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January 2013 Archives

Data from the U.S. EPA's 2011 Toxics Release Inventory shows that 4.09 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment, an 8% increase over 2010 levels. Toxic releases into the waters of the Great Lakes Basin grew by 12%. In Ohio, releases declined from 154 million pounds to 150 million pounds, a 2.6% decrease. Cuyahoga County's largest emitters were the Charter Steel and ArcelorMittal facilities.

Update: The Columbus Dispatch reported on the figures.

The Cleveland Institute of Art agreed to sell its Gund Building property to Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art for $9.2 million. The deal for the 4.1-acre site is expected to close in 2015, when the Institute of Art completes the expansion of its McCullough Center. The University Circle institutions have not identified plans for the property. A Plain Dealer editorial praised the agreement.

Northeast Shores Development Corporation posted the Euclid Creek Vision Plan (PDF, 47.8 MB), prepared by MKSK of Columbus. It's intended to offer "a compelling design that looked both inside and outside the park's boundaries to build momentum for capital improvements to the park."

By participating in the state's Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has saved about $3 million in interest on loans, while providing funding for 22 local habitat preservation and restoration projects.

Steven Litt visited the Butler-Nissen House in Cleveland Heights, the area's second passive house. It was built on the site of the demolished Walker and Weeks-designed James H. Foster house. He called it "a classic example of two positive values in conflict - preservation versus sustainability." Meanwhile, Fresh Water looked at life in a passive house.

At a January 8 meeting, the Ohio Department of Transportation presented its plans for the public areas at both ends (PDF) of the second new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland. The plans for the Gateway side include landscaping improvements and elements highlighting Cleveland's rock and roll history. The Tremont side would gain a natural area called the sideyard, plus a parking lot. Construction of the bridge will create traffic disruptions over its three-year work schedule.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development launched its Rental Assistance Demonstration, a "strategy to preserve tens of thousands of public and HUD-assisted housing units," by awarding grants to 68 public housing authorities. CMHA received three grants totaling $17 million for rebuilding and upgrading 383 units at its Cedar Extension, Bohn Tower, and Heritage View Homes housing projects.

Update: the Campus District Observer has more details.

The Orange Planning Commission is considering a proposal for an 85-acre mixed-use development around the area where Pinecrest Drive and Walnut Hills Avenue meet. A rezoning would be required for the project, which would entail the demolition of about 80 houses.

General Growth Partners, the owner of Beachwood Place, would like to rezone 11 parcels along Richmond Road from residential to retail. The rezoning could be the first step in an expansion of the mall, but the company hasn't presented any plans. The mall was last renovated in 2007.

In North Olmsted, Westfield Great Northern officials announced plans for a 55,000-square-foot expansion that includes a 10-screen movie theater, three new restaurants, and a new main entrance. They're scheduled to open in December.

In Parma, the redevelopment plans for Parmatown Mall include the construction of six outbuildings along West Ridgewood Drive.

Update: the work at Parmatown Mall will include the demolition of the Dick's Sporting Goods store and the former Macy's store. A Sun News editorial said it "seems real progress is being made".

Update 2: Demolition is underway at Great Northern.

The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority completed construction of a 1.1-megawatt solar farm on a six-acre brownfield site adjacent to its Kinsman Avenue headquarters. CMHA officials said it will save the agency million of dollars over its expected 30-year lifespan, while providing it with educational opportunities. A Plain Dealer editorial called it the "sort of idea that could catch on."

The City of Cleveland's Bike Share Task Force will begin conducting its bike share study in February. Toole Design Group will serve as its lead consultant. The work will begin with a feasibility study, and if determined feasible, continue with an implementation plan.

Cuyahoga County named the nonprofit Center for Governmental Research of Rochester as the lead consultant for the merger/shared services study for Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere. The study will be supported by a $100,000 state LGIF grant and a $34,130 NOACA grant. A Plain Dealer editorial said it "could turn out to be among the most important public dollars [the county] spends this year."

Steven Litt critiqued the preliminary plans for the Upper Chester development in Cleveland. He called the design "deeply underwhelming" but added that it "clearly has enormous potential" and that its developer would be wise to emulate the "high-quality thinking and institutional collaboration that went into Uptown."

In an editorial, The Plain Dealer said that the proposed Opportunity Corridor in Cleveland should be a priority for Greater Cleveland stakeholders this year.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority completed construction of a $4.5 million rail loop at the Port of Cleveland. It provides the port with a direct ship-to-rail connection.

