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April 2013 Archives

In the question-and-answer portion of his State of the City address, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson responded to a query about immigration by saying, "I believe in taking care of your own." He attracted criticism for Dan Moulthrop and others for his apparent anti-immigrant stance, but Mayor Jackson later issued a statement in which he said that "a Cleveland that 'takes care of its own' will ultimately attract people from all across the globe". At Cool Cleveland, Richey Piiparinen related his first-hand experiences about the power of immigration.

Soon after, members of the local business community expressed support for immigration policy reform at a Greater Cleveland Partnership forum. Some of the panelists discussed the issues on WCPN's Sound of Ideas. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "increased legal immigration may be the best way" to increase the region's economic and political clout, and an Akron Beacon Journal editorial said "it was heartening to see the gathering in Cleveland".

GreenCityBlueLake's Marc Lefkowitz examined the hurdles that the City of Cleveland is facing when implementing its complete streets ordinance, many from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Meanwhile, the City is continuing to develop its complete and green streets typology and design manual, intended to assist with the ordinance's implementation. Smart Growth America recently named its best complete streets policies of 2012, and gave Cleveland's ordinance a grade of C.

The site plan for proposed retail development at West 117th Street and Clifton Boulevard in Cleveland's Edgewater neighborhood shows a suburban-style shopping strip and includes the demolition of the former Fifth Church of Christ Scientist. A neighborhood group is seeking "good urban design promoting a pedestrian-friendly plan well suited for a historic district" and the rehabilitation of the historic church.

Update: the Sun News looked at a previous attempt to redevelop the church.

Update 2: the neighborhood group offered a plan for a park on the church site. The plan calls for retaining the portico and demolishing the remainder of the building.

Plans for skywalks in downtown Cleveland remain controversial. Rock Ohio Caesars may purchase the Higbee Building in an effort to advance its plans to build a skywalk connecting the casino to its parking structure. Meanwhile, Cuyahoga County leaders plan to renovate an existing skywalk that would link the County's new headquarters building to a parking garage. A group of young professionals is urging County Council to demolish the skywalk and the City to reject the casino's plan. They a released video showing the negative impacts of skywalks in Detroit. A Plain Dealer editorial also encouraged County officials to remove the skywalk. The Atlantic Cities looked at the debate, and said that "it seems like a step backward in time."

Update: Rock Ohio Caesars will buy the Higbee Building for $79 million.

Update 2: on appeal, the National Park Service upheld its earlier rejection of the casino skywalk plans.

Two sites in University Circle have the potential to attract luxury residential towers. An unidentified developer is exploring the feasibility of a 28-story, 300-unit tower at Euclid Avenue and Stokes Boulevard. In addition, the Cleveland Institute of Art's Gund Building site could be redeveloped as high-rise residential, although no plans have been presented. Charles Belson, the president of AIA Cleveland, dislikes the idea, saying that it "could be a big step in the wrong direction."

The Cities of Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland will use funds from a mortgage fraud settlement to raze distressed houses and apartments in the North Coventry neighborhood. The properties will remain as greenspace. A Sun News editorial said the effort represents "regional collaboration at its finest".

In this year's County Health Rankings, Cuyahoga County again finished in the bottom third of Ohio's 88 counties, ranking 67th in health outcomes and 45th in health factors. Geauga and Medina counties were again ranked highly. Cuyahoga County health officials are working to improve health issues through the Health Improvement Partnership. Nationally, residents of the unhealthiest counties died at more than twice the rate of those in the healthiest counties. Previous rankings: 2012, 2011, and 2010.

The Cleveland Metroparks recently acquired two wetland properties. A 26-acre site on Engle Road in Middleburg Heights is now part of the Big Creek Reservation, and the 20-acre Heron Rookery wetland along the east branch of the Rocky River in North Royalton is now part of the Mill Stream Run Reservation. Funding for the Middleburg Heights purchase came from a legal settlement, and funding for the North Royalton conservation easement was provided by the WRSSP and NRAC.

