year."

Commissioner Hagan said that the Medical Mart project is proceeding and that he's confident it will open before competing projects in other cities.

The Ohio Lake Erie Commission approved six Balanced Growth Strategy grants for local watershed plans, including two in the Lake Erie watershed.

The Ohio Department of Transportation announced that three City of Cleveland staffers will participate in the design-build process for the planned new Innerbelt Bridge.

Update: the Plain Dealer has additional information.

Five ordinances introduced in Parma City Council were developed by students in the sustainability program at Baldwin-Wallace College. The legislation would establish a mixed-use zoning classification, legalize rain barrel installation, permit green roofs, allow bicyclists to use the sidewalks in some areas, and enhance recycling in City buildings.

The City of Lakewood may establish a special improvement district for solar energy.

The Ohio House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 313, which would permit 28 more Ohio counties to establish land banks. The bill now moves to the Ohio Senate as Senate Bill 188.

Transportation Outlook, the new 20-year regional transportation plan released by AMATS, employs (PDF) a fix-it-first approach for the Akron area's transportation network. NOACA does not have a similar policy.

Chagrin Falls Village Council approved the sale of a Village-owned property on West Orange Street to developer Robert Vitt for $467,000. He intends to incorporate it into a planned 11-unit residential development.

In a first-of-its-kind agreement, Fannie Mae will sell distressed houses to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank for $1. For each house deemed beyond repair, Fannie Mae will contribute $3,500 towards its demolition. The land bank will acquire the first 25 properties under the agreement later this month.

In the first five months after the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated municipal residency requirements, 296 Cleveland employees moved to other communities.

The Ohio Department of Transportation reallocated $293,153 in unused federal stimulus dollars to Lorain County Transit. The Lorain County Commissioners will use the funds to preserve some LCT bus routes.

Update: the commissioners may also contribute county dollars. A Morning Journal editorial says that a long-term solution must include more state support for public transit.

Residents on West 50th Street are challenging the City of Cleveland's Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan. They hope to retain the neighborhood's mature trees through regular emamectin benzoate treatments.

The Sacramento Press looked at lessons that California could learn from older Midwestern cities.

(via the Cleveland Foundation)

The Cleveland Rowing Foundation has an opportunity to purchase the former Commodore's Club Marina property on the Columbus Road Peninsula for a new boathouse and Rivergate Park. The organization has a March 31 deadline to raise $3.2 million for the seven-acre site.

Cuyahoga County Probate Judge Anthony Russo, the judge who appoints the three Cleveland Metroparks commissioners, has been active in the search process for the park district's new executive director. Judge Russo also chose not to reappoint William Ryan as a commissioner, selecting Mayfield Village Mayor Bruce Rinker to replace him. A Plain Dealer editorial says that Judge Russo should back off.

Update: Brent Larkin added that "Russo has to get this right or risk being forever remembered as the guy who messed with the Metroparks and damaged one of Greater Cleveland's most cherished assets."

The trustees of the Cleveland Museum of Art voted unanimously to proceed with Step C of the museum's building campaign, the second major phase of its $350 million expansion and renovation. The phase will include the construction of the west wing and central atrium.

The Akron Beacon Journal has more details about the dispute in Summit County about NEORSD's proposed stormwater management program. In neighboring Portage County, Aurora leaders are considering a stormwater fee.

A bill under consideration in the Ohio Senate would revise Ohio's oil and gas drilling laws. It would change the minimum setback from 100 to 150 feet, but does not include enough changes to satisfy Northeast Ohio legislators and residents. They hope to include stronger protections in an Ohio House bill.

Update: this week's issue of Scene has more details. It was also the subject of a discussion on WCPN's Sound of Ideas.

A Plain Dealer editorial said that ODOT's unwillingness to consider bicycle and pedestrian access on the planned new Innerbelt Bridge reflects "an all-too-familiar lack of imagination." NOACA published 40 pages of public comments (PDF) about the proposed bike lanes.

The Plain Dealer's Christopher Evans described three of the 58 projects that received grants through the Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland program.

A Plain Dealer investigation concluded that Cleveland's efforts to increase home ownership inadvertently exacerbated the foreclosure crisis.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that "officials need to explain such an appalling lack of accountability."

Lakewood City Council is scheduled to vote next week on legislation that would strengthen the City's historic preservation ordinance. It could be used to protect St. James Catholic Church, which is scheduled to close in June 2010.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the planned Medical Mart should proceed, and that "making this work -- in a way that benefits the city, the region and the developer -- needs to be a clear community priority for 2010."

NOACA awarded a total of $777,250 in Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative grants to 13 projects in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties. The NOACA Governing Board also added the 3-C Corridor passenger rail line to its long-range transportation plan.

