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December 2011 Archives

Cleveland Magazine briefly considered arguments for and against the possible reconfiguration of downtown's Public Square.

Despite a series of setbacks in court, the City of Cleveland continues to pursue its lawsuit against a group of major banks and mortgage companies.

The Ohio EPA's proposed new rules for existing construction and demolition debris landfills would institute scheduled leachate monitoring. If contamination levels exceed standards, the rules would require groundwater testing and possible cleanup action. The EPA will hold a public hearing (PDF) on January 3 in Columbus.

The Ohio Department of Taxation changed its policies, declaring that properties in the Wetlands Reserve Program no longer qualify as agricultural land for tax purposes. Property owners with land in conservation easements may see higher tax bills.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District submitted its green infrastructure plan to the U.S. EPA on Wednesday. It identifies 20 green infrastructure projects that the sewer district may fund over an eight-year period, as part of its combined sewer overflow control program. The agency will invest at least $42 million in the green infrastructure projects. Federal approval is required for the overall plan but not for individual projects.

The Playhouse Square Foundation agreed to sell the Hanna Building Annex on East 14th Street to the K&D Group of Willoughby. The company plans to convert the office building to 102 apartments. Work may begin in June.

The Ohio Department of Development awarded $14.9 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits for 13 rehabilitation projects. Eight of the projects are in Northeast Ohio, and four are in Cleveland. The Victory Building at Euclid Avenue and East 71st Street received a $4.38 million credit, the Park and Southworth Buildings on Public Square received a $1.98 million credit, the Rialto Theater on West 25th Street received a $484,108 credit, and the Gifford House on Prospect Avenue received a $108,914 credit. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial supports the tax credit program.

Last week, the U.S. EPA issued the first national standards for mercury and other toxic air emissions from power plants. Under the new rules, which will become effective in 2014 and 2015, operators will have to install pollution controls or shut down older coal-fired power plants. The regulations could impact several local power plants, including FirstEnergy's Lake Shore Power Plant in Cleveland and Eastlake Power Plant in Lake County, and Genon's Avon Lake Generating Station in Lorain County.

Congress approved $300 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2012. It also authorized $533 million in low-interest loans for Great Lakes states to address combined sewer overflows. The National Wildlife Federation called it "a significant victory for fish, wildlife and the Great Lakes," while an editorial in Toledo's Blade said "it's not enough, even in a period of fiscal austerity."

Update: a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial adds that it "sounds like a substantial sum, but it's not enough, even in a period of fiscal austerity."

A group of young professionals organizations published the results of their urban park survey (PDF). It asked respondents to prioritize park offerings and to identify desired features and activities.

The U.S. Census Bureau released state population estimates that cover the period between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2011. They are the first estimates published since the official 2010 Census results. The 0.92% increase in U.S. population was the lowest annual growth rate since the mid-1940s. Ohio's 0.07% growth rate was among the lowest in the nation.

Westlake City Council approved a 30-year tax abatement for the planned American Greetings headquarters at Crocker Park. The abatement will begin in 2014, when the new offices are expected to open.

Shelterforce profiled Cleveland Housing Court Judge Raymond Pianka and the strategies he has employed to encourage neighborhood stabilization.

Researchers are the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland examined changes in population densities within metropolitan areas and asked whether they correlated with productivity. They used Greater Cleveland as an example, and said that "evidence suggests that denser MSAs are more productive."

(via Rust Wire)

Changing Gears looked at how the loss of a bank branch can impact a neighborhood, using Cleveland's Larchmere neighborhood and its closed Ohio Savings branch as an example.

A 60 Minutes segment looked at the impacts of the housing crisis in Cuyahoga County and at how local governments and residents are responding to foreclosures, abandonment, and underwater mortgages. The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin also described the struggles. Rob Pitingolo said that exurban housing construction and regional population declines contributed to the problems.

Update: Businessweek also looked at the local housing market.

In the third round of its TIGER program, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $511 million to 46 projects across the country. RTA received $12.5 million for its planned new rapid transit station at Mayfield Road and East 119th Street in Little Italy. Construction of the $17.5 million project could start in early 2013. RTA received a TIGER grant last year for the reconstruction of its University Circle rapid transit station.

A group of Cleveland leaders, residents, and bicycling advocates traveled to Columbus last Thursday to demonstrate their support for the West Shoreway reconstruction plans. They attended a Transportation Review Advisory Council meeting and spoke with ODOT officials.

Update: Scene reported on the project, as well.

In addition to studying a proposed lease of the Ohio Turnpike, consultants will also consider the possibility of placing it under the jurisdiction of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

An Ohio Citizen Action report urges FirstEnergy to permanently close its Lake Shore Power Plant in Cleveland. The plant is currently idle.

WKSU looked at how the Reimagining Cleveland initiative is helping to create a school garden at Buhrer Elementary School in Tremont.

Last week, workers began construction of the 153-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel in University Circle. The $27 million development should be completed in late 2012.

While Westlake City Council continues to discuss a proposed switch in water suppliers from the Cleveland Division of Water to the Avon Lake Municipal Utilities, the City of Cleveland issued a study that challenged the conclusions of a recent report prepared for the City of Westlake. The Cleveland report (PDF) said that Westlake should remain (PDF) with Cleveland Water. Mayor Clough said that the response would not deter him from pursuing the switch.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial urges Mayors Jackson and Clough to meet and "take another pragmatic look at options."

