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March 2011 Archives

The second annual County Health Rankings from the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked the health of counties by state. In Ohio, Cuyahoga County again ranked well in health factors and lower in health outcomes. Both rankings were improvements over last year's scores. Geauga and Medina counties appeared near the top of both lists.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial and PBS's The Rundown weblog reflected on the report.

A new report from Transportation for America says that 11.5% of the 599,996 bridges in the United States are rated as structurally deficient by the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA estimates that it would take $70.9 billion to eliminate the current backlog of needed repairs. In Ohio, 9.8% of the state's 27,963 bridges are rated as structurally deficient.

Officials from RTA and the City of Lakewood met last week, and agreed to proceed with a scaled-back implementation of the Clifton Boulevard Transportation Enhancement Program. The City's financial contribution will be reduced from $486,000 to $50,000. Approval from the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council is required.

Update: the Plain Dealer looked at the situation in more detail.

Leaders of the Buckeye Area Development Corporation and the Shaker Square Area Development Corporation are exploring ways that the two organizations can work cooperatively, with options ranging from sharing resources to the possibility of a merger.

The Bainbridge Township Trustees continue to discuss producing a plan for the 600-acre former Geauga Lake property. The Township Zoning Commission is preparing to draft an RFQ for a planning consultant.

This week's edition of Fresh Water includes articles about plans to restore a portion of Doan Brook in Cleveland and about the growth of urban agriculture in Northeast Ohio.

The West Side Market Centennial Commission's final report (PDF) includes suggestions for improving market operations, enhancing the Market District, and for the market's centennial celebration.

The Plain Dealer compared the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 population estimates to the 2010 Census figures, and also examined local migration patterns. Cleveland's African-American population is suburbanizing and its Latino population is growing. Racial segregation continues to be an issue.

National media outlets are focusing on population declines in older industrial cities, and Terry Schwarz of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative discussed the subject on the Diane Rehm Show. Terry Schwarz and Brad Whitehead contributed opinion pieces to a set of commentaries in the New York Times. In Shelterforce, Alan Mallach explored how community development corporations are responding to the demographic changes. Greater Ohio's Lavea Brachman looked to Europe for ideas.

Update: WKSU's M. L. Schultze spoke with Kimberly Phillips of the College of William & Mary about local African-American history.

The Ohio Senate passed the two-year, $6.8 billion transportation budget, and Governor Kasich signed the bill. It includes a provision for public-private partnerships.

Update: the Columbus Dispatch has more information about the public-private partnerships.

Controversies over natural gas drilling in Ohio could become more prominent this year, as energy companies show more interest in eastern Ohio's shale deposits and state leaders propose drilling in state parks. Ohio environmental groups have called for a moratorium on fracking until the extraction method's risks can be studied more thoroughly.

Update: Thursday's Sound of Ideas program was devoted to the subject.

Dan Bobkoff of Changing Gears looked at how Streetsboro plans to use form-based zoning to shift from typical exurban development patterns and create a mixed-use town center. The City is working with McKenna Associates to rewrite its zoning code.

Community leaders in Cleveland's AsiaTown neighborhood intend to make the area a dining and entertainment destination. It will host the second annual Cleveland Asian Festival on May 21-22.

Former Cleveland Planning Director Hunter Morrison will be program director for the 12-county Northeast Ohio Consortium for Sustainable Communities. Medina County Commissioner Steve Hambley will serve as the regional planning initiative's chairman and AMATS Director Jason Segedy its vice chairman.

Update: the Medina County Gazette described Commissioner Hambley's role.

Update 2: the Plain Dealer and WCPN have more details.

The 472-room Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Cleveland will be renovated as a four-star hotel. Its new owners are exploring ways to connect the hotel to the nearby Medical Mart and convention center project.

Cleveland Councilman Jeff Johnson resolved his concerns about the proposed Hazel at the Circle apartments in University Circle, and now supports rezoning the 1.4-acre site from single-family residential to multi-family residential.

Bay Village City Council delayed a vote on proposed riparian setback legislation after resident and attorney Homer Taft objected to the ordinance. Taft was a plaintiff in Lake Erie property lines case. Joe Koncelik says that it's a "good idea that Bay Village is having a robust debate."

A Plain Dealer editorial supports Cuyahoga County's exploration of utilizing local hospitals for mental health care, in light of the state's decision to abandon plans for a regional psychiatric hospital in Cleveland. Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health, says that the decision "was based on the rationale that the state will be able to offer the same amount of inpatient hospital capacity to the region at $4 million less per year."

Streetsblog's Angie Schmitt says that the plans for the West Shoreway redesign in Cleveland have changed so much since their inception that the designs now more closely resemble a highway than the boulevard that was originally proposed. She says Cleveland and other Ohio cities face "a state with a set of policies that actively undermines cities."

After finding possible financial irregularities, the board of the Flats Oxbow Association decided to close the organization. Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman has been leading a visioning process on the future of the Flats without the participation of the Flats Oxbow Association.

Joe Marinucci of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, David Feehan of Civitas Consultants, and Michael Edwards, formerly of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership spoke at the second annual state of downtown forum at the City Club (MP3, 52.3 MB). They stressed the importance of connectivity within downtown and discussed other elements of successful downtown revitalizations.

Update: the City Club posted video of the panel discussion.

The Gund Foundation awarded nearly $3.5 million in grants at its March meeting. They include awards of up to $250,000 to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, $180,000 over two years to the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, $100,000 to the GreenCityBlueLake Institute, and $60,000 to the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation.

In addition to proposing school closings and layoffs, Cleveland Metropolitan School District officials are considering placing the Board of Education Building in downtown Cleveland up for sale. Developer John Ferchill sought to redevelop the building as a hotel in the mid-1980s. Roldo Bartimole strongly opposes selling the building.

Update: the Cleveland Board of Education voted to close seven schools and lay off 643 teachers. Interim CEO Peter Raskind said that "there are no easy answers to the District's budget woes" and that "cuts in personnel and related expenses are unavoidable."

Cleveland City Council did not vote on an ordinance that would have protected some stained glass windows in churches designated as Cleveland landmarks. The future of the legislation is unclear.

Update: Channel 3 has more details.

Update 2: a Plain Dealer editorial concludes that "Council should give [the agreement] a fair hearing. "

The City of Cleveland will build a 53-slip marina at North Coast Harbor. The $2 million facility at the southwest corner of the East 9th Street Pier will likely open in spring 2012.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Cleveland v. Ameriquest, the City of Cleveland's suit against 21 banks and mortgage lenders. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the City in 2010.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial praises "Cleveland officials for their ingenuity and then tenacity in continuing to push this case against the odds."

Steven Litt says that traffic studies for the proposed Public Square redesign and the forthcoming Cleveland casino "could determine the character of downtown for decades to come." They have the potential to decide the balance between a downtown that is pedestrian-friendly and one that is automobile-oriented. A Plain Dealer editorial on the casino parking proposal says that the challenge of downtown development "is to balance the needs of new development against the existing architectural and visual elements that make downtown interesting and desirable."

The Plain Dealer explored the results of abandonment and demolitions on east side neighborhoods of the City of Cleveland and considered short-term and longer-term strategies for reusing vacant land.

The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin wrote about problems with high office vacancy rates along downtown Cleveland's East 9th Street corridor.

On Friday, NOACA awarded $845,000 in Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative grants to 13 transportation projects (PDF) in Cuyahoga, Lake, and Lorain counties. Eight of the selected planning studies are in the City of Cleveland, and the others are in Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Euclid, Eastlake, and Elyria. Eastlake City Council refused its grant.

Update: the Sun Press described the projects in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights.

The Ohio EPA continues to support the removal of the Cuyahoga River dam in Summit County's Gorge Metro Park. Costs could be as high as $10 million.

Case Western Reserve University Architect and Planner Margaret Carney is leaving the school for a position at Temple University in Philadelphia. Steven Litt examined her contributions in Cleveland.

Update: Sabrina Herman of CWRU's Observer interviewed Margaret Carney.

Citing budget cuts, Mayor Summers of Lakewood withdrew the City from the Clifton Boulevard Transportation Enhancement Program. In December, the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council recommended $7.1 million in funding for the project.

Update: RTA will continue to pursue the project.

Cleveland Metroparks leaders anticipate that the system's revenue will rise in 2011 due to its acquisition of Seneca Golf Course and the completion of the zoo's African Elephant Crossing exhibit.

Cool Cleveland posted video tours of downtown Cleveland's three arcades and the Tyler Village complex in Cleveland.

