The Water & Sewer Infrastructure Crisis and Potential Paths Forward

March 3rd, 2015

By Samantha Dawson, GOPC Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Our nation and its legacy cities are facing an impending infrastructure crisis: water and sewer systems are failing and require modernization as soon as possible. Most of these water and sewer systems were built following WWII, meaning that they are approaching the end of their useful life. In some places, the infrastructure is already beginning to fail, leading to water main breaks, housing floods, sewage overflows into the environment, and public health crises.

While the national bill to upgrade this infrastructure has been estimated at around $1 trillion, costs for addressing Ohio’s existing water and sewer system deficiencies are estimated to be around $20.84 billion, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

To meet federal clean water mandates, cities must find ways to finance these needed infrastructure overhauls in short order. So far, many cities around Ohio have been ratcheting up water and sewer rates. The city of Akron, for example, has increased rates by 71% in one year. Other cities around Ohio have raised rates between 30% to 50% or more within the last two years.

Graph-WaterRates-OEPA    Graph-SewerRates-OEPA

GOPC is currently looking into other financial tools that can be used to restore Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure systems. We will be discussing these tools with a panel of experts at our upcoming 2015 Summit on June 9th during the following session:

Finding Solutions to Ohio’s Water Infrastructure Challenges 

Ohio cities, large and small, must address the critical behind-the-scenes challenge of modernizing their water and sewer infrastructure to avoid potential serious public health crises and environmental degradation, and to create capacity to attract and support businesses and residents.  However, Ohio’s cities are struggling to find ways to finance the complicated infrastructure overhauls needed to address these challenges, comply with federal mandates, and even support on-going maintenance. On this panel, experts will discuss the scope of these infrastructure challenges along with innovative financing approaches and sustainable solutions necessary for Ohio’s cities to function smoothly and accommodate regrowth.

We hope you will join us at the 2015 Summit! For more information about the Summit agenda and to register, click here.

Greater Ohio Policy Center is Hiring!

March 2nd, 2015

GOPC seeks a detail-oriented, outgoing, candidate who is a team player and self-starter for a full-time position (40 hours/week) to advance Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC)’s urban revitalization and sustainable development agenda by: educating state and local policymakers, creating and stewarding coalitions to support policy change, and conducting outreach with high-level stakeholders and partners, as well as assisting with other activities that build support for or relate to GOPC’s policy agenda development, such as meeting planning, communications and project development.

Click here to learn more about the full-time Government Affairs Manager position.

GOPC Testifies on ODOT Budget

February 16th, 2015

GOPC calls for policies that would lead to a modern and diverse transportation system in Ohio

By Alison Goebel, Associate Director

Every two years, Ohio’s Governor submits a proposed Operating Budget to the General Assembly. This biennium budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 is proposed at $72.3 billion. Of that overall budget, $5.9 billion have been allocated to the Ohio Department of Transportation to support its capital projects and operations.

The Ohio Department of Transportation oversees and funds all modes of transportation in Ohio, including railroads, maritime ports, airports, state routes and highways, and public transportation.

Approximately 92% of ODOT’s biennium budget is to be used for the maintenance and construction of highways and bridges, which mostly translates into capital dollars for highway repair and expansion. Undoubtedly, Ohio’s highways are a critical asset to the state; with key national highways running through Ohio, the state must maintain the highways in good repair.

However, other modes are critical to the long-term economic health of the state, as well. In particular, public transit has always played, and will increasingly play, an essential role in job growth in the state. Public transit connects workers to jobs—low wage workers utilize public transit, as do “choice riders” who prefer the convenience of public transit to driving. National studies have confirmed again and again that young professionals are showing a strong preference for a range of transportation options.

To attract and retain young professionals in Ohio—the next generation of economic generators—the state of Ohio must assist local transit agencies in meeting the demands of this workforce.  Currently 2% of the ODOT budget goes to supporting Ohio’s 61 public transit agencies.

This past week, GOPC provided testimony to the House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation urging the Legislature to increase funding for public transit and to put into place policies that would help “level the playing field” for transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and other options that would modernize the state’s transportation system and help prepare the state to attract and retain residents who expect a range of transportation choices.

GOPC will be providing similar testimony to the full House Finance Committee and the Senate Finance Committee in the coming weeks as the Legislature works to finalize the ODOT budget.

GOPC Co-Hosts Roundtable on Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets

February 4th, 2015

This Tuesday, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) co-hosted the Roundtable, “Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets: Strategies for Linking Small Business Support and Commercial Vacant Property Reuse in Ohio’s Communities” in partnership with the Ohio CDC Association and the Finance Fund. This Roundtable was part of ongoing work that GOPC will be conducting to promote the combination of small business support and commercial vacant properties in Ohio’s communities. We’ve included presentations and materials from the event below.

