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June 2012 Archives

The U.S. Census Bureau published population estimates for the nation's incorporated cities and towns. The data covers changes between April 2010 and July 2011. For the first time since the 1920s, population grew faster in the nation's large cities than in their suburbs, with central cities growing at an average of 1.1% and their suburbs at 0.9%, Both the City of Cleveland and its suburbs lost population, with the City shrinking more quickly. Cleveland's population fell from 396,815 to an estimated 393,806, a decrease of 3,009.

Update: population estimates for all Cuyahoga County communities are available.

In its annual Testing the Waters report, the Natural Resources Defense Council ranked water quality at Ohio beaches as the second-lowest of the 30 states with coastlines. Villa Angela and Euclid Beach were included in the report's list of "repeat offenders" for having contamination problems in each of the past five years. Most Great Lakes states scored poorly. The NRDC released the report at the Great Lakes Science Center to recognize the area's investments in green infrastructure. Previous reports: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005.

Update: Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Executive Director Julius Ciaccia wrote about his agency's efforts to improve the situation.

The Ohio Department of Development awarded $35.8 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits to 18 recipients. Two of the projects are in downtown Cleveland: a $1.6 million for a partial residential conversion of Rosetta Center (the former National City building at 629 Euclid Avenue), and $1.8 million for a mixed-use redevelopment of the vacant Truman Building at 1030 Euclid Avenue.

At their Tuesday meeting, Cuyahoga County Council members offered a variety of ideas for investing the County's share of casino tax revenues. Council will continue to discuss the issue.

Update: in an editorial, the Plain Dealer reiterated its support for County Executive FitzGerald's proposal to use the funds to support downtown Cleveland projects.

Update 2: County Council members introduced five different proposals for the money, and another Plain Dealer editorial supported County Executive FitzGerald's suggestion.

Fundraising for the two planned additional trolley-like bus routes in Cleveland is moving more slowly than RTA and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance hoped, but the organizations are confident that they will reach their goal.

The Ohio EPA declared that brownfield remediation has been completed (PDF) at Shoreway Commerce Park, the redevelopment of the former White Motors plant on East 79th Street in Cleveland.

In a pair of recent columns, the Plain Dealer's Mark Naymik drew attention to the "poor condition of the Cleveland lakefront park system" and said that the state should turn control of the parks over to the Cleveland Metroparks. An editorial in the newspaper agreed with his assessment, saying that "the lakefront parks belong under the Metroparks umbrella." Participants on Wednesday's Sound of Ideas program discussed the issues.

Update: Mark Naymik continued his focus on the parks, saying that the state "either has to find the money to fix our parks right or it should abandon the management of them," and writing about discussions between ODNR and Cleveland Metroparks officials. Roldo Bartimole, on the other hand, said that the "task should be to force the State of Ohio to do the job it promised to do when it took the parkland from the city. And that was to operate them efficiently and to the benefit of citizens of northeast Ohio."

In its trail planning process, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park prepared and considered eight alternatives and selected a preferred alternative. The plan's objective is to balance the needs for active recreation opportunities and environmental stewardship over the next 15 years. The Draft Trail Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement is available online and open to public comment until August 20. The National Park will hold three public meetings in late July.

Update: the Akron Beacon Journal published more information about the trail plans and reported on the public meetings.

The TLCI-funded Lee Road Traffic Study and Corridor Plan makes recommendations for transportation and streetscape improvements (PDF, 9.1 MB) in Shaker Heights. A Sun News editorial says that "the upgrades called for in the study will only enhance the city's commitment to that area."

Westlake City Council hired the engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald to develop plans for reconfiguring the I-90 interchange at Columbia Road.

The Cleveland Foundation announced $19.9 million in grants for a variety of programs, including funding for economic development activities, $150,000 for the intergenerational housing project in Fairfax, and $400,000 for a partnership that will work to leverage Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District investments to make neighborhood improvements. The Storm Water Management Partnership includes LAND Studio, Neighborhood Progress Inc., and the Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.

Members of a recent panel discussion at the City Club talked about the Global Cleveland initiative and talent attraction efforts (MP3, 51.6 MB).

