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September 2010 Archives

On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau published data from the 2009 American Community Survey, and the release reflects the major impacts of the recession. Figures are available for areas with a population of at least 65,000. In Northeast Ohio and across the United States, median household incomes declined and poverty rates rose. The City of Cleveland's estimated 35.0% poverty rate was second-highest in the nation, trailing only Detroit.

Cuyahoga County and MMPI officials altered the layout and size of the planned Medical Mart and convention center in downtown Cleveland. The changes increased estimated construction costs by $40 million to $465 million. MMPI will pay $8.5 million of the added expense, with the County covering the remainder from a previously-undisclosed $50 million contingency fund. Commissioner Jones said, "We have to spend this additional money so we have a top-quality facility," and a Plain Dealer editorial said the "bump up in projected costs should not become an excuse to derail or abandon the project." The planned late-October groundbreaking remains unchanged.

Update: Jeff Appelbaum's presentation to the Commissioners (PDF) is available online.

Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance that authorizes the creation of an urban garden at Willard Park near City Hall. City Council also has started to discuss amending the City's urban agriculture ordinance. The changes would permit farm stands, allow farming on vacant residential properties, relax fencing requirements, and allow on-site composting.

Charter One announced that it will provide $130,000 in grants to support the market district initiative in Ohio City, with $75,000 going to the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation and $55,000 to Cleveland Public Art. The bank plans to make further investments in the district.

Update: a Charter One press release has more information.

A new traffic congestion report from CEOs for Cities offers a critique of the Urban Mobility Report and presents an alternative methodology. The report by Joe Cortright offers "a new view of urban transportation performance. It explores the key role that land use and variations in travel distances play in determining how long Americans spend in peak hour travel." He adds that the Urban Mobility Report "has a number of key flaws that misstate and exaggerate the effects of congestion, and it ignores the critical role that sprawl and travel distances play in aggravating peak period travel."

Ohio Republican legislators wrote Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, asking him to take legal action to stop state spending on plans for the 3C Corridor passenger rail line.

While the City of Avon has reached purchase agreements with many of the 31 property owners at the site of the planned I-90 interchange at Nagel Road, it is preparing to take 11 of them to court in an effort to determine a purchase price. Avon City Council also approved expanding the interchange TIF district to encompass 116 parcels.

Update: the Press of Avon Lake has more details.

Inside Council summarized the City of Cleveland's as-yet unsuccessful nuisance lawsuit against 21 banks and mortgage providers. The City is appealing its most recent setback.

Officials in Northeast Ohio and Ontario continue to discuss plans for a Lake Erie ferry. Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority CEO William Friedman is interested, as are leaders in Lake County and Ashtabula.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial backs the idea.

Update 2: the London Free Press presents a Canadian perspective.

More reactions to last week's Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit:

A commuter rail study being conducted as part of the Westshore Corridor Transportation Project should be completed by the end of the year. Potential users of the proposed line between Cleveland and Sandusky can complete a survey.

Sunday's Plain Dealer explored whether Cleveland's Warehouse District is "poised to grow into a national-class entertainment center, one that could anchor Cleveland's casino age, or if it is slouching toward something lesser."

In a Plain Dealer op-ed, John Vacha looked to the Great Lakes Exposition of 1936-1937 for inspiration about current plans for the Mall in downtown Cleveland.

The U.S. EPA postponed plans to conduct additional sediment testing behind the Cuyahoga River dam in Summit County's Gorge Metro Park, because its research vessel has been occupied with cleanup efforts for the Enbridge oil spill in Michigan. It will not be available until next year.

In his closing remarks at the second Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit, Mayor Jackson told attendees that "the future is in our hands." About half of the 600 participants were new, and this year's event had more involvement from the local business community. Marc Lefkowitz filed a detailed report from the summit, while Thomas Mulready interviewed two participants, Kim Foreman of Environmental Health Watch and Nancy Meyer-Emerick of CSU's Levin College of Urban Affairs.

One of the teams not chosen to design and build the new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland is suing the Ohio Department of Transportation. They claim that the selected proposal does not meet the state's design criteria.

Both parties in Merrill v. Ohio, the Lake Erie property lines case, have submitted written arguments to the Ohio Supreme Court. Attorney General Cordray filed his brief in July, and the Ohio Lakefront Group submitted theirs earlier this week. Supporters of each side also have filed amicus briefs with the Court. On Thursday, the litigants discussed the case on WCPN's Sound of Ideas program.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission issued a revised schedule for the planned 3C Corridor passenger rail line. It estimates that a trip between Cleveland and Cincinnati would take roughly five hours, about 90 minutes less than earlier projections. The state also received permission from the Federal Railroad Administration to spend its first $15 million in stimulus funds.

