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March 2012 Archives

Delaying the construction of the second new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland will create more expenses for the Ohio Department of Transportation. Repairs to extend the lifespan of the existing Innerbelt Bridge by five years will cost $65 million, and extending it by ten years will cost $89 million.

Despite urges from across the state, the Ohio Senate approved a $1.74 billion capital budget that included minimal funding for the Clean Ohio program. The future of the program is unclear.

Update: a Columbus Dispatch editorial noted that the program remains popular with the public.

Update 2: an editorial in Toledo's Blade says that the "program deserves better".

Update 3: a Plain Dealer editorial urges state legislators to approve bond sales for the program.

On Thursday, Jeff Finkle, Lee Fisher, and Joe Marinucci participated in a panel discussion, the annual State of Downtown forum at the City Club (MP3, 54.0 MB). They expressed optimism about the future of downtown Cleveland. That morning on WCPN's Sound of Ideas, Joe Calabrese of RTA and Bob Pfaff of Akron METRO talked about public transit in Greater Cleveland.

Update: video of the State of Downtown forum is now online.

In an effort to avoid competing with the downtown Cleveland casino, Rock Ohio Caesars may move Thistledown racetrack from North Randall to the Akron area. A site in Green near the Akron-Canton Airport is a possibility. The Kasich administration is considering the proposal. The company acquired Thistledown in 2010, and last year said there were no plans to move it.

Update: Mayor Norton of Green said that he is not supporting or opposing the project. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial said that casinos won't "make a significant impact on economic development in the long run".

The Plain Dealer examined how Wal-Mart has transitioned its Greater Cleveland inventory of stores from its traditional model to the supercenter concept. On average, its regular stores are 108,000 square feet, and its supercenters occupy 185,000 square feet. The company is continuing the trend by relocating stores from Cleveland Heights to South Euclid, from Fairlawn to Copley Township, and by expanding its store in Avon.

Neighborhood Progress Inc. may begin working with communities like Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. It would be the organization's first activity in inner-ring suburbs. The City of Shaker Heights is increasing its funding for property acquisition, upkeep, and demolition.

The Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is considering the Great Lakes Compact implementing legislation recently introduced by Representative Lynn Wachtmann of Napoleon. Business interests said they have "serious reservations" about the bill.

More energy companies are acquiring rights to drill in Ohio's Utica shale, and have leased or purchased rights to 3.8 million acres in the state. Projections anticipate that 160 wells will be drilled in 2012, 650 wells in 2013, and 1,075 wells in 2014.

The wind turbine at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds was delivered and erected this month. The 265-foot turbine will begin generating electricity in a few weeks. At Cleveland's Progressive Field, workers installed a corkscrew-shaped turbine designed by a Cleveland State University professor.

Update: the turbine at the fairgrounds was officially dedicated, and WKSU reported on local wind energy initiatives.

The K&D Group of Willoughby recently signed a contract to buy the vacant 1717 East 9th Building and its 550-space parking garage from Sovereign Partners. K&D plans to convert the former East Ohio Building into a 223-unit apartment building. The company has one year to complete its purchase of the downtown office tower.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial backs the plans.

The City of Cleveland recently began construction of the Lake to Lakes Trail. It will connect Lake Erie with the Shaker Lakes.

On World Water Day, Environment America released a report titled Wasting Our Waterways 2012. It used Toxics Release Inventory data to identify the states and waterways with the most industrial pollution, and said industrial facilities released 9,184,661 pounds of toxic materials into Ohio waterways in 2010.

Beachwood City Council approved a rezoning for apartments on the current site of the Commerce Park I, II, and III office buildings.

PNC unveiled plans for a new community resource center in Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood. The 6,400-square-foot PNC Fairfax Connection is intended to offer a variety of community resources at the corner of Carnegie Avenue and East 83rd Street.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more details.

First Interstate Properties confirmed that the Oakwood Commons retail development in South Euclid will include a 177,000-square-foot Wal-Mart superstore. Construction of the store is scheduled to begin in September.

