GOPC Releases Groundbreaking Neighborhood Assessment

March 24th, 2014

Report finds Columbus Neighborhood Weinland Park on path to long-term vibrancy

Greater Ohio Policy Center, in partnership with The Columbus Foundation, has released “Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods: Evaluating the Impact of Housing Investments in Weinland Park,” a data-driven report that assesses whether the Columbus neighborhood of Weinland Park has reached long-term stability.

Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods finds that, as a result of $80 million in housing investments since 2003, Weinland Park is improving. However, the neighborhood has not yet reached a sustainable level of health and coordinated programs and investments should persist in order to ensure the neighborhood does not regress and continues on a trajectory of long-term vibrancy. Additionally, the report finds that Weinland Park does not exhibit signs of gentrification–such as rapidly increasing home values, repeat sales of homes, increasing income levels, and rapidly shifting demographics.

Although Columbus is often considered more economically prosperous than its Midwestern peers, many of its older areas have faced significant challenges common to legacy cities.  Like other neighborhoods, Weinland Park has experienced decades-long declining employment opportunities, population loss, and the associated increases in poverty and vacancy.  Until recently, Weinland Park was perceived to be one of the most distressed neighborhoods in Columbus.

In 2003, a catalytic turning point occurred when 15% of the neighborhood’s housing transferred from poor management to strong management, transforming it over time from housing of last resort to housing of choice. OSU took an active role in supporting revitalization efforts and the City of Columbus strategically chose to prioritize their investments in a targeted way. Philanthropic, government, and nonprofit partners formed the Weinland Park Collaborative to coordinate programs and investments across many areas of neighborhood health, one of which is housing.

The story of Weinland Park is a remarkable one that continues to inspire many community developers, urban pioneers, and citizen leaders. Numerous stakeholders have rallied around a common vision, the community is actively engaged in its transformation, and philanthropic and government partners coordinate regularly with one another and with residents. While investments in Weinland Park are just beginning to show quantitative impact, Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods indicates that the neighborhood is transitioning into vibrancy.

Click here to download the report.

GOPC Presents the Commercial Vacant Properties Guidebook in Youngstown

March 14th, 2014

By Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

On Monday, I traveled to Youngstown to introduce our new guidebook for redeveloping commercial vacant properties at the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Bootcamp hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. The SC2 Bootcamp in Youngstown was a two-day workshop that brought together national experts and local stakeholders to exchange ideas in support of economic and community revitalization in downtown Youngstown and the surrounding region.

The panel I participated in focused on “Tools and Strategies for Revitalization” that can be used as part of a holistic approach to redevelopment in Youngstown. Tamar Shapiro of Center for Community Progress moderated the panel expertly and the other (highly esteemed) panelists included Heather Arnold of Streetsense, Jamie Schriner-Hooper of the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, and Terry Schwarz of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.

For my presentation, I introduced GOPC’s new guidebook for redeveloping commercial properties, titled Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization. Local leaders and practitioners–such as those from community development organizations, municipal planning and economic development departments, Main Street and commercial district programs, SIDs and BIDs–can use the guidebook to plan and manage the revitalization and reuse of commercial vacant properties in legacy cities. The guidebook includes the following tools:

  • Guidance on planning & partnering for commercial revitalization
  • Methods for analyzing the market
  • Advice on matching market types & strategies for commercial revitalization
  • Legal tools for reclaiming commercial vacant properties
  • Funding sources for overcoming financial gaps
  • Menu of property reuse options
  • Ways to attract & retain business tenants
  • Methods and models for managing a commercial district
  • Strategies for building markets in legacy cities

GOPC produced this guidebook in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. and the Center for Community Progress. We plan to release the guidebook within the next month.

Click here to view my presentation on the commercial vacant properties guidebook.

The panel also covered tools for developing vibrant retail streets (see Streetsense’s Vibrant Streets Toolkit), methods for working with anchor institutions to revive vacant land and urban spaces (see CUDC’s Pop Up City initiative and Reimagining a More Sustainable Cleveland), and temporary uses for vacant properties (see VACANT Lansing – the event themes are secret until you show up!). Following the panel, we were able to speak with participants and go into more depth on the tools and strategies presented.

Several of us went on a tour of Youngstown after the event. Dominic Marchionda of NYO Property Group showed us around downtown Youngstown and Wick Park. This tour of the city and its surrounding neighborhoods revealed both challenges and opportunities for efforts that are bringing vibrancy to the city. As Terry Schwarz mentioned during our panel, this will be the work of our lifetimes.

Unique place making: How Ohio should approach the revitalization of its vacant properties

February 24th, 2014

Written by Ryan Dittoe, previous GOPC Intern

Defining a place is a necessary component for recognition and navigation. But unique characteristics that infiltrate an environment lead to an overarching identity of that space, and unique spaces promote cities with substance and life.  As an Ohio State University City and Regional Planning student, I am heavily influenced by the idea of making cities look unlike any other. This can begin with small pockets of creative urban development that together construct whole cities with exclusive personalities. Realizing setbacks, color schemes, historical value, transportation modes, walkability, permeability, and other living aspects of a place and how these functions work together ensure its continual success.

Ohio’s vacant properties require attention to detail. Recently I visited Detroit and listened to a presentation given by Detroit Works. They explained the value of creating revitalized, useful areas through public participatory design (that is, encouraging citizens to share ideas about what they would like to see in any given area that is the focus of revitalization or redesign), implementing a framework of ideas for progress to be initiated, and thinking beyond the normal scope of city planning for a unique design that breathes individuality into a space. An example of this plan in action is the open-air art Heidelberg Project, located near southeast Detroit. A public artist transformed this neglected area into a block-wide sculpture site encouraging residents to visit and experience their city through a different perspective. Projects like this one can provide a multitude of starter ideas for neighboring cities, including Columbus, to uniquely develop their invaluable public spaces. Keep in mind that it is crucial not to “copy” another city’s projects, but to strive for uncommon attributes.

Every city needs attractive “third places.” These are locations you visit outside home and work to interact with your family, friends, or colleagues in a more relaxed manner.  Incorporating these design pockets into the city offers a functional location for socialization. Ohio’s vacant lots (especially those right here in Columbus) might serve well as third places for existing residential and commercial infrastructure. Creating mixed use buildings with permeable human scale faces will attract patrons that are already visiting the area. Creating safe sidewalks, complete streets, attractive storefronts, public seating with lights, landscaping and other vital aspects of a lively city block will engage passersby and stimulate a city’s reputation. Bring back vitality to blighted spaces and allow their energy to be recreated into something useful and noteworthy. Realize that problems are just an opportunity for improvement and prosperity.

Piqua Recognized as Top 10 National Leader in Creating Complete Streets

February 18th, 2014

Greater Ohio congratulates the City of Piqua, Ohio on receiving national recognition for developing complete streets. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of national non-profit Smart Growth America (SGA), the complete streets policy that Piqua passed last year ranked 9th in the country, out of more than 80 cities, states, and regions that passed similar policies in 2013. SGA says this makes Piqua “a national leader in making streets safer and more convenient for everyone who uses them.”

Complete streets policies “encourage planners and engineers to design and build streets that are safe and convenient for everyone, regardless of age, ability, income or ethnicity, and no matter how they travel,” according to SGA.

SGA’s rankings are “intended to celebrate the communities that have done exceptional work in crafting comprehensive policy language over the past year.” The evaluators determine scores based on 10 technical elements of an ideal Complete Streets policy. The communities with the top-scoring policies of 2013 are:

1.         Littleton, MA

2.         Peru, IN

3.         Fort Lauderdale, FL

4.         Auburn, ME (tie)

4.         Lewiston, ME (tie)

6.         Baltimore County, MD

7.         Portsmouth, NH

8.         Muscatine, IA

9.          Piqua, OH

10.        Oakland, CA

11.        Hayward, CA (tie)

11.        Livermore, CA (tie)

11.        Massachusetts Department of Transportation (tie)

14.        Cedar Falls, IA (tie)

14.        Waterloo, IA (tie)

More information about the winning policies and evaluation criteria, and what Piqua scored, is available here.

Nationwide, a total of 610 jurisdictions in 48 states have Complete Streets policies in place.

Placemaking in Legacy Cities

January 17th, 2014

Our friends at Center for Community Progress released a report today, entitled Placemaking in Legacy Cities: Opportunities and Good Practices. The report uses case studies to explore placemaking in four different settings: downtowns, anchor districts, neighborhoods and corridors/trails.

The report features a case study on the revitalization and expansion of Washington Park in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Like the neighborhood as a whole, Washington Park was plagued by physical deterioration and crime problems a decade ago. Now, however, it has become one of the centerpieces of OTR’s renaissance and a link connecting OTR with the rest of Downtown Cincinnati.

Based on their analysis of Washington Park and OTR, the report’s authors highlight several lessons for other communities:

  • Developing Strong Partnerships: The Washington Park project was possible thanks to strong relationships between the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), the city government, and corporate and philanthropic supporters. Strong relationships must also be maintained with area residents of varying income levels.
  • Managing Great Public Places: Good event programming and marketing of those events is important to keep attracting visitors, both from Cincinnati and beyond.  Washington Park has showcased musical performances, movie viewings, a kickball league, and flea markets. Some concerts in 2012 drew between 6,000 and 8,000 attendees. The park also features amenities like a dog park and children’s playground, which attract steady, day-to-day groups of visitors.
  • Celebrating a Unique Community Character: The design of both the renovated and new parts of the park included partners with the skills and knowledge to create a space that complements OTR’s historic architecture.

We believe the Washington Park revitalization represents a national model for great urban placemaking.

Progress continues on advancing proposed Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program

November 13th, 2013

On November 12, 2013 the Greater Ohio Policy Center offered proponent testimony to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program (NIAP)Senate Bill 149 proposes to create a program that would offer a tax credit to businesses or corporations that make monetary donations to catalytic community development projects.  Providing testimony in partnership with coalition member, the Ohio CDC Association, GOPC and OCDCA explained the design specifics of the program and discussed successes other states have experienced with similar programs.

After GOPC and OCDCA testified, a representative from PNC Bank offered proponent testimony in support of the bill.  PNC has been a leading voice for the creation of this program in Ohio and has many years of experience participating in similar tax credit programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Providing the private sector—investor—perspective, Stephanie Cipriani, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Community Development Banking, described a range of projects PNC has invested in.  These projects include a housing development and a workforce and early education center.

Last, a nonprofit leader from Asbury Park, New Jersey described the transformation of a neighborhood in Asbury Park which was decimated by race riots and urban renewal projects in the 1970s.  With the help of New Jersey’s Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program, Paul McEvily and Interfaith Neighbors, Inc. have led the revitalization of one of New Jersey’s more disinvested neighborhoods.  McEvily’s testimony included a series of pictures of this neighborhood transformation and the impact of the private-public partnership created through New Jersey’s program, which prompted the Committee Chairman to jokingly propose a field trip to Asbury Park!

The proposed NIAP program still has at least one more hearing in the Senate and at least two more in the House before it can be voted upon by either the full House or Senate.  However, yesterday’s proponent testimonies significantly contributed to the momentum and energy around this proposed program.  Be sure to follow our twitter feed, blog, and newsletters to learn when these hearings will be scheduled.

For background information on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program, please visit our webpage.

Weinland Park Study Featured in Dispatch

September 18th, 2013

A recent Columbus Dispatch editorial, “Weinland Park effort will pay off,” featured Greater Ohio’s study of investments in the Weinland Park neighborhood:

“The community may have a clearer picture soon of what’s working. [...] The nonprofit Greater Ohio Policy Center has been evaluating the Weinland Park efforts undertaken since 2007.

Hard data on which programs and improvements really are improving quality of life will help guide all the efforts and spending yet to come.

It’s a smart way to avoid wasting time, effort and money.

And it’s another indication that the Columbus community is determined to win the battle for Weinland Park.”

GOPC is currently undertaking analyses of investments in Columbus’ Weinland Park and near South Side neighborhoods, and plans to release the findings by the end of the year. This research is being supported by The Columbus Foundation.

Attorney General’s Demolition Program Extended

September 4th, 2013

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced that he will be extended the deadline for counties wishing to apply for demolition funds under the Moving Ohio Forward Program.  The program has been a rousing success so far, demolishing almost 5,000 blighted properties across the state.

With the deadline now extended to May 31, 2014, communities will have an opportunity to apply for the full amount of funds allocated to them.  According to records posted by the Attorney General’s office, almost $5 million in funds are currently unclaimed. 

The Greater Ohio Policy Center has been providing technical assistance to counties applying for and utilizing the Moving Ohio Forward funds.  For more information on GOPC’s relationship with the Attorney General’s office, please see our web page, which gives a background on our role in this program and includes resources that can help communities make strategic use of their demolition dollars.

For more information on the program extension, please visit the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

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.

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

February 13th, 2013

By John Gardocki, Greater Ohio Policy Center Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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