NYC Traffic Engineer Discusses Benefits Cities Accrue from Investments in Walkable, People-Friendly Communities

September 30th, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

 Last week, Greater Ohio Policy Center attended a lecture given by Sam Schwartz at the Ohio State University. Schwartz is one of the world’s most famous traffic engineers and has recently published a book called Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and Fall of Cars. Known as the “Jane Jacobs of Traffic” and in Canada as the “Wayne Gretzky of Traffic Planning,” Schwartz works with communities to develop more walkable, people-friendly environments that reduce people’s reliance on cars. Like, Schwartz, GOPC advocates for policies that strengthen Ohio’s public transportation systems as well as multimodal systems, which include biking and walking, in order to strengthen neighborhoods and cities.

 Schwartz showed projection graphs from a few decades ago that predicted driving would increase over time. Data show that miles travelled on the road actually began to decline ten years ago. Interestingly, this wane actually began in 2004, thus ruling out the theory that it might have been the Great Recession that caused this decline and instead suggesting that people have become less interested in driving. Even though drivers have travelled fewer miles since 2004, federal budgets for highways and bridges have still risen because they were based on the original projections that driving would increase as well. Thus, an increasing amount of tax revenue has been spent on expanding roads and highways across the country, which Schwartz believes has done very little to improve transportation problems that persist today.

Sam Schwartz

For example, study after study concludes that highway expansion does not actually reduce congestion on the road in the long term. GOPC emphasizes this in much of its policy work and supports methods of highway system preservation rather than expansion, which is especially appropriate in a state that is not substantially adding new population. Schwartz indicates that the concept of induced demand comes into play when roads are widened, whereby people are then more likely to use the road when they know it has been expanded, thus perpetuating the problem that there are an excessive number of vehicles on the road. Instead, in environments where people can choose to bike, walk, or take transit, space opens up and congestion is ameliorated.

Culturally, it seems to Schwartz that young people today are looking to branch out to using multimodal options. He believes that part of this stems from people spending so much time as kids in the backseat of a car going from school, home, and soccer practice. Whereas freedom a few decades ago was seen as owning and using a car, these days he believes it means having a phone app where you have access to many different types of transportation, such as Uber and Lyft, or information on when and where the next bus will arrive. Moreover, much of Schwartz’s work emphasizes the health dangers posed to people who are not active. By building people-friendly environments where people can move around, communities will help reduce the risk factors for many non-communicable diseases caused from inactivity.

Interestingly, Schwartz believes that transit will only be properly funded once the well-to-do start to use it in that particular state or city. Once a community shows that users along the spectrum of socio-economic statuses are using the service, then the mode will likely receive more attention and will generate more resources.

Schwartz’s talk reinforced GOPC’s vision for Ohio—a modernized, well-funded transportation system that adequately supports transit rider, bicyclists, walkers, and drivers.


Remaking Cities After Abandonment Lecture Emphasizes Role of Community Efforts

September 16th, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

This past Wednesday, the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University hosted a lecture by Margaret Dewar, a University of Michigan professor teaching at the Taubman College of Architecture. Dewar focuses her research on economic development, housing, and urban planning and she investigates the ways planners seek to ameliorate population and employment loss. During the lecture, Dewar outlined three main questions that she seeks to answer as part of her research:

  • What does a city become after abandonment?
  • What makes a difference in what a city becomes after abandonment?
  • What should a city become after abandonment?

The theme of Dewar’s research findings is that even in the cases of extraordinary shock marked by the collapse of government and a plunge in housing values, social groups and institutions make significant strides in community building. According to Dewar, this concept is important to understand given that prior research had only concluded that community efforts could produce smaller-scale change, such as inducing a decrease in crime.

Dewar lamented that during the mortgage foreclosure crisis in Detroit during the last decade, local leadership demonstrated little in the way of support for citizen resilience. Instead of imploring citizens to stay in their homes and rebuild their communities in the midst of a widespread crisis, the previous Detroit mayor tried to clear people out of their houses because city services were so insufficient. In Dewar’s view, these services should have been restructured so that people would have more incentive to remain and persevere in rebuilding their neighborhoods. For instance, citizens could have found creative ways to combine their garbage each week in order to have more efficient garbage collection services when cuts needed to be made.

