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February 2012 Archives

The U.S. EPA is expected to designate an eight-county Greater Cleveland region as a marginal nonattainment area for new federal ozone standards. The area would have three years to comply with the revised limits. The E-Check program would continue.

In response to comments from the U.S. EPA, the City of Cleveland announced changes to its plans for a waste-to-energy facility at its planned Recycling & Energy Generation Center. The changes are intended to reduce its levels of toxic air emissions. Cleveland Magazine's Erick Trickey collected related press releases and statements, and participants on the latest Civic Commons radio show revisited the topic.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that "Cleveland is wise to scale back its trash-to-gas plan."

Outgoing MetroHealth Chief Executive Mark Moran shared his vision for the health system. It includes an overhaul of its main campus in Cleveland and the construction of four new health centers.

Plans for the Oakwood Commons shopping center under construction in South Euclid include a 180,000-square-foot Wal-Mart supercenter. Wal-Mart currently operates a store less than a mile away at Severance Town Center in Cleveland Heights. At GreenCityBlueLake, Marc Lefkowitz explored redevelopment and retrofitting examples that could be employed if Wal-Mart closes its Severance Center location.

RTA is working with downtown Cleveland businesses to raise $720,000 to help fund two new trolleybus routes, the planned C-Line and Rock Line routes. The agency also hopes to launch a third new line, the Nine-Twelve Trolley.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking and Streets Plan Collaborative recently launched the Open Streets Project. Its goal is to share information about events where streets are temporarily closed to automobile traffic, and its first publication is the Open Streets Guide (PDF, 103 MB), a collection of best practices. It identified Cleveland's Walk + Roll initiative as one of seven models used by open streets programs.

The Shaker Farm Historic District in Cleveland Heights and the Jones Home Subdivisions Historic District in Cleveland were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Update: Cleveland Heights Patch has more information about the new Shaker Farm Historic District.

Inside Business described how Tremco used green building techniques in a renovation of its headquarters building on Green Road in Beachwood. The company is seeking LEED Gold certification for the project.

Update: Fresh Water has more details.

Work continues on the Horseshoe Casino in the Higbee Building on Public Square. When it opens on May 14, it will be the first casino in Ohio. The owner of the nearby May Company Building recently proposed converting about half of the landmark building into a parking deck. The Downtown/Flats Design Review Committee voted to table the proposal, and the Cleveland City Planning Commission rejected the plans. Meanwhile, the historic Stanley Block remains in a state of disrepair and faces possible demolition.

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Pokorny confirmed that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has the authority to implement a regional stormwater management program and that its associated fee is not unlawful tax. A group of suburbs had challenged the stormwater plans. The judge also determined that Hudson is a member, undoing a decision he made last year.

Update: officials in Summit County hope to reach a compromise.

Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink, spoke about equity at the City Club on Friday (MP3, 53.1 MB). The talk was part of the Why Place Matters series.

Update: video of the talk is now available.

The Visconsi Companies, a local shopping center developer, is offering to purchase the Acacia Country Club property in Lyndhurst for $11 million. Members rejected a $10 million offer in 2010.

Cleveland City Council committees reviewed lakefront plans in a joint meeting last week. The plans would delineate responsibility for bulkhead maintenance along the lower Cuyahoga River.

President Obama's 2013 federal budget request proposes funding levels for federal initiatives, including transportation programs, environmental protections, and the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. For the Great Lakes basin, it contains $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, $110 million for sewage system improvements, and $31 million for dredging. It also would provide $658 million for NASA's Glenn Research Center.

Update: Great Lakes Echo has more details.

Ohio will receive a $335 million share of the $25 billion federal settlement with mortgage companies, and Attorney General DeWine intends to set aside $75 million to demolish abandoned properties across the state. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County hope to receive at least $12.5 million from the fund. Former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, now head of the Thriving Communities Institute, is working with Representative LaTourette on legislation that would supply federal funding for additional demolitions. Rokakis advocated for the proposal in a recent Washington Post op-ed. Editorials in the Plain Dealer support both efforts, while the National League of Cities reflected on "the lessons that brought the country to this situation."

Cleveland City Council approved a $1 million loan for the redevelopment of downtown's former Crowne Plaza hotel as a Westin hotel, and is considering a proposed walkway across East 6th Street to Public Auditorium. The Cleveland Restoration Society has "major concerns" about the proposal, because it would "obstruct the grand vista to Cleveland City Hall." Meanwhile, the developers renovating downtown's Schofield Building selected Kimpton Hotels for the hotel/residential project.

Giant Eagle modified its plans for a Market District store in Strongsville, increasing the size of the proposed buffer adjacent to neighboring houses. Councilman Matt Schonhut favors the project. The Sun News endorsed the rezoning issue, calling it "a development Strongsville residents can live with." Company officials said they would not come back to voters if the rezoning issue fails.

Update: proponents and opponents of the project are debating its merits.

ODOT Director Jerry Wray said that project scores could change and the second new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland may move up on its funding priority list. Local leaders are urging ODOT to seek TIGER funding for its construction. Meanwhile, residents held a rally against the delays.

Update: ODOT will apply for a $120 million federal grant.

The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin said that it may be "time to rein in expectations" for offshore wind turbines in Cleveland.

Kent State University's Center For Public Administration and Public Policy posted a set of eight case studies on intergovernmental collaborations in Northeast Ohio.

The City of Euclid will invest $104 million to $150 million in its sewer infrastructure over the next 10 to 15 years to address combined sewer overflows. Mayor Cervenik estimates that residents will see a $10 monthly increase, and the City will present the project at public meetings on February 25 and March 1.