Introductory presentation by Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, framing the event:

Brachman introduced the discussion by demonstrating the need for further efforts to connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout Ohio.

 

Presentation by Mihailo (Mike) Temali, Founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, MN:

Temali presented the Neighborhood Development Center’s unique approach that involves training local entrepreneurs and redeveloping commercial vacant properties where their new businesses can locate.

Temali also provided the following materials:

 

Presentation by Kimberly Faison, Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives for ProsperUS in Detroit, MI:

Faison discussed how they are adopting the Neighborhood Development Center’s model in Detroit by concentrating micro-enterprise development in low-income immigrant and minority neighborhoods.

Faison also provided the following materials:

 

Overall, this Roundtable provided an opportunity to discuss the merits of this model, relevant existing programs and practices in Ohio, and efforts needed for a potential longer-term effort that would connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout the state. We look forward to engaging further in this work!

 

Brachman Presents Ways to Leverage the Economic Potential of Ohio’s Cities, Towns & Metros

January 27th, 2015

By Samantha Dawson, GOPC Intern

Last Thursday, January 22, GOPC’s Executive Director, Lavea Brachman presented at OSU’s Center for Urban & Regional Analysis. During the presentation, “Shining Cities on a Hill or Lights Under a Bushel? Realizing the Economic Potential of Ohio’s Cities, Towns and Metros,” Lavea discussed ways for regenerating prosperity in Ohio’s cities, towns and metros and leveraging the state’s assets to fulfill our cities’ potential.

Research on city trajectories has indicated little population growth and subsequent decreases in economic standing in our legacy cities. By looking at other locations that have successfully revitalized, such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Greater Ohio has been learning ways to improve these cities’ potential.

In order to return prosperity to these cities, a positive transformation needs to take place–introducing these metropolises to the new economy. By physically rebuilding these areas and introducing new uses to vacant properties, there will be growth and regeneration of the success these communities have previously experienced. The introduction or connection of economic engines, such as universities and hospitals, is also vital to the growth of these cities, as well as the exploration of other potential engines capable of retaining people and businesses. Thinking regionally is also a main goal in restoring these areas.

It is apparent that policies need to include a more intentional urban agenda for the restoration of Ohio’s cities as the economic engines of the state. Encouraging the cities to work interdependently is a challenging, yet hopeful prospect for Ohio.

A Lesson in Pivoting a Legacy City from the Hamilton Mill

January 8th, 2015

Guest post by Antony Seppi, Operations Director of the Hamilton Mill in the City of Hamilton, Ohio

The “pivot,” according to Merriam-Webster is the “action of turning around a point.” The legacy cities of Ohio and other Midwest cities need to be adept at making these “pivots” for the sake of their long-term survival. Hamilton is pivoting with significant downtown revitalization strategies that will reclaim our urban core. “The Mill,” as it is affectionately known throughout Southwest Ohio, is Hamilton’s small business incubator and is just one piece of the many exciting initiatives taking place in this rustbelt community. Our City’s Economic Development Department has been recognized on several fronts and the pieces are in place to carry the momentum forward. This is all after being dealt several crippling blows in the early 2010’s that included the shuddering of two paper mills, the loss of a major downtown employer, and the after effects of the Great Recession. This is all happening in a legacy city that was built on manufacturing – automotive, beverage, paper, and steel.

In July of 2014, the new and improved Hamilton Mill was unveiled. A new era of business incubation is taking place at The Hamilton Mill, which is conveniently located between Cincinnati and Dayton in the city of Hamilton, Ohio. We are Southwestern Ohio’s only small business incubator dedicated to green, clean, water, digital and advanced manufacturing technologies. We are leveraging the extremely progressive City of Hamilton utilities department that delivers gas, water, electric, waste treatment, and broadband services to our residents and businesses. The municipally provided utilities will be 75%-80% renewable energy when the Meldahl Hydroelectric project comes on-line in 2015. This revolutionary change is taking place now.

The Kauffman Foundation, one of the leading organizations promoting entrepreneurship and small business, has determined that younger firms are the job creators, and The Mill will be an important part of that going forward. We have succeeded in developing significant collaborations with organizations that share our passion for transforming the region’s innovation landscape. It is a formula that has proven itself countless times, and it is a valued principal that has come to define us, as well as the advancement of the region’s start-up community.

We are not new to the game, just more engaged with the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and the needs of Southwest Ohio. The incubator has served Butler County and Southwest Ohio since 2003 and will continue to provide a home to high growth startups that are building things, specifically around manufacturing, clean technology, and digital applications. Below are some key metrics and awards that we have been recognized for since we began our relaunch initiative one year ago.

Mill-Stats

As you can see, our mindset at The Mill is all about innovation and making the swift, key pivots that are required from organizations to be successful. The Mill, in and of itself, is a start-up – just like the start-ups that we are mentoring and recruiting to be part of our journey.