Governor Kasich shifted Mark Kvamme from the Ohio Department of Development into a newly-created role as director of job creation. Jim Leftwich, formerly head of the Dayton Development Coalition, will replace him as director of the Ohio Department of Development. Kvamme is a California resident, and his eligibility to hold a position in the Governor's cabinet was facing a legal challenge.

At a press conference today, local and state officials urged Ohio leaders to reverse the decision to cancel the planned regional psychiatric hospital in Cleveland.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more information. County Executive FitzGerald issued a press release.

A group of 12 political, business, and community leaders is urging Governor Kasich to support high-speed rail in Northeast Ohio.

Update: Youngstown's Business Journal published the text of the letter.

Developer Andrew Brickman dropped his plans to build the 14-unit Townhomes of Edgewater in Lakewood. City officials said that the property's current zoning would permit no more than 12 units on the site, and the developer decided that the project would not be feasible with fewer than 14 units. Mayor Summers said that he "would welcome the opportunity to work with Mr. Brickman in the future."

Baldwin-Wallace College shared a preliminary campus master plan with the Berea Planning Commission. The school may reveal its full 10-year plan in April.

RTA reports that Red Line ridership grew by about 9% in January and February. The increase may be related to rising gas prices.

U.S. District Judge John Adams rejected the proposed consent decree intended to address Akron's combined sewer overflow issues. A civil trial is now scheduled to begin in his court on May 31. Akron officials say they are "extremely disappointed" and that they will appeal the ruling.

In Greater Cleveland, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District will hold a series of public meetings about proposed rate increases that would fund work identified in its combined sewer overflow consent decree. The NEORSD Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the changes in June.

Update: Mayor Plusquellic of Akron held a news conference on Friday. The Akron Beacon Journal summarized his remarks.

Update 2: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the judge should have allowed the City of Akron and the U.S. EPA more time to revise the agreement.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park purchased 233 acres in Cuyahoga Falls near Blossom Music Center from the Musical Arts Association for $3.96 million, a transaction facilitated by the Trust for Public Land. The National Park intends to acquire an additional 345 acres at Blossom for $5.29 million. The Musical Arts Association will retain 198 acres for Blossom operations.

Tests conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that Cuyahoga River sediment is getting cleaner. If the results are confirmed in subsequent tests, it could enable the Army Corps to dispose of dredge material in Lake Erie or on land instead of in confined disposal facilities. The Army Corps dumps dredge material from Toledo's harbor into Lake Erie, a practice that is being challenged by environmentalists.

A National Park Service report recommends that a 14-county Northeast Ohio region should not be designated as a National Heritage Area. It concludes that the proposed Western Reserve National Heritage Area is qualifies for the designation, but lacks a coordinating entity. The report will be available on March 28 and will be open to public comment for a month.

Update: the National Park Service will host town hall meetings on March 23 and 24.

Update 2: the Medina County Gazette and Brunswick Post also published articles about the feasibility study.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency board approved $350,000 in funding for St. John's Village West Family Homes, a 40-house development that is part of the Villages of Central in Cleveland.

Ohio Department of Transportation contractors are demolishing the Broadway Mills Building and the Marathon gas station located at the edge of the old Central Viaduct in downtown Cleveland. The buildings, deemed eligible but not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are being razed for the new Innerbelt Bridge.

Fresh Water looked to Pittsburgh for lessons that Clevelanders can incorporate into local efforts to make the city more bicycle-friendly and to improve its bicycle culture.

Best Buy plans to build a 368,060-square-foot distribution center in Streetsboro. The Streetsboro Board of Education approved an eight-year, 100% tax abatement for the development. Payroll processing company Paychex intends to consolidate its offices in Warrensville Heights and Green at a new site in Boston Heights. The Village and the Hudson School District approved a 10-year, 100% tax abatement.

Update: Best Buy is moving its operations from Glenwillow.

While the City of Cleveland and other older industrial cities experienced population decreases between 2000 and 2010, they also saw substantial population growth in their downtowns. On March 23, the City Club will host a forum on the state of downtown Cleveland.

Gates Mills officials confirmed that there are no plans to replace the Village's dam on the Chagrin River. The dam was destroyed by the recent flooding.

Governor Kasich's proposed fiscal year 2012-2013 budget includes higher than anticipated cuts to the state's local government fund. Cuyahoga County leaders are promoting cost-saving regionalism initiatives.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that the budget will force local governments to collaborate.