The new I-90 interchange at Nagel Road in Avon opened to the public on December 20. Local officials expect that it will make eastern Avon and Avon Lake more attractive for commercial and residential development. Mayor Smith of Avon called it the hardest thing he'd ever done, and a Sun News editorial called it an example of a successful public-private partnership.

State population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that Ohio's population grew by 3,218 residents between July 2011 and July 2012, a growth rate of 0.03%. Only West Virginia, Rhode Island, and Vermont had lower growth rates. The nation's population increased by 2.3 million people, to 313.9 million, a growth rate of 0.75%. A Dayton Daily News analysis says that Ohio will likely soon see population losses.

Eight projects in Cuyahoga County were among the 23 recipients of tax credits (PDF) in the ninth round of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. The awards included $5 million for the former East Ohio Building in downtown Cleveland, credits for six projects on Cleveland's near west side, and $3 million for the Beech Street Residence Halls Project in Berea.

Update: Cleveland's Department of Economic Development posted more details about the seven projects in Cleveland.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development informed the Cuyahoga Land Bank that it would cancel a program that allowed the land bank to acquire low-value houses for $100 each. The agreement kept distressed housing away from flippers, but HUD says it can no longer afford the program. A Plain Dealer editorial denounced the decision, while the Northeast Shores Development Corp. urged residents to contact their congressional representatives.

Citing the building as a safety hazard, the City of Cleveland razed the historic Stanley Block in downtown Cleveland. The City filed an emergency demolition declaration on December 18 and began demolition on December 22. A building contractor attempted to halt the demolition and the Cleveland Restoration Society asked the City to reconsider its decision, but their efforts to save the building were unsuccessful.

The board of the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium selected Sasaki Associates of Boston as the lead consultant for the regional planning initiative. The consulting team will provide planning and project management services, scenario planning, and fiscal impact analyses. Prior to the announcement, Hunter Morrison and Jason Segedy of the NEOSCC described the planning process in a Plain Dealer op-ed, and David Beach of GreenCityBlueLake said that it will be "our best shot in decades to think creatively about the future of our region."

Plans for the second phase of the Uptown development in University Circle call for 43 market-rate apartments and 50 dorm rooms over ground-floor retail.

The Cleveland Foundation awarded $10.5 million in grants during the fourth quarter of 2012. The awards included $250,000 to LEEDCo and $75,000 to the OSU Extension, Cuyahoga County. The foundation posted a complete list of recipients (PDF).

The developer of the planned Edgebrook subdivision in Strongsville hopes to begin construction soon. The 80-unit cluster home development off of Westwood Drive across from Hollo Oval will include a variety of housing styles.

After some delays, the City of North Royalton is preparing to begin its master planning process. City officials expect to assemble a master plan task force by February 1.

Governor Kasich's proposal for leveraging the Ohio Turnpike does not include privatizing the toll road. Instead, his Jobs and Transportation Plan calls for issuing $1.5 billion in bonds backed by future toll revenues. When paired with matching funds, the financing would supply $3 billion for highway projects, most of which would be in northern Ohio. The administration estimates it would create 65,000 jobs over six years. They hope that the Ohio General Assembly will move quickly on enabling legislation.

Reactions from local politicians were often split along party lines: most Republicans supported the proposal and Democrats typically had reservations. A joint statement from a group of leaders including Ed FitzGerald said that they would "take time to evaluate fully the Governor's proposal." The Ohio Trucking Association and Greater Cleveland Partnership supported the plan. Ohio PIRG expressed relief that the proposal didn't call for privatization. An AMATS analysis (PDF) concluded that the process has the potential to be a "significant benefit to our region", but noted that "'the devil is in the details'."

Ohio newspapers also weighed in, with the Akron Beacon Journal, The Blade, The Columbus Dispatch, The Plain Dealer, and The Vindicator all publishing editorials on the subject. Plain Dealer columnist Thomas Suddes called it "chuck-wagon politicking at its best," while Eric Lyttle of The Other Paper said the announcement was a "veritable symphony of orchestration."

Update: The Plain Dealer examined the governor's decision.

In December, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald recommended a proposal from the Geis Cos. for the Ameritrust complex and new county offices in downtown Cleveland. Under the proposal, Geis would purchase the buildings for $27 million and construct a new eight-story county administration building at the corner of East 9th Street and Prospect Avenue. Geis intends to redevelop the the 28-story tower as high-end apartments, the Cleveland Trust rotunda as retail or another public use, and the Swetland Building as apartments and offices.

