Neighborhoods in America’s Legacy Cities: A Dialogue in Detroit

August 4th, 2016

Greater Ohio Policy Center is excited to cosponsor a four-day event next month on the historic preservation of America’s legacy cities. The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSDHA), will convene an interdisciplinary meeting in Detroit, Michigan September 13-16, 2016 to discuss the role of historic preservation in revitalizing legacy cities, where long-term population loss and economic decline present significant challenges for the future of the urban built environment.

Feedback from the  Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities conference held at Cleveland State University in 2014 strongly demonstrates a need to continue and strengthen this important conversation among key stakeholders and decision-makers from legacy cities throughout the country.  At this crucial juncture, there are difficult questions about what role preservation can and should play in shaping the future of legacy cities, how to identify and leverage historic assets, what benefits and impediments exist in integrating preservation into community and economic development, and how we make decisions about what we save and what we destroy.  Detroit, a true legacy city that is rebuilding after years of disinvestment, will provide the perfect setting and context in which to raise these questions.

DetroitSkyline wikicommons Cropped

Photo Credit: Wikicommons

The conference will bring together preservationists, community developers, economic developers, urban planners, urban policymakers, urban designers, and others.  It will be an opportunity to cross-collaborate, share ideas, and devise solutions with the goals of launching a more integrated approach to planning for the future of Legacy Cities, bringing historic preservation into urban policymaking and crafting a 21st century preservation profession that is responsive to the needs and conditions of Legacy Cities.

Go Here to learn more about this Event


Ohio as a Bellwether for National Elections

July 20th, 2016

By Alison Goebel, GOPC Deputy Director

On July 13, Kyle Kondik spoke at the Columbus Metropolitan Club; Kondik is the author of the recently released book, The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.

In his research, Kondik looked at the last 30 national election cycles (i.e. his research begins in the late 1800s) and compared Ohio’s voting record to the national results.  He found that in nearly every election, Ohio very closely mirrored the national outcomes in terms of winners and percent differences between candidates.

Kondik argues Ohio’s unique political, cultural, and physical geography have been, historically, a good representation of the country—Ohio has many smaller cities but no one major urban center that pulls the state Democratic (as Chicago does in Illinois), no single industry that dominates the state (as coal does in West Virginia), and Ohio’s urban and rural areas are moderated by its growing suburban areas.

Interviewed by Karen Kasler, Kondik predicted that Ohio’s “collar counties”—those counties outside Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton that make up the metro regions of the state—will take on more importance in the 2016 election.  These are the places that are seeing the greatest population growth and are politically more variable than the urban county they surround. 

Kondik did not predict how Ohio would go in November, but he did predict that Ohio’s final “spreads” would mirror the national outcome in this election.  He did also note that in future elections, Ohio’s relative racial homogeneity may make Ohio less of a bellwether as Latinos and other racial-ethnic groups continue to grow in numbers, nationally.

As former Attorney General Richard Cordray’s Director of Policy and Research, Kondik was a wealth of information on how Ohio compared to national trends but also how individual counties in Ohio performed compared to each other over a number of decades.

While Kondik’s research may not have a direct land use angle, his perceptiveness of how policy and politics unfold does provide insight into Ohio’s current local, state, and national political environment. 


Congress considers changes to EPA revolving loan formulas: Ohio may lose ground

July 6th, 2016

By Jon Honeck, GOPC Senior Policy Fellow


Each year Congress appropriates funds for the U.S. EPA to provide capitalization grants for state revolving loan funds for wastewater treatment.  In Ohio, this fund is known as the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF).   The Ohio EPA sets priorities for the fund according to state needs and federal guidelines.  Local communities submit applications for loans to help finance wastewater treatment plant, sewer system upgrades, or conversions of septic systems to centralized sewage collection.  Ohio’s allotment of the total appropriation is set at 5.7% of the total appropriation amount; the state received $78.5 million in 2016. The annual subsidy allows the WPCLF to offer interest rates below standard market rates.  When combined with loan repayments, the fund can offer substantial amounts of financing.  In 2015, it made a record $759.6 million in loans. 

Congress orders a review

In 2014, Congress passed a major overhaul to the Clean Water Act.  This legislation, known as the Water Resources Development and Reform Act, mandated that the EPA review the allocation formula for the Clean Water Act revolving loan program.  The formula had changed little since the program was created in 1987.  At that time, the formula roughly reflected states’ share of the national population and share of the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey. 