Update: video of the talk is now available.

In the fourth round of the federal TIGER program, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a total of nearly $500 million to 47 transportation projects. Although local officials applied for funding, construction of the second new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland was not selected for funding.

ArtPlace, a national partnership to support the arts, awarded $15.4 million in grants to 47 projects across the country. Among the awards was a $500,000 grant to support the Collinwood Rising initiative in Cleveland. Northeast Shores Development Corporation will "work with artists to establish replicable development models for artist space in older industrial cities." Meanwhile, businessman Alan Glazen said he intends to simultaneously launch five restaurants in the neighborhood.

Consultants for the City of Cleveland released the results of their transportation study of downtown Cleveland's Public Square. The study (PDF) conducted by Nelson Nygaard recommends closing the portion of Ontario Street that runs through the square and retaining the stretch of Superior Avenue. Steven Litt said that the "study has taken Cleveland one step closer to a better downtown," and RTA said it "will continue to work closely with the consultants and other involved stakeholders regarding any changes to Public Square."

Fresh Water looked at how new investments in downtown Lakewood are creating a liveable neighborhood with a sense of place.

Acacia Country Club shareholders narrowly rejected a $12 million purchase offer from the Visconsi Companies. The retail developer does not plan to make another offer for the 160-acre property in Lyndhurst.

The Cleveland Metroparks celebrated the opening of Royalview Trail, a 10.1-mile mountain bike trail in the Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville. The trail cost about $50,000 and took nine months to build.

The Kasich administration released "Beyond Boundaries: A Shared Services Action Plan for Ohio Schools and Governments", a report that presents shared services as a way for local governments and school districts to address shrinking budgets. It says that implementing its recommendations could save millions of dollars. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial said that the report's suggestions hold much potential, but it "barely touches on the challenges that lie ahead."

NPR's Morning Edition aired a report about downtown Cleveland and the way it is attracting new residents and businesses, and downtown residents later shared their stories on WCPN's Sound of Ideas. Meanwhile, Rob Pitingolo examined some metropolitan area migration trends for Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh.

In focus group resarch conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Clevelanders expressed support for greater investments in public transit.

The Franklin County Court of Appeals rejected a constitutional challenge to Governor Kasich's new JobsOhio agency, upholding a ruling that said the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to file the lawsuit. The Plain Dealer's Thomas Suddes said that "the ruling amounts to hair-splitting of a very high order." JobsOhio President Mark Kvamme said that the transfer of state liquor profits to the new agency should be completed by the end of the year.

In its annual National Traffic Scorecard, Inrix reported that traffic congestion decreased by 30% last year in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Seventy of the metro areas experienced decreases in congestion. It ranked the Greater Cleveland area as having the nation's 62nd-highest level of congestion, with significantly less congestion than a year ago.

The future of downtown Cleveland's Stanley Block may be determined by the courts. Judge Pianka of Cleveland Housing Court issued $15,000 in daily fines on its owners, and one of the attorneys was arrested for failing to appear at a hearing in May. Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell put the property in receivership. Businessman Tony George wants to redevelop the historic building as a restaurant, conference center, and meeting space.

Leaders in Seven Hills are exploring the possibility of revising the City's master plan, last updated in 2002. Members of the Planning Commission agreed to discuss the plan each month.

A group of Summit County residents formed Concerned Citizens Against Casinos to oppose a possible relocation of Thistledown to the area.

NOACA held its annual summit earlier this month and posted video of the event. It featured opening remarks from Board President Ed Jerse, reminiscences by outgoing Executive Director Howard Maier, an update on the NEOSCC from Hunter Morrison, a panel discussion about transportation funding, a keynote address by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, and the presentation of the Walter F. Ehrnfelt, Jr. Award. NOACA also published a summit report (PDF).

Natural gas drilling continues to be a source of conflict and tension in places like Broadview Heights. Nearly 400 wells have been drilled in Cuyahoga County since Ohio eliminated local controls in 2004.