Update: the new figures project an average speed of over 50 mph, up from the older 39 mph prediction.

The Cleveland Foundation awarded $14.4 million in grants, which included $500,000 for MOCA's planned University Circle building and $200,000 for Fairhill Partners' Kinship Village project.

Data compiled by the Housing Research & Advocacy Center indicates that in 2008, Clevelanders received subprime mortgages at a rate more than twice the national average. They also found that minority homebuyers in Cuyahoga County are more likely to obtain high-interest mortgages than whites.

The Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology continues to advance its BUILT in Ohio initiative, and recently convened stakeholders in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus to discuss smart growth policies.

Structural limitations of the planned Cleveland convention center under Malls B and C may preclude the installation of heavy items above the facility, such as large sculptures or fountains. The new Group Plan Commission is scheduled to submit its suggestions by late December or early January, and will meet next on October 7.

Conceptual plans for the Cleveland Metroparks' Huntington Reservation in Bay Village recommend the construction of a multi-use facility on the bluff, among other changes.

Nearly 600 people attended the first day of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit at Public Auditorium. Participants received the 2019 Action Plan and Resource Guide and heard about local sustainable business practices. Follow the #SC2019 hashtag on Twitter for feedback from attendees.

The City of East Cleveland plans to raze about 150 distressed houses this year, and started demolishing the first on Tuesday. The work is funded by grants from the federal federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals overturned a decision by the Northern District Court of Ohio in the case of Cleveland Housing Renewal Project v. Deutsche Bank. The District Court had remanded the case to Cleveland Housing Court, and this new ruling (PDF) sends it back to the District Court.

The 12 Cuyahoga County suburbs that are challenging NEORSD's stormwater management program jointly issued a statement. It characterizes the program as an "involuntary tax disguised as a fee."

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial criticizes the cities' decision to fight the program.

The planned Opportunity Corridor will affect residents and business in Cleveland's Buckeye, Fairfax, Kinsman, and Slavic Village neighborhoods, and area leaders intend to ensure that the proposed boulevard benefits their neighborhoods. The Ohio Department of Transportation will hold six public meetings between October 5 and October 7.

The second Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit will take place on September 22 and 23. Many of Cleveland's largest companies plan to participate in the summit, which like last year will be guided by David Cooperrider. Marc Lefkowitz summarized what each of its work groups have accomplished over the past year.

The National Park Service developed six alternatives for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Trail Management Plan. They range from no action (alternative one) to an overhaul of the park's trail network (alternative six). The draft alternatives will be presented at public meetings on September 22, 23, and 26 at the Happy Days Lodge in Peninsula. The public comment period is open through October 30.

Solon Planning Director Rob Frankland has nearly completed the update of the Solon Master Plan. He may have the final draft ready for City Council to discuss at its next meeting.

An Akron Beacon Journal supports further study of the planned 3C Corridor passenger rail line between Cleveland and Cincinnati. It says that the line's critics "point to the many questions, but they resist pursuing answers."

Akron officials expect that federally mandated sewer improvements will cost $650 million over the next 18 years, up from earlier estimates of $500 million. Residents already face a series of rate increases. The City will hold a public hearing on Wednesday evening in the Morley Health Center auditorium.

Update: AkronNewsNow summarized the meeting.

Estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday show that the poverty rate in the United States was 14.3% in 2009, up from 13.2% in 2008, while median household income remained flat. Minority populations were disproportionately affected. In Ohio, the poverty rate decreased from 13.7% to 13.3%, a change within the survey's margin of error. Median household income in Ohio fell from $49,811 to $46,318, below the national median of $49,945. The Census Bureau will release more detailed figures later this month.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial concludes that the numbers make a "compelling case for both short-term measures that provide relief and longer-term measures that will reduce poverty."

Update 2: WCPN's Sound of Ideas explored suburban poverty in Northeast Ohio.

The City of Cleveland will spend $298,000 to stabilize the landmark former Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist on Lake Avenue. The funds will be used for roof repairs, among other work.

The new Armenian Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park will be dedicated on Sunday as part of the annual One World Day celebration. Work is also beginning on the upcoming Syrian Cultural Garden.

Update: the Plain Dealer posted pictures of the event.

University Hospitals officials object to a rezoning recommendation in the draft Solon Master Plan. Planning Director Robert Frankland defended the proposed changes.

The Geauga County General Plan Survey (PDF) found that Geauga County voters enjoy the area's small town atmosphere, greenspace, and access to urban amenities, but dislike rapid uncontrolled growth and high taxes.