Dewar highlighted the need for governments to prioritize community development corporations (CDCs) when seeking to rebuild neighborhoods that have suffered from recent abandonment. GOPC partners with CDC associations around Ohio and likewise recognizes the important work they contribute to community investment and redevelopment. Dewar also stressed the cost savings that cities can benefit through transitioning to green stormwater infrastructure. GOPC is constantly researching and discovering new ways for local governments to finance and modernize their sewer and water infrastructure.

DetroitSkyline wikicommons Cropped

Detroit, Michigan. Source: Wikicommons


Pokémon Go Bringing Gamers to Underused Public Spaces

August 29th, 2016

By Alex Highley

In the last few months, Pokémon Go has helped shift the gaming community from their TV and computer monitors to outdoor locations where they search for highly coveted Pokémon species. By bringing gamers out of their homes to parks, monuments, streets, and courtyards that they otherwise might never have visited, this game is changing the way these public spaces are being used, at least for now. Businesses are taking note and are attempting to take advantage of the new market of people that are within a short distance. Of course, the long-term value of the game remains to be seen since the popularity of the game will likely wane eventually. But there is the possibility that more video games will be created like Pokémon Go in the future, further drawing throngs of people into public areas and engaging them with the surrounding amenities, businesses, and people. GOPC supports creative ways of bringing people into contact with the assets and anchor institutions of Ohio’s cities.

Pokemon Go Downtown Dayton

With gamers walking down underused streets and ambling around public parks, people who otherwise might not have been outside are now new visitors to these areas, and more likely to participate in other activities such as buying a coffee at a nearby shop, interacting with strangers, or walking around a previously empty park. Increased interaction in these areas that were previously uninhabited will help boost the image of these public spaces, which often suffer from the stigma attached to underuse. New ways of attracting new visitors to city parks and plazas will help spur economic and social growth in public spaces in the future.


CMC Forum Explores Urban Revitalization

May 2nd, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

Last week, Greater Ohio Policy Center attended Columbus Metropolitan Club’s panel on the way cities are working to attract and retain talent, and thrive in today’s economy. The session was moderated by OSU History Professor David Staley, who asked questions to Lee Fisher, President of CEO for Cities and Steve Schoeny of the Columbus Department of Development.

Fisher began the session by declaring that in the coming years, urbanization will be the single most important demographic change in the coming years, with many people choosing to move to cities. Today many cities struggle to provide the vehicles to fully use their talent, despite there being plenty of talent available. Attracting new talent, however, can only happen if cities have the tools for people to collaborate. Moreover, Schoeny believes that retaining talent is a big challenge for cities, as many young, educated people will look to move elsewhere. Schoeny emphasized the need to create places that connect housing with jobs, because people often choose to where to live before they decide where to work. This idea reflects GOPC’s support for place-based investment, to build off existing resources, and the idea that players should take advantage of the assets that already exist in Ohio’s cities.

CMC urban revitalization 4.20

Schoeny believes that successful cities share three common features: they are dense, active, and connected. One key ingredient to all of these is having lively public spaces, such as parks and bike paths, where people can meet each other and share ideas. Fisher echoed this sentiment, declaring that active cities have at least 10 public spaces, which ultimately improve our health. Moreover, active communities, according to Schoeny, are incumbent on robust public transportation systems by expanding choices for everyone. GOPC concurs with this assessment and has been working in recent months to boost resources for multimodal transportation options.

GOPC Legislative Update February 2016

February 26th, 2016

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

Bills Available Online at

Bills Available Online at

Updates on Key Bills:greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag  HB 182 UPDATE: HB 182 continues to move smoothly through the legislative process. On February 10th, the bill, which proposes to allow local governments to establish Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDDS) for development purposes, unanimously passed out of the House. Since then the bill has been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee where it will receive final review. GOPC expects members within the Senate will aptly receive the bill.

greater-ohio-flag  HB 233 UPDATE: Since our last report, HB 233 received its customary third hearing within the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill, which proposes to authorize municipal corporations to create downtown redevelopment districts (DRDs) and innovation districts for the purposes of promoting the rehabilitation of historic buildings and encourage economic development, had several witnesses attend committee to offer support earlier this month. Proponents of HB 233 included Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney, the Ohio Municipal League, Heritage Ohio, the Springfield Port Authority, and Greater Ohio Policy Center. GOPC suspects HB 233 will receive a fourth and final hearing before being sent to the Senate Floor for third consideration.

greater-ohio-flag  SJR3 UPDATE: Senate Joint Resolution 3, which is one of numerous efforts geared towards addressing Ohio’s “clean water” issue, received its very first hearing on February 10th in the Senate Finance Committee. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) offered testimony asking the committee to consider his plan to expand sewer and water improvements for municipalities, counties, townships, and other government entities. During the hearing Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), who is also Chair of the Lake Erie Caucus, told Senator Schiavoni that he agrees that the state needs to tackle this issue and that SJR3 could be part of the strategy.