Congress asked the US EPA to determine whether the formula addresses the water quality needs of states based on: (1) the most recent Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (CWNS); and (2) other information that the agency determined appropriate.  The CWNS takes place every four years.  In the 2012 survey, Ohio wastewater utilities identified $14.6 billion in capital projects that needed to be addressed over a 20-year period.  (Click here to access the 2012 CWNS).

Potential Revisions to the Formula

The US EPA presented its report to Congress in May, 2016.  It can be accessed here.  The agency’s main conclusion is that “the current allotment does not adequately reflect the reported water quality needs or the most recent census population for the majority of States” (emphasis in original, p. 5).    The report considers four basic factors that could be used in a revised formula:

  • Clean Watershed Needs Survey (CWNS, which the agency admits underestimates water quality needs)
  • Resident Population from the 2010 U.S. Census
  • Water Quality Impairment Component Ratio (WQICR), an existing database documenting pollution in rivers, lakes, and streams, derived from data submitted by the states; and,
  • Ratio of revolving loan fund assistance to the federal capitalization grant over the past ten years (to reward states that have increased project funding by leveraging their federal grants as much as possible);

Using these factors, the report considers three possible options for a new formula.  Each option would limit a state’s potential loss to 25% and its potential gain to 200%. 

1 2012 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (70%), 2010 population (30%)
2 2012 CWNS (50%), 2010 population (30%), WQICR (20%)
3 2012 CWNS (50%), 2010 population (30%), WQICR (10%), Ratio of assistance to federal grant (10%)

Ohio’s allocation would decline

Ohio fares poorly in all three scenarios, mostly because its share of the national population has fallen by over a full percentage point in the last 30 years, to about 3.7% of the national total.  Interestingly, Ohio’s share of the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey has fallen only slightly, reflecting the large amount of EPA-mandated combined sewer overflow work that must be done.   All three scenarios would yield double-digit declines in Ohio’s allotment, with option 1 creating an 18.2% decline, and options 2 and 3 at the maximum reduction of 25%.   In Program Year 2016, a 25% reduction would have meant a loss of nearly $20 million in federal funding. 

What happens now?

The scenarios in the report are only suggestions.  Congress would have to pass legislation to modify the current formula.  Formulas that did not have a “stop-loss” rule of 25% could have even greater effects on Ohio’s allocation.  Significant federal funding cuts would make it more difficult for the WPCLF to provide low interest rate loans to Ohio communities at a time when sewer rates are rising and affordability is becoming an issue.  It would become especially difficult to offer principal forgiveness options to Ohio’s poorest communities.  These communities already face reduced federal funding options from cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program.  Between 2000 and 2014, average Ohio sewer charges increased by 85 percent, more than twice the rate of consumer inflation.[1]  In a 2015 report on infrastructure needs, GOPC identified replacement and upgrades to water and sewer infrastructure as critical needs that span Ohio’s cities and villages of all population sizes.  Key stakeholders in the area should make every effort to inform Congress about the importance of maintaining Clean Water Act revolving loan program funding. 

[1] Author’s analysis of average user charges from Ohio EPA, 2014 Water and Sewer Rate Survey.  Consumer Price Inflation increased by 37 percent.

GOPC Discusses Ohio’s Demographic Trends with Township Administrators

July 10th, 2015


Last month, Greater Ohio Policy Center’s Associate Director Alison D. Goebel presented “Ohio’s Changing Demographic and Their Impact on Townships” to the Ohio Township Administrators Network, hosted by the Ohio Townships Association.

Discussing current characteristics of Ohio’s population and where different demographic trends are headed, the presentation provided useful strategies and state-policy recommendations on how to strengthen existing communities and prepare for future needs and demands.

Administrators from around the state attended and represented a range of townships, including urban, suburban, and ex-urban townships.

The presentation can be found here.


Highlights from the 2015 Greater Ohio Summit

June 11th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center would like to thank all the participants of Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies for contributing to the Summit’s great success!

It was not missed that the Summit occurred while important discussions were taking place at the Statehouse about the future of financial tools for neighborhoods and cities throughout Ohio. Greater Ohio was able to testify while also hosting the Summit, and we will keep you updated on these ongoing legislative issues here on our blog.

We have included a recap of some of the highlights of the 2015 Summit below:


Coleman Calls for an Urban Agenda & Leading Mayors from Around State Discuss the Role of Cities in Ohio’s Future


As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman of Columbus gave the following remarks at the Summit on June 9th:

“We need a state legislature that understands cities are economic engines, not economic drains,” Coleman said during his keynote speech at the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s summit on urban innovation and sustainable growth.

Coleman wants to see better public transit — both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He wants the state help to create more-walkable neighborhoods and fight blight, and he wants the legislature to renew a state fund to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be redeveloped.