Update: Wal-Mart verified that the supercenter will replace its store at Severance Town Center in Cleveland Heights.

U.S. Representatives Marcia Fudge and Steve LaTourette held a press conference in Cleveland on Monday, where they announced that they will sponsor a bill that would provide $4 billion to help communities demolish abandoned housing. Meanwhile, the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County allocated $14 million for housing demolition. They hope to obtain matching funds from the mortgage fraud settlement. A Plain Dealer editorial supported the efforts.

On Monday, Cleveland City Council approved the lakefront redevelopment plan introduced by Mayor Jackson in November. The plan covers the waterfront between the Port of Cleveland and Burke Lakefront Airport.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that recent decisions "will make it easier to move ahead" with the plans.

An article in this week's issue of Scene examined the goals and history of the local food movement in Greater Cleveland and questioned the City of Cleveland's ability to influence the necessary systems.

The historic Stanley Block, one of downtown Cleveland's oldest buildings, remains under threat of demolition. Its fate may be determined at a Cleveland Housing Court trial on April 5.

A group of suburbs continues to oppose the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's stormwater management program. They are appealing a February Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court ruling that upheld the program.

Developers Adam Fishman and Ari Maron and the Plain Dealer's Steven Litt talked about downtown Cleveland construction projects on Tuesday's Sound of Ideas program.

Richey Piiparinen of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at CWRU researched the demographic trends of downtown Cleveland and its surrounding neighborhoods, and found promising signs. Geographer Jim Russell concurred with his conclusions.

Update: the Plain Dealer looked at the figures.

GreenCityBlueLake's Marc Lefkowitz described the City of Shaker Heights' plans to reconfigure the Warrensville-Van Aken intersection and redevelop the area as a mixed-use district. He concluded that it "has incredible potential to set the stage for Northeast Ohio's first significant retrofit from typical suburban shopping center to the walkable town center."

WXZ Development plans to complete its Circle 118 townhouse project in University Circle by building an additional 30 units. The earlier buildings were built as condominiums, but the final phase will be apartments.

While the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to commercialize highway rest areas in the two-year transportation bill it passed last week, Ohio Department of Transportation officials said they would continue to pursue the concept. ODOT will also study the idea of selling naming rights and sponsorships for Ohio highways.

Update: ODOT launched its Division of Innovative Delivery and hired Jim Riley to lead it.

Update 2: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial said that a 13-cent increase in the state gasoline tax would provide "a more robust, reliable revenue stream".

The Congregation of the Clergy reversed the closings of 13 parishes and churches in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. The Vatican panel said that Bishop Lennon had not followed church law or procedures. Boston activist Peter Borre, who advocated on behalf of several parishes, said that the decision was unprecedented. Parishioners urged the Diocese to reopen the churches and discussed the decision on WCPN's Sound of Ideas. Bishop Lennon said that he was reviewing the ruling, and a Plain Dealer editorial said that it's too early to tell how this will end.

Property owners in Summit County near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park have been receiving offers for the oil and gas rights from the Utica shale beneath their land.

Figures released by the Ohio Supreme Court show that foreclosure filings in Ohio decreased by 16.3% between 2010 and 2011. It was the second consecutive year with a decrease. Filings in Cuyahoga County fell from 12,825 in 2010 to 11,544 in 2011, a 10% drop.

While Frank Jackson's 2012 State of the City address focused on education, he also spoke about economic development, neighborhood development, and downtown developments. Video, audio, and text of the address are available.

FirstEnergy announced that it is reconsidering its plans to close its Eastlake power plant. The company is studying the possibility of replacing the plant's coal-fired turbines with combustion turbines that would be fueled by natural gas or oil. It would continue to operate as a peaking plant, providing up to 800 megawatts.

A report (PDF) from the National Park Service says that in 2010, the 2.5 million visitors to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park spent $54.7 million in and around the park, supporting 829 jobs.

Last week, the Cuyahoga Land Bank marked its 1,500th property acquisition and completed its 750th demolition. The land bank was organized in 2009.

