Ohio Cities: Stabilize the Population Outflux by Attracting & Retaining the Millennial Generation

July 23rd, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Between the years 1970 and 2013, the city of Cleveland lost almost half of its population. In fact, most cities in the region have also witnessed a decline in population. However, this recent trend seems to have less to do with the location and more to do with the layout of these cities. The most evident reason for this rapid decline may point to the fact that young, educated Millennials favor core cities, as opposed to sprawling communities.

According to research conducted by the Pew Institute and Urban Land Institute, Millennials are driving less than previous generations. However, the Millennials are not alone in this recent trend, as the Baby Boomers are also eager to take advantage of urban amenities and walkable communities. A key component to attracting Millennials to cities is the availability and quality of transportation options. According to a recent survey, “55% of Millennials have a preference to live close to transit” (Yung). With more than half of those polled in favor of such an option, it is obvious that the demand for a multimodal city is real.

One of the most compelling arguments supporting this growing rejection of a car-dependent society points heavily at the financial strain induced by the costly upkeep of a car. With gas prices rising and car loans becoming harder to obtain, and as Millennials find themselves buried in a heap of college debt, owning a car no longer seems to be practical. For this reason, many are shifting to urban areas, where there are multiple transportation options and where almost everything that could be wanted or needed is only a short distance away.

Population of Ohio's Cities Millennial Population in Ohio Cities Millennial Percentage of Population in Ohio Cities

In Ohio, we need to do more to take advantage of these trends and to continue attracting and retaining populations that are interested in urban living in order to strengthen the economies of these cities and their surrounding regions. Some of Ohio’s cities are seeing more positive trends–attracting a greater percentage of Millennials–but in the context of ongoing population shrinkage in all of our major cities except Columbus, it is clear that Ohio’s work is not done. The state’s ability to leverage market demand for inner city living and further incentivize—and remove legislative barriers to—infill development within its cities will help determine Ohio’s future prosperity.

For more information about these national demographic trends, take a look at these articles:

Transforming Legacy Cities for the Next Economy

July 15th, 2014

On July 4th, GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman presented to La Fabrique de la Cité’s international conference, “Tools for Optimizing the City,” in Lisbon, Portugal.

Her presentation, titled “Transforming Legacy Cities for the Next Economy,” can be viewed right here:

Click the image above to be redirected to the video.

Click the image above to be redirected to the video.

Her slides from the presentation are available here:

In her presentation, Lavea cites several critical next strategies that can be used to transform legacy cities for the next economy, including:
  • Use economic growth to increase community and resident well-being
  • Build stronger local governance and partnerships
  • Increase the ties between cities and their regions
  • Make change happen through strategic incrementalism
  • Consider a special paradigm for smaller/medium-sized cities

For more information about Lavea’s trip to Portugal and what she learned while she was there, click here to read her blog post, “Presenting & Learning Tools for Optimizing Cities in Portugal.”

Presenting & Learning Tools in Portugal for Optimizing Cities

July 8th, 2014

By Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of Greater Ohio Policy Center

Lisbon, Portugal—the site of La Fabrique de la Cité’s international conference, “Tools for Optimizing the City,” where I spoke about “Transforming America’s Legacy Cities for the Next Economy: Critical Next Strategies” (slides available here)—is a European city that has experienced trends similar to those of many U.S. legacy cities: depopulation, vacancy, and sprawling development to outer ring suburbs.

Lisbon, a beautiful city situated on the Tagus River that flows directly into the Atlantic Ocean, has many natural attributes as well as historic, Gothic-style, monumental buildings dating from Portugal’s Age of Discovery in the 16th century.  Lisbon city officials are taking a proactive approach to revitalization by targeting resources in historic neighborhoods that are focused on preserving buildings and attracting new populations.  One such neighborhood is Mouraria, where the authentic Portuguese music, Fado, was said to have its origins, and where gang and drug activity had more recently taken hold.

The Mouraria neighborhood in Lisbon, where the authentic Portuguese music, Fado, is said to have its origins.

Situated in an attractive, hilly part of Lisbon, the Mouraria neighborhood is seeing the fruits of public investments. Municipal and national government grants and incentives leverage private sector investments in the Mouraria neighborhood, which is adjacent to another historic neighborhood (Alfama) and anchored by a centuries old castle (an “anchor institution,” if ever there was one…) that stands atop of one of the many hills.