New Bills & Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:

HB 463 is sponsored by State Representative Johnathan Dever (R-Madeira). This bill proposes to establish expedited actions to foreclose mortgages on vacant residential properties. You may recall our coverage on another bill (HB 134), which offers similar reformative measures to the foreclosure process. HB 463 does indeed amend sections of the Ohio Revised Code akin to HB 134, but there are variances. HB 463 is distinctive in three ways: 1) proposes to allow judgement creditors the right to elect a public selling officer (county sheriff) or a private selling officer to sell the property; 2) orders the state to create and maintain a statewide sheriff’s website where auctions can be managed and conducted; 3) allows a person not in possession of an instrument the right to enforce the instrument if there is proof of entitlement.

Representative Dever’s approach to remedy the issues that exist within the current mortgage foreclosure process pushes the foreclosure process to become more modernized via the creation of an online website. GOPC is continuing to review the potential consequences of the bill, , but we are fully supportive of the principle and overall objective of expediting mortgage foreclosure on vacant and abandoned properties.


For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our Previous Legislative Updates.

National Leaders Announce Release of Action Agenda for Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities

December 7th, 2015

Urban Leaders and Landmark Experts Celebrate Newark’s Hahne & Company Revitalization As Example of How Historic Preservation Can Spur Development and Strengthen Legacy Cities Across the Nation

Newark, New Jersey—Today, the Preservation Rightsizing Network (PRN) released a new Action Agenda for Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities, which lays out a wide-ranging plan to address urban challenges by advancing new development while protecting communities’ cultural heritage.

Tuesday’s release was accompanied by a public discussion co-hosted by Rutgers University – Newark with over 40 of the nation’s top urban development and historic landmark experts. As part of that discussion, PRN conducted a tour of the ongoing redevelopment of the historic Hahne & Company building, which is being highlighted as a  successful, collaborative approach that combined preservation and economic revitalization – a challenge in many legacy cities like Newark, Detroit, and more.

The Action Agenda for Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities — which can be accessed here — is a nine-point strategy that shapes a new approach to preservation, adapts existing tools and policies used by preservationists, and promotes place-based collaboration, especially in legacy cities like Newark, Detroit, and Cleveland (also known as Rust Belt cities or shrinking cities). By offering new strategies for protecting local cultural heritage, the Action Agenda serves as a guide for preserving the stories of Rust Belt cities and communities and make them more equitable, prosperous, and sustainable in the face of economic shifts. Using examples from Cincinnati, Buffalo, Detroit, and more, the Agenda offers suggested next steps, potential partners from preservation and allied fields, and financing and coalition-building toolkits for urban development and preservation advocates.

Emilie Evans, co-founder of Brick + Beam Detroit, an initiative that connects and supports building rehabbers in Detroit, said: “The Action Agenda provides clear steps legacy cities can take to leverage older buildings and local heritage as powerful assets for revitalization. It bolsters core tenets of Brick + Beam’s mission to support the rehabilitation of Detroit’s incredible older buildings, engage meaningfully with local property owners and tradespeople, and develop practical tools to move reinvestment projects forward.”

The Action Agenda was released in Newark in recognition of the leadership and partnerships demonstrated during the planning and redevelopment of the Hahne & Company building, which had sat vacant for over 30 years. The new development will include a full-line grocery store, affordable and market-rate housing, and a major arts program space and incubator conceived and implemented by Rutgers University-Newark and community partners including local artists, arts organizations, and other arts and culture anchor institutions in Newark.

Rutgers University Chancellor Nancy Cantor said: “The Action Agenda’s clarion call to carry forward the ‘legacy’ of legacy cities by preserving their stories entails an equally powerful call to amplify the voices of diverse new generations in retelling them. That is a challenge to all of us—in Newark and legacy cities like it everywhere—and it is precisely what we have in mind with our university-community collaboratory we are developing in the Hahne & Company building and precisely why we think the name of our collaboratory, ‘Express Newark,’ is so apt. We are thrilled to be working with the Preservation Rightsizing Network to advance this shared agenda.”