The Dike 14 Nature Preserve Committee, League of Women Voters of the Cleveland Area, and the Northeast Ohio Sierra Group formed the Cleveland Lakefront Alliance to oppose the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's planned relocation to a site north of East 55th Street.

The most recent episode of NEOtropolis looked at neighborhood revitalization in Euclid and downtown Akron. Panelists Raymond Cox, Gus Frangos, and Hunter Morrison also discussed the subject.

Jacob Van Sickle of Slavic Village Development described how the Morgana Run Trail has been "an important asset in selling houses and revitalizing the neighborhood."

The Brooklyn Planning Commission tabled plans for a 35,680-square-foot expansion of the Wal-Mart store on Brookpark Road.

Update: the Planning Commission discussed the plans further, but again did not approve them.

The Ohio Department of Development awarded $23.7 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits to 12 projects across the state. The only recipient in Cuyahoga County was the Cowell & Hubbard Building in downtown Cleveland. The Playhouse Square Foundation purchased the building in 2007.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's real estate and development finance committee approved the port redevelopment plan. The Cleveland City Planning Commission recently approved the same plan, and the full Port Authority board is expected to consider it on Friday.

Update: Virginia Tech's Shrinking Cities weblog says that the market study "reaches many conclusions that the city should be excited to hear."

The U.S. EPA released its annual analysis of Toxics Release Inventory data. In 2008, pollution releases at the national level fell by 6% from 2007 levels. Ohio reduced its releases of toxic air pollutants by 22%, but remained the nation's top emitter of toxic airborne compounds. Toxic releases in Cuyahoga County fell from 12.2 million tons in 2007 to 9.9 million tons in 2008. The ArcelorMittal steel mill in Cleveland was the County's top polluter.

Census Bureau officials anticipate resistance from certain sectors to completing the 2010 Census. Ohio government and nonprofit groups have formed complete count committees.

The community development corporation for the area directly east of downtown Cleveland is rebranding the district. Formerly known as the Quadrangle, the area's new name is the Campus District. Its new connection plan establishes goals for the repositioning, redevelopment, and reorganization of the district centered around the campuses of Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, and St. Vincent Charity Hospital.

The annual Emerging Cleveland tours show the best of the City to students and young professionals. This year's tours will highlight developments built over the past five years. They will be held on December 26 and December 27.

Leaders in Summit County are banding together to oppose the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's proposed stormwater management program. County officials may file a lawsuit against the sewer district.

More than 100 people attended a rally in Tremont on Sunday for bicycle and pedestrian access on the planned new Innerbelt Bridge. They were joined by Dennis Kucinich, who wrote a letter to Governor Strickland in their support. Groups of attendees followed ODOT's proposed alternate routes in an effort to highlight their flaws.

The City of Cleveland issued the final report (PDF) from its Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit. GreenCityBlueLake has a summary.

The Plain Dealer looked at four major downtown Cleveland development projects and whether they could serve as catalysts for future residential development.

The renovated portion of the University Lofts development is finished and will soon have residents. The apartment/condominium project on Euclid Avenue near Cleveland State also includes new construction, which should be completed early next year.

Leaders in Parma are considering the creation of a mixed-use zoning category. It is one of several recommendations from students in the sustainability program at Baldwin-Wallace College.

The Fund for Our Economic Future approved a second round of the EfficientGovNow program today. The Fund's Brad Whitehead described reactions to the first round in an Akron Beacon Journal op-ed.

Update: up to $330,000 will be awarded to governmental collaborations. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial supports the program.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology launched the BUILT in Ohio program, a partnership with Governor Strickland's office and the cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus. It's intended "to help Ohio's cities target emerging sources of federal investment and leverage them towards a new pattern of urban growth."

By a vote of 5-2, the Cleveland City Planning Commission approved the first two phases of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's plan for the redevelopment of its current downtown location.

Update: Steven Litt supports the Planning Commission's decision.

The Home Repair Resource Center in Cleveland Heights is rehabilitating a second home, a 1,380 square-foot house on Edison Road.

Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman helped to organize four public meetings about the Medical Mart for early 2010. Roldo Bartimole interpreted them as a political maneuver. Mayor Jackson spoke about the Medical Mart on Channel 3's Between the Lines and defended Public Auditorium on Channel 5. Commissioner Jones thinks that Cleveland should reduce its asking price for the property MMPI desires for its revised Medical Mart plans. The Cleveland chapter of the American Institute of Architects opposes the new plans, and Steven Litt considered the aesthetic costs of building on Mall C.