The Western Reserve Land Conservancy will establish Thriving Communities Institute in partnership with former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, who will serve as its director. The 14-county initiative is intended to facilitate the "transformation of aging and declining urban areas through troubled mortgage and land vacancy mitigation, land conservation and land reuse in an intentional and integrated manner."

Update: Jim Rokakis spoke with WCPN's Eric Wellman about the initiative.

The Fund for Our Economic Future awarded $1.385 million in grants at its meeting last week. The awards include a $500,000 grant to support Northeast Ohio's Sustainable Communities Initiative.

The Ohio House of Representatives approved a two-year state transportation budget. The $7 billion budget includes $4.2 billion for road maintenance and construction, and a tax exemption for for petroleum marketers. Meanwhile, a new report by Robert Puentes of the Brookings Institution recommends strategies to states for remaking their transportation systems.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the Ohio Senate should consider proposals that were omitted in the House version of the bill.

More than 150 people attended a meeting of the South Euclid Planning Commission on Thursday to discuss the proposed Oakwood Commons retail development. Most of those who spoke opposed the project. Consultants with McKenna Associates recently completed a review of the rezoning proposal. Earlier in the week, developer First Interstate Properties announced that it is exercising its option to purchase the 90-acre Cleveland Heights portion of the property. The company has not finalized its concept for the land in Cleveland Heights. Blogger Bob Rosenbaum considered the rhetoric surrounding the proposed development.

Update: the Sun News summarized the report from McKenna Associates.

Update 2: the Sun Messenger continues to support the proposal.

Cleveland casino developer Rock Ohio Caesars intends to place a valet parking center and a parking garage on the downtown block bounded by Ontario Street, Prospect Avenue, High Street, and East 2nd Street. Parking lot owner Lou Frangos acquired the properties for the casino. The plans may include the demolition of the historic Columbia Building on Prospect and the Stanley Block on Ontario. On Thursday, the Cleveland Landmarks Commission unanimously recommended designating the Stanley Block as a Cleveland landmark.

The release of Census 2010 population figures prompted a variety of local responses. Dennis Kucinich attributed Cleveland's population decline to the loss of manufacturing jobs, while Bill Callahan drew connections between the population decrease and foreclosure levels. An editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal suggested that "initiatives to rein in expensive sprawl are more important than ever," but a Morning Journal editorial said that "Lorain County needs to capitalize on its growth image".

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial took a more optimistic approach.

An article in the magazine E looks at the Re-Imagining Cleveland initiative and efforts to reclaim open space in other cities.

The International Joint Commission issued its 15th Biennial Report (PDFs: full document, executive summary). It features 32 recommendations for federal, state, provincial, and local governments in the United States and Canada, and urges the two nations to approve a revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Among the issues it highlights are increased eutrophication caused by excessive nutrient levels and water quality problems at recreational beaches.

Lincoln Electric is erecting a wind turbine at its campus in Euclid. The 2.5-megawatt turbine will be about 443 feet tall when completed, making it the largest in Northeast Ohio.

Fast Track Cycling continues to promote plans for a velodrome complex on the site of the former St. Michael Hospital in Slavic Village.

The City of Lakewood and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank approved an agreement intended to address neglected properties. It authorizes the Land Bank to acquire and then demolish or rehabilitate the structures, preparing the sites for productive reuse.

The U.S. Census Bureau today published the first set of detailed Census 2010 demographics for Ohio, redistricting data that covers population, race, Hispanic origin, and housing occupancy. Between 2000 and 2010, the population of Cuyahoga County fell by 113,856 to 1,280,122, a decrease of 8.2%. The City of Cleveland's population declined by 17.1% to 396,815, and most of its inner-ring suburbs also lost population. The populations of Cleveland Heights and Euclid each fell below 50,000, putting their status as entitlement communities into question. Lakewood's population remained over 50,000. We have posted population figures for Cuyahoga County communities and will provide other tables soon.

The eight-county Cleveland-Akron CSA's population declined by only 2.2%, as Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, and Portage counties gained population. The City of Columbus grew by 10.6%, but all of Ohio's other major cities saw population decreases. The Census Bureau will release additional data in the coming months.

Update: area newspapers reported on the release, including the Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal, News-Herald, Morning Journal, Chronicle-Telegram, Record-Courier, and the Medina County Gazette. In addition to posting the Cuyahoga County population figures, we posted data and maps on the county's racial distribution, Latino population, and housing occupancy.

Update 2: Ohio's Office of Policy Research and Strategic Planning compiled population data for every county, city, village, and township (PDF) in the state.

