February 24th, 2014
Written by Ryan Dittoe, previous GOPC Intern
Defining a place is a necessary component for recognition and navigation. But unique characteristics that infiltrate an environment lead to an overarching identity of that space, and unique spaces promote cities with substance and life. As an Ohio State University City and Regional Planning student, I am heavily influenced by the idea of making cities look unlike any other. This can begin with small pockets of creative urban development that together construct whole cities with exclusive personalities. Realizing setbacks, color schemes, historical value, transportation modes, walkability, permeability, and other living aspects of a place and how these functions work together ensure its continual success.
Ohio’s vacant properties require attention to detail. Recently I visited Detroit and listened to a presentation given by Detroit Works. They explained the value of creating revitalized, useful areas through public participatory design (that is, encouraging citizens to share ideas about what they would like to see in any given area that is the focus of revitalization or redesign), implementing a framework of ideas for progress to be initiated, and thinking beyond the normal scope of city planning for a unique design that breathes individuality into a space. An example of this plan in action is the open-air art Heidelberg Project, located near southeast Detroit. A public artist transformed this neglected area into a block-wide sculpture site encouraging residents to visit and experience their city through a different perspective. Projects like this one can provide a multitude of starter ideas for neighboring cities, including Columbus, to uniquely develop their invaluable public spaces. Keep in mind that it is crucial not to “copy” another city’s projects, but to strive for uncommon attributes.
Every city needs attractive “third places.” These are locations you visit outside home and work to interact with your family, friends, or colleagues in a more relaxed manner. Incorporating these design pockets into the city offers a functional location for socialization. Ohio’s vacant lots (especially those right here in Columbus) might serve well as third places for existing residential and commercial infrastructure. Creating mixed use buildings with permeable human scale faces will attract patrons that are already visiting the area. Creating safe sidewalks, complete streets, attractive storefronts, public seating with lights, landscaping and other vital aspects of a lively city block will engage passersby and stimulate a city’s reputation. Bring back vitality to blighted spaces and allow their energy to be recreated into something useful and noteworthy. Realize that problems are just an opportunity for improvement and prosperity.
February 24th, 2014
Written by Jacob Wolf, GOPC Researcher
Two recent news articles discuss Ohio legacy cities’ use of demolition programs when faced with large numbers of vacant and abandoned properties. However, the articles also point out that demolition alone is not a complete solution for these problems.
“Blighted Cities Prefer Razing to Rebuilding,” which appeared in The New York Times on Nov. 12th, provides an overview of demolition activities in Cleveland, Youngstown, and various other legacy cities nationwide. With city populations declining to fractions of what they once were, some demolition becomes necessary. For example, the average vacant house in Cleveland costs $10,000 to demolish, but it would cost $27,000 per year to maintain in hopes of a future rehabilitation.
However, with resources for demolition limited, cities must prioritize and target their demolition activities to make the maximum impact. Case in point, a recent report by BCT Partners—a firm that works with HUD—recommended a better focus for Youngstown’s demolition. The report’s findings are explained in “Firm urges Youngstown to focus on healthier neighborhoods,” published in the Youngstown Vindicator on Nov. 25th. “If Youngstown is to survive as a residential location,” states the report, “it must shift focus from prioritizing those areas with severe blight to stabilizing healthier neighborhoods and retaining the existing population.”
Youngstown officials say the city had been prioritizing demolition in the most blighted neighborhoods, because those houses cost the least to demolish. They also said EPA regulations and the requirements of the Strong Cities Strong Communities (SC2) program, which funded the demolitions, necessitated this more “scattershot” approach. While Youngstown has demolished more than 2,600 structures since 2006, more than 4,000 remain in the city. The focus of Youngstown going forward should shift to prioritizing the “quality” of demolitions over the “quantity,” and other cities should follow this lead.
February 18th, 2014
Greater Ohio congratulates the City of Piqua, Ohio on receiving national recognition for developing complete streets. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of national non-profit Smart Growth America (SGA), the complete streets policy that Piqua passed last year ranked 9th in the country, out of more than 80 cities, states, and regions that passed similar policies in 2013. SGA says this makes Piqua “a national leader in making streets safer and more convenient for everyone who uses them.”
Complete streets policies “encourage planners and engineers to design and build streets that are safe and convenient for everyone, regardless of age, ability, income or ethnicity, and no matter how they travel,” according to SGA.
SGA’s rankings are “intended to celebrate the communities that have done exceptional work in crafting comprehensive policy language over the past year.” The evaluators determine scores based on 10 technical elements of an ideal Complete Streets policy. The communities with the top-scoring policies of 2013 are:
1. Littleton, MA
2. Peru, IN
3. Fort Lauderdale, FL
4. Auburn, ME (tie)
4. Lewiston, ME (tie)
6. Baltimore County, MD
7. Portsmouth, NH
8. Muscatine, IA
9. Piqua, OH
10. Oakland, CA
11. Hayward, CA (tie)
11. Livermore, CA (tie)
11. Massachusetts Department of Transportation (tie)
14. Cedar Falls, IA (tie)
14. Waterloo, IA (tie)
More information about the winning policies and evaluation criteria, and what Piqua scored, is available here.
Nationwide, a total of 610 jurisdictions in 48 states have Complete Streets policies in place.
February 14th, 2014
Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute recently released a new study that analyzes the economic impact of residential demolition in the Cleveland area between 2009 and 2013. The report’s findings estimate a net benefit of $1.40 for every dollar invested in demolition activity, with larger benefits in high and moderately functioning markets and little to no benefit in weak markets. It also shows that mortgage foreclosure rates decreased in neighborhoods—across all income levels—where demolition activity took place.
This study demonstrates the value of demolition as part of a comprehensive strategy to stabilize our communities that struggle with property vacancy. It provides information that can help guide demolition activity to make the most efficient use of limited resources. This study is very timely in light of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s release last week of an additional $3.8 million in demolition funding awards under the Moving Ohio Forward program.
The study was written by Nigel Griswold, Benjamin Calnin, Michael Schramm, Luc Anselin, and Paul Boehnlein, with support from Thriving Communities Institute, the Cleveland City Council, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Eva L. and Joseph M. Bruening Foundation, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, and land banks throughout Ohio.
February 12th, 2014
The Greater Ohio Policy Center sends its belated congratulation to our smart growth colleague 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania for leading a diverse coalition of stakeholders in successfully advocating for a $2.3 billion state transportation package in Pennsylvania.
In late 2013, Republican Governor, Tom Corbett, signed a bill that was advanced by the Republican-controlled legislature. Under this transportation funding bill, Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation will:
- Creates a multi-modal fund that grows from $30 to $144 million over a 5-year period, to which bicycle and pedestrian projects can apply for funding; and sets an annual minimum of $2 million of that fund to be spent on bicycle and pedestrian facilities;
- new revenue streams for transit will generate $49 million to $60 million statewide in the current fiscal year and $476 million to $497 million in year five.
- Funding for repairing deficient bridges and roads
This package is expected create 50,000 new jobs and preserve 12,000 existing jobs, according to the Governor’s office.
Funding for this work will come from the gradual elimination of the limit on the wholesale tax on gasoline, and increased fees on licenses, permits and traffic tickets.
Together, multi-modal advocates, road contractors, business leaders and policymakers made the economic case for this visionary, game-changing budget. GOPC congratulates all advocates and applauds Pennsylvania’s General Assembly and Governor.
January 29th, 2014
On January 29th, Greater Ohio’s Alison Goebel gave interested party testimony on a package of bills that would create the “DataOhio Initiative.” Introduced by Representatives Duffey (R-Worthington) and Hagan (R-Alliance), the DataOhio Initiative will help local governments standardize information about themselves and develop a clearinghouse where information about local and state governments can be easily located.
GOPC has long expressed concern regarding the lack of standardized data in Ohio. We believe the DataOhio Initiative will provide the first crucial step to creating the tools local governments and the state need to make data-driven, evidence-based decisions. These decisions should help communities modernize procedures, maximize resources, attract jobs and businesses, and plan for sustainable, prosperous futures.
GOPC is excited about the possibility DataOhio holds to help government officials find underutilized dollars through “apples to apples” comparisons with their peers and the ability to use the data to systematically uncover opportunities to share services and implement best practices.
- HB 321’s requirement to de-silo information and make information machine-readable is essential for any data analysis. The creation of a DataOhio Board ensures there is a face to the Initiative and a resource for participating entities.
- HB 322’s requirement to use a uniform accounting standard allows communities, researchers, private citizens and funding sources to track performance over time. More importantly, a mechanism that creates apples to apples comparisons helps identify best practices and opportunities for government efficiencies and cost savings.
- By gathering and indexing the universe of data available in Ohio, HB 323 will enrich and strengthen research while also saving users time.
- Last, and perhaps most important, HB 324 assists communities in meeting these requirements. The cost savings and opportunities to share services or resources that will arise from a methodical understanding of our local governments will more than make up the foregone revenue of the Grant program.
To take the necessary steps that will ensure the long term sustainability, economic competitiveness, and physical attractiveness of our communities, decisions and development strategies must be data-driven and evidence-based. GOPC is pleased to see that DataOhio holds the possibilities of providing that crucial information.
January 24th, 2014
The Lick Run project in Cincinnati. Image from www.building-cincinnati.com.
By Raquel Jones, Greater Ohio Policy Center Intern
While Cincinnati has recently gained media exposure for taking on the task of uncovering a stream that has been buried for almost a century, this is certainly not the first case of so-called daylighting in the state. Cities throughout Ohio–including Dayton and Mayfield, for example–have been pursuing more sustainable urban infrastructure by unearthing previously buried streams for the many benefits that this practice can provide.
The term daylighting specifically refers to projects that deliberately expose all or some of a previously covered stream. When uncovered, the waterway is either re-established in the old channel if possible, or threaded between structures now present on the land. Stream daylighting is a key technique for making urban infrastructure more sustainable since it reduces sewage back-up and overflows caused by heavy rains while avoiding the hefty costs of having to replace current underground piping. Uncovering streams in urban areas can also give people a chance to interact with nature while staying within the confines of the city. Private development may also be attracted to the natural scenery and decide to put up business within vicinity of the stream.
NPR recently ran a story on the Lick Run project in Cincinnati that aims to uncover a local stream, which will save the city the $200 million that it would have cost to replace the underground pipes to contain it. Mayfield in Cuyahoga County completed a similar project back in 2006 with the restoration of Foster’s Run, which had been one of the most severely eroded tributaries of the Chagrin River before this project daylighted and restored sections of the stream. In June of 2011, the City of Delaware began a daylighting project in which a 600-foot section of buried storm water drainage was transformed into an open-air stream channel to improve water quality and aquatic habitat, relieve flooding, and reduce runoff.
All of these projects are steps in the right direction toward revitalizing our urban areas in Ohio, something that we care deeply about here at GOPC.
January 22nd, 2014
Throughout 2013, we championed revitalization and sustainable growth across Ohio. We are proud of all we have accomplished.
To fill you in on what’s been going on at GOPC’s office and throughout the state in the past year, we have taken stock of some of our major 2013 accomplishments:
2013 BY THE NUMBERS
5 groundbreaking reports published on the economic benefits of smart development
27 expert quotes in newspapers and other media sources in Ohio and beyond
30 presentations, including 2 overseas
300 participants at our Revitalizing Vacant Properties Conference
4,000 supporters and growing
To see the complete list of our 2013 Accomplishments, click here.
January 17th, 2014
Our friends at Center for Community Progress released a report today, entitled Placemaking in Legacy Cities: Opportunities and Good Practices. The report uses case studies to explore placemaking in four different settings: downtowns, anchor districts, neighborhoods and corridors/trails.
The report features a case study on the revitalization and expansion of Washington Park in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Like the neighborhood as a whole, Washington Park was plagued by physical deterioration and crime problems a decade ago. Now, however, it has become one of the centerpieces of OTR’s renaissance and a link connecting OTR with the rest of Downtown Cincinnati.
Based on their analysis of Washington Park and OTR, the report’s authors highlight several lessons for other communities:
- Developing Strong Partnerships: The Washington Park project was possible thanks to strong relationships between the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), the city government, and corporate and philanthropic supporters. Strong relationships must also be maintained with area residents of varying income levels.
- Managing Great Public Places: Good event programming and marketing of those events is important to keep attracting visitors, both from Cincinnati and beyond. Washington Park has showcased musical performances, movie viewings, a kickball league, and flea markets. Some concerts in 2012 drew between 6,000 and 8,000 attendees. The park also features amenities like a dog park and children’s playground, which attract steady, day-to-day groups of visitors.
- Celebrating a Unique Community Character: The design of both the renovated and new parts of the park included partners with the skills and knowledge to create a space that complements OTR’s historic architecture.
We believe the Washington Park revitalization represents a national model for great urban placemaking.