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.

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.

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!

Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland 2.0

Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland is an initiative that started in 2008 as a pilot program for vacant land reuse. Neighborhood groups, churches, schools and individuals could apply for funding and technical assistance to transform a vacant lot from the Cuyahoga County Land Bank into a community garden, a pocket park, a phytoremediation site, an urban farm, or any number of other green land uses.

In 2010, the leaders* of the initiative decided to tackle more vacancy than could be done on the individual lot level.  Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland 2.0 is a study to identify large-scale catalytic projects in the following categories that could create lasting change in Cleveland: agriculture, alternative energy, contamination remediation, land assembly, neighborhood stabilization, sustainable pattern of development, and stormwater retention.

To learn more about Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland 2.0, take a look at this presentation that was given by Freddy Collier Jr., Citywide Plan Project Manager of the Cleveland City Planning Commission:

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Northeast Ohio’s Notable Nine

What is better than a “Top Ten” or a “Year in Review” list?  The Notable Nine, of course.  A whiz-bang combination of both, and yet unique in number, the Notable Nine have managed to multiple-handedly change the game in Northeast Ohio.

Without further ado, I present…

The Notable Nine

9.  Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Action and Resources Guide: In the second year of its decade-long endeavor, this mayor-led initiative has published a report on how to move forward.

8.  The Restoring Prosperity Report: A collaborative effort between the Greater Ohio Policy Center and the Brookings Institute, this report offers policy recommendations for improving Ohio’s long-term prosperity.

7.  The Northeast Ohio Green Map: You can add sustainable organizations, initiatives and infrastructure to it too!

6.  Water|Craft Urban-Infill Vol. 3: This book by the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative’s PopUp City is jam-packed with ideas on regional water issues and new urban design approaches to tackle them.

5.  NEORSD Project Clean Lake:  No one likes Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), including the US EPA.  CSOs allow untreated sewage to go into our otherwise beautiful watershed and Great Lake.  The NEORSD is now going to do something about it.

4.  Trust for Public Land: Taking the reigns for completing the Towpath Trail and connecting it to Lake Erie, the Trust for Public Land is making it possible to build a greenway through downtown Cleveland.

3.  Flats East Bank Loan Guarantee from HUD: The redevelopment of the Flats East Bank is perhaps not so far off after all.

2.  Reimagining Greater Cleveland: The Cleveland Botanical Garden is using the $167,000 grant they received from the Great Lakes Protection Fund to help transform vacant land in Northeast Ohio into ‘green’ infrastructure.

1.  Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant and the Regional Prosperity Initiative: There’s nothing quite like getting federal dollars for sustainable community building in Northeast Ohio!

(Continue reading for Honorable Mentions and Maybe Next Times)
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The Launch of the Northeast Ohio Green Map

When I arrived at my desk after the launch party for the Northeast Ohio Green Map, there was a letter waiting for me. I opened it with some degree of excitement (my name and address were handwritten – always a good sign) and found inside a thank you note from one of the attendees of the event that attracted dozens interested in mapping the region’s sustainability assets online.

The note, the turnout and the feedback at the launch party made me feel as though what we are working on here is, in fact, needed and rejoiced as a tool for community asset mapping in Northeast Ohio. What an extraordinary feeling to have after working on something that you believe in.

During the event, the back room of the Treehouse shrank as people continued to pour in during the presentation, and I was relieved that the bar didn’t have as limited a supply of beer as we had of Edison’s pizza.

Click to view the presentation

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The Northeast Ohio Green Map

This summer, I’m working with GreenCityBlueLake to develop the Northeast Ohio Green Map.

This is an open-sourced asset map (read: inventory of our communities’ strengths) of all the sustainability organizations, initiatives and infrastructure in Northeast Ohio, and we need your knowledge and participation in order to make this map the rich community tool that it has the potential to become.

Join us for the launch of the Northeast Ohio Green Map!

5:30-8pm at The Treehouse, 820 College Ave., Tremont

Join us for this Mapping Party to celebrate the launch of the Northeast Ohio Green Map. The Treehouse will supply the beer, we’ll supply the food, and you supply the knowledge of our communities’ assets and opportunities!  Bring your laptop and we’ll start mapping Northeast Ohio’s sustainability organizations, initiatives, and infrastructure together.

Asset mapping could help organizations and individuals of all kinds—including non-profit, for-profit, governmental, academic and public—to find one another, connect and collaborate around regional sustainability.
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