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At its January 24 meeting, Cuyahoga County Council approved the establishment of a $100 million economic development fund. Creating the fund was one of County Executive FitzGerald's campaign promises. The County will use $5 million from the fund as loan guarantees, which will leverage an additional $100 million in small-business loans from seven area banks.

FirstEnergy announced that it will close six older coal-fired power plants this year, including the Lake Shore Power Plant in Cleveland and the Eastlake Plant in Lake County. The company attributed the decision to new federal mercury pollution standards. Most of the plants that will be closed have been operated as peaking plants.

A Plain Dealer editorial said the closures represented "a punch in the gut for communities already battling sour unemployment numbers," while an editorial in Toledo's Blade said that "no single policy is responsible for the closures." an Akron Beacon Journal editorial provided some perspective. The Natural Resources Defense Council called it "good news for human health and a clean energy economy."

Update: The Atlantic Cities considered how the decision may affect the City of Eastlake.

Cleveland residents asked questions about the City's new lakefront plans at a public meeting last week. Meanwhile, Lute Harmon of Inside Business advocated for following Chicago's example and reserving the waterfront for public uses.

Beachwood's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of a proposed commercial-to-residential rezoning of eight acres at Chagrin Boulevard and Green Road. The planned apartment complex is part of a larger effort to redevelop the Commerce Park area.

Cleveland officials said that the long-planned renovation of League Park will begin in late spring or early summer. The $5 million project will include restoring the ticket house and bleacher wall, and recreating the stadium's baseball diamond.

The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin says that a proposed federal tax credit program presents an opportunity for Ohio cities to address abandoned housing problems.

The concept for Berea's North End calls for revitalizing the area with mixed-use development. Mayor Kleem described it as a "work in progress."

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority board approved $3.9 million to construct an on-dock rail loop and selected Great Lakes Construction Company to build the track (PDF). Cleveland Commercial Railroad will operate it. A Plain Dealer editorial praised the project.

The Plain Dealer's Steven Litt analyzed the Cleveland Clinic's master plan for its main campus in Fairfax. The plan, prepared by Foster + Partners of London, calls for the creation of a green corridor through the center of the campus. The plan suggests redeveloping the former Cleveland Play House complex as an education center, but does not address the edges of the campus or the possible demolition of two historic churches.

For the next 25 years, profits from Ohio's liquor operations will support the new JobsOhio development agency. JobsOhio will pay $1.4 billion for the rights. The state will use $150 million of the purchase price to fund the Clean Ohio program for three years.

Update: the Columbus Dispatch says that JobsOhio's "emphasis on loans could signal an expansion of Ohio's development toolbox." An Akron Beacon Journal editorial takes a wait and see approach, and Joe Koncelik has questions about the Clean Ohio plans.

The Plain Dealer summarized the debate about the future of Westlake's water supply. The City is contemplating a switch from the Cleveland Division of Water to the Avon Lake Municipal Utilities.

Update: Macedonia is also considering plans to change water suppliers.

A new report from the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University looked at changes in poverty rates in Northeast Ohio communities between 2000 and 2010. The figures reflect rising poverty across the region and the growth of suburban poverty.

Update: the Plain Dealer reported on the poverty figures.

In its biannual report on bicycling and walking in the United States, the Alliance for Biking & Walking examined a variety of factors, including activity levels, safety, policy issues, education, and advocacy. It looked at how states and major cities compare on those factors, and said that "many states and cities are making progress toward promoting safe access for bicyclists and pedestrians, but much more remains to be done."

The Plain Dealer described the status of the planned Lake Erie ferry between Cleveland and Port Stanley, Ontario.

Update: the News-Herald provided additional perspectives. A Plain Dealer editorial said that the "ferry is still an intriguing idea," while Bill Callahan pointed out some details.

Cuyahoga County Executive FitzGerald announced that the County will prioritize and select which major road projects it will finance, and instituted a two-year moratorium on the required local funding match.

Superior Technology Partners of Columbus hopes to build a data center on a 2.25-acre portion of a 14-acre City-owned property on Chester Avenue. The Midtown site was previously slated for a state psychiatric hospital.

The U.S. EPA approved the City of Akron's revised combined sewer overflow control plan. The plan also needs the approval of the Ohio EPA and a federal judge. The Ohio EPA will hold a public hearing on February 29. The federal judge rejected an earlier version of the plan last year.

The Ohio EPA declared that the Electrolizing Corporation of Ohio completed brownfield remediation of its 2.25-acre property (PDF) on East 152nd Street in East Cleveland.