Mill-Award1

Mill-Award2

Expanding Transit Options: Lessons from the Nation’s Capital

November 3rd, 2014

By Nicholas J. Blaine, Project Coordinator

Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a roundtable on behalf of Greater Ohio Policy Center. To get from the airport to the city, I opted to use public transit in lieu of renting a car or taking a taxi. The transit system in D.C. is excellent, offering a host of buses, light rail, and bike lanes. While I was traveling, I began to think about what Ohio’s cities would need to offer a similar array of transit options.

City Populations:
Columbus 822,553
Washington D.C. 646,449
Cleveland 390,113
Cincinnati 297,517
Toledo 282,313
Dayton 143,355

Source: U.S. Census 2013 Population Estimates

A lot of it likely comes down to population dynamics. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Washington D.C. has a population of 646,449, which swells daily due to the influx of workers and travelers to the city. Ohio’s major metros have similar populations and growing demand within their urban areas for transportation options. Additionally, D.C. and Ohio’s legacy cities face similar challenges and opportunities when it comes to creating bike friendly communities.

Once I made it to the National Mall, it was clear that biking was a popular mode of transportation in D.C. With 1,100 bikes in city’s bike sharing system and an increasing number of cyclists, Washington D.C. launched a Downtown Bike Lane Pilot Project to create separate bike lanes throughout the city’s core. Incorporating bike lanes into city and transportation corridor planning is a strategy that Ohio cities of any size can employ. As part of this project, Washington D.C. will install 14 miles of bike lanes, three miles of shared lanes, and two miles of off-street bike paths during 2014.

Pedestrian path in DC

The city’s efforts are in large part no different than those in any Ohio city seeking to expand bicycle ridership, which likely means the impact is replicable. By counting the number of riders observed on the streets, the District Department of Transportation determined in most cases that adding bike lanes more than doubles the number of riders. This, in turn, reduces the amount of traffic in other modes, such as cars.

With recently implemented bike sharing programs in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, it is clear that Ohioans have an appetite for commuting by bicycle. As Washington D.C.’s bike lane expansion demonstrates, if you build it, they will ride.

Bike path in DC

 

 

Let’s Talk Transit

October 20th, 2014

Health Line in Cleveland

ODOT Hosts Five Regional Stakeholder Meetings on the Future of Transit in Ohio

Join the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) at one of five regional stakeholder meetings to help shape a long-term strategy for meeting the needs of Ohio’s transit riders today and in the future.

Trends show there is a definite rise in the need for convenient, affordable public transportation to jobs, medical appointments, shopping and recreational activities. Ohio’s transit agencies are struggling to fund existing service, let alone meet increasing demand. From light rail and bus service in large cities to rural van services, the Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study is examining existing transit needs and drafting recommendations for better addressing them. ODOT needs your input, comments and ideas!

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2-4 PM
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
Board Room
1240 West 6th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2-4 PM
Hancock Family Center
1800 North Blanchard Street
Findlay, OH 45840

Thursday, Oct. 23, 2-4 PM
Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission
Scioto Room
111 Liberty Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Thursday, Oct. 30, 2-4 PM
Athens Community Center
701 East State Street
Athens, OH 45701

Friday, Oct. 31, 10 AM-12 PM
OhioMeansJobs Building
300 East Silver Street
Lebanon, OH 45036

Unable to attend? All meeting materials will be available online starting Oct. 21 at www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov. Comments accepted through Nov. 14.

Questions or comments? Email ODOT at Transit.Needs@dot.state.oh.us.

 

Waterfront Development Projects in Ohio’s Major Cities

October 1st, 2014

By Octavious Singleton, GOPC Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Ohio’s three largest cities—Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati—have devised strategic urban developments geared toward revamping their waterfronts, with aspirations of boosting local quality of life and economic growth.

 

Cleveland – Lakefront Development Plan

ClevelandPlan

This past June, Cleveland City Council approved legislation for its long-anticipated lakefront development project. The primary objective is to enhance accessibility of the city’s waterfront.

Dick Pace of Cumberland TCC, LCC, the developer, is expected to build about 1,000 apartments, 80,000 square feet of commercial office space, and 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on 21 acres of the lakefront. The construction will occur in phases so that each section of the new development complements construction taking place in the downtown.

The plan capitalizes on existing anchor institutions, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Museum, and the Browns stadium, to attract visitors to the lake and leaves space for future development—such as hotels, restaurants, and shops—as the phases of the project advance over time. While the city is funding portions of the project with public funds, the hope is that private investors will be drawn to the area and develop along the lakefront once the infrastructure is in place.

