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December 2010 Archives

Developer First Interstate Properties of Lyndhurst is purchasing the 154-acre former Oakwood Club site. It paid $1.8 million for 62 acres in South Euclid and has a contract to buy the other 92 acres in Cleveland Heights. The company plans to develop the property as Oakwood Commons, which would consist of 22 acres of apartments around the former clubhouse building, 63 acres of retail with 500,000 square feet of stores, and 69 acres of parkland. The Cleveland Heights portion is zoned for residential use, and would require a rezoning. Neighbors of the property are trying to preserve the entire site as a park, and say that the development would destroy too much greenspace.

Update: many residents are opposed to the development, although not as vehemently as in the 1990s. They shared their concerns at at Cleveland Heights City Council meeting, which drew about 75 people. Blogger Hank Drake considered whether the area has too much retail.

Governor-elect Kasich selected David Mustine to lead the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Scott Nally to head the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Mustine is a former old and gas executive, and the Governor-elect is seeking to expand oil and gas drilling. Nally previously worked at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and at Perdue Farms.

Update: the Columbus Dispatch offers more details.

The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County closed on the sale of the City's convention center, and the County will begin construction of the new convention center and Medical Mart next month. City officials are examining their options for Public Auditorium, which will be separated from the convention center.

Update: construction began on January 3, 2011.

The Broadview Heights Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals approved plans for a new Giant Eagle supermarket on Route 82. The proposal had been tabled earlier this month. The Board of Zoning Appeals granted six zoning variances for the development.

LoveLakewood.com shares the latest ideas to emerge from the plans for Madison Avenue streetscape improvements, offers a critique, and looks to the future.

The Plain Dealer's Joe Frolik reflected on the past year, and thinks that "in 10 years, we will look back on 2010 as the year that Cleveland turned the corner and began to regain its status as a vibrant American city." Steven Litt described the year's architecture highlights, while GreenCityBlueLake summarized the major sustainability stories, and the Cleveland Heights Bicycle Coalition listed the top bicycling news.

Writing about the recent Brookings Institution report and summit, columnist Neal Peirce described Greater Cleveland as one of several metropolitan areas that have "devised ingenious recovery strategies."

The Ohio Lake Erie Commission awarded a $120,000 grant to Heidelberg University's National Center for Water Quality Research to monitor water quality of four Lake Erie tributaries, including the Cuyahoga River. Cleveland State University received a $34,983 grant to continue its support of the Ohio Balanced Growth Program's Best Local Land Use Practices guidance.

The U.S. Census Bureau released national and state population totals, the first data from the 2010 Census. As of April 1, 2010, the population of the United States was 308,745,538, an increase of 9.7% since 2000. Ohio's population was 11,536,504, an increase of 1.6%. Because Ohio's population grew more slowly than other states, especially those in the South and West, the state will lose two congressional seats.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that the changes will require Ohio's congressional delegation to "work together more closely than ever, without regard to partisan or geographic divides, on issues that have a major impact on the state's economy and competitiveness."

The Wolstein Group and Fairmount Properties closed on their financing for the first phase of the Flats east bank development. Construction of the stalled $275 million project is expected to resume this week. It is supported by a complex package (PDF) of private and public financing and is scheduled to open in spring 2013.

"Immigration: Path to Prosperity or Calamity?" (PDF) is the newest report from PolicyBridge. Among other immigration policy recommendations, it says that "Encouraging population growth in Ohio - and Cuyahoga County, specifically - through immigration must be an imperative to offset the outflow of residents to other parts of the country. Regardless of ethnic background, the emphasis must be on attracting new residents to the state and region."

Update: a Plain Dealer article looked at the local African-American community's evolving opinions about immigration.

Jim Rokakis, the outgoing Cuyahoga County Treasurer, was the sole guest on Tuesday's Sound of Ideas program. He talked about his work, his 33 years of public service, and the changes in county government. After leaving office, he may lead a new urban land institute at CSU's Levin College of Urban Affairs.

At its final meeting of the year (PDF), the board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority agreed to accept a loan for a proposed rail project, approved three financing agreements, and discussed the future of the port. Board member John Carney will vacate his seat when his term expires at the end of the year.

The Cleveland Housing Renewal Project and the City of Cleveland refiled their lawsuit against Deutsche Bank in a federal court. In addition, the amended filing now includes nine mortgage servicing companies.

East Cleveland officials and residents discussed the City's direction on the latest installment of the Western Reserve Studies Symposium's Regionally Speaking series.

The Plain Dealer has more details about the removal of the Euclid Creek dam under the Highland Road bridge in Euclid. In Chagrin Falls, officials are preparing bid specifications for modifications of the Chagrin River dam at the Spillway site.

Update: for more information about the dam removal project, visit the Euclid Creek Watershed Program.

