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.

How Demolition Helps to Stabilize Communities

February 14th, 2014

Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute recently released a new study that analyzes the economic impact of residential demolition in the Cleveland area between 2009 and 2013. The report’s findings estimate a net benefit of $1.40 for every dollar invested in demolition activity, with larger benefits in high and moderately functioning markets and little to no benefit in weak markets. It also shows that mortgage foreclosure rates decreased in neighborhoods—across all income levels—where demolition activity took place.

This study demonstrates the value of demolition as part of a comprehensive strategy to stabilize our communities that struggle with property vacancy. It provides information that can help guide demolition activity to make the most efficient use of limited resources. This study is very timely in light of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s release last week of an additional $3.8 million in demolition funding awards under the Moving Ohio Forward program.

The study was written by Nigel Griswold, Benjamin Calnin, Michael Schramm, Luc Anselin, and Paul Boehnlein, with support from Thriving Communities Institute, the Cleveland City Council, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Eva L. and Joseph M. Bruening Foundation, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, and land banks throughout Ohio.

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.

GOPC Testifies on the DataOhio Initiative

January 29th, 2014

On January 29th, Greater Ohio’s Alison Goebel gave interested party testimony on a package of bills that would create the “DataOhio Initiative.”  Introduced by Representatives Duffey (R-Worthington) and Hagan (R-Alliance), the DataOhio Initiative will help local governments standardize information about themselves and develop a clearinghouse where information about local and state governments can be easily located.

GOPC has long expressed concern regarding the lack of standardized data in Ohio.  We believe the DataOhio Initiative will provide the first crucial step to creating the tools local governments and the state need to make data-driven, evidence-based decisions. These decisions should help communities modernize procedures, maximize resources, attract jobs and businesses, and plan for sustainable, prosperous futures.

GOPC is excited about the possibility DataOhio holds to help government officials find underutilized dollars through “apples to apples” comparisons with their peers and the  ability to use the data to systematically uncover opportunities to share services and implement best practices.

  • HB 321’s requirement to de-silo information and make information machine-readable is essential for any data analysis.  The creation of a DataOhio Board ensures there is a face to the Initiative and a resource for participating entities.
  • HB 322’s requirement to use a uniform accounting standard allows communities, researchers, private citizens and funding sources to track performance over time.  More importantly, a mechanism that creates apples to apples comparisons helps identify best practices and opportunities for government efficiencies and cost savings.
  • By gathering and indexing the universe of data available in Ohio, HB 323 will enrich and strengthen research while also saving users time.
  • Last, and perhaps most important, HB 324 assists communities in meeting these requirements.  The cost savings and opportunities to share services or resources that will arise from a methodical understanding of our local governments will more than make up the foregone revenue of the Grant program.

To take the necessary steps that will ensure the long term sustainability, economic competitiveness, and physical attractiveness of our communities, decisions and development strategies must be data-driven and evidence-based.  GOPC is pleased to see that DataOhio holds the possibilities of providing that crucial information.

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.

GOPC’s 2013 Accomplishments

January 22nd, 2014

Throughout 2013, we championed revitalization and sustainable growth across Ohio. We are proud of all we have accomplished.

To fill you in on what’s been going on at GOPC’s office and throughout the state in the past year, we have taken stock of some of our major 2013 accomplishments:

2013 BY THE NUMBERS

5 groundbreaking reports published on the economic benefits of smart development

27 expert quotes in newspapers and other media sources in Ohio and beyond

30 presentations, including 2 overseas

300 participants at our Revitalizing Vacant Properties Conference

4,000 supporters and growing

 

To see the complete list of our 2013 Accomplishments, click here.

 

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.

Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program Update

December 20th, 2013

Through early December, progress continued on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program legislation with proponent testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee.

As discussed in earlier blog posts, Senate Bill 149 and House Bill 219 propose to create a program that would offer a tax credit to businesses that make monetary donations to catalytic community development projects.

At the second hearing on November 20th GOPC provided testimony in partnership with coalition member Ohio CDC Association and explained the design specifics of the program and discussed successes other states have experienced with similar programs. At the third House Ways and Means Committee hearing on December 4th, testimony was given from varying perspectives. Taris Vrcek, Executive Director of McKees Rocks CDC in Pennsylvania relayed a compelling story of decades long disinvestment in this first ring suburb of Pittsburgh (and Governor Kasich’s hometown) reversed by Neighborhood Partnership Program tax credits that resulted in the renovation of the historic Roxian Theatre, brownfield remediation and central business district revitalization.

Tim Bete, President, St. Mary Development Corporation described the complexity of development financing, the resource contraction facing the industry, the catalytic impacts of community economic development projects, and the desire for NIAP funding in Ohio. Mike Gonsiorowski, Regional President of PNC Bank in Columbus provided written testimony explaining their many years of experience participating in similar tax credit programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The proponent testimonies significantly contributed to the momentum and energy around this proposed program. The General Assembly is on holiday break and the effort will continue in the New Year. The coalition greatly appreciates the commitment and travels of the testimony team.

For background information and written testimony on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program, please click here.

Transportation for America

December 13th, 2013

On December 4th, GOPC participated in an all-day event convened by Transportation for America, a program of Smart Growth America. The workshop brought together representatives from national organizations, state organizations—such as GOPC—and local organizations, which are interested in effecting state-level transportation reform.

Although about half of the states represented have strong multi-modal transportation systems and are focused on preserving and expanding these systems, GOPC was joined by other states that are still fighting to set up viable multi-modal systems.  Despite these differences, all attendees found the workshop extremely useful.  Among the highlights, GOPC and its peers learned of model legislative language that could help advance reform in their states and met other advocates who have helpful stories and lessons learned from their experiences.

GOPC looks forward to continuing this conversation and strengthening connections to peers across the country as we all work to expand and sustainably support transportation options.

Addressing the Legacy of Property Neglect

December 6th, 2013

Throughout November, the Columbus Dispatch has been publishing a series of articles on the “Legacy of Neglect” of vacant and abandoned properties throughout Columbus. This article series has revealed some of the serious challenges related to dealing with slumlords that are perpetuating the vacant and abandoned property problem in Ohio.

Greater Ohio is mentioned in the article “Landlords cloaked from citations, prosecution” for our work with a group of financial institutions and other organizations to investigate possible practical and policy fixes around the state. Together, we need to stem the vacant property crisis to restore prosperity to Ohio.