To accommodate affordable housing, Pace said that local public servants, such as teachers and police officers, who wish to live in the neighborhood will be granted reduced rent. He also mentioned that the project will honor a Community Benefits Agreement that assures that Pace will employ local apprentices from Cleveland’s Max Hayes High School and give homegrown firms a chance to work on the project.

Cleveland’s lakefront development project is strategically devised to generate more revenue, attract businesses, promote exposure, boost local quality of life, and increase the volume of tourism in the city.

 

Columbus – Scioto Greenways Project

ColumbusScioto

Planning for the redevelopment of Columbus’ downtown riverfront has been underway for the past two decades, with exciting progress taking place within the last several years. In April of 2012, the City of Columbus and Franklin County—which are major land owners on the Scioto Peninsula—asked the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation to develop a strategic land use plan for the peninsula. The idea of the Scioto Greenways project was first introduced during the public process leading up to the generation of the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan.

The Scioto Greenways project, which is estimated to cost $35.5 million and is being funded by numerous public and private partners, involves three primary components that will revamp the area around the river. Those three components are:

  1. removing the Main Street Dam,
  2. restoring the Scioto River channel, and
  3. creating 33 acres of new green space.

The Main Street Dam was removed in late 2013, restoring the natural flow of the river and improving the ecological systems and river habitat. The riverbanks and river channel are currently under construction, but once they are completed, they will provide new recreation options and the opportunity to build upon existing investments in the area through the creation of a stunning 33-acre greenway through downtown Columbus.

This project will better connect Downtown Columbus to the Scioto Peninsula and East Franklinton by expanding on recent park investment, creating links to the existing regional bikeway system, and catalyzing further private investment in the urban core.

 

Cincinnati – The Banks

CinciBanks

Downtown Cincinnati’s riverfront between the Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium is in the midst of a  transformation. The Banks development project is turning 18 acres of undeveloped riverfront land along the Ohio River into a dynamic mixed-use “Live, Work, Play” destination.

The Banks project is part of a riverfront strategic development plan that was originally unveiled in the ‘90s. The development will incorporate residential units, office space, as well as dining, leisure and entertainment venues and will connect Cincinnati’s downtown to the waterfront via a 45-acre Riverfront Park.

Atlanta-based companies Carter and The Dawson Company, along with their capital partner USAA Real Estate Company, have been leading the development as a joint venture since 2007. The City of Cincinnati partnered with Hamilton County to provide infrastructure for the site, including a multi-modal transit facility, parking garages, street grid improvements, and utilities.

In late 2009, Phase I construction began by adding luxury apartments and street-level restaurants that opened in 2011, and further street-level retail that opened throughout 2012 and 2013. Ongoing development, which will include more residential, retail, hotel and office sites, will be completed in phases throughout a ten to fifteen year time frame.

The project is expected to add around $600 million in investment and around 1,000 permanent jobs to the local economy, according to a recent study. Already, the development is attracting new national retailers and residents to Cincinnati, which demonstrates the power of waterfront redevelopment as an asset for local quality of life and economic growth.

 

The waterfront revitalization projects in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati are expected to increase property values, encourage private investment, and contribute to vibrant communities, while improving connectivity between these cities and their beautiful water assets.

 

The Rise of Concentrated Suburban Poverty in the 21st Century

August 27th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

At the turn of the century, the sum of urban poor greatly outnumbered the sum of suburban residents living beneath the federal poverty line[i]. However, much has changed in the physical location of poverty over the last decade, so much so that it may now be said that suburbs contain nearly as many high-poverty[ii] tracts as cities, and almost half of all of the metro area poor population living in high-poverty tracts live in suburbs. These neighborhoods have the potential to become areas of concentrated poverty in due time, which is why there is a need for them to be closely monitored. Suburbs face an uphill battle in combating this unforeseen problem, as they are ill-equipped and unprepared for this growing issue.

The most challenging aspect of this revision in demographic trends lies in the distribution of poverty, which has been marked by intermittent clusters of poor in the display of distressed neighborhoods[iii]. As documented in the American Community Survey, the concentrated poverty rate (the share of poor residents living in distressed tracts) had jumped from 9.1% in 2000 to 12.2% from 2008-2012.

 

Although concentrated poverty is still higher in urban areas, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in tracts of concentrated poverty between 2000 and 2008-12.

Although concentrated poverty is still higher in urban areas, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in tracts of concentrated poverty between 2000 and 2008-12.

 

Impoverished neighborhoods provide residents with fewer opportunities and more hardships, so that locals become entrapped in an endless cycle of poverty, making it near impossible to escape. This, of course, has serious implications on the larger regions encompassing these run-down communities, as it becomes more difficult to promote growth in metropolitan areas when poverty proves to be a consistent issue. In order to more effectively tackle this growing issue, there is a need for more integrated and cross-cutting approaches. Read the rest of this entry »