Meanwhile, the developers of the proposed Nashville Medical Trade Center announced the site for the 2 million-square-foot complex, increasing pressure on MMPI to demonstrate progress in Cleveland. Developers of both projects have stressed the importance of being the first to open.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority continues to undergo changes. The Port Authority's board laid off four employees and named former National City CEO (PDF) Peter Raskind (PDF) as the port's interim CEO. He expects to serve for three to six months and will be paid $1.00. Raskind spoke with WCPN's Rick Jackson and WKSU's Kevin Niedermier. The Port Authority's board will not see changes, as Mayor Jackson intends to reappoint board Chairman Steven Williams and board member Rose Rodriguez-Bardwell when their terms expire in January. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "Jackson is passing up the chance to help restore public confidence in the port authority board by introducing fresh faces and new ideas."

Microsoft introduced a beta version of its new Bing Maps platform. The new features include Streetside (similar to Google Street View), enhanced oblique aerial photography, and integration of Microsoft's Photosynth technology, among other items. The new functionality requires Microsoft's Silverlight plugin.

The City of Cleveland applied for $219 million in federal funds to resolve the slope instability issues along the Cuyahoga River at Irishtown Bend.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial backs the application.

The Lorain County Commissioners announced on Tuesday that they will eliminate the county subsidy for Lorain County Transit. All of the system's routes will cease operations on December 31. Earlier budget cuts had reduced the system to only 12 routes. Riders are distressed by the news. The City of Avon Lake ended its relationship with RTA in October, so there will be no regularly-scheduled public transportation in Lorain County.

Update: eliminating service will cause about 300 people to lose their jobs. A Morning Journal editorial says county and state leaders are to blame.

Traffic consultant HNTB suggests a reconfiguration of the ramps at the I-90 interchange at Columbia Road in Westlake. The Columbia Road Corridor Study will be presented at an open house (PDF) on Monday.

On Monday, the City of Cleveland Heights held the third of three public meetings on the Cedar Fairmount Traffic Study. City Architecture will submit its final report and recommendations to City Council next month.

The Ohio Department of Development awarded a $3 million Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant to the City of Lyndhurst for brownfield remediation at the northeast corner of Mayfield and Brainard roads. The site will be redeveloped as a Key Bank branch. Cuyahoga County also received a $2.5 million grant for remediation at the Ben Venue Laboratories expansion in Bedford. The State awarded a total of 16 grants.

The efforts of the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force to build offshore wind turbines expanded beyond Cuyahoga County, as Lorain County joined the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo).

This week's edition of Cool Cleveland includes an overview of the new University Circle signage and wayfinding program executed by Studio Graphique and University Circle Incorporated.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is proceeding with property acquisition for its planned new Innerbelt Bridge, including the purchase of three historic buildings that it intends to demolish. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2011, and will cause traffic disruptions until work in completed in 2017. Local cyclists continue to advocate for the inclusion of a bicycle and pedestrian lane. They will hold a rally in Tremont on Sunday.

Update: Renovating the Rust Belt has more details about the proposal for pedestrian and cyclist access. Steven Litt also described the efforts of bicycle advocates.

In addition to proposed service reductions, RTA is pursuing cost-savings measures that include several methods of reducing utility expenses and reducing service levels for the final week of 2009. A Plain Dealer editorial says that the state and federal governments need to provide more financial support.

On Monday, Governor Strickland announced that 25 Ohio energy projects will receive more than $13 million in federal stimulus grants. Seven of the wind and solar projects are in Cuyahoga County.

Update: Middleburg Heights leaders continue to discuss the proposed wind turbine at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds.

The Ohio Commission on Local Government Reform and Collaboration will hold a meeting and public hearing on Friday morning in the Cleveland Public Library's Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium. The Commission is gathering input (PDF) on intergovernmental cooperation. Testimony should be submitted in advance.

A study of immigrants in the nation's largest metropolitan areas found that while the five-county Cleveland MSA's proportion of immigrants is relatively low, the area's immigrant population has made strong economic contributions. The study identified correlations between immigration and economic progress, saying that "there is no doubt that immigration and economic growth go hand in hand." In October, panelists on WCPN's Sound of Ideas discussed immigrant attraction.

Through the West Creek Confluence Project, the West Creek Preservation Committee is reclaiming eight acres of urban wetlands where West Creek meets the Cuyahoga River in Independence (PDF).

In the year since the Euclid Corridor project was completed and the HealthLine began operations, the improvements have helped to spur developments downtown, in Midtown, and in University Circle, despite the recession. Steven Litt assessed the project's effectiveness to date.

As the Kamm's Corners streetscape project continues, more businesses are opening in the commercial district along Lorain Avenue. Workers recently completed the project's second phase, and the Kamm's Corners Development Corporation is seeking funds for the third and final phase.

The Plain Dealer toured the historic Cleveland Trust rotunda at Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street. Cuyahoga County leaders intend to accept bids for the building and the rest of the Ameritrust complex this winter.

Officials in Lake County hope to conduct a balanced growth plan for the eastern part of the county.

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