Kent State's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative completed its move to the Cowell and Hubbard Building at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. A private grand opening reception was held yesterday.

Update: The Record-Courier has more details. Kent State posted video highlights of the event.

On Monday, the Cleveland Rowing Foundation closed a deal to purchase seven acres on the Columbus Road Peninsula for its planned Rivergate Park. The $3 million acquisition was done in partnership with The Trust for Public Land. The park is expected to open next summer.

As University Hospitals nears the completion of its Vision 2010 plan, the Plain Dealer examined the $1.2 billion expansion project. Its two largest components, the $298 million Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood and the $250 million cancer hospital in University Circle will open next year.

Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation selected a team of three companies to develop the pilot wind farm five to ten miles offshore of Cleveland. Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco, Cavallo Energy of Houston, and Great Lakes Wind Energy of Youngstown will build and own the five wind turbines in Lake Erie. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in late 2012.

At Streetsblog Capitol Hill, Angie Schmitt described how decades of urban sprawl have damaged Greater Cleveland and the small hope offered by the Northeast Ohio application for a federal regional planning grant.

The Ohio EPA approved a permit for mercury discharges from FirstEnergy's Lake Shore Plant in Cleveland. The permit allows the plant to continue discharging mercury-tainted wastewater into Lake Erie. The EPA did not require the company to install equipment and instead ordered it to develop a pollutant minimization plan.

After an unsuccessful attempt to sell the landmark roller coaster on eBay, the anonymous owner of the Big Dipper at Geauga Lake says the ride will be demolished if a buyer is not found by the end of Wednesday.

Upcoming events of interest:

Developer John Ferchill wants to build an "innovation center campus" on the site of the current Cleveland Third District police station at Chester Avenue and East 107th Street. The $98.6 million office and research project succeeds his unrealized plans for the MidTown Technology Center on Euclid Avenue.

Update: MedCity News provides some analysis.

Cuyahoga Community College's new Center for Creative Arts in Cleveland is the first of the college's seven building projects currently underway. The work includes new campuses in Westlake and Brunswick, both scheduled to open in January.

"Why does the Northeast Ohio region's new stormwater management program have a dozen suburbs fit to be tied?" asks Marc Lefkowitz.

The Ohio Department of Development awarded a $299,924 grant to the City of Cleveland to conduct a brownfields assessment for the planned expansion of the Miceli Dairy Products Co. facility (PDF) on Buckeye Road. The U.S. EPA gave a $25,000 grant to the Earth Day Coalition to support its work on revitalizing vacant properties.

Erick Trickey interviewed new Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority CEO William Friedman for the September/October issue of Inside Business.

Columbus blogger Jeff Johnson considered the future of intercity transportation in Ohio and drew connections between the potential loss of the Continental hub in Cleveland and the merits of investing in passenger rail.

The Ohio Department of Transportation intends to award the design-build contract for the new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland to the team of HNTB and Walsh Construction. Their design, earlier known as "Bridge A", features a series of arched steel beams atop concrete piers. The team's proposal calls for opening the bridge a year ahead of plans and came in $163 million below expectations. Marc Lefkowitz said that some of the savings should be used to provide a multipurpose lane.

Update: ODOT posted more renderings of the winning design (PDF).

Update 2: ODOT officially awarded the contract to Walsh and HNTB.

In the third round of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $970 million in grants. Allocations in Ohio totaled $52 million, including $6.8 million to the City of Cleveland, $2.6 million to Cuyahoga County, $1 million to the City of East Cleveland, and $1 million to the City of Euclid.

Architect Miguel Rosales may design two pedestrian bridges in Cleveland, in addition to the planned bridge at North Coast Harbor. Cuyahoga County is negotiating with Rosales to design a bridge to Whiskey Island, and he is working with Case Western Reserve University to study possibilities for a bridge to its future West Campus.

The City of Cleveland Heights published a draft of its new strategic development plan, last updated in 1993. The new plan recommends seven goals intended to "brand the basic identity of our community, enhance our city's tax base, create outstanding public places and spaces, and embody an environmentally sustainable ethic." City officials hope to adopt the plan before the end of the year.

Update: approximately 50 people attended a public meeting on Monday.

Update 2: about 28 residents have submitted written comments on the plan (PDF).

A new study by the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force quantified the health problems (PDF) caused by fine particle pollution from the nation's coal-burning power plants. It ranked Ohio as having the second-highest number of adverse health impacts, trailing only Pennsylvania. For metropolitan areas, the Cleveland MSA ranked eighth-highest. Power companies and the coal industry dispute the group's findings.

