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.
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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.

Guest Post: Abogo Looks at Cleveland Gas Prices

July 20th, 2011

Greater Ohio’s partners are doing interesting things, and here is a recent write up from one of them.  Guest Post by Sahana Rao, Abogo Team, Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT).

Abogo is a tool that helps you see how transportation affects the affordability and sustainability of places you live, might want to live, or are just curious about. Named using a combination of the words “abode” and “go,” Abogo is powered by the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, which uses census information to show how housing and transportation costs change by area. Our Gas Slider helps you see how gas prices influence those transportation costs, so that you can get an even clearer picture of the cost of getting around a certain area right now and what that cost may be in the future. We’ve been using the Gas Slider to analyze transportation costs in various cities across the nation; for more on how you can use Abogo resources in your own hometown, visit our How it Works section or read our Do-It-Yourself blog post.

Cleveland, bounded to the north by Lake Erie (and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), is hailed as the “Comeback City” for its adaptability in the face of adversity. With an EIA-estimated average gas price of $3.62/gallon, how industriously do Clevelanders have to work to control their transportation costs?

Our first neighborhood is Conneaut, OH, just over an hour’s journey from Cleveland. Conneaut also lies adjacent to Lake Erie and, accordingly, boasts entertainments such as beaches, boating, and steelhead fishing.

How much do Conneaut residents have to shell out for transportation?

The average family living in Conneaut would pay $976 a month for transportation, which is 19% more than they would have paid in 2000. It looks like Conneaut has been more shielded from the effects of rising gas prices than most suburbs we’ve encountered, which could be due to the area’s walkable nature and the county transit system. However, since Conneaut is still relatively car-dependent, the monthly cost remains fairly high.

Does the same hold true for our next neighborhood? Buckeye-Shaker is a neighborhood on Cleveland’s East Side, a marriage between historic Buckeye and lively Shaker Square.

Let’s take a look at transportation costs for Buckeye-Shaker residents:

The average Buckeye-Shaker family would have to allot only $698 per month for transportation; however, that’s still 19% more than what they would have set aside for the same purpose in 2000. This just goes to show that, as much as walkability and transit connectivity help to alleviate the strain, no place is immune to gas price shock.

Fear not! You can lessen the blow of escalating gas prices by practicing alternative solutions and cost-saving tips for transportation. We’ve listed some helpful guidelines here:

Turn to transit: The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA, for short) provides bus, rail, and trolley service for (you guessed it!) the greater Cleveland area. The RTA also oversees the HealthLine, which offers rapid bus service on Euclid Avenue from Downtown to East Cleveland. Prove to yourself that transit makes a difference by calculating how much money you can save with RTA at Join The Ride. For those traveling out of Cuyahoga County, connections are available to several adjoining county transit systems.

Don’t bypass discounts: RTA runs a Commuter Advantage programs that assists employers in taking advantage of the Mass Transit Tax Benefit. If your employer is signed up, you will be able to pay for transit with pre-tax dollars, so make sure your employer is aware of the benefit! For more on the employer and employee savings afforded by this benefit, click here. There is also a universal U-pass for students; check if your school is a participating member of the program. Cleveland RTA may also offer discounts to those who are attending certain major events within the city.

Trade steering wheels for handlebars or sneakers when possible: According to NOACA, the number of Cuyahoga County bikers in 2010 was 50% greater than it had been four years earlier. It’s no wonder that biking is fast rising in popularity; after all, a bike gets infinity miles to the gallon! Clevelanders might even have access to a bike-share program in the near future. Get more information on biking in Cleveland at Cleveland Bikes and Ohio City Bicycle Co-op. You don’t consume gasoline (we hope), so we won’t assign an MPG value to your feet. We will, however, tell you that walking is just as efficient as biking in several parts of Cleveland. If you can’t bike or walk, consider using a car-share service like CityWheels.

If you are interested in learning more about how alternative transit options can help Cleveland become more economical and environmentally sustainable, we recommend CNT’s Broadening Urban Investment to Leverage Transit (BUILT) in Cleveland report.

Are gas prices affecting how you get around Cleveland? Let us know!

Founded in 1978, CNT is a Chicago-based think-and-do tank that works nationally to advance urban sustainability by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more efficiently and equitably. Its programs focus on climate, energy, natural resources, transportation, and community development. Visit www.cnt.org for more information.