“We’ve come to the point where we need a statewide urban agenda,” he said at the Westin Columbus hotel Downtown.

The Summit closed with a plenary panel of leading mayors from across the state: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Mayor Randy Riley of Wilmington, and Mayor John McNally of Youngstown. Highlighting recent successes in their cities, the mayors struck an optimistic tone on the future of cities in Ohio and each noted the unique relationship their city had with its surrounding region and the state. Discussing challenges facing their cities—including the difficulty of blight and connecting workers to jobs and opportunity—the mayors cautioned that the state of Ohio could do more to support cities.

Greater Ohio Policy Center has been leading the charge for a statewide urban agenda in Ohio and will continue to do so through the current state budget season and in the future. We believe that an urban agenda would support the revitalization of neighborhoods and cities throughout the state, help connect workers to employment centers, create vibrant communities of choice, and strengthen Ohio’s economy.


2015 Award Winners

2015 0610 Greater Ohio Policy Center-Catalytic Partner - Tom Wilke City of Kent  Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala  Kelvin Berry Kent State Univ  GOSDA Chair Chr

We would like to congratulate the winners of the first ever Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards! The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio.

Public Sector Leader Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery, and Preble Counties, and is a recognized advocate for workforce development, community and economic development.

Private Sector Champion Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a private sector individual or entity that has demonstrated a commitment to and excellence in investing in existing communities and strengthening local economies in Ohio. Their contributions foster a holistic approach to sustainable development, leading to environmental, social, and economic prosperity.

The Model Group is an integrated property development, construction, and management company working Cincinnati. Partnering with a variety of funding sources, local municipalities, and community stakeholders, Model Group builds and redevelops housing and mixed-used developments that revitalize and transform urban neighborhoods.

Nonprofit of the Year Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a nonprofit individual or entity in Ohio that works with communities to identify local needs and addresses them with efficiency and effectiveness. Open to 501-c3 designated nonprofits and philanthropic institutions, this Award honors those organizations that are innovating community solutions and meeting local needs and opportunities with distinction.

University Circle, Inc. is responsible for the growth of Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood as a premier center of innovation in health care, education, arts, and culture.  Utilizing real estate development, business services, and advocacy, UCI has helped to create a vibrant urban district that is a national model.

The Catalytic Partnership Award Winner:
Communities are strengthened when sectors work together to meet common goals for sustainable development. This Award recognizes a cross-sector partnership that has had a measurable positive impact in a community or region in Ohio, and represents a model for creative and effective collaboration.

The City of Kent and Kent State University have brought together city, university, and business assets to catalyze economic revival in downtown Kent.  With the local Regional Transit Authority and private developers, the revitalization plan has attracted $130 million in investments.


Media Attention on the Summit

Illustrating the relevance of the speakers and topics covered, the Summit received a great deal of media attention! You can take a look at some of the articles about the Summit on our website here.

If you would like to see all the live tweets from the event, go to our Storify page here.


Presentations Now Available!

All the panel presentations are available for download via Dropbox here. Enjoy!



Greater Ohio Summit: Last Call for Award Nominations, Hotel Reservations

May 1st, 2015

The Greater Ohio Policy Center invites you to attend our 2015 Summit, Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions. This Summit will bring together national experts, state policymakers, and local leaders from all sectors to discuss new strategies for transforming Ohio’s cities and regions and for making Ohio economically competitive in the 21st century. Click here to see the Summit agenda.

The discounted room rate at the Westin Columbus is available until May 19, 2015. Click here to register now and make a reservation.

Last Call for Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Award Nominations!

The Awards will recognize public, private, and non-profit sector leaders who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities and regions in Ohio.  TODAY is the deadline for award nominations.  Click here to find out more & send in your nomination.

Interested in Sponsorship Opportunities?

By becoming a sponsor of the Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies Summit, your organization will be supporting the seminal statewide Summit in Ohio that brings together national experts with state policymakers and local leaders to highlight ways to transform Ohio’s cities and metros. Sponsors will be featured at the Summit and on promotional materials, and will have exhibit tables throughout the event.

For questions or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Marianne Eppig of Greater Ohio Policy Center ( or 614-224-0187).


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.


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.



Central Ohio’s insight2050 Demonstrates the Significance of Regional Land Use

December 15th, 2014

The insight2050 panel at the Columbus Metropolitan Club on Dec. 10, 2015. Pictured from left: Yaromir Steiner, Kyle Katz, Steve Schoeny, and Keith Myers.

This past week, Greater Ohio Policy Center attended a Columbus Metropolitan Club event on insight2050 and the impact of land use decisions on our health, economy, environment, and mobility.

