Where Ohio is Sprawling and What It Means

April 2nd, 2014

Some areas in Ohio are sprawling, some are building in compact, connected ways, and the difference between the two strategies has implications for millions of Ohioans’ day-to-day lives.

Measuring Sprawl 2014, released today by national advocacy group Smart Growth America, ranks the most sprawling and most compact areas of the country. The new report evaluates development patterns in 221 major metropolitan areas and their counties based on four factors: density, land use mix, street connectivity and activity centering. Each metro area received a Sprawl Index score based on these factors.*

Here is how regions in Ohio ranked:

Metropolitan Statistical Area National Rank Composite (total) score
Canton-Massillon, Ohio 93 106.99
Akron, Ohio 111 103.15
Dayton, Ohio 116 101.48
Toledo, Ohio 117 100.90
Columbus, Ohio 138 93.00
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio 153 85.62
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 166 80.75
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 175 78.08

* The four factors were combined in equal weight to calculate each area’s Sprawl Index score. The average Index is 100, meaning areas with scores above 100 tend to be more compact and connected, and areas with scores below 100 are more sprawling. Visit Smart Growth America to view the full rankings >>

The new report also examines how different development patterns relate to the quality of life in these areas—and the differences are startling. People in compact, connected areas have greater upward economic mobility than their peers in sprawling areas. That is, a child born in the bottom 20% of the income scale has a better chance of rising to the top 20% of the income scale by age 30.

People in compact, connected metro areas spend less on the combined expenses of housing and transportation. Housing costs are higher in compact, connected areas, but these higher costs are more than offset by lower transportation costs. People in compact, connected metro areas also have more transportation options. People in these areas tend to walk more, take transit more, own fewer cars and spend less time driving than their peers in sprawling areas.

Finally, people in compact, connected areas have longer, healthier, safer lives. Life expectancy is greater in compact, connected areas, and driving rates (and their associated risk of a fatal collision), body mass index, air quality and violent crime all contribute to this difference.

Outcomes like this are why Greater Ohio Policy Center is dedicated to helping Ohio’s regions develop in a more sustainable way. Helping people in Ohio live healthier, wealthier, happier lives is why we do the work we do, and smarter development is a key part of making that happen.

Read the full findings of Measuring Sprawl 2014 and see how every major metro area in the country compares when it comes to sprawl at www.smartgrowthamerica.org/measuring-sprawl.

GOPC Applauds Transportation Reform in Pennsylvania

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.

Revitalization of Ohio Streams

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.

City-County Agreement Could Spark Downtown Cleveland

June 19th, 2013

Above is a design concept by James Corner Field Operations for Cleveland’s potentially new Public Square.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson have made a historic agreement to reinvest in downtown’s infrastructure.  The Plain Dealer is reporting that the total money available is  $93 million because the new Medical Mart is expected to finish under budget and ahead of schedule.

As reported by Steven Litt, “FitzGerald wants to avoid spreading that sum around the county like peanut butter on a thin layer of small efforts”.  Instead he wants to focus the money on the downtown that will expand the region’s reach for tourism, job growth, and infrastructure.

He will leverage the money to get a total amount of $300-350 million to spend on the new area created by the bus-rapid transit HealthLine on Euclid Avenue to the downtown casino and convention center.

Proposals include:

  • 650 room convention hotel
  • Envision a downtown mall/Public Square
  • Pedestrian bridge over the lakefront railroad lines
  • 740 space parking garage
  • Trigger residential/office/retail development
  • Better bike/pedestrian connections

“The partnership signals a new civic awareness that in addition to building excellent attractions, Cleveland needs to acquire a beautiful public realm that encourages visitors and residents alike to enjoy the city on foot or on a bike,” according to Steven Litt.

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are taking significant steps toward realizing smarter growth throughout the region.  New development along a growing corridor could lead to job creation for the region’s unemployed as well as boost the overall economy of Cleveland.

Smart Growth America Releases Report on Economic Benefits of Smart Growth

June 5th, 2013

Smart Growth America recently released a new report titled “Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development,” which discusses the economic benefits of smart growth as opposed to traditional development patterns.  According to SGA, it is the first to determine a national average for how much communities can expect to save through the use of smart growth strategies.

The report analyzes 17 case study areas, comparing development scenarios within each. The first scenario, “smart growth development,” is characterized by more efficient use of land; a mixture of homes, businesses and services located close together; and better connections between streets and neighborhoods. The second scenario, “conventional suburban development,” is characterized by less efficient use of land with homes, schools and businesses separated and areas designed primarily for driving.