The Preservation Rightsizing Network meets annually to bring leading preservationists and allies together and supports local leaders in generating national conferences on historic preservation in legacy cities, including a previous conference held in Cleveland (2014) with another scheduled for Detroit (2016).

President of the Lucas County Land Bank, David P. Mann said: “Faced with unprecedented economic challenges and property abandonment, legacy cities must seize new tools and new strategies in order to preserve all that makes them special. This Action Agenda is a smart step in that direction, not just to help save historic assets, but to ensure that the voice of the historic preservation movement is heard in this important and ongoing conversation.”

Cleveland City Councilman Jeffrey Johnson said: “Historic preservation is vital in the revitalization of Cleveland. Our history, as told through the older buildings and neighborhoods, is the foundation on which our community must rebuild.”

Ohio Cities Boost Downtown Revitalization with Waterfront Parks

November 13th, 2015

By Sheldon K. Johnson, Urban Revitalization Project Specialist

In 2010 the Greater Ohio Policy Center, along with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, published Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy. This report is a comprehensive blueprint for transitioning Ohio into an economy that is export-oriented, lower-carbon, and innovation-fueled. Ohio’s metropolitan areas— encompassing urban, suburban, and rural places— are home to the necessary resources that will lead the state into the next economy. GOPC’s Restoring Prosperity agenda is focused on advocating for state and local initiatives that will leverage these prosperity drivers.


One recommendation from the Restoring Prosperity report was to create a state-level “Walkable Waterfronts” initiative that supports local efforts to revitalize urban riverways and lakefronts. In recent years two Ohio cities celebrated the opening of waterfront parks that seek to boost their downtown revitalization initiatives. In May of 2012 the first phase of the John G. & Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park opened in Cincinnati and this past week the Scioto Greenways Park opened in Columbus.

These two projects are fantastic examples of leveraging Ohio’s natural resources as prosperity drivers. Numerous studies show that urban greenspaces are important amenities that have the potential to yield economic benefits in addition to tremendous environmental and social benefits.

Cincinnati and Columbus are only two of the metropolitan areas in Ohio with idyllic waterways. Cities ranging from Toledo to Marietta to Hamilton to Youngstown are built on waterways that present opportunities for recreational use, quality of life enhancement, and economic development. GOPC celebrates the progress being made, but will continue to advocate for walkable waterways throughout the state.

GOPC participates in Roundtable on Small and Medium sized Legacy Cities

October 13th, 2015
By Alison Goebel, GOPC Associate Director

Last week, GOPC participated in a Roundtable on Leveraging Local Assets in Small and Medium Sized Cities, sponsored by the Center for Community Progress.  This small Roundtable brought together leaders from a number of sectors who work in Flint, Dayton, Youngstown, and Syracuse. Through a neighborhood tour, presentations, and conversations over meals, GOPC learned about cutting-edge strategies that these medium sized legacy cities implement to accelerate their revitalization and return to vibrancy.

At the beginning of the Roundtable, GOPC presented preliminary research findings generated from analysis of current conditions and trends of a number of small and medium-sized cities in the Midwest and Northeast. GOPC also described promising and innovative urban stabilization and revitalization strategies has found through collaborative research with CCP Senior Fellow Alan Mallach.  One of the most valuable components of the Roundtable was learning firsthand of incredible work underway in these four representative cities.

Flint has recently completed an amazing master plan, Imagine Flint, which includes 13 different zoning districts that acknowledge the reality of current land use and prepare the city to maximize its assets for the future.  The plan is sensitive to the current market and responds to what residents want for the future.  For example, during our neighborhood tour we visited a newly zoned site consisting of work and residential buildings.


Habitat for Humanity-Flint is helping a family rebuild a new home and retail space where people can play tabletop games, like Dungeons and Dragons.

Syracuse described a highly successful partnership between St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Care, a workforce development program, and community revitalization program.  Through St. Joseph’s leadership, the surrounding neighborhood is being revitalized, hospital employees are living in the neighborhoods, and the hospital is achieving an unprecedented retention rate among local residents who participate in the workforce program.