Update 2: Chagrin Falls Village Council approved a bid for the first phase of the dam lowering. Spillway developers are working with the Ferchill Group on the mixed-use project.

Berea City Council recently adopted the new master plan prepared for the City. Council members support the initiatives identified in the document.

Northeast Ohio communities may soon see a dramatic rise in the number of new natural gas wells. Portage County saw 101 natural gas leases filed in the first half of 2010, and 1,125 have been filed thus far in the second half of the year. Stark County saw 160 in the first half and 836 to date in the second.

A Plain Dealer editorial supports Cuyahoga County Executive-elect FitzGerald's call for increased municipal collaboration. Mayor DePiero of Parma also backs the idea.

Architects from GGN and LMN presented more ideas for remaking Cleveland's downtown Malls and surrounding areas to the City's new Group Plan Commission on Friday. They reviewed current conditions and made a variety of suggestions for making the area more connected, attractive, lively, and sustainable. The presentations by Mark Hinshaw of LMN (PDF, 30.8 MB) and Shannon Nichol of GGN (PDF, 44.1 MB) are posted at Cleveland.com.

The Cleveland Foundation awarded $12.9 million in grants, which included $400,000 to Shorebank Enterprise Group Cleveland to support Evergreen Cooperatives' Green City Growers program, $335,000 to the National Development Council for coordinating Cleveland's Living Cities funds, $250,000 to ParkWorks, and $250,000 to the Gordon Square Arts District for renovations of Cleveland Public Theatre.

The Ohio Great Lakes Compact Advisory Board issued its final report (PDF, 9.8 MB) on Wednesday. The Ohio General Assembly is expected to consider the report's recommendations in 2011. The Ohio Environmental Council called it (PDF) "a critical first step toward preserving one of Ohio's greatest natural resources."

Other cities have lessons for Northeast Ohio:

Update: the Detroit Free Press reported on the trip to Leipzig and Manchester.

The U.S. EPA released its annual analysis of data from the Toxics Release Inventory. Nationwide, releases of toxic chemicals fell by 12% to 3.37 billion pounds from 2008 to 2009. Releases in Ohio fell from 224 million pounds in 2008 to 159 million pounds in 2009, a decrease of over 29%. Cuyahoga County's top polluter in 2009 was the Charter Steel mill in Cuyahoga Heights. The ArcelorMittal steel plant in Cleveland was idled for much of the year.

Update: businesses in Ohio continued to emit more toxic air pollutants than those of any other state. Officials attribute the decreases to pollution control equipment, the recession, and new processes.

Hospice of Western Reserve is completing the deconstruction of the former St. Joseph Christian Life Center in Cleveland. They hope to finish by the end of the month.

The new American Community Survey five-year estimates have elicited a range of interpretations:

Ohio EPA officials say that it will take several years to determine nitrogen dioxide levels and whether the state meets new federal standards. The U.S. EPA strengthened its standards in January.

The U.S. Census Bureau published its first set of five-year American Community Survey estimates. The release includes information about smaller units of geography and topics that were previously only available through the decennial census. It covers 72 topics for the period between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2009. The estimates show a country that continues to become more urbanized and more integrated, although segregation remains an issue. They also reveal a variety of details about Greater Cleveland. The Census Bureau will issue new five-year ACS estimates every year, and will release the first data from the 2010 Census on December 21.

The Ohio Department of Transportation paid a $1 million stipend to one of the two losing design-build finalists in the Innerbelt Bridge project. The Trumbull-Great Lakes-Ruhlin joint venture is continuing its lawsuit against the department. ODOT ruled that the team of Lane-Brayman, the other unselected finalist, was ineligible to receive the stipend.

Cleveland State University's trustees voted to proceed with plans for the Middough Building at Playhouse Square. The university's theater and visual arts departments will occupy several floors in the building, which the Playhouse Square Foundation will purchase from Middough. The company will remain in the building.

The NOACA Governing Board approved $9 million in Transportation Enhancement funding for 17 bicycle and pedestrian projects in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties. Nine Cuyahoga County initiatives will share about $5 million: projects in the Flats, Garfield Heights, Lakewood, Larchmere, Lyndhurst, Mayfield Village, Tremont, University Circle, and the Warehouse District. In Summit County, AMATS approved two $50,000 grants through its new Connecting Communities Planning Grant Program.

Update: the Sun Press described the Larchmere project.

Cuyahoga County and MMPI will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the Medical Mart project in downtown Cleveland on January 14. Construction is scheduled to begin on January 3.

The Gund Foundation awarded $8 million in grants, which included a $100,000 grant to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition and $70,000 to the Trust for Public Land. The Fund for Our Economic Future announced a $50,000 grant to the Regional Prosperity Initiative.

The latest issue of the Trust for Public Land's Land & People magazine features an article about initiatives to increase the amount of public greenspace in the Flats through new parks and greenways, including Canal Basin Park, Rivergate Park, the Towpath Trail, and the Lake Link Trail.