Westlake City Council approved plans for Kings Tree Apartments, a 36-unit complex on Center Ridge Road. Construction may begin this summer.

Voters in Solon could see two zoning issues on the November ballot. One would modify permitted uses in the city's C-5 industrial district, while the other would allow pet stores in the city's C-2 commercial district. Voters in Fairview Park may decide a rezoning issue for Journey Church on Lorain Road.

Update: Westlake voters may decide a rezoning issue for a portion of the Promenade shopping center.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank will provide $6.8 million and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office committed $5 million as the local match for housing demolition funding from the national mortgage settlement.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says it "initiates a regional strategy that encourages collaboration and sets priorities."

More bicycling news:

Update: Councilman Tom Bullock of Lakewood explained the sharrow proposal.

Team NEO and CSU's Levin College of Urban Affairs announced a new strategic alliance intended to "enhance the region's economic development research capabilities and knowledge." Daila Shimek will work with both organizations. Team NEO recently reported that it helped persuade 26 companies to expand locally in the first quarter of this year.

Towpath Trail planners devised a new route for the stretch of the trail between Harvard Road and Steelyard Commons. The new plan avoids the contaminated Harshaw Chemical site, and could open in 2016.

On June 18, RTA will launch its NextConnect service. Bus and rapid riders will be able to obtain real-time arrival information on their mobile devices.

Update: RTA described the service, which is now available at nextconnect.riderta.com.

Several local construction projects celebrated milestones:

Update: The Ohio Department of Transportation began work on bicycle and pedestrian improvements to the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge in Cleveland.

In its first round of funding, Ohio's Local Government Innovation Council awarded $3.4 million in grants and $2.9 million in loans (PDFs) to a total of 51 projects. Cuyahoga County received a $100,000 grant to support the merger/shared services study for Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere. South Euclid received a $51,386 grant for a five-city emergency services dispatch study, and the Chagrin/Southeast Council of Governments received a $55,000 grant for a joint communication center. Jill Miller Zimon of the EfficientGovNetwork discussed the awards with Randy Cole of the Ohio Controlling Board.

Leaders of the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium promoted regional cooperation at a recent conference, shared the feedback they gathered (PDF) at a series of events with young leaders, and released an overview (PDF) of their public opinion survey. The survey found that most Northeast Ohioans support sustainability, although few were able to accurately describe the concept. Satisfaction levels were lower among 18 to 24-year-olds. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial said that the survey "captures welcome signs about a general willingness among residents to change direction." The Consortium has also come under criticism, as board chairman Jason Segedy said that it has yet to address the region's "poor integration between land use and transportation", while Streetsblog's Angie Schmitt questioned its ability to produce meaningful change.

The Lakewood Planning Commission designated the former First Church of Christ, Scientist building as a Lakewood landmark. It's the third building in the City to receive the landmark designation.

Ohio's Transportation Review and Advisory Council approved an updated schedule for major new transportation projects (PDF). The Ohio Department of Transportation added $400 million to its construction budget, allowing some delays to be reduced, including the second new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland. Early this year the TRAC changed the start date from 2014 to 2023, but recently said work should begin in 2016. ODOT is exploring public-private partnerships as a way of expediting the project, a concept that a Plain Dealer editorial said is worth exploring. The agency faces projected decreases in gas tax revenues and is continuing to advance plans for commercial development at state-owned non-interstate rest areas. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial described the proposal as "an economic shell game."

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial said the "latest timetable for the Inner Belt Bridge represents a big step in the right direction."

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District crews lowered the 345,000-pound head of a tunnel boring machine into the entrance of the Euclid Creek Tunnel, 200 feet below the surface in Bratenahl. The machine will begin cutting the sewer tunnel this summer, and is scheduled to complete the 18,000-foot long tunnel in 2014. When complete, it will be able to store 52 million gallons of combined sewage.

At Rust Wire, Richey Piiparinen questioned whether traditional gentrification models apply to older industrial cities like Cleveland and Detroit, asking if they have "any bearing on cities that have seen a mass exodus."