Dayton discussed the advantages of utilizing a non-profit, CityWide Development Corporation to direct redevelopment around key anchors in the city—including a new elementary school and a hospital.  CityWide, as the lead entity for this public-private partnership, is spearheading three major redevelopment projects that are tied to key anchor institutions.


Downtown Flint is revitalized and populated. The Flint Weather Ball is also visible in this picture.  It turns red when the temperatures are predicted to rise and blue when the temperature is expected to go down. The night of the picture, the temperature was remaining steady and so the ball was yellow.

Roundtable participants were excited by a new strategy Youngstown is piloting, which they call micro-planning.  The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) has identified key schools, churches, and other community facilities that can potentially be a catalyst for neighborhood regrowth and YNDC is now directing its resources to the blocks that surround these smaller institutions.

The challenges these cities have faced—and the ability to master and leverage these challenges into opportunities—was inspiring and reaffirmed the resiliency and strength of these places.

flint 3

Ridgway White, CEO of the C.S.Mott Foundation was our host for the Roundtable.  Over dinner we swapped stories and received advice and suggestions from peer cities on different revitalization strategies.

Boston Professor Discusses Fundamental Importance of Affordable Housing

October 1st, 2015

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

Dr. Megan Sandel, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University spoke this week to the Columbus Metropolitan Club about the importance of housing as a solution to many health and educational concerns. Sandel and EJ Thomas, the chief executive of Habitat for Humanity MidOhio, spoke for about an hour underscoring the idea that access to affordable, decent housing is the most critical foundation for leading a healthy life and should be prioritized in discussions of solving related problems. At a time when many people are struggling to pay rent, Greater Ohio Policy Center recently studied national models emerging in Ohio that seek to rebuild neighborhoods tainted with abandoned homes. GOPC’s assessments of projects in Columbus’ Weinland Park and Cleveland’s Slavic Village show that Sandel and Thomas’ vision of rehabilitating blighted properties into safe and affordable housing can be successful.

Sandel explained that the link between housing and health is not at all a new concept; in fact, a report was published in 1911 confirming housing’s vital role as a basis for good health. In the modern era, this relationship still exists but historical worries such as fire hazards and threats of tuberculosis have subsided thanks to modern building codes. Instead, the affordable housing gap between wages and rents is the most pressing cause for unease. Even in a state where housing is generally considered cheap, a quarter of Ohio residents pay at least half of their income on rent alone. Moreover, of the 54,000 families in central Ohio, there are 1,500 people experiencing homelessness.

These stats make for grim reading but Sandel and Thomas believe pulling together ideas and resources from nonprofits, policymakers, and business leaders will allow communities to more successfully and cost-effectively identify housing needs and enable struggling families to afford a roof over their heads. GOPC’s report found that collaborative investments in Weinland Park totaling $80 million by philanthropy groups, government agencies, and other stakeholders have contributed to the area’s increased stability. In fact, housing values in Weinland Park are more evenly distributed between low and high prices than before intervention, while subsidized housing helps protect vulnerable residents from being priced out of the market.

During her talk, Sandel emphasized that interventions should embrace devoting resources to entire neighborhoods at a time, rather than individual homes. GOPC documented that the Slavic Village Recovery Project strategy targeted a “critical mass” of over 300 properties to renovate and demolish, which reflects Sandel’s more holistic approach to revitalization. Finally, Sandel said her response to people who are unconvinced that communities can afford greater investment in reasonably priced housing is: “can you afford not to?” As a result of shrinking availability of affordable housing, we are already paying too much in terms of health services, special education, and fighting crime.

Cleveland & Lucas County Awarded Revitalization Assistance

September 18th, 2015

Congratulations to the city of Cleveland and Lucas County, Ohio for receiving the Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP) from the Center for Community Progress! Via a competitive application process, Cleveland and Lucas County were two of the three communities to receive support in this round of technical assistance. Criteria for receiving this assistance were based on a number of factors including potential for innovation and demonstrated leadership to implement reform.

CCP will offer 200 hours of technical assistance to Cleveland and Lucas County in order to combat challenges such as property vacancy, abandonment, and tax delinquency currently facing these areas. Specifically, a team of national experts will lead staff trainings, provide legal and policy analysis, and publish tailored reports for improvement. The bulk of TASP’s leverage is made possible by JPMorgan Chase’s grant funding support. In this collaborative effort, JPMorgan Chase has shown a strong commitment to neighborhood revitalization through its support for the Center for Community Progress and local communities.