Mouraria in Lisbon, Portugal

With the scourge of crime eliminated, new younger populations are moving in and commercial enterprises are occupying once vacant spaces. Older residents are able to remain in the area as well, taking advantage of rent-stabilized arrangements.

Walking down a street in Lisbon, Portugal

When asked, city officials stated that demolition plays no role in their strategy and seemed puzzled by the idea, as they are most concerned with preserving and showcasing the unique, attractive qualities that distinguish their city from others.  They fear loss of structures would destroy the fabric of future preservation efforts.

While many aspects of Lisbon differ from American cities, certainly there are some lessons to be learned from our European colleagues.

 

Lavea Brachman to Present at International Seminar

July 2nd, 2014

By Raquel Jones, GOPC Intern

Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, will be attending and presenting at La Fabrique de la Cité’s international symposium in Lisbon, Portugal from July 2nd through July 4th.

This year, the topic of discussion will focus around the question, “What tools can be used to optimize the city?” Participants will evaluate new methods and tools that could possibly help to ease the economic, social, ecological, and energy-related concerns that currently face cities all over the world. This three-day event will host a variety of experts from around the globe who will lead discussions on related issues in hopes of sparking innovative ideas and solutions.

Brachman will be speaking on the last day of this conference on the subject of “Transforming Cities for the Next Economy.” She will use case studies of legacy cities in Ohio and throughout the U.S. to give this international audience workable models and tools for communities striving to fix many of the economic, social, and environmental problems that they face in this new age.

 

Last Day to Tell ODOT What Kind of Transit We Want in Ohio!

June 30th, 2014

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has designed a survey that lets you weigh in on what the state’s transit priorities should be. All Ohioans are encouraged to take the online survey by June 30, 2014 (today!).

Visit ohiotransitsurvey.com to let them know your transit preferences and please share the survey with your networks!

For more information about ODOT’s Transit Needs Study, go to www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov.

Government Growing Wild: Is Sprawl Exacerbated by Jurisdictional Fragmentation?

June 23rd, 2014

By Bryan Grady, Research Analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency

An underappreciated element of what can make a location a good place to live – or not – is the regional governance structure: the number and configuration of counties, cities, townships, and special districts that comprise a metropolitan area. Across the country, there are substantial differences worth noting. I began looking at these issues when I was an intern at Greater Ohio ten years ago and now, as a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University and a research analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), I am studying the impacts that these forces have on housing outcomes. I worked with Judd Schechtman, a land use attorney and colleague at Rutgers, on developing some preliminary findings regarding the role of fragmented local government in generating sprawl.

Maps illustrating the correlation between sprawl and government fragmentation. Darker hues represent higher values.

 

To operationalize such an amorphous topic, we employed data published in Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact, which defined sprawl as a lack of four characteristics – residential density, mixed-use development, strong economic centers, and connected streets – and computed an index that incorporated all four elements. (A newer version, based on similar methods, was published earlier this year.) With regard to measuring regional governance, we used the Metropolitan Power Diffusion Index (MPDI). In short, MPDI encapsulates both the density of governments (e.g. how many incorporated areas and districts exist for every 100,000 people) and their relative budgetary influence, with a value of 1 representing a unitary regional government and increasing values indicating more diffuse political authority. A handful of other variables were included in the work as statistical controls, including population, manufacturing employment, per capita income, and educational attainment.

A quantitative analysis across 77 regions nationwide found that fragmentation and sprawl were directly correlated with one another at a statistically significant level. This was particularly true when evaluating the residential density component of the sprawl index, as well as the economic concentration component. Why? As Judd and I wrote,

Exclusionary zoning, as practiced by small municipalities, is specifically conceived to limit residential density in order to keep home prices and tax revenues high; reduced fragmentation would seemingly reduce the incentives to maintain such policies. Similarly, every city in a fragmented metropolis attempts to leverage agglomeration effects in office space and retail to their own advantage, whereas a single municipality that dominates a region would be able to channel development into a smaller number of commercial centers.

In short, in a region where dozens of localities are left to zone with only their own constituents in mind, land use patterns that are economically and spatially suboptimal are the direct result. A more regional approach to land use planning is necessary to ensure that money and land are not wasted chasing artificially-created shortages of various types of development.