Update: the Statehouse News Bureau's Jo Ingles spoke with Nolan Moser of the Ohio Environmental Council about the study.

The Trust for Public Land published its annual City Park Facts report, a profile of park systems in the nation's 85 largest cities. It states that the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Metroparks, and Cleveland Lakefront State Park combine to supply 3,130 acres of parks in Cleveland. Like last year, Cleveland Lakefront State Park was the 11th-most visited (PDF) urban park in the country. Cleveland also offers the highest number of swimming pools per capita of any city in the report.

Members of the Bainbridge Township Trustees assert the need to be proactive and develop a plan for the former Geauga Lake property. The amusement park closed in 2007.

Update: Bainbridge leaders hope to coordinate their planning efforts with those of Aurora.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture expanded its emerald ash borer quarantine to cover all 88 Ohio counties. While restrictions on the transportation of firewood are no longer in place, state officials urge Ohioans to continue exercising caution (PDF) when moving hardwoods. A federal quarantine (PDF) of Ohio remains in effect.

Cleveland State University's new Student Center is complete, and the university will celebrate its grand opening on Wednesday. The 138,000-square-foot building on Euclid Avenue was designed by the late Charles Gwathmey of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects.

Update: Channel 8 looked at the changes to CSU's campus.

The U.S. EPA awarded the first competitive grants under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The awards include a $1 million grant to the Ohio EPA for Cuyahoga River cleanup efforts. Next year's funding level for the program remains in question.

A Columbus Dispatch editorial questioned the wisdom of investing in the planned 3C Corridor passenger rail line, while James Nemastil dismissed its critics in a Plain Dealer op-ed.

The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin described how the Cleveland Foundation is funding the Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan, which is intended to "create a significant economic development strategy for the region based on the production, processing, and distribution of local food."

A study conducted for University Circle Incorporated and developer the Fitch Group forecasts that institutions in University Circle will add 2,900 jobs within five years and that the area will offer opportunities for residential development.

Among the building projects in the Westlake Schools Master Facilities Plan are new schools, expansions, renovations, and the clearing of five acres of forested land. Neighbors are concerned about the loss of greenspace.

The Ohio Commission on Local Government Reform and Collaboration issued its final report. It features a series of recommendations (PDF) designed to to encourage governmental cooperation and consolidation, but does not call for requiring increases in local government efficiency. Greater Ohio said that the report is "a step in the right direction," an Akron Beacon Journal editorial called it "a modest agenda," and Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings Institution said that state leaders need to act more aggressively. Two members of the commission, Lake County Commissioner Dan Troy and attorney Tim Downing, discussed the report on Thursday's Sound of Ideas program.

Update: the Columbus Dispatch has more information.

An Akron developer has proposed building a retail development on Rothrock Road in Copley Township, possibly to attract the Wal-Mart store from neighboring Fairlawn. Rothrock Road Retail Center would consist of a 147,806-square-foot building and a 136,367-square-foot building. Fairlawn officials are leery of losing the store, and residents in Copley are concerned about the impacts of new development.

Update: AMATS published the Rothrock Road/Montrose Planning Study. It's intended to "offer a clear‐headed, fair‐minded, and accurate planning‐level assessment of the likely consequences that the development and eventual build‐out of the west side of Rothrock Road will have on the transportation system in Montrose."

Pulte Homes plans to start building townhouses at the Pointe at Sterling Lakes in Pepper Pike. The national homebuilder will begin work on its first five units this month.

Ohio Department of Transportation leaders envision increasing the top speed of the planned 3C Corridor passenger rail line from 79 mph to 110 mph, but the freight railroads are unenthusiastic about the idea. Rail suppliers back the planned line, while Republican state legislators continue to oppose it. In early August, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich said he would cancel the plans if elected and Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Yvette McGee Brown voiced her support for passenger rail. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood downplayed the dispute.

The Center for Community Solutions and Cleveland State University jointly published An Analysis of Health Disparities in Northeast Ohio (PDF). They found that "African Americans, and to a lesser extent, Hispanics, have significantly poorer health status, access to care and health care utilization than do Whites" in the eight-county Greater Cleveland area. Earlier this year, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health released an update of its Child and Family Health Services Indicators Report (PDF). It includes an analysis of maternal and child heath indicators for each community in the county.

Several retailers, including Wal-Mart, plan to open or expand stores at Macedonia Commons. Wal-Mart's 46,000-square-foot addition should be finished this year.

Information about some planned demolitions in Greater Cleveland:

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