Backers of the proposed Turkish Cultural Garden in Cleveland's Rockefeller Park shared a preliminary design for the garden.

At GreenCityBlueLake, Marc Lefkowitz looked to San Diego for ideas to inform the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium's planning process.

The Ohio House of Representatives recently approved changes to the Local Government Innovation Fund, a $45 million grant and loan program that will support local government collaborations. The state will hold an outreach session at Tri-C's Corporate College East on January 17.

Update: the Local Government Innovation Fund application (PDF) is now available.

Update 2: the Akron Beacon Journal described the program.

Cleveland State University's landmark Mather Mansion on Euclid Avenue could be converted to a boutique hotel. The university is seeking proposals from developers interested in renovating and operating the property.

Officials in Central Elgin, Ontario say that the planned Cleveland-to-Port Stanley ferry will not begin operations before 2013.

(via Callahan's Cleveland Diary)

Construction of the new I-90 interchange at Nagel Road in Avon is on schedule, and contractors say it should open in spring 2013. The City is still trying to finalize eminent domain agreements with several property owners. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Clinic officially opened its new Richard E. Jacobs Health Center in Avon and closed the Westlake Family Health Center.

The Cleveland Landmarks Commission designated Fenn Tower, Howe Mansion, and the Stager-Beckwith Mansion as Cleveland landmarks. The Commission will continue to discuss the proposed designation of the Wolfe's Music Store building.

Public transit usage increased nationally in the third quarter of 2011. RTA experienced the largest ridership increase in the country, with a 9.7% increase over the same period in 2010.

Update: Ben Wickizer of the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter says that state leaders "should take bold action and commit Ohio to becoming a leader in the development of transit infrastructure."

The Cuyahoga Land Bank and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development renewed their agreement for a second one-year term. HUD will continue to transfer low-value properties (PDF) to the land bank for $100.

The land bank will also partner with the International Services Center in the new Discovering Home program (PDF). Through the program, the land bank will provide houses to refugees settling in the county, and the refugees will participate in renovating the houses. The first house in the program is on Hopkins Avenue in Lakewood.

The Trust for Public Land's annual City Park Facts report says that the number of parks in the nation's 100 largest cities has increased, with the fastest-growing segment being dog parks. Cleveland Lakefront State Park remained the 11th-most visited urban park in the United States.

The U.S. Census Bureau released its second annual set of five-year American Community Survey estimates. The release provides detailed socio-economic data covering the period from 2006 to 2010. It showed decreasing household incomes and a growing income gap.

Longtime Cleveland Metroparks Commissioner David Whitehead announced that he will step down from the board. Judge Russo said he will name a replacement soon.

Update: Judge Russo appointed Debbie Berry to the Metroparks board of commissioners.

The City of Cuyahoga Falls is preparing to remove two dams on the Cuyahoga River next year. Removal of the downtown dams is expected to be completed in July or August.

Cleveland officials recently unveiled designs for the planned African American Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park. Supporters hope to raise $2 million for the project and complete construction in 2013. A Plain Dealer editorial says it "wouldn't have happened without the tenacity and vision of the late Booker T. Tall."

A $500,000 state grant to Cuyahoga County completed the funding for a 0.6-mile section of the Towpath Trail on the Scranton Peninsula in Cleveland. Work is scheduled to begin next year.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more information.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Brian J. Corrigan dismissed most of the City of Cleveland's lawsuit against 21 banks and mortgage companies.

Insurance company AmTrust Financial Services announced that it will bring its offices to downtown Cleveland. The company plans to relocate 245 jobs from Seven Hills and create up to 800 new jobs over three years. AmTrust will make at least $20 million in upgrades to the Key Center tower at Superior Avenue and East 9th Street. It purchased the building in July for $7.1 million.

Cleveland State University intends to mothball most of its Rhodes Tower because of the high cost of renovations. A study estimated that it would cost about $37 million to renovate and upgrade the tower.

The TLCI-funded East 22nd Street Corridor/Campus District Transportation and Redevelopment Plan (PDF) makes recommendations intended to strengthen the connections between the Campus District's three anchor institutions. It "illustrates how community-involved planning can tap into large transportation projects to make meaningful corridor enhancements."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development selected the German Marshall Fund to manage the Strong Cities, Strong Communities fellowship program. Up to 30 fellows will be deployed to the six SC2 cities. CSU's Levin College of Urban Affairs will administer the program in Cleveland.

The City of Cleveland and Neighborhood Progress Inc. will make $1 million available in the second round of the Reimagining Cleveland initiative. The funding will help residents reuse vacant properties in creative new ways.

Update: Fresh Water shared more details.

Last week's public meeting about the West Shoreway plans attracted a large audience. Cleveland officials criticized ODOT's approach to the project and encouraged residents to attend the December 15 TRAC meeting in Columbus as a show of support. GreenCityBlueLake's Marc Lefkowitz said that to succeed, the project must expediently serve the the bicycle and pedestrian communities.

Update: Fresh Water provided the City's views.

In a new report, Emory University's Turner Environmental Law Clinic and Georgia Organics collected the urban agriculture policies of 16 American cities, including Cleveland.

(via Joe Cimperman)

The Fund for Our Economic Future issued its sixth annual Dashboard of Economic Indicators. It "measures the region's economic performance in the context of a slow-growth, fragile, post-recession economy."

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