Update 3: the Plain Dealer published a corrected population change map.

At GreenCityBlueLake, Marc Lefkowitz describes how two local entrepreneurs plan to create a six-acre farm in Kinsman's Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald selected Larry Benders to lead the Cuyahoga County Department of Development. He will begin work in April and will succeed Dorothy Baunach, who has been serving as the department's interim director.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more information.

The Charter One Foundation and the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation awarded around $40,000 to seven small businesses in the Cleveland neighborhood. The grants, awarded through a competitive process, are part of the Market District initiative.

American Greetings leaders announced on Monday that the company will keep its headquarters in Northeast Ohio, but added that they have not decided on a location in the area. The company is considering its current location in Brooklyn and four other sites in suburban Cuyahoga County. Ohio legislators passed a tax incentive aimed at keeping the company in the state, and Governor Kasich signed the bill (PDF) on Monday. A Plain Dealer editorial called it "a win for the home team."

Update: Ed FitzGerald does not want to encourage the company to relocate from one Cuyahoga County city to another, and will not offer any financial incentives.

For several months, Governor Kasich has talked about the possibility of leasing the Ohio Turnpike, and in February said he wants at least $3 billion for the toll road. A recent NOACA staff analysis (PDF) of the idea concluded that "leasing the Ohio Turnpike appears to have few positive merits and quite a few likely negative outcomes."

Legislation for the Healthy Cleveland partnership between the City and its four major health systems was introduced in Cleveland City Council on Monday. It includes complete streets and local food components. A Plain Dealer editorial supports the initiative.

In his first State of the State address, Governor Kasich mentioned the decision to abandon plans for a regional psychiatric hospital in Cleveland. Local politicians and mental health advocates continue to object, and a strongly-worded Plain Dealer editorial criticized the move.

The $30 million renovation of the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland is about halfway finished. Work is scheduled to be completed in August.

The annual Inrix National Traffic Scorecard says that average travel times in the United States increased by 10% in 2010, and that several metropolitan areas experienced more congestion than their pre-recession 2007 highs. It ranked the Cleveland MSA as having the nation's 31st-highest level of congestion.

Update: Todd Litman criticized the analysis and the Urban Mobility Report that was released in January.

Solon City Council voted unanimously to renew to extend the Solar Shopping Center redevelopment agreement for the third time. Its developers are optimistic that they will be able to reach a deal with anchor store Giant Eagle.

The Jacobs Group cleared the trees from a 90-acre site near the intersection of Chester and Center roads in Avon. The company says it is preparing the site for an undecided future development.

Parking lot owner Lou Frangos wants to demolish the Stanley Block, one of the oldest buildings in downtown Cleveland. In a series of recent acquisitions, companies linked to Frangos purchased the entire block at the southeast corner of Ontario Street and Prospect Avenue, with the exception of the Stanley Block, of which he acquired partial ownership. The City of Cleveland condemned the building last year, and the Cleveland Landmarks Commission will hold a public hearing about the building on Thursday.

Update: at the hearing, preservationists said that the building should be saved. The Landmarks Commission is scheduled to vote on a landmark designation at its March 10 meeting.

Monday's flooding destroyed a 104-year-old lowhead dam on the Chagrin River in Gates Mills. It was the last remaining dam between the river's mouth and Chagrin Falls. The storm also damaged the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant in Cuyahoga Heights and led the sewer district to temporarily divert untreated wastewater directly into the Cuyahoga River.

Update: the Gates Mills dam probably won't be rebuilt. Its absence is expected to improve water quality and fish populations.

Update 2: repairs are underway at the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant.

On Wednesday's Sound of Ideas program, Ohio Department of Mental Health Director Tracy Plouck defended her decision to abandon plans for a new psychiatric hospital on Euclid Avenue and to close the facility near MetroHealth Medical Center.

Developer Andrew Brickman would like to demolish an Edgewater Drive estate in Lakewood and build the Townhomes of Edgewater on the 2.6-acre site. The new development would consist of 14 detached 1,800 to 2,000-square-foot townhouses. Lakewood officials are also considering a proposal to raze the former St. Paul Lutheran Church on Detroit Avenue to make way for a new 14,000-square-foot CVS store.

The Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits highlighted Cleveland's use of tax credit programs and other creative financing techniques to support downtown and neighborhood development.

(via Scott Suttell)

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