Mayor Coleman Calls for an Urban Agenda

As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman of Columbus gave the following remarks at the Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies Summit on June 9th:

“We need a state legislature that understands cities are economic engines, not economic drains,” Coleman said during his keynote speech at the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s summit on urban innovation and sustainable growth.

Coleman wants to see better public transit — both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He wants the state help to create more-walkable neighborhoods and fight blight, and he wants the legislature to renew a state fund to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be redeveloped.

“We’ve come to the point where we need a statewide urban agenda,” he said at the Westin Columbus hotel Downtown.

The Summit also included a plenary panel of leading mayors from across the state: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Mayor Randy Riley of Wilmington, and Mayor John McNally of Youngstown. Highlighting recent successes in their cities, the mayors struck an optimistic tone on the future of cities in Ohio and each noted the unique relationship their city had with its surrounding region and the state. Discussing challenges facing their cities—including the difficulty of blight and connecting workers to jobs and opportunity—the mayors cautioned that the state of Ohio could do more to support cities.

An urban agenda would support the revitalization of neighborhoods and cities throughout the state, help connect workers to employment centers, create vibrant communities of choice, and strengthen Ohio’s economy.

Advancing Ohio’s Urban Agenda

In Ohio and around the country, real estate developers and investors are recognizing pent-up demand for and a market shift toward sustainable, walkable urban places. Despite this paradigm shift and change in market momentum, many local, state and federal policies currently in place distort development incentives and hamper efforts to create the development consumers want and that support strong local economies. Urban developers and real estate and land use experts can align to provide state and national policy makers with expert advice on current consumer demand and the many benefits of urban and metropolitan growth strategies.

At three forums hosted by the Urban Land Institute district councils in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Greater Ohio Policy Center and the national non-profit LOCUS connected with developers from urban centers across the state to discuss the demand for sustainable communities. Here is what we learned:

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Waterfront Development Projects in Ohio’s Major Cities

Ohio’s three largest cities—Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati—have devised strategic urban developments geared toward revamping their waterfronts, with aspirations of boosting local quality of life and economic growth.

Cleveland – Lakefront Development Plan

CinciBanks

This past June, Cleveland City Council approved legislation for its long-anticipated lakefront development project. The primary objective is to enhance accessibility of the city’s waterfront.

Dick Pace of Cumberland TCC, LCC, the developer, is expected to build about 1,000 apartments, 80,000 square feet of commercial office space, and 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on 21 acres of the lakefront. The construction will occur in phases so that each section of the new development complements construction taking place in the downtown.

The plan capitalizes on existing anchor institutions, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Museum, and the Browns stadium, to attract visitors to the lake and leaves space for future development—such as hotels, restaurants, and shops—as the phases of the project advance over time. While the city is funding portions of the project with public funds, the hope is that private investors will be drawn to the area and develop along the lakefront once the infrastructure is in place.

To accommodate affordable housing, Pace said that local public servants, such as teachers and police officers, who wish to live in the neighborhood will be granted reduced rent. He also mentioned that the project will honor a Community Benefