Reinventing Mansfield

August 4th, 2014

Guest post by Jennifer Kime

Concert

The revitalization challenges in downtown Mansfield are not unlike those of other mid-sized Legacy Cities where the struggle for right-sizing and redevelopment has been a harsh reality for decades.  While we have watched population, median income and property values plummet; we have only grown stronger in our resilience and commitment to a better future for our community. The process of reinventing our economic strategies here is unique in that it joins together commercial districts and neighborhoods where the programs and projects work together for the mutual benefit of the regional population, of which Mansfield is the urban center.

This community wide approach has allowed us greater flexibility and has enabled us to blossom in our revitalization years ahead of what we thought was possible. Because of our community’s size and lack of economic advantages available to larger cities, we began losing businesses and industry well before it was notable on the national scale. In fact, by the time the mortgage crisis hit, our business and retail environment had already been struggling for years, couple that with the manufacturing loss that we sustained with the closing of our GM plant and the loss of total income and resources to our community was nothing short of devastating. To many, it seemed impossible that we could come back from that loss and transition our economic fabric into a community with a downtown that is not only surviving, but is authentic, lively and thriving.

While the overall approach is multi-tiered, some of that success has been due to intense and relentless marketing and promotions, including entertainment programming aimed at showcasing the restoration of our built environment. The tipping point of community redevelopment is arguably the point at which the general public begins to believe that change is not only possible, but it is happening. The only way to change the stubborn, ingrained negative perceptions that flourish within the population of rust belt communities is to show them first hand. Through a combination of property tours (vacant, for rent, rented), shop hops, neighborhood block parties, car shows, farmers markets and free concerts, we bring thousands of people downtown each month. Those activities have spurred development interest from several new property developers, business owners, employees and mostly, the public, who are now coming to downtown for the first time to shop and dine.

While promotions and place-making are sometimes seen as the feel good neighbors of tax credits and fiscal incentives, their impact is real and tangible. When done correctly and sustainably, they create new businesses, new jobs and they retain the very community fabric that is at stake when the supply and demand of a region are not in our favor. It’s happening right now in Mansfield, Ohio.

For more information on the impact of the programs of Downtown Mansfield, Inc., see these recent news articles:

Downtown after dark: nightlife thriving” by Chike Erokwu for the Mansfield News Journal on Aug. 3, 2014

Final Friday Concert Series a raging success, spurs economic growth” by Emily Dech for the Richland Source on July 25, 2014

About the Author:

Jennifer Kime is the Executive Director of Downtown Mansfield, Inc. Currently, Jennifer’s main focus areas are in long term planning, preservation based planning, new program and project development and community development for the downtown and near downtown neighborhoods of Mansfield, Ohio.

www.downtownmansfield.com

www.facebook.com/downtownmansfield

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.

Attending the American Planning Association National Conference

May 8th, 2013

By John Gardocki, GOPC Undergraduate Intern

The APA held its national conference in Chicago this year with the theme of “Planning Big.”  The conference was in April and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the conference as a student member of the APA. The planners and speakers were willing to share their unique experiences in all the panels and to discuss the challenges the planning sector commonly faces.

View of Chicago Skyline from Millenium Park. Photo by John Gardocki.

 

The keynote on the second day of the conference was developed to inspire the next generation of planners to be creative in the design of the American city form. Xavier De Souza Briggs, an associate professor at MIT; gave the keynote, “Inventing the Next American Economy: Why Planning Matters and Where the Pitfalls Lie.” He stressed that all cities are looking to retain and gain jobs; however, the current economics of tax incentives will not entice the technology jobs that sustain the 21st century graduate.

Earl Blumenauer, a U.S. Congressman representing Portland, Oregon, spoke as well about what Congress must do to enhance the planner’s job of sustaining America for generations to come.  He is an advocate for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities initiative created by President Obama to unify projects in the Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development Department, and the Department of Transportation.

My experience at the conference has inspired me to think creatively about planning since a one-size-fits-all approach does not work in every city that needs revitalization. Chicago is investing in an elevated train railway to become a hotspot of activity, while Cincinnati is investing in its riverfront.  Both ideas are specific to the needs of each city.

Revitalization through a Park

July 19th, 2012

Image from the Over-the-Rhine Blog

By Ezra Katz and Marianne Eppig

A Cincinnati neighborhood recently on a downward spiral is showing signs of revitalization. Over-the-Rhine, a historic district in Cincinnati famous for its Italianate architecture and proximity to the city center, recently re-opened its 150-year-old Washington Park after over a year and a half of renovations.

Over-the-Rhine, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been in a state of decline since WWII.  Anti-German sentiment following the war led city residents to “Americanize” the neighborhood’s German heritage, including German street names and organizations. The neighborhood attracted a lower-income demographic with its affordable housing and labor opportunities. With time the neighborhood went into decline, at one point becoming one of the poorest and most crime ridden neighborhoods in the country; the rate of poverty reached 58% and unemployment came just over 25%.

In 2003, the City of Cincinnati partnered with the city’s private sector to create the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) to help revitalize the area. 3CDC has focused on acquiring and leading the rehabilitation of abandoned properties within a 110 square block area of Over-the-Rhine. Among other initiatives, 3CDC, alongside the City of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Parks, helped to renovate Washington Park—an indication that Over-the-Rhine is making great strides toward revitalization.

The park has grown from 6 to 8 acres and includes some new amenities: a kids’ section, interactive water fountains, a dog park, updated restrooms, a concessions building, and a “civic lawn” that will host concerts and events. Neighborhood leaders are hopeful that Washington Park will serve as a civic center for Over-the-Rhine, fostering a sense of community and drawing people to public spaces that could attract future development for the district.

For more about the revitalization of Washington Park and Over-the-Rhine, visit these links:

The Park at the Forefront of Cincinnati’s Revitalization

Over-the-Rhine Blog

3CDC Website

Sprawl costs Ohio families and regional economy, new report shows

July 10th, 2012

By Smart Growth America

The twelve counties that make up Northeast Ohio are home to a community that prides itself on its public art, theaters, parks and hiking trails, and home-grown businesses. Now, a new vanguard of engaged residents are working with a local organization to make Northeast Ohio even better.

The first step in this process is to examine what’s working in Northeast Ohio’s communities, and a new survey from the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC) does just that. NEOSCC released its Conditions & Trends platform on Tuesday, during the Consortium’s monthly meeting in Youngstown. The extensive inventory of Northeast Ohio’s assets, challenges and year-over-year trends provides a comprehensive assessment of how the region could improve.
Read the rest of this entry »

New High Density Development In Columbus

April 19th, 2012

By John Gardocki, Greater Ohio Intern

The tide is turning in the Columbus metro area from low density to high density development and redevelopment.  Over the past few months developers have been announcing projects to bring mixed-use to fruition for our residents.  The concept of mixed-use development has gained popularity with American people in the past decade and is the symbol of America’s great “Main Street” downtown.  For more detailed discussion on Main Streets visit Ohio Main Streets or APA Great Streets.

High density is not only being utilized in the downtown, it is being used in the suburbs and locating around universities.  It seems that many cities are taking note of the successes developers and communities are having because they are utilizing mixed-use development. 

Downtown Development/Redevelopments:

  • LeVeque Tower Apartment- The building will renovate existing office space and add a new boutique hotel into the mix, creating a new mixed-use vibrancy to the building along with renovating floors for new apartments.  The importance of renovating this building is enormous, it is the iconic symbol of Columbus and people will want to flock to it once they see what is being done to the interior and exterior. 
  • Columbus Commons Apartments- 300 unit apartment project that will contain 23,000 square feet of new retail space located next to Columbus Commons Park.  This development is one of a kind because it is located next to an urban park and will include amenities for its residents when they are leased.  Aspirations of retail include restaurants/cafes, service retail, and a small urban grocery.  Having access to a food supply is a hot topic in Columbus right now, with the planned redevelopment of Hills Market by Columbus State.

Short North Development:

  • The Fireproof Building- Total of 58 rental units with a five story addition.  The development will also contain a total of 15,000 square feet of retail space with a mix of restaurant, retail and office tenants.  With the recent addition of high rise development in the Short North, it is going back to its once former glory of being a sustainable place for the young and the old. 

Grandview Heights Development:

  • Edwards Communities at Third Avenue- 205 new apartments located next door to a new Giant Eagle and the Grandview Yard development.  This development will bring even more family style living to an up and coming suburban neighborhood that has excellent walkable amenities and access to alternate transportation.

Lane Avenue Development:

  • Lane Avenue Apartments: New five-story building across the street from The Ohio State University.  These apartments will be targeted at students in their layout and price point and will include a covered parking garage within the structure.  The importance of adding these affordable housing to students right next to the university will be one of the first of its kind in quite a while to improve students living conditions in off-campus housing.  While this development does not have mixed-use in the plan, it is a start to the lack of new housing available on Lane Avenue, most of the housing has been on High Street.

Many more projects are taking place around Columbus that will bring a whole new community vibe.  It will be interesting to see what effect these developments have on other communities considering moving to higher density development.

Dublin Bridge Street Corridor Plan brings potential to Columbus Metro Area

April 13th, 2012

By John Gardocki, Greater Ohio Intern

The Dublin Bridge Street Corridor Plan is unique to the Columbus Metro region because it calls for such an expansive plan covering over 800 acres of land.  Dublin has issued vision principles and plans for each district that will encompass the plan for smart growth.

 Vision Principles:

1.) Enhance economic vitality

2.) Integrate the new center into community life

3.) Embrace Dublin’s natural setting and celebrate a commitment to environmental sustainability

4.) Expand the range of choices available to Dublin and the region

5.) Create places that embody Dublin’s commitment to community

 Dublin identified eight districts for implementation that will include mixed-use development, greenways, improved transportation and connectivity, and strong connections to existing neighborhoods.  Three districts stand out in the vision that will enable these priorities to be achieved.

The importance of the Historic Dublin District is to be a guiding point for the rest of the project.  Currently, the Historic Dublin area is acting as a model for the plan with a large amount of walkability and development already in place.  Most Dublin residents see it as being the core, so if the core falters then the rest of the project most likely will cease to exist or grow.  Redevelopment is the key to this district to become a livable, walkable community area that Dublin residents will be proud of. 

Riverside District utilizes the connection of the Scioto River.  The plan calls for a park initiative to strengthen the greenways of Dublin and its transportation opportunities as a walkable and sustainable community.  Residential buildings will be located on the river to access the new park land, while new office development will be located behind for easy access to work.  The importance of this is to make residents daily commute be as little as possible; while having access to recreation and retail at the same time.

The Sawmill District is set to alter the suburban mantra that is low-density.  The goal of this district is to provide high density housing, office, recreational, and entertainment for Dublin residents to enjoy.  Concentrations of these activities will be an important connective aspect of the district.  A landmark is currently in the plan to act as a gateway between Dublin and Columbus.  Branding is important for a community because it brings a sense of pride.

 The Columbus metro area will see large benefits from this project.  Development could bring employment to the area as well as new products.  Smart growth initiatives will also start to become more prevalent in Central Ohio with Dublin leading the way.  Continued growth of Columbus’ population will enhance the building potential of other local communities and of the amenities Downtown could offer to its residents.  Linkage between Columbus and Dublin could be put on the list of to-do projects, possibly utilizing public transit opportunities that are currently not available for the Columbus area. 

To check out the plan with more detail visit: 

http://dublin.oh.us/bridgestreet/pdf/VisionReport.pdf

Growing Public Transportation Use in Ohio

March 20th, 2012

By John Gardocki, Greater Ohio Intern

The American Public Transportation Administration recently announced that the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) had the top increase in ridership nationally for large bus systems from 2010 to 2011.  In 2011, there were 18.8 million total bus trips, an increase of 10.1 percent from 2010.  The City of Cleveland also saw 12.3 percent heavy rail ridership increase within the last year. Nationally, public transportation increased 2.3 percent, the second highest ridership increase since 1957. 

COTA has already seen a 6.1 percent increase in January 2012 ridership from 2011 data.  Some argue that the increased ridership is due to the increase in gas prices and increased consumer-based technology to help with understanding public transportation. 

COTA’s TXT 4 NXT BUS enables users in the Short North and University District to find the bus pick-up time by texting a number which is quick and convenient.  COTA is offering commuters on a budget an effective way to get to work, experience Columbus, and help encourage sustainability.  Increasing the ridership is important for public transportation growth in Columbus.  Multiple public transportation projects have been declined because of recent economic downturns; it is good to see the public taking the opportunity to acknowledge public transportation is good.

Investing in Over-The-Rhine: Highlights from 3CDC

December 5th, 2011

Greater Ohio’s partners continue to create innovative programs and models that are building prosperity across Ohio. This month we spotlight the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) as an innovative private-public partnership that is providing catalytic leadership in revitalizing Cincinnati’s urban core.  This month’s guest blog post comes from Anastasia Mileham, Vice President of Communications at 3CDC.

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) is a non -profit, full-service, real estate development company formed in 2004 by Cincinnati’s corporate and civic leaders. Its mission is to strengthen the core assets of downtown by revitalizing the Central Business District (CBD) and Over-The-Rhine (OTR).