Cuyahoga County Council heard presentations and discussed the proposal at meetings on December 11, January 2, January 8, and January 15. The recommended agreement would allow the County to own its offices at the end of a 26-year lease, and received the highest score of the nine submitted proposals. Optima Ventures challenged the scoring calculations and offered a revised offer, while the County's real estate consultant said that Optima's numbers were in error.

Michelle Jarboe McFee of The Plain Dealer said that the agreement "could revive a stricken downtown Cleveland intersection," while Stan Bullard and Jay Miller of Crain's Cleveland Business noted that its "impact on the office market, statistically speaking, would be nil at best." Editorials in The Plain Dealer said that the deal has "many appealing elements" and urged County Council to "start asking tough questions about the proposed deal."

Update: Cleveland Magazine's Erick Trickey asked four questions about the agreement.

Broadview Heights City Council is considering an ordinance that would establish a special planning district for the proposed town center at the intersection of Broadview and Royalton roads. The district's zone A is a 100-acre mixed-use area around the intersection, and zone B is a 200-acre office/multi-family area surrounding zone A. City Council also recently approved the purchase of a 1.24-acre site in the special planning district for a planned park. A separate ordinance would create zone C, a corridor that would connect the town center area with the area around the Giant Eagle store.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District headquarters building will be offered for sale at a public auction on March 7. The school board set an undisclosed reserve price for the landmark building on the Mall in downtown Cleveland. The school district also reopened its search for new downtown office space. CBRE's David Browning described the auction process to WTAM, while Roldo Bartimole called it an example of "smelly cesspool politics."

In National Journal, George E. Condon Jr. examined how Cleveland's Slavic Village suffered from the foreclosure crisis and how officials are using targeted demolitions to help revive the neighborhood.

Cleveland State University razed Viking Hall and the Wolfe Music Building on Euclid Avenue to make way for the planned Center for Innovation in Health Professions. On Chester Avenue, The Langston saw its first tenants move in this past fall. The market-rate apartment project is scheduled to be completed in June. The University is also proceeding with plans to convert Mather Mansion to a boutique hotel, and reached a development agreement with the Chesler Group.

The Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area awarded $121,000 in grants to eight projects through its Strategic Initiatives program. The awards included $23,000 to University Circle Inc. for development of its planned CircleWalk and $15,000 to LAND Studio for Lake Link Trail design and engineering work.

Steven Litt of The Plain Dealer looked back at the defeat of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's levy in November, and concluded that "the port's plan and the levy to support it deserve a second chance." A Crain's Cleveland Business editorial spelled out the challenges facing the Port Authority.

In a 6-1 ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court said that it is unconstitutional for the state to use revenues from its commercial activities tax on gasoline for non-highway purposes. The decision reversed a lower court ruling and will shift $140 million per year from the general fund to highway projects. The Akron Beacon Journal cited the decision as an example of the strength of voter-approved constitutional amendments.

Leaders of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History unveiled plans for a major expansion and renovation of the University Circle museum. The plans call for demolishing a portion of the museum and adding two new wings, a new lobby, and a parking garage. It presents an opportunity for the museum to demonstrate advanced building techniques. The museum also launched a capital campaign with a goal of raising $125 million over five to seven years. Earlier expansion plans were halted due to the recession. A Plain Dealer editorial said that the museum's plans "promise to renew its status as one of the region's premier cultural attractions".

Lakewood officials are considering two requests concerning an Edgewater Drive mansion. Its owners have submitted a demolition request, while neighbors are seeking a historic landmark designation. The Lakewood Planning Commission determined that it's eligible to be named a landmark, but the owners hope to postpone a decision. In 2011, a developer proposed demolishing the mansion and building townhouses on the site, but eventually abandoned the plans. Meanwhile, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge upheld the City's landmark designation of the former First Church of Christ, Scientist building.

Update: Lakewood's Architectural Board of Review delayed a decision on the demolition permit and the Planning Commission deferred a decision on the landmark designation.

Local officials and bicyclists celebrated the opening of the Lorain-Carnegie Bikeway in Cleveland. The 14.5-foot wide multi-use path on the historic Lorain-Carnegie Bridge opened to the public on December 10. Painting and lighting improvements are scheduled to be finished this spring. Bike Cleveland, GreenCityBlueLake, NOACA, and ODOT posted photo galleries at Facebook.