Here are some highlights from the panel, which were live tweeted from the event by GOPC:

  • Yaromir Steiner: what are the infrastructure, health, social, environmental & fiscal costs of the way we develop? #Insight2050 answers this question
  • Yaromir Steiner: land use is the critical determining factor for the success and quality of life of places.
  • Yaromir Steiner: economic development is about creating places where people want to live.
  • Steve Schoeny: we don’t have enough #transportation options for downtown. This will take investment to change.
  • Keith Myers: cities have been shaped by #transportation since the beginning. We need transportation options supportive of #development we want.
  • Keith Myers: the transformation of cities requires political leadership & commitment

Click here to see all of our live tweets from the event on Storify.

About insight2050:

insight2050 is a collaborative initiative among MORPCColumbus 2020ULI Columbus, and a stakeholder committee consisting of public and private partners. The initiative aims to help Central Ohio communities proactively plan for development and population growth over the next 30+ years, which is expected to be dramatically different from the past.

The first phase of insight2050 is a regional analysis that provides data for decision makers to understand the impact of future land use policies on specific factors influencing the region’s quality of life. The Scenario Results Report is now available online at

The regional growth scenarios that reflect different types of development patterns were informed by the latest data and projections and then compared utilizing a variety of metrics, such as land consumption, infrastructure costs, air pollution, household expenses for transportation and utilities, as well as public health and safety costs, to arrive at an assessment of their relative impacts.

The Importance of Regional Land Use

The scenarios developed through insight2050 lay out different ways the Central Ohio region can grow and the impacts those land use decisions have on the region’s future competitiveness, sustainability, and quality of life. The video above features Peter Calthorpe, whose firm developed insight2050, talking about the critical importance of land use.

Greater Ohio Policy Center is a firm believer in the immense significance of land use and will be addressing these issues of regional growth throughout the state at our upcoming Summit, Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies. Click here to learn more about the Summit.

Ohio’s Rural-Urban Connections: Learning from Marion County

November 14th, 2014

By Alison D. Goebel, Associate Director

At GOPC, we focus on researching policies and strategies that revitalize Ohio’s communities, particularly our cities that face legacy challenges. However, GOPC’s work has always had the dual purpose of valuing our urban cores and preserving Ohio’s open space and farmland.

Farmscape in Marion County, Ohio

I was reminded of the importance of preserving farmland and open space earlier this month when my Leadership Ohio class and I visited the farming community of Marion County, Ohio, to learn about agriculture’s contributions to Ohio’s life and economy and the greater national economy. Our hosts gave us incredible “behind the scenes” tours of livestock and crop farms and provided a window into the inextricable relationship between the rural and urban in Ohio.

One in seven Ohioans work in an agriculture-related field and as various speakers reminded us, the global food system starts with crop and livestock farmers. Ohio, which is on the eastern edge of the soy and corn belt, is a major contributor to the global food system: agriculture makes up 7% of Ohio’s GDP.

But Ohio remains an extremely urban state, and this mix of urban and rural create diverse metro areas. Marion County is one hour north of Columbus, and is arguably on the far edges of the Columbus metro. Many people I spoke to visited Columbus at least once a month for business or for pleasure–and some travel to Columbus much more often. But Marionites see themselves as part of the Marion community or a broader, less place-bound, rural community. They do not see themselves as being part of the Columbus ambit.

Alison in Marion County

Like I find in many communities in Ohio, there was a pride in place among the people I met in Marion County. And as is the case in many of Ohio’s communities, this pride in place derived from pride in work. Youngstowners’ fondness for their scrappy city is one enduring legacy of its steel mills. Marionites’ pride in rural living is a direct product of the hard, unrelenting hours that farming requires. This diversity within Ohio’s metros—this mix of urban, suburban, and rural; industrial, retail, and agricultural—is one of Ohio’s greatest strengths. Our industry diversity certainly helps Ohio weather economic storms, but the resulting cultural diversity also means that there is a place for everyone in Ohio.

The diversity of Ohio also means that we depend on one another. As one woman from Marion said as we talked about the shopping and entertainment options in Marion, “I’m glad I don’t live in Columbus, but I am glad it is there.” I could say the same about Marion County. For many reasons I would fail at being a good rural resident but I am extremely grateful for Marion County, where over 80% of its land is dedicated to the crops and livestock pastures that form the foundation to the country’s food system.

In Ohio, the economic reach of our cities is strong and extends across counties, but the impact of our agricultural lands are just as important. Maintaining this balance—keeping urban places urban and rural places rural—helps each place do what it does best.

Yearlings in Marion