The full study is available here. If you have any questions, feel free to email Bryan Grady. Please note that any opinions herein are the author’s, not those of OHFA or the State of Ohio.

Brownfield Grants Revitalize Columbus

June 17th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

The Columbus City Council is expected to approve grant money from their Green Columbus Fund sometime this year to redevelop vacant properties in the city. The Green Columbus Fund is a reimbursement grant program with a budget of $1 million that uses financial incentives to encourage sustainable development and redevelopment. Private businesses and non-profits can apply for grants to either redevelop Brownfield sites or to build green in Columbus.

In 2011, Columbus City Council accredited the first four grants under this program, utilizing almost one-fourth of the entire fund. These grants were awarded to two LEED projects and brownfield assessment work at two sites.

Potential developers of two properties now under consideration for a portion of the grant money hope to be able to conduct site assessment work to see whether or not they should go forward with their idea to build apartments on the site. Also under examination by the Columbus City Council is the former location of an old shoe factory on Front Street where the developer of apartments hopes to use the brownfield grant for asbestos remediation and underground tank removal.

GOPC Presents on Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities

June 12th, 2014

Last Friday, on June 6th, GOPC Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, and Manager of Research and Communications, Marianne Eppig, traveled to Cleveland to present at the “Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities” conference.

Marianne moderated a panel about strategic incrementalism (a term introduced in the Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities report) and resource targeting for the revitalization of legacy city neighborhoods. She presented as part of the panel with Alan Mallach, Senior Fellow at the Center for Community Progress, and Paula Boggs Muething, VP of Community Revitalization & General Counsel at the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. Her presentation is included below:

Click the image above to view the presentation.

Lavea was a plenary panelist with Dr. Clement Price, an expert on African American history, Councilman Jeffrey Johnson of Cleveland’s Ward 10, and Emilie Evans of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Lavea presented on an integrated approach to stabilization and holistic preservation. Her presentation is below:

Click the image above to view the presentation.

In advance of the conference, Nicholas Emenhiser, an AmeriCorps Local History Corps volunteer for the Cleveland Restoration Society who was helping to organize the conference, asked Marianne a few questions about historic preservation in legacy cities.

Read on for the Q&A:

  1. How is revitalization different in larger Legacy Cities as opposed to smaller Legacy Cities?

Whether a city is large or small, access to and availability of resources is a key factor in revitalization. Just as important, the scale of vacancy and abandonment is a determining factor. That’s why we see such different outcomes between cities even when they are similar sizes, like Pittsburgh and Detroit. For cities of all sizes, revitalization requires a strategic, targeted approach to maximize available resources. The panel I’ll be on (“Strategic Incrementalism & Resource Targeting for the Revitalization of Legacy City Neighborhoods” on Friday at 1:30pm) will discuss how to target resources effectively to revitalize legacy city neighborhoods of all sizes.

  1. What kind of scale are we talking about with vacant and abandoned properties in Ohio? Surrounding states?

At the state level, Ohio has about 13% vacancy as of the 4th quarter of 2013. Pennsylvania also has around 13% vacancy and Michigan has around 16.5% vacancy. What may be more telling for states with legacy cities, though, may be vacancy in their major metropolitan areas. I’ve included a chart below that provides vacancy rates for counties containing major legacy cities.

Vacancy at the county level for legacy cities. Data source: US Postal Service, 2013 Q4.

  1. Are there any photos that best illustrate research and/or solutions that have come out of the Greater Ohio Policy Center?

That’s a good question. Instead of photos, I would actually point you to several of Greater Ohio’s recent reports (they include lots of images and charts!): “Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities” by Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and “Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Use and Economic Revitalization,” which I wrote with Lavea Brachman and the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. These reports provide both the theory and the practical tools for revitalizing legacy cities – and they’re both free!

Lavea and Marianne greatly enjoyed the conference and want to thank Cleveland for being a wonderful host, as always!

13 Strategies for Rust Belt Cities

June 5th, 2014

By Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Rust Belt cities—like Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Warren, Youngstown, and Buffalo—have some of the most pernicious challenges facing urban areas today. Concentrated poverty, aging infrastructure, population and industry loss, swaths of vacant properties, and decades of underinvestment are just some of the issues confronting these cities. And yet, now more than ever before, these cities have an opportunity to attract new populations who crave vibrant places with character.

The question is, how do these cities strategically invest in their assets and tackle their obstacles to benefit from this renewed interest in urban living? How can they become great again?

As a graduate student in the City and Regional Planning program at OSU’s Knowlton School of Architecture, I started a yearlong independent study to attempt to answer these questions and to innovate solutions to Rust Belt city challenges. Twelve other masters students in the City and Regional Planning program signed up for the course, and together we spent the 2011-2012 academic year researching, brainstorming, and writing about potential solutions for the Rust Belt. As part of our research, we visited Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Detroit, and Flint during our Spring Break and spent time talking to local leaders and learning from grassroots efforts. By the end of the year, we created a publication compiling our articles on our individual topics and solutions.

The publication that we created is titled 13 Strategies for Rust Belt Cities, and you can download it for free here:

Each article in the publication presents an innovative strategy to address a Rust Belt challenge, such as:

  • Tax code to reduce the number of inner city vacant lots,
  • Chaos planning to bring life into urban cores,
  • Multi-lingual signage to accommodate diverse populations,
  • Policy to protect the Great Lakes,
  • Reuse of abandoned rail lines,
  • Free rent to incentivize migration back into the city, and much more.

Together, these articles paint a vision for what the Rust Belt could be within our lifetimes. By promulgating these ideas, we hope to contribute to the conversation about how to implement strategies for addressing the region’s obstacles and providing avenues to revitalization.

Top Moments in Ohio: A Farewell Blog Post from Christina Cudney

June 3rd, 2014

By Christina Cudney, Project Coordinator at GOPC

When I first learned I’d be moving to Ohio I thought, “Ohio?! What does Ohio have other than cornfields?” The only Ohio city I had ever done more than pass through was Boardman, where my family used to drive from across the Pennsylvania border to eat at the Olive Garden some Sunday afternoons (hardly a notable Ohio experience). I had no idea that 7 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas were located in the Buckeye state, each full of its own rich history, unique personality, and will for economic recovery.  The following 14 months were filled with lessons of rust belt regeneration and – despite the longest winter of my life – many positive memories, a few of which I’ll share with you in brief.

It’s hard to choose a favorite memory, but the moments that top the charts would be:

  1. Interviewing members of our Weinland Park Advisory Committee, particularly Susan Colbert at OSU Extension and Isabel Toth at Community Properties of Ohio. While many organizations are doing truly inspirational work empowering low-income families across Ohio, the passion and creativity of leaders in those two organizations will particularly stick with me.
  2. Meeting the unforgettable Robb Hankins, who presented at our Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties conference about the creative work Arts in Stark is doing to revitalize downtown Canton.
  3. Going on a self-guided walking tour on my first-ever trip to Detroit, prepared off the cuff by the one-and-only Alan Mallach.
  4. Being completely charmed by the historic districts and cultural assets of Dayton, Ohio, a city that deserves way more credit than it receives.
  5. Gaining an entirely new vocabulary related to foreclosures, bank walkaways, housing stock, land banks, demolition, and property acquisition as I worked with community leaders who regularly identify new and exciting approaches to leverage vacant properties as assets.
  6. Visiting the beautiful statehouse to watch colleagues give testimony for the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program and coming to understand that a vast amount of policy never makes it to the morning news, but nonetheless has impacts on our day-to-day lives in ways we may not even realize.  That is why it is critical that there are advocates and research institutions ensuring that policy does not have unintended negative impacts.
  7. Getting a tour from Jeff Raig of Slavic Village in Cleveland, a neighborhood that was once the poster child of the foreclosure crisis, but that is demonstrating resilience on its way to stability. It’s encouraging to see private, public, and nonprofit sector partners come together to think outside of the box and eradicate blight.
  8. And, while not a part of my professional life, hiking at the beautiful Hocking Hills. An experience every Ohio resident should regularly take advantage of.

I love cities. It’s been exciting to play a small role as a researcher on the revitalization of Ohio cities. I’ve learned a lot at Greater Ohio Policy Center and am sincerely disappointed my time in Columbus has been as short as it has been. I look forward to carrying the lessons to my new home in Morgantown, West Virginia and who knows, maybe one day I will be back!

Christina’s last day at GOPC is this Friday, June 6th. She will be missed!