Their findings include the following:

  1. Smart growth development costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure.
  2. Smart growth development saves an average of 10 percent of the costs for ongoing delivery of services.
  3. Smart growth development generates 10 times more tax revenue per acre than conventional suburban development

Ohio has seen an increase in the adoption of smart growth policies, including most recently in Piqua. GOPC continues to address the need for more smart growth policies throughout the state.

Google Earth Timelapse Shows Sprawl Since 1984

June 5th, 2013

From 1984 to 2012, the Central Ohio region has changed in population and in land development, as shown in the satellite images above. To view land use changes in any part of the world from 1984 to 2012, click here and scroll down to the embedded Google Earth map, in which you can zoom and scroll to find your area of interest.

The City of Columbus has grown from 564,866 in 1980 to 809,798 persons in 2012. Land development has expanded out from the city center over that period as well, as can be seen in the satellite image timelapse. In the last decade, however, it appears as though more development has occurred within the inner city ring, which is a promising trend for smart growth.

Google is working with its public and private partners to continue releasing these images to the public in the future.  According to Google, this is the most comprehensive photography ever created of the planet.  Timelapse videos of this sort could be used as a tool to see the outcomes of sprawl, climate change, and natural disasters over time–hopefully contributing to public awareness about the need for smart land use decisions.

“A Terrifying, Fascinating Timelapse of 30 Years of Human Impact on Earth” – The Atlantic Cities

Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties: The 2013 Summit

May 1st, 2013

Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties:

Tools & Policies to Transform Communities

October 22-23, 2013
The Westin Columbus
310 S. High Street
Columbus, Ohio, 43215

The Greater Ohio Policy Center & The Thriving Communities Institute invite you to attend Revitalizing Ohio’s Vacant Properties, a two-day interactive training and policy solutions summit that will offer hands-on techniques and strategies to address vacant and abandoned property development challenges and generate redevelopment opportunities. It is intended for local and regional leaders, land bank practitioners, nonprofit community development organizations, as well as private sector representatives.

The summit will provide opportunities for input into policy reforms that arm local leaders with new tools and that align policies with local community development needs. Sessions will feature local practitioners, financial institutions, and state and national level redevelopment experts. The Institute’s goals—training and education, coalition-building and policy advancement—are vital to productively revitalize Ohio’s communities.

For questions or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kate Hydock of Thriving Communities Institute (khydock@wrlandconservancy.org or 216-515-8300) or Christina Burke of Greater Ohio Policy Center (cburke@greaterohio.org or 614-224-0187).

Agenda and online registration information to come.

Detroit’s Rebirth: “Future City” Report offers new ideas and solutions

February 13th, 2013

By John Gardocki, Greater Ohio Policy Center Intern

“Cities are living places that require ongoing awareness and firm yet flexible approaches to decision making which acknowledge changing realities and multiple voices, leading to pragmatic and agreed-on solutions” (Detroit Future City Framework, 12).

Future City, a two year report offering short and long term solutions to restore Detroit was recently released by Detroit Works. It is the culmination of an in-depth 24 month process involving 30,000 interviews, 70,000 surveys, and hundreds of public meetings.

Below are some key statistics that demonstrate the challenges Detroit is facing and the need to come together to solve these problems.

  • 79,725 out of 350,000 units are vacant in the city of Detroit-meaning the city has an astounding vacancy rate of 22.7%
  • 700,000 people live in a city originally designed for 2 million people.
  • There is only one job for every four Detroit residents
  • A recent survey of Detroit residents revealed that nearly one-third of the respondents would leave the city within five years, citing safety as the top reason.

Four major targets are to be evaluated in 2030 that stakeholders see in their vision that will be accomplished from the framework.

By 2030, Detroit will have a stabilized population
By 2030 the city will have two or three jobs for each person living in the city
By 2030, the Detroit Metropolitan region has an integrated regional public transportation system
By 2030, Detroit will become a city for all
 

The plan outlines several strategies that should be put into place to make a permanent transformation in Detroit over the next 20 years or more. There are five major planning elements: Economic Growth, Land Use, City Systems, Neighborhoods, and Land and Building Assets built within the framework to enforce the strategies:

  • Economic Growth is intended to make Detroit’s economy more knowledge based by utilizing four economic pillars: Global Trade/Industrial, Digital/Creative, Local Entrepreneurship, and Education & Medical. The four knowledge based sectors are meant to diversify the workforce.
  • Land Use is integral to transforming Detroit by addressing four key ideas: A City of Multiple Employment Districts, A City of Connecting People to Opportunity, A Green City Where Landscapes Contribute to Health, and A City of Distinct, Attractive Neighborhoods. The city’s current footprint is too expansive to meet the current population and fiscal capacity and so it needs to be refocused to be more sustainable.
  • City Systems revises the path to sustainable systems by using three transformative ideas: Strategic Infrastructure Renewal, Landscape As 21st Century Infrastructure, and Diversified Transportation for Detroit and The Region. This element is important to the city to determine which systems are critical to remain online, discontinued, or upgraded. Financially the city cannot afford to give out these resources to areas that are not populated.
  • Neighborhood utilizes five ideas to create more choices for residents: A City of Many Assets, A City of Neighborhood Choices, A City of Different Strategies for Different Neighborhoods, A City of Diverse Housing Types for Diverse Populations, and A City of Residents Who Engage In Their Own Futures. To remain competitive and meet the demands of a 21st century city, Detroit needs to understand the needs of their many neighborhoods and the unique challenges each neighborhood may face.
  • Land and Building Assets is critical to solving Detroit’s vacancy problems which will be initiated by: A City That Shares A Vision: Coordinating the Management of Vacant Land, A City Where Everything Is Connected: Viewing Vacant and Problem Properties Within One Interrelated System, A City of Strategic Approaches: Recognizing The Uniqueness of Each Property’s Value and Challenges, A New Urban Landscape: Using Land for Infrastructure And Innovation, and a City Where Public Facility Investments Count: Aligning Public Facilities With Land Use Transportation. Detroit has numerous neighborhoods that are beset by blight and have vacant land that needs to be utilized for new uses like parks, urban farming, and commercialization. To get a handle on the declining population will mean a critical movement to alter the vacancy problem in Detroit.

The use of info-graphics and GIS data helps to showcase Detroit’s urban crises and how they are interconnected. Figuring out exactly where the problems are heavily weighted will help impact the city’s strategy.

Detroit has a wide range of economic assets that should be capitalized on to fuel economic growth. Assets include existing businesses, institutions and transportation infrastructure. (Detroit Future City Framework, 38).

This first of its kind report can be a great tool for other cities across America facing similar problems to better assess and find new and innovative solutions.

Highlights from “Advancing Ohio’s Urban Agenda”

January 25th, 2013

On our journey from Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland for the joint ULI/GOPC/LOCUS event series, “Advancing Ohio’s Urban Agenda: Walkable Communities for Globally Competitive Cities,” trends amongst the three cities became apparent as participants engaged in the dialogue about addressing the market demand for walkable development in Ohio. We were able to capture some of these trends in both text and film (yes, videos are coming!) form and would like to share some of the key highlights with you.

Highlights from the Events:

  • Millennials (aka Generation Y) are shifting market demand and cities in Ohio must meet that demand for walkable, urban development in order to remain globally competitive.
  • As more walkable development (approximately 100-500 meters in diameter of mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development) is added to areas, their property values increase and the local market improves.
  • Transportation drives development. If developers build quality products in the right locations with access to urban-friendly transportation systems, they will get a price premium. Seventy percent of ballots across the nation to increase sales tax to fund public transportation have passed.
  • Read the rest of this entry »

Advancing Ohio’s Urban Agenda

January 18th, 2013

In Ohio and around the country, real estate developers and investors are recognizing pent-up demand for and a market shift toward sustainable, walkable urban places. Despite this paradigm shift and change in market momentum, many local, state and federal policies currently in place distort development incentives and hamper efforts to create the development consumers want and that support strong local economies. Urban developers and real estate and land use experts can align to provide state and national policy makers with expert advice on current consumer demand and the many benefits of urban and metropolitan growth strategies.

Over the past few days—January 16th and 17th—Greater Ohio traveled to Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland to co-host events with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) district councils of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, as well as LOCUS to host “Advancing Ohio’s Urban Agenda: Walkable Communities for Globally Competitive Cities,” an exclusive series featuring Christopher Leinberger, President of LOCUS—a national network of real estate developers and investors that advocates for sustainable, walkable urban development in America’s metropolitan areas.

These first-of-their-kind events in Ohio provided a forum to connect developers from urban centers across the state to discuss the demand for sustainable communities. The gatherings were a critical first step toward identifying ways to inform policymakers and ultimately help more communities across Ohio develop in ways that are sustainable for the environment, the people living in them, and their bottom lines.

Click here to read Mark Ferenchick’s Columbus Dispatch article on the Columbus event: “Walkable urban development will keep younger professionals in Columbus, expert says”.