Citing a "looming transportation financial crisis facing" the state, Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray revealed the agency's funding recommendations (PDF) to the Transportation Review Advisory Council. The recommendations call for major projects across the state to be eliminated or substantially delayed, including the second new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland. Originally scheduled to be built between 2014 and 2016, work on the bridge would not start before 2023. The West Shoreway project was not on the funding list. The announcement angered Cleveland leaders. A Plain Dealer editorial said the delay was unacceptable, while an Akron Beacon Journal editorial suggested raising the gas tax. Governor Kasich may use the news to promote the privatization of the Ohio Turnpike.

Update: the Plain Dealer published more information about the possible West Shoreway funding delay.

Update 2: the Statehouse News Bureau reported on ODOT's funding issues, and Greater Ohio's Gene Krebs renewed his call for a "discussion about how to move people and goods in the most cost effective and safe manner."

Update 3: Governor Kasich defended the agency. An editorial in the Blade urged state leaders to consider raising the gas tax. Participants on WCPN's Sound of Ideas discussed the issues.

The Federal Transit Administration awarded $40.8 million to improve access to the country's national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. The FTA funds will support 58 projects, including $3.2 million for five Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad projects. The largest of the five awards is a $1.4 million grant for a pedestrian bridge across the Cuyahoga River.

The Ohio EPA recently held a public hearing about the City of Cleveland's proposed waste-to-energy facility for the Ridge Road Transfer Station. The City is promoting the plans as a way to generate electricity, create jobs, and reduce the City's carbon footprint, but many residents and environmentalists oppose its construction. To allow for more dialogue, the Ohio EPA extended its public comment period and the City will hold a community meeting on January 19. Councilman Brian Cummins posted a list of resources, while Marc Lefkowitz suggested some alternative ideas.

Update: about 100 people attended the community meeting, and the City of Cleveland scheduled three additional meetings. The Ohio EPA will accept public comments (PDF) through February 23.

RTA reports that it served more than 46 million riders in 2011, an increase of almost 4% over 2010.

Lakewood City Council approved the City's bicycle master plan on Tuesday. The City will start implementing the plan by adding sharrows and bike racks. Michael Gill said the plan "is good news for cyclists and the city."

Update: the Sun Post-Herald has more details.

The City of Cleveland Heights is offering vacant city-owned residential properties to owners of adjacent houses for $100 plus closing costs. City Council gave the city manager the authority to administer the program.

The U.S. EPA introduced its Greenhouse Gas Inventory. It provides public access to 2010 greenhouse gas emissions data from large facilities for the entire United States. Ohio's largest group of emitters were power plants, and the largest single emitter in Cuyahoga County was the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Cleveland. Meanwhile, ArcelorMittal announced that it would reopen the west side of the plant.

CMHA received a $300,000 federal planning grant to develop a plan for revitalizing the Cedar Extension public housing development in Cleveland's Central neighborhood. It was one of 13 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants awarded by HUD across the United States. Choice Neighborhoods is a signature program of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative.

After several years of debate, ODOT and MidTown Cleveland, Inc. agreed to reevaluate the potential economic impacts of eliminating I-90 interchanges at Carnegie and Prospect avenues in Cleveland. D.B. Hartt, Inc. will conduct a year-long study.

Beachwood leaders are considering a proposal to build a 340-unit apartment building on the site of the three Commerce Park office buildings at Chagrin Boulevard and Green Road. City Council recently referred the project to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The buildings were purchased in September for $4.1 million, and a study prepared for the City last year recommended reinvestment in the area. Meanwhile, a different developer is preparing plans for a 132-unit luxury apartment building near Beachwood Place.

Frank Jackson promoted Jenita McGowan (PDF), naming her the City of Cleveland's new chief of sustainability. She succeeds Andrew Watterson, who stepped down last year.

Update: Fresh Water interviewed Jenita McGowan.

Summit County Engineer Al Brubaker is seeking approval from Summit County Council to establish a countywide stormwater utility. Council members will discuss the proposal. Mayor Procop of Twinsburg opposes the proposed program.

Update: the Summit County Engineer's Office described the advantages of the proposed stormwater utility.

Glenn Grisdale of Reveille will present a draft of the new Brook Park Master Plan at a public meeting on January 25. The owner of Brookgate Shopping Center was disappointed by the process.

Fresh Water described the nonprofit organizations that collaborate to promote economic development in Northeast Ohio.

Two Summit County brothers turned their 105-acre family farm into wetlands, and recently donated the Panzer Wetland Wildlife Reserve in Copley Township to the University of Akron. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial praised their work.