A Franklin County judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the installation of slot-like machines at Ohio racetracks, clearing the way for the state's first racino to open at Scioto Downs near Columbus. Rock Ohio Caesars can install up to 2,500 terminals at Thistledown and reached an agreement with the Kasich administration that allows the company to relocate the racetrack. The agreement (PDF) says that the new location must be within a 12-mile radius of the Akron-Canton Airport in Green. Officials in Northfield anticipate a financial windfall from the creation of a racino at Northfield Park.

The City of Westlake is seeking a declaratory judgment in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court about the City's contract with the Cleveland Division of Water. Westlake leaders remain interested in changing water suppliers.

The Ohio Senate passed Great Lakes Compact implementing legislation by a 20-12 vote, opting not to make changes to the bill. Environmentalists and other groups said that the standards it establishes fail to provide adequate protection for Lake Erie and its tributaries. Governor Kasich quietly signed the bill over their objections. The Ohio Environmental Council said that "Ohio has left Lake Erie with an uncertain future," and a Plain Dealer editorial said that the Governor has the opportunity to address the its flaws through "strict monitoring and enforcement of the new limits and by tweaking the law".

At a recent Northeast Ohio City Council Association meeting, Tom Bier urged Cuyahoga County leaders to focus on redevelopment efforts.

Update: NOCCA posted video of the talk.

The Ohio Third Frontier Commission voted 6-2 to deny a $5 million grant to LEEDCo for its proposed Lake Erie pilot wind farm project. To reduce construction costs, LEEDCo is considering smaller turbines for the project.

Update: Ed FitzGerald and Ronn Richard urged the Third Frontier program to "reconsider funding the LEEDCo application."

American Greetings unveiled preliminary designs for its planned new headquarters at Crocker Park in Westlake. The renderings show a five-story, 650,000-square-foot building. The company plans to break ground in early 2013 and complete construction in mid-2014.

Cleveland Heights City Council passed sustainable zoning legislation, adopting a set of updates to the City's zoning code. The amendments address food production, energy generation and conservation, stormwater management, and transportation, among other subjects. Marc Lefkowitz noted that the changes are intended to reflect the values of the community.

Participants on a recent Sound of Ideas program discussed the latest bicycling news in Northeast Ohio. Taryn Gress of the Civic Commons also described many local cycling activities.

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency selected Grace Gallucci as the agency's new executive director. She most recently served as the senior deputy executive director of Chicago's Regional Transportation Authority (PDF) and previously worked at the Greater Cleveland RTA. She will begin work on July 1, succeeding Howard Maier, who is retiring after 23 years at NOACA.

As part of its mid-biennium review, the Ohio Senate added $42 million for the Clean Ohio program. The spending bill includes $36 million for greenspace preservation and $6 million for farmland preservation. Earlier legislation had budgeted only $6 million for trail maintenance.

In the final round of funding from the Clean Ohio Brownfield Revitalization Fund, the Ohio Department of Development awarded more than $19 million in grants to 11 projects. The City of Cleveland received $1.3 million for demolition and remediation (PDF) at the former Van Dorn property on East 79th Street. The Orlando Baking Company plans to expand onto the property. Food service supplier S.S. Kemp in Cuyahoga Heights was not awarded a grant.

Meanwhile, the Ohio EPA declared that Horsburgh & Scott completed brownfield remediation of its 1.4-acre property (PDF) on Hamilton Avenue in Cleveland.

Update: Governor Kasich signed Ohio House Bill 487, the mid-biennium review.

With the opening of the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, local leaders hope it will generate new jobs and new tax revenues. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "if all goes as planned, the casino will give downtown a jolt of jobs, energy and excitement," while WCPN's Around Noon examined the casino from historical and urban planning perspectives. Owner Dan Gilbert said that the casino's planned second phase behind Tower City Center "is definitely happening."

Meanwhile, Cuyahoga County leaders discussed priorities for the County's share of the tax revenues at a recent work session. County Executive FitzGerald has proposed using the funds to support downtown Cleveland development, while some members of County Council would prefer to spread the investments over a broader area. A Plain Dealer editorial supported the County Executive's approach.

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