The City of Shaker Heights completed its $18.4 million funding package for the Warrensville-Van Aken intersection reconfiguration by obtaining a $4.4 million grant through the District One Public Works Integrating Committee. The City also received a $454,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration last year.

Update: GreenCityBlueLake and Fresh Water described the City's plans for the area.

The City of North Royalton is preparing to embark on an update of its master plan. The Cuyahoga County Planning Commission may prepare the update. The City's most recent plan (PDF) was completed in 2004 by Wilbur Smith Associates.

In addition to objections from residents and environmentalists, some members of Cleveland City Council oppose the proposed Cleveland Recycling & Energy Generation Center and its waste-to-energy facility. Councilman Brian Cummins concluded that "the city needs to go back to the drawing board." Dan Moulthrop considered the issues in the context of sustainability.

Local leaders and citizens celebrated the grand opening of the Global Cleveland Welcome Center last week. Located in 200 Public Square, it's intended to serve as a first stop for all newcomers to the region. Staff at the hub will provide advice, connections to communities, and resources for entrepreneurs. Ken Kovach shared some background information.

NOACA and ODOT have begun the Northeast Ohio Regional Travel Survey, a year-long study of travel patterns in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, and Medina counties. Results from the GPS-based survey will help planners gauge the area's transportation needs. Results will be available next year.

The Ohio EPA withdrew its proposed water quality standards for headwater streams. Business groups supported the decision and conservationists opposed it. The standards will be reviewed (PDF) under Governor Kasich's Common Sense Initiative.

The Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, formerly known as Dike 14, officially opened last week (PDF). The 88-acre man-made peninsula provides urban wildlife habitat and features a 1.3-mile walking trail. The site was created from dredge material deposited in the confined disposal facility from 1979 to 1999.

The cost of the Ohio Turnpike privatization study rose from $1.5 million to $2.85 million. The state Controlling Board approved the contract with KPMG, whose study will look at privatizing the rest areas in addition to the proposed turnpike lease. Meanwhile, a group of northern Ohio elected officials announced plans for an independent analysis of the proposal. They oppose turnpike privatization. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "creative thinking from state and local officials" is needed.

Update: Turnpike Commission Executive Director Rick Hodges urged patience.

Participants in a recent City Club panel discussion talked about state budget cuts and ways that local governments can achieve efficiencies by sharing services. In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Mayor DeGeeter of Parma highlighted his city's participation in regional collaborations.

Update: the latest Civic Commons radio show also explored the subject.

The Plain Dealer's Steven Litt says that the new Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland building under construction in University Circle is "shaping up as an architectural thrill ride" and "represents a triumphant return to the neighborhood of MOCA's birth."

Construction of the first new Innerbelt Bridge continues. The project in Cleveland is 35 days behind schedule, but ODOT officials are satisfied with the work. The design-build process has been slowed by rain.

Bike Cleveland hired Jacob VanSickle as the organization's first executive director. Meanwhile, AMATS issued a draft of its its bike plan (PDF) for Portage and Summit counties, and will hold public meetings on February 13 and 14.

Update: the Plain Dealer reported on Jacob VanSickle's new position.

A Plain Dealer editorial urges the Cleveland Division of Water and the cities of Macedonia and Westlake to resolve their differences without the cities changing water systems. The paper's Brent Larkin is highly critical of both Mayor Clough and the Division of Water.

Update: officials debated the issues on WCPN's Sound of Ideas.

In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Ken Prendergast of All Aboard Ohio advocates for greater investments in Ohio's rail services, saying that "policymakers need to provide transportation choices to keep citizens fully engaged in Ohio's economy."

In his second State of the County address, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald highlighted his accomplishments and introduced the Western Reserve Plan. He presented its 12 principles and his long range vision to an audience of more than 850 people. A Plain Dealer editorial said that County Executive FitzGerald deserves "credit for setting big goals when he has the political capital to pursue them." Audio (MP3, 53.0 MB) and a transcript (PDF) of the address are available.

Update: some suburban leaders expressed interest in sharing services.

Update 2: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial supports County Executive FitzGerald's approach. Video of the address is now online.

Members of Ohio's Transportation Review Advisory Council unanimously voted to accept Ohio Department of Transportation staff recommendations for major transportation projects. The approved list delays many projects, including pushing back the start of work on the second new Innerbelt Bridge to 2023. ODOT officials said that the schedule is based on policy, but Cleveland leaders replied that the agency should prioritize the Innerbelt Bridge project. A Plain Dealer editorial said that the state and federal governments must identify new funding sources, while a Columbus Dispatch editorial said that cities need to accept the delays.

The final recommendations of RTA's Blue Line Corridor Extension Study (PDF) include the construction of a new intermodal transit center, a new express bus line, and new park-and-ride lots. It does not recommend extending rail service or adding new bus rapid transit routes. All Aboard Ohio offered some suggestions, and Marc Lefkowitz considered what would be required for successful transit-oriented development.

In a presentation to Cleveland City Council about the region's housing market, Tom Bier said that Cleveland and its inner-ring suburbs must work together on redevelopment efforts.

The Congress for New Urbanism included Cleveland's West Shoreway in its 2012 Freeways Without Futures report, a list of "urban freeways that have the most potential to be transformed from broken liabilities to vibrant assets that support valuable places."

The Clean Ohio Assistance Fund awarded a $298,480 grant to the City of Cleveland to conduct a Phase II environmental assessment of a portion of the former General Environmental Management property on Rockefeller Avenue in the Flats. Meanwhile, the Ohio EPA declared that brownfield remediation was completed (PDF) for the 14-acre former National Acme site on East 131st Street in Cleveland.

About 50 people attended the first public meeting about a proposed skatepark in Slavic Village. A late 2014 opening is possible.

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