Leadership in the Queen City: Lessons from Cincinnati

August 11th, 2014

By Alison D. Goebel, Associate Director

As part of Leadership Ohio’s Class of 2014, I have been spending one weekend a month in a different Ohio city meeting local leaders and learning about the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the state.  I have participated in a team-building retreat in Oberlin, learned about state government in Columbus, and explored Ohio’s role in early American history in Marietta (you can read my thoughts on our Marietta trip here).

This month’s Leadership Ohio Class was held in Cincinnati and focused on sustainability and economic development.

View from the Observation Deck of the Carew Tower in Downtown.  Over the Rhine is in the foreground and the Uptown neighborhoods of Clifton and Avondale on the hill.

View from the Observation Deck of the Carew Tower in Downtown. Over the Rhine is in the foreground and the Uptown neighborhoods of Clifton and Avondale on the hill.

I have always had soft spot for the Queen City, but the leaders we met and the projects we saw underway bowled me over.   Some lessons I learned from the weekend: Read the rest of this entry »

Ohio Cities: Stabilize the Population Outflux by Attracting & Retaining the Millennial Generation

July 23rd, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Between the years 1970 and 2013, the city of Cleveland lost almost half of its population. In fact, most cities in the region have also witnessed a decline in population. However, this recent trend seems to have less to do with the location and more to do with the layout of these cities. The most evident reason for this rapid decline may point to the fact that young, educated Millennials favor core cities, as opposed to sprawling communities.

According to research conducted by the Pew Institute and Urban Land Institute, Millennials are driving less than previous generations. However, the Millennials are not alone in this recent trend, as the Baby Boomers are also eager to take advantage of urban amenities and walkable communities. A key component to attracting Millennials to cities is the availability and quality of transportation options. According to a recent survey, “55% of Millennials have a preference to live close to transit” (Yung). With more than half of those polled in favor of such an option, it is obvious that the demand for a multimodal city is real.

One of the most compelling arguments supporting this growing rejection of a car-dependent society points heavily at the financial strain induced by the costly upkeep of a car. With gas prices rising and car loans becoming harder to obtain, and as Millennials find themselves buried in a heap of college debt, owning a car no longer seems to be practical. For this reason, many are shifting to urban areas, where there are multiple transportation options and where almost everything that could be wanted or needed is only a short distance away.

Population of Ohio's Cities Millennial Population in Ohio Cities Millennial Percentage of Population in Ohio Cities

For the graphs above, Millennials were defined as being born between 1981 and 2000.

In Ohio, we need to do more to take advantage of these trends and to continue attracting and retaining populations that are interested in urban living in order to strengthen the economies of these cities and their surrounding regions. Some of Ohio’s cities are seeing more positive trends–attracting a greater percentage of Millennials–but in the context of ongoing population shrinkage in all of our major cities except Columbus, it is clear that Ohio’s work is not done. The state’s ability to leverage market demand for inner city living and further incentivize—and remove legislative barriers to—infill development within its cities will help determine Ohio’s future prosperity.

For more information about these national demographic trends, take a look at these articles:

Government Growing Wild: Is Sprawl Exacerbated by Jurisdictional Fragmentation?

June 23rd, 2014

By Bryan Grady, Research Analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency

An underappreciated element of what can make a location a good place to live – or not – is the regional governance structure: the number and configuration of counties, cities, townships, and special districts that comprise a metropolitan area. Across the country, there are substantial differences worth noting. I began looking at these issues when I was an intern at Greater Ohio ten years ago and now, as a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University and a research analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), I am studying the impacts that these forces have on housing outcomes. I worked with Judd Schechtman, a land use attorney and colleague at Rutgers, on developing some preliminary findings regarding the role of fragmented local government in generating sprawl.

Maps illustrating the correlation between sprawl and government fragmentation. Darker hues represent higher values.

 

To operationalize such an amorphous topic, we employed data published in Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact, which defined sprawl as a lack of four characteristics – residential density, mixed-use development, strong economic centers, and connected streets – and computed an index that incorporated all four elements. (A newer version, based on similar methods, was published earlier this year.) With regard to measuring regional governance, we used the Metropolitan Power Diffusion Index (MPDI). In short, MPDI encapsulates both the density of governments (e.g. how many incorporated areas and districts exist for every 100,000 people) and their relative budgetary influence, with a value of 1 representing a unitary regional government and increasing values indicating more diffuse political authority. A handful of other variables were included in the work as statistical controls, including population, manufacturing employment, per capita income, and educational attainment.

A quantitative analysis across 77 regions nationwide found that fragmentation and sprawl were directly correlated with one another at a statistically significant level. This was particularly true when evaluating the residential density component of the sprawl index, as well as the economic concentration component. Why? As Judd and I wrote,

Exclusionary zoning, as practiced by small municipalities, is specifically conceived to limit residential density in order to keep home prices and tax revenues high; reduced fragmentation would seemingly reduce the incentives to maintain such policies. Similarly, every city in a fragmented metropolis attempts to leverage agglomeration effects in office space and retail to their own advantage, whereas a single municipality that dominates a region would be able to channel development into a smaller number of commercial centers.

In short, in a region where dozens of localities are left to zone with only their own constituents in mind, land use patterns that are economically and spatially suboptimal are the direct result. A more regional approach to land use planning is necessary to ensure that money and land are not wasted chasing artificially-created shortages of various types of development.

The full study is available here. If you have any questions, feel free to email Bryan Grady. Please note that any opinions herein are the author’s, not those of OHFA or the State of Ohio.

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.