Over-the-Rhine is one of the most economically distressed areas in the country with a poverty rate of 58%, unem­ployment rate of over 25%, and median household income of $9,895. Geographically situated just north of the center city, the troubles in OTR have contributed to a destabilization of the CBD. This unstable environment has prevented growth and investment in the city’s core, which has in turn impacted the health of the entire region. In the absence of a major turnaround, the region was in danger of losing some of its largest employers, further exacer­bating the persistent distress in Cincinnati’s center city.

 3CDC’s efforts to revitalize low-income communities are funded by five separate revolving loan funds, totally over $195 million.  3CDC has also been awarded three New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) allocations to date, totaling $103 million. (The NMTC Program provides a credit against federal income taxes to privately managed institutions investing in distressed areas.)  Since its formation 3CDC and its partners have invested more than $324 million in the CBD and OTR by making below market-rate loans to commercial, residential and community real estate projects. Without access to the funds’ low-cost capital, such efforts would not be financially feasible.

 3CDC’s redevelopment efforts in OTR have resulted in 186 condominiums, 68 rental units, and more than 91,000 SF of commercial space, mostly created in historic, vacant and vandalized buildings. More than 85% of the condominiums are sold, the rental units are 100% filled, and a vibrant shopping and dining district has replaced empty storefronts with over 80% of the completed commercial space now leased. Since 2004, crime has dropped more than 51% and continues to decrease.

 The first NMTC allocation of $50 million is used as a revolv­ing loan fund, which has enabled 3CDC to invest $69.6 million in real estate projects throughout Cincinnati’s urban core. The second allocation of $35 million is invested into three critical developments: (1) Washington Park, an 8-acre public park with a 450-space underground parking garage, (2) 21c Cincinnati, a 160-room boutique hotel with public art museum, and (3) Saengerhalle, a 32,000 SF mixed-use office and retail complex. The third allocation of $18 million is invested into a vacant building (Maisonette) being renovated into a restaurant/entertainment complex in the CBD, and an historic building in OTR (Paint Building) being developed into 10,000 SF of commercial space.

 3CDC has set high standards with its investments using proceeds from the previ­ous $103 million NMTC allocation. Its successful track record would not have been possible without the Federal New Market Tax Credit program. All of these projects, endorsed by the community, were catalytic in nature and resulted in significant commu­nity and economic impact felt throughout the region.

Setting the Stage for Brownfield Redevelopment

September 1st, 2011

Greater Ohio’s partners continue to create innovative programs that are building prosperity throughout the state.  This month’s guest post is from Diane Alecusan, an Urban Revitalization Specialist for the Department of Development. 

The US EPA defines a brownfield as property “complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant”. The impacts of brownfields however are often not limited to the potentially contaminated property alone. These negative impacts may move beyond the property and have an economically devastating effect on the larger area including homes, businesses, schools, and recreational areas that are not brownfields. Impacts can range from vacancy to a decrease in property values to public health concerns. Planning for this larger brownfields-impacted area at one time can ensure that remediation and reuse occur in a coordinated, efficient way and in turn, result in greater success.

The Ohio Department of Development, Urban Development Division has developed the Brownfield Action Plan Pilot Program in an effort to engage with communities on improved, more focused brownfield and area-wide planning techniques. The pilot program will use existing funds to assist communities in the development and implementation of an area-wide brownfield action plan. The development of the plan will set the stage for a quicker, clearer path to redevelopment of the area, resulting in successful revitalization of the community, returning entire corridors to productive use, and restoring neighborhood health.

The pilot program, loosely modeled after the US EPA’s Brownfield Area-Wide Planning Pilots, will involve two parts: 1) technical assistance from the Division for development of the plan, and 2) completion of a grant-funded activity that will provide more detailed research or jump-start implementation of their recently-completed plan. The two-phase process is designed to quickly but thoughtfully develop an actionable plan and maintain momentum to ensure the plan’s next steps are implemented, increasing the likelihood and speed with which properties will transform into economically beneficial use.

The Division’s goal is to use the area-wide planning approach to help communities leverage and prioritize limited local, state, and federal resources to create the greatest economic impact in areas containing brownfields.  In addition, the Division has partnered with the Community Development Division to maximize funding availability and flexibility and to provide an additional level of expertise.

The Urban Development Division will release the Request for Letters of Interest and application form on Thursday, September 1, 2011 with a due date of Friday, October 14, 2011. The Division anticipates awarding up to four pilot projects, which would be notified by the end of November. Additional information can be found on the program webpage: www.development.ohio.gov/urban/brownfieldawp.htm.