American Greetings announced that it would postpone construction of its new headquarters at Crocker Park in Westlake because of the Weiss family's offer to take the company private. Construction had been scheduled to start in early 2013, and the company "believes that the delay will be short". Westlake officials were prepared to issue up to $60 million in bonds to support the project, but currently have little to do.

Fresh Water explored the evolving role of Cleveland's community development corporations and the priorities of Neighborhood Progress Inc. CEO Joel Ratner.

Civil engineering consultants for the City of Strongsville are updating plans for the second phase of the Foltz Parkway extension project. The project would open about 137 acres in the Strongsville Business and Technology Park for development.

Update: ODOT awarded a $215,000 grant to the City for the extension project.

A a retail strip at Clifton Boulevard and West 117th Street in Cleveland has been demolished for the Shoppes at Clifton, a proposed retail development. The project could include the demolition of the landmark former Fifth Church of Christ Scientist. Gordon Food Service plans to build a 15,000-square-foot GFS Marketplace store nearby, which would be in a cluster of grocers.

Cuyahoga County was one of 22 communities selected by Smart Growth America for free technical assistance in 2013. The program is funded through the U.S. EPA's Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.

RTA's $237.6 million operating budget for 2013 includes a 5% service increase on its bus and rail lines. The growth follows a 4% increase in 2012. The agency issued new schedules for 29 bus routes and its rapid lines, and will resume weekday Waterfront Line service in May.

The City of Cleveland is one of the communities participating in a year-long pilot program to evaluate the STAR Community Rating System, the "nation's first voluntary, self-reporting framework for evaluating the sustainability of U.S. communities."

The Shaker Heights Planning Commission and Shaker Heights City Council adopted a plan's strategies for improving the Lee Road corridor. The TLCI-funded Lee Road Traffic Study and Corridor Plan "provides recommendations for traffic and pedestrian improvements along the corridor, intersection transitions, bike lanes and connections to the existing and planned non-motorized network, and streetscape renovations for the section south of Chagrin."

The Ohio Department of Transportation issued a request for qualifications for a design, construction, and finance team for the second new Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland. Four teams submitted responses. ODOT expects to name the finalists in February and select a team by summer 2013.

Update: The Plain Dealer has more details.

Mansfield Frazier plans to build the world's fist biocellar adjacent to his Vineyards of Chateau Hough at East 66th Street and Hough Avenue in Cleveland. By reusing the foundation of a demolished house and adding a roof, the biocellar would create a space that could be used as a passive solar greenhouse. The concept was proposed by permaculture designer Jean Loria and developed by Kent State's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "biocellars could be the next big thing to resuscitate inner-city neighborhoods".

The Stokes VA Medical Center plans to build an outpatient surgery center in Cleveland, on Superior Avenue between East 89th and East 90th streets. The 10,000-square-foot facility could open in late 2013.

Project partners celebrated the completion of major restoration work on an unnamed tributary of Tinkers Creek in Hudson. The restored 2,000-foot stream near Hudson High School will improve water quality and reduce flooding, while serving as a living lab for students.

In Portage County, the City of Aurora will receive $4.7 million through the state's Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program to restore and protect more than a mile of the Aurora branch of the Chagrin River. The City will purchase 186 acres of the Aurora Golf Club to restore stream banks, forested areas, and wetlands.

The Cleveland Metroparks could take control of Cleveland Lakefront State Park as soon as early 2013. Metroparks Executive Director Brian Zimmerman said that he can't estimate when the park district would make a decision on the potential transfer, and Pros Consulting presented recommendations in a business plan for Edgewater Park (PDF). The Plain Dealer's Mark Naymik said that "now is the best time" for state and Metroparks leaders to reach an agreement.

Fairview Park's master plan committee and City officials are working with City Architecture to update the City's master plan. Preliminary recommendations include signage and streetscape improvements.

The Gund Foundation's November grant awards included $5 million for the Cleveland Museum of Art's expansion, $500,000 for Land Studio to continue its downtown Cleveland greenspace and trail planning, and $75,000 for Bike Cleveland.

O'Neill Management is planning a $20 million redevelopment of the former Garnett School site in Fairview Park. The proposed Garnett Health Campus would be larger than 100,000 square feet, with 118 nursing home beds and 38 assisted living suites. The company intends to seek a seven-year tax abatement for the project. Some residents expressed concerns about the development.

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