Materials from October's national Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference in Cleveland are now available online.

Draft recommendations (PDF) from the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council call for $167.6 million in new construction, planning, and engineering for transportation projects across the state. The list is open to public comment through February 11.

An editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal chides the Ohio Senate for failing to pass foreclosure prevention legislation, and a second editorial urges Congress to fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The U.S. Department of Transportation redirected $1.195 billion in passenger rail funding from Ohio and Wisconsin to projects in 14 states, with the largest awards going to California and Florida. Ohio lost $385 million of the $400 million grant it received in January to support the planned 3C Corridor passenger rail line because Governor-elect Kasich pledged to cancel the program.

Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown expressed their disappointment, while Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the decision will "ensure American taxpayers get a good return on their Recovery Act dollars," and Ohio rail advocates said that the action was premature.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that Governor-elect Kasich acted too hastily.

The future of the former Oakwood Club site remains in question. The Trust for Public Land had a 90-day option to purchase the property in Cleveland Heights and South Euclid, but it expired at the end of October. The 150-acre site is again for sale, with an asking price of $5.95 million. Neighbors would like to see it preserved as a public park.

The Ohio Department of Transportation continues to refine plans for bicycle and pedestrian improvements to the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge in Cleveland. Officials with the incoming Kasich administration would not comment on the plans.

The U.S. EPA announced plans to delay implementation of proposed new ozone standards. The new rules were to be finalized by December 31, but the agency now intends to wait until July 2011. The decision may be related to shifts in Congressional power.

A Plain Dealer editorial dismissed the idea of straightening the Cuyahoga River. It added that Rock Ventures should share its plans for narrowing the river and discuss the proposal in public. Meanwhile, the Lake Carriers' Association suggested that narrowing the river would be acceptable to them if a nearby area was dredged, which would require removing the closed Eagle Avenue Lift Bridge.

Update: a second Plain Dealer editorial encourages the business community to publicly discuss the issues.

Update 2: the Greater Cleveland Partnership issued a response.

The RTA Board of Trustees approved a budget that maintains current levels of service and fares for 2011. The agency's revenue was bolstered by a $5.4 million allocation from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

In an article about the planned Medical Mart in Cleveland, Bloomberg looked at the project's background, status, and outlook. Medical Mart officials issued a statement in response.

University Circle Incorporated is raising funds to create Circle Walk, a series of self-guided walking tours. The one to two-mile long path could draw attention to as many as 85 sites.

Longtime Cleveland Metroparks Commissioner Fred Rzepka announced that he will step down at the end of the year. The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin recently profiled Rzepka, and said that he may be the best commissioner in Metroparks history.

Update: Rzepka served on the board for 24 years, longer than any other commissioner.

Local wind turbine initiatives have been highlighted in the media:

Summit County Council approved funding for a study of a proposed countywide stormwater management program. The program could be funded by a property tax levy. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the proposal reflects a lack of regional coordination.

Update: Summit County Engineer Alan Brubaker responded to the newspaper.

By a vote of 5-2, the board of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District approved an agreement with the U.S. EPA that lays out a 25-year plan for addressing combined sewer overflows. The board may vote in January on rate increases to fund the $3 billion program. Other cities across the country have reached similar deals with the EPA.

Update: David Beach posted his comments.

Jerry Wray will serve as director of the Ohio Department of Transportation under Governor-elect Kasich. Wray led the department from 1991 to 1999 during the Voinovich and Taft administrations, and more recently was a vice president at an asphalt industry lobbying association. He said that the department may reconsider its pledge to fund public transit.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide $32 million in loan guarantees for the planned Flats east bank project in Cleveland. The development is backed by private and public funding sources, including bonds from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. Developers hope to close on their financing before the end of the year.

The Ohio Department of Development awarded a $1.95 million Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant to the City of Cleveland. The funds will be used to demolish three buildings at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. The hospital plans to begin building a surgery center on the site in 2013.

Cuyahoga County the City of Cleveland finalized their agreement for the construction of the Medical Mart and new convention center in downtown Cleveland. Among other provisions, it calls for the County to pay the City $20 million for the existing convention center, describes the separation and renovation of Public Auditorium, and sets minimum standards for the designs of Malls B and C.

In response to Rock Ventures' proposal to narrow the Cuyahoga River at Collision Bend, the Flats Oxbow Association revived the idea (PDF) of straightening a portion of the river to bypass the river bend. The group did not propose a method of funding the concept.

Participants at Tuesday's design charrette suggested a variety of ideas for improving downtown Cleveland, focusing on concepts around the major planned developments.

The new Cleveland Hazecam provides a live image of Cleveland's skyline every 15 minutes. It's intended to increase public awareness of local air quality issues and their health impacts.

Seven Hills Village Council voted to establish a municipal land bank.

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