RTA officials presented the Blue Line Corridor Extension Study to the NOACA Governing Board on Friday. RTA's board is scheduled to discuss the plan later this month.

Ohio City Incorporated was named the winner of the inaugural Enterprise Community Innovation Award. The CDC will will receive a $25,000 grant (PDF) to support its Market District initiative.

University Circle Incorporated selected the Coral Co. and Panzica Construction as developers for a project on the site of Lot 45. The $100 million mixed-use Intesa project would replace the 2.2-acre parking lot with office, technology, and residential space. The developers have one year to secure tenants and funding for the project at Euclid Avenue and East 117th Street, near RTA's planned rapid transit station.

Update: the Coral Co. posted a video about the development.

Strongsville residents approved a rezoning issue for a proposed Market District supermarket on Pearl Road. Construction of the 110,000-square-foot store could begin as early as July. Opponents said they lacked the time to properly organize. Voters also approved a rezoning for a potential expansion of Strongsville United Church of Christ on Royalton Road.

A revised Great Lakes Compact implementation bill was introduced in the Ohio House by Representative Lynn Wachtmann. Governor Kasich, who vetoed an earlier version of the bill, said that the legislation has issues that remain unresolved. Environmental groups said that the bill is improved, but should be strengthened in some areas, and an Akron Beacon Journal editorial also made some suggestions. Joe Koncelik concluded that it would move "Ohio much closer to the other Great Lakes States in how it regulates future water withdrawals from the Great Lakes Basin."

Update: in an article, the Plain Dealer looked at the issues, and in an editorial said that Rep. Wachtmann is the wrong person to lead the process.

E-books distributor OverDrive last week broke ground on its new $10 million headquarters building in Garfield Heights. The company expects to complete construction of the 95,000-square-foot building in September.

The City of Fairview Park is preparing to embark on an update of its master plan. Seven consultants submitted bids to conduct the plan, which was last updated in 2005 (PDF). West Life is publishing a series on issues that may be addressed in a new master plan.

Under JobsOhio, the Clean Ohio Brownfield Revitalization Fund may shift from providing grants to offering loans. Economic development professionals fear it would make the program less effective.

Leaders in Cleveland Heights are reviewing an update of the City's zoning code. The changes (PDF) are intended to encourage sustainable development practices. The Cleveland Heights Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss the changes on March 14 and April 11, and City Council on March 26 and April 16.

The YMCA of Greater Cleveland plans to move its downtown branch from the Central YMCA building on Prospect Avenue into the Galleria at Erieview. Cleveland State purchased the Central YMCA building in 2009.

The Cleveland City Planning Commission adopted a revised version of the West Park/Lorain Avenue Transportation & Redevelopment Plan (PDF). The Planning Commission requested changes to the document in September 2011.

The Brunswick Post and Fresh Water recently reported on the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium's planning process.

Upgrades to Euclid's sewer system will cost $136 million over a 10- to 15-year period. City Council is reviewing the project. Upgrades are also planned in Akron, and some residents said that the plans place too great a burden on ratepayers.

Update: Euclid City Council unanimously voted to submit project plans to the U.S. EPA for final approval.

The Solon Planning Commission approved plans for the redevelopment of Solar Shopping Center. City Council's Safety Committee also approved the plans, and City Council is expected to consider the plans this month. Retailers are signing leases for space in the renovated center.

Members of the Shaker Square Area Development Corporation voted to reject a proposed merger with the Buckeye Area Development Corporation. SHAD will lay off its staff and cease operations. The area will be without a community development corporation.

Plans for several local housing subdivisions have been in the news:

In its yearly report on racial disparities in mortgage lending (PDF), the Housing Advocacy and Research Center found that "African Americans and Hispanics continue to have limited access to fair and equal credit" in Ohio and that they "faced higher denial rates and high-cost lending rates than whites."

Channel 5 looked at how residents on Cleveland's West Clifton Avenue and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization have worked to maintain the quality of the street's housing during the foreclosure crisis.

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