NOACA issued its 2009 Crash Report (PDF) in December. It says that the number of crashes in the five-county Greater Cleveland area declined by 24.8% between 2000 and 2009, and identified the intersections that experienced the most crashes from 2007 to 2009. ODOT said that it is working to improve the intersection of Carnegie Avenue and Ontario Street in downtown Cleveland.

The Ohio EPA issued a draft of its 2012 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report. It says that the water quality of the state's lakes, rivers, and streams has improved slightly since 2010, and that the largest problems are from farm fertilizer and urban runoff. The agency is accepting public comments through February 6.

Collinwood's Northeast Shores Development Corp and the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture are rolling out the Artists in Residence program. Its first project is the Cleveland Arsenal (PDF), a civic advocacy effort.

Update: the organizations published guidelines for the Artists in Residence program (PDF).

Giant Eagle increased the size of its proposed new Strongsville supermarket from 92,600 square feet to 110,000 square feet. It would be the first Northeast Ohio store to carry the retailer's Market District name. The first of three public meetings about the plans will be held on January 18 at St. John Neumann Church. Giant Eagle also may be interested in building a Market District store in Lakewood.

Update: more than 200 people attended the public meeting.

Nestle shared preliminary concepts for its planned research and development center with Solon officials on Monday. The company is targeting a LEED gold certification for the 120,000- to 150,000-square-foot facility at the southeast corner of Cannon Road and Hawthorn Parkway.

Developer Randy Kertesz intends to begin construction of the 156-house Lakes of Orange development this year. He bills it as Ohio's first green certified residential community.

The stalled plans for the redevelopment of Solar Shopping Center in Solon have resumed motion. Echo Development of Pittsburgh is scheduled to present preliminary plans to the Solon Planning Commission on January 24, and the City recently approved a traffic study for the development. A Chagrin Solon Sun editorial says it's "a project that needs to move forward."

Update: Solon City Council approved a development agreement for the project.

Mayor Mulcahy said that voters in Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere probably won't see a ballot issue this November on a potential merger due to the complexity of the subject and the need for study.

As Ohio shale drilling continues to generate headlines, participants on Wednesday's Sound of Ideas program discussed fracking in Ohio. Recent events could lead to policy changes.

The LoConti family, longtime owners of the Cleveland Agora, recently donated the office and entertainment complex to MidTown Cleveland. MidTown and Hemingway Development plan to redevelop its 54,000-square-foot office portion and restore the Agora Theatre.

Because its funding was transferred to the governor's JobsOhio program, the Clean Ohio program is no longer accepting applications. State leaders have not identified a replacement source of funding for the popular program. An editorial in Youngstown's Vindicator says that officials shouldn't allow the program to end.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that neglecting the Clean Ohio program "would amount to another blow to cities."

Policy Matters Ohio reported that Ohio housing foreclosure filings decreased slightly in 2010, but remained at historically high levels. Bill Callahan looked at the 2011 totals for Cuyahoga County, and noted that last year was the county's sixth consecutive year with over 10,000 foreclosure filings.

A real estate study conducted for Cuyahoga County leaders provided recommendations for each property in the county portfolio, and divided them into opportunities for investment, holding, or divestment. The study (PowerPoint) recommended the sale of the Ameritrust complex, the County Administration Building, and the former Juvenile Justice Center, among other structures. A Plain Dealer editorial says that the "upshot of all this is that the county may soon become an important player in the local real estate market."

The opening date of the Cleveland casino will be pushed back from late March to May or June. The state Casino Control Commission needs more time to conduct required background checks. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial concludes that the Commission "is providing the necessary counterweight by insisting on transparency and accountability."

The U.S. EPA issued its annual analysis of data from the national Toxics Release Inventory. After several years of decreases, U.S. toxic chemical releases increased by 16% from 2009 to 2010. Releases in Ohio shrank by 1.8%. Cuyahoga County's largest emitters were the ArcelorMittal and Charter Steel facilities.

The NOACA Governing Board approved the addition of 15 projects to its long-range transportation plan. Eight of the projects are in Cuyahoga County, including the planned redecking of the I-480 bridge in Valley View and Independence.

Demolition of the Cleveland School of the Arts building in University Circle is scheduled to begin soon. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District plans to build a new school on the site.

Macy's announced that its store at Parmatown Mall is among five locations it will close this spring. The 288,000-square-foot store opened in 1960.

Update: Parmatown's court-appointed receiver says it could make the mall more attractive to developers.

A new paper from Cleveland State University researchers examines conditions in four distressed suburbs of older industrial cities, including East Cleveland. It "includes discussions of lessons learned from the four cities on housing and community development, concentrated poverty, trust in government, anchor institutions, education, local government capacity, regional collaboration, and state programs."

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