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

By Raquel Jones and Marianne Eppig

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

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

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

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

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

Graduate Students Innovate Strategies for Rust Belt Revitalization

Rust Belt cities—like Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Warren, Youngstown, and Buffalo—have some of the most pernicious challenges facing urban areas today. Concentrated poverty, aging infrastructure, population and industry loss, swaths of vacant properties, and decades of underinvestment are just some of the issues confronting these cities. And yet, now more than ever before, these cities have an opportunity to attract new populations who crave vibrant places with character.

The question is, how do these cities strategically invest in their assets and tackle their obstacles to benefit from this renewed interest in urban living? How can they become great again?

As a graduate student in the City and Regional Planning program at OSU’s Knowlton School of Architecture, I started a yearlong independent study to attempt to answer these questions and to innovate solutions to Rust Belt city challenges. Twelve other masters students in the City and Regional Planning program signed up for the course, and together we spent the 2011-2012 academic year researching, brainstorming, and writing about potential solutions for the Rust Belt. As part of our research, we visited Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Detroit, and Flint during our Spring Break and spent time talking to local leaders and learning from grassroots efforts. By the end of the year, we created a publication compiling our articles on our individual topics and solutions.

The publication that we created is titled 13 Strategies for Rust Belt Cities, and you can download it for free here:

RustBeltBookCoverImage

Each article in the publication presents an innovative strategy to address a Rust Belt challenge, such as:

  • Tax code to reduce the number of inner city vacant lots,
  • Chaos planning to bring life into urban cores,
  • Multi-lingual signage to accommodate diverse populations,
  • Policy to protect the Great Lakes,
  • Reuse of abandoned rail lines,
  • Free rent to incentivize migration back into the city, and much more.

Together, these articles paint a vision for what the Rust Belt could be within our lifetimes. By promulgating these ideas, we hope to contribute to the conversation about how to implement strategies for addressing the region’s obstacles and providing avenues to revitalization.

Urban Exploration

In honor of my birthday today, I thought I would give myself (and all of you!) one of my very first and very favorite blog posts from 2009. Enjoy!

Kent architecture alum, Ted Ferringer M.Arch ’08, MUD ’08, took these photos while exploring the urban outskirts of Cleveland.  His descriptions of place are coupled with the photography.

“Admiring”

Admiring

This photo is from the roof of the old Howard Johnson’s hotel at the north end of E. 55th Street, just off of I90. This photo was taken during the Labor Day weekend airshow, which some friends and I spent the afternoon watching from the roof. That roof probably has the best view in the city.

The building is currently being demo-ed, but the work has paused as the building’s owner has sued the city, who was demo-ing it through eminent domain.

A common collaborator of mine and good friend, Ryan DeBiase, embellished the day’s events in a blog post, here. It’s a work of creative non-fiction; some events are true, some are complete lies.  Granted, he still re-caped the day’s events better then I ever could.

Its pretty ironic that the demo of the building started, then stopped, and now looks like it was bombed. It seems somehow appropriate, however, that the lies of that day eventually became a sort of fact.

6611 Euclid Ave. (1) and (2)

6611 Euclid Ave.

These photos were taken during another urban exploration with my common companion for such things, Mr. DeBiase. This building intrigued us the second we saw it after moving to Cleveland. It’s located along the Euclid Corridor, and its basic story is that it used to be light industrial/warehouse space (I believe it housed a garment factory for a number of years) before eventually being abandoned.

When the Euclid Corridor project started, the front bay of the building  on the Euclid Ave. side was cut off to accommodate the wider street. For quite a while the building sat unsecured, with the entire front of the building sitting open–creating an amazing real-life building section.

6611 Euclid Ave.

Again, there seems to something inherently poetic about having to cut into the former soul of the city (a former manufacturing building)–creating a monumental scar–for progress to take place.

The RTA, which owns the building, has since covered the front of the building with giant metal panels, creating a new billboard/super graphic along the corridor, promising better times ahead. Like all things Cleveland, the potential is amazing, if perhaps forever unrealized.

I also happened to do a real estate case study for this property in a real estate class at CSU’s Levin College. This property would make an amazing technology/health care incubator site, as the shell of the building is in amazing shape, in an amazing location. It could make an incredible mixed use, TOD development.

Photos from this day’s real were just used in an article about this idea.

(Ted Ferringer lives in Ohio City and works for a local architecture firm.)

Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities

CVP-CoverImage

In the wake of the mortgage foreclosure crisis and the long-term abandonment of older industrial cities and their regions, communities and neighborhoods have been increasingly burdened with vacant and abandoned properties. Organizations and municipalities are now more systematically addressing vacant residential properties. However, for years there was very little guidance for the redevelopment of commercial vacant properties, which are equally prevalent — especially throughout older industrial regions.

CVP-Chart-2013

Commercial and residential vacancy at the county level for legacy cities. Data collected on the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013. Data source: US Postal Service. Data aggregates vacant and no-stat addresses.

Greater Ohio Policy Center just released its new guidebook, Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization, which is the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive set of tools and strategies for redeveloping commercial vacant properties and business districts in legacy cities.

The guidebook, developed in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and with support from the Center for Community Progress, is designed as a “How To” manual for local leaders, identifying practices and policies that take advantage of the link between available commercial properties and needed economic re-growth strategies in legacy cities.

The tools and strategies provided can be used by local leaders and practitioners no matter where they are in the process of commercial property redevelopment, from data gathering and planning to real estate acquisition and redevelopment, and from tenant attraction and support to business district management.

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

While the tools, strategies, and policy recommendations within the guidebook are particularly relevant for legacy cities and their communities, they are also applicable to all cities and regions that seek to reuse commercial vacant properties with the purpose of enhancing community stability and economic development.

Click here for more information and to download the guidebook.

Where Ohio is Sprawling and What It Means

Some areas in Ohio are sprawling, some are building in compact, connected ways, and the difference between the two strategies has implications for millions of Ohioans’ day-to-day lives.

Measuring Sprawl 2014

Measuring Sprawl 2014, released today by national advocacy group Smart Growth America, ranks the most sprawling and most compact areas of the country. The new report evaluates development patterns in 221 major metropolitan areas and their counties based on four factors: density, land use mix, street connectivity and activity centering. Each metro area received a Sprawl Index score based on these factors.*

Here is how regions in Ohio ranked:

Metropolitan Statistical Area National Rank Composite (total) score
Canton-Massillon, Ohio 93 106.99
Akron, Ohio 111 103.15
Dayton, Ohio 116 101.48
Toledo, Ohio 117 100.90
Columbus, Ohio 138 93.00
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio 153 85.62
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 166 80.75
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 175 78.08

* The four factors were combined in equal weight to calculate each area’s Sprawl Index score. The average Index is 100, meaning areas with scores above 100 tend to be more compact and connected, and areas with scores below 100 are more sprawling. Visit Smart Growth America to view the full rankings >>

The new report also examines how different development patterns relate to the quality of life in these areas—and the differences are startling. People in compact, connected areas have greater upward economic mobility than their peers in sprawling areas. That is, a child born in the bottom 20% of the income scale has a better chance of rising to the top 20% of the income scale by age 30.

People in compact, connected metro areas spend less on the combined expenses of housing and transportation. Housing costs are higher in compact, connected areas, but these higher costs are more than offset by lower transportation costs. People in compact, connected metro areas also have more transportation options. People in these areas tend to walk more, take transit more, own fewer cars and spend less time driving than their peers in sprawling areas.

Finally, people in compact, connected areas have longer, healthier, safer lives. Life expectancy is greater in compact, connected areas, and driving rates (and their associated risk of a fatal collision), body mass index, air quality and violent crime all contribute to this difference.

Outcomes like this are why Greater Ohio Policy Center is dedicated to helping Ohio’s regions develop in a more sustainable way. Helping people in Ohio live healthier, wealthier, happier lives is why we do the work we do, and smarter development is a key part of making that happen.

Read the full findings of Measuring Sprawl 2014 and see how every major metro area in the country compares when it comes to sprawl atwww.smartgrowthamerica.org/measuring-sprawl.

Rust Belt Renaissance

Click the above image to be re-directed to MSNBC’s video clip.

In this segment of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Details magazine’s Jesse Ashlock discusses ways in which young entrepreneurs are creating a “Rust Belt Renaissance.” In a clip from his article in Details, Ashlock states:

“The Motor City is just like the buckle on the Rust Belt, an entire region whose very name speaks of decline and decay but which is now determinedly–and definitively–finding its way forward. In fact, while the rest of America has staggered under the weight of the Great Recession, the innovators, entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers in cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo and Youngstown have raced out ahead, leading a Heartland renaissance whose effects are being felt from coast to coast.”

A few of the organizations that they mention include A Piece of Cleveland, Slow’s BBQ in Detroit (just went there this past weekend!), and the LaunchHouse in Shaker Heights.

Lemonade: Detroit

“If y’all wanna see the community transform, common, let’s get to work.”

Lemonade: Detroit is a project Erik Proulx created about two years ago to share the voices of the people who have chosen to stay and make a difference in Detroit. He allows people to become co-producers by purchasing frames in the film – helping with both production costs and community engagement. The film currently has over 2,344 producers. Want to become a producer too? Visit the Lemonade: Detroit website.

Collective Impact in the Rust Belt

“Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.” John Kania & Mark Kramer

The term Rust Belt hints at some of the pervasive problems of our great region. Here, we don’t need to be reminded of the need for innovative solutions to inner city foreclosure, neighborhood vacancy and blight, homelessness, unemployment, the achievement gap in education, fresh water contamination, health disparities, and much more.

And yet, despite widespread knowledge of the complexity of these challenges, many of us—including funders, social enterprises, governments and non-profits—continue to seek solutions in individual programs or organizations. It took much more than a single or even a few organizations to create these problems, and it’s going to take more to solve them.

Scaling up single, albeit innovative, programs and replicating them won’t be enough. Neither will short-term public-private partnerships or collaborations. What we need is something more powerful, adaptive, and sustained.

Collective Impact is a meme that began spreading with an article by John Kania and Mark Kramer in the Winter 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. David Bornstein covered the topic shortly after in several New York Times articles. It is a method through which a group of key players from different sectors commit to a common agenda in order to solve a specific social problem. But it is no ordinary collaboration.

Collective Impact initiatives are long-term commitments marked by:

  • A common agenda
  • A shared measurement system
  • Mutually reinforcing activities
  • Ongoing communication
  • An independent backbone organization

In short, it is a method by which the whole can become more than the sum of its parts. Best practices of Collective Impact include:

  • Strive, an initiative that has brought together 300 education-related organizations in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region to develop common goals, evidence-based strategies, and shared metrics for regional impact,
  • The 100,000 Homes Campaign, which coordinates efforts to place the chronically homeless in permanent supportive housing,
  • Shape Up Somerville, a community-wide effort to reduce weight gain among children in Somerville, MA,
  • The Elizabeth River Project, a cross-sector initiative to restore the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, VA, and
  • The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, which connects 16 conservation organizations in the U.S. and Canada to build a sustainable seafood industry.

The idea of Collective Impact has taken off to the degree that is the theme of the upcoming United Front conference on October 6th in St. Paul, Minnesota:

Despite the clear benefits of strengthening the efficiency, knowledge, and effectiveness of an entire system that affects complex social issues—including the possibility of building viable and lasting solutions—the task remains daunting for some. In response to a reader who asked how to get top-level leaders to agree to volunteer time and resources, Bornstein wrote simply, “By getting the right people together.”
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Made in Cleveland: Sustainability Innovations

Just came across some videos shot and edited by Brad Masi that I’d like to share with you all:

The Urban Lumberjacks are deconstructing houses and using the materials to build greenhouses.

The Central Community Cooperative is especially interesting to me because of its connection to Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus (Tri-C Metro) and Dr. Michael Scope, who also started the Collaborative Campus. The Collaborative Campus Project is an effort to build upon the strengths of the area surrounding Tri-C Metro, making it a safer, more prosperous and sustainable community for all. Tri-C’s efforts to reach out to their surrounding community are truly inspiring and I’m looking forward to seeing how these new projects are implemented, creating results for the neighborhoods within the Campus District.

Click here to watch some more of Brad Masi’s videos!