The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual population estimates for counties and metropolitan areas. For the period between July 2011 and July 2012, population shifts returned to pre-recession patterns, with the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the South and West, and the slowest-growing in the Northeast and Midwest. The Cleveland metropolitan area was the slowest-growing large metropolitan area in the country, and Cuyahoga County's loss of 4,872 people was the nation's second-largest numeric population decline. However, the 0.38% drop in Cuyahoga County was its smallest annual decline in 15 years. Franklin County's 1.38% growth rate was the fastest in Ohio, and Geauga and Medina counties also gained population.

The proposed Eastside Greenway would connect 14 communities in eastern Cuyahoga County through a network of parks, greenspace, and trails.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy issued the BRT Standard 2013, which was "developed to create a common definition of bus rapid transit and recognize high-quality BRT systems around the world." It certified bus rapid transit corridors as basic, bronze, silver, or gold systems. RTA's HealthLine was the highest-rated line in the United States, and the only American line to receive a silver rating.

Update: participants on WCPN's Sound of Ideas discussed the corridor's impacts.

The Plain Dealer's Steven Litt described how Cleveland is becoming more welcoming to bicyclists and pedestrians, noting that it "echoes a rising national trend inspired by the new popularity of urban living".

The Gund Foundation's most recent round of grants included $3.75 million for Neighborhood Progress Inc., $250,000 for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, $180,000 for the Cuyahoga Valley Conservancy, and $150,000 for the Nature Conservancy.

At a March 7 auction, Drury Hotels was the high bidder for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District headquarters building in downtown Cleveland. The $4.83 million bid was well below the anticipated $8.5 million price, but the school board voted 5-3 to accept the bid. The new hotel will offer about 180 rooms when it opens in 2015, and is one of a number of proposed downtown hotels. The School District may move its offices into the former Eaton headquarters building on Superior Avenue.

March's City Club forums included talks from Lee Fisher of CEOs for Cities and Joel Ratner of Neighborhood Progress Inc. Lee Fisher spoke about his vision for the future of cities and the forces affecting every city. He also blogged about the importance of civic disrupters. Joel Ratner spoke with the City Club audience about reinvesting in Cleveland.

Meanwhile, the Old Stone Church held its annual Hope for the City speaker series, starting with planner and author Jeff Speck. He talked about his latest book and the economic, environmental, and human health advantages of walkable communities. The series continued with Ann Zoller and Gregory Peckham, Jennifer Coleman, and Anthony Coyne.

The U.S. Census Bureau used American Community Survey data to publish commuting flow information, and reported that Cuyahoga County "has among the highest number of commuters coming from another county in the nation." The Census Bureau also noted that 80.3% of Cuyahoga County workers drove to work alone in 2011, higher than the national average of 76.4%. WNYC used the data to map average commute times, and The Washington Post mapped the commuting patterns.

Slavic Village Recovery, a new private-nonprofit partnership, intends to acquire, renovate, and sell or rent 50 vacant houses in the Cleveland neighborhood in its first year. The partners hope that the project can serve as a model for other neighborhoods.

Fairview Park officials unveiled the 2013 master plan update prepared for the City by City Architecture. The plan recommends establishing a marketing program, creating a signage package, and highlighting key intersections with special crosswalks and paving.

Local housing news:

The Ohio General Assembly passed a two-year transportation budget bill that will allow the Kasich administration to proceed with its plans to issue up to $1.5 billion in bonds backed by Ohio Turnpike revenues. The Senate version of the bill included a provision that requiring that 90% of the bond proceeds be invested within 75 miles of the turnpike, while the House bill did not. The language was retained in a conference committee. A coalition called Ohioans for Transportation Choice urged legislators to increase the state's investment in alternative transportation options, but their proposal was not incorporated into the legislation. Governor Kasich signed the $7.6 billion bill at a ceremony in Warrensville Heights on April 1. The Ohio Turnpike Commission plans to raise tolls by 2.7% per year over the next decade.

A report from the Brookings Institution says that Amtrak ridership grew by 55% between 1997 and 2012, faster than other modes of travel. The report added that nearly all of the growth was on Amtrak's short-distance routes, and that its long-distance routes accounted for 15% of travelers and 43% of operating costs in 2012. Ridership in Greater Cleveland increased by 16.2%, and the two lines that serve Cleveland, the Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore Limited, also experienced ridership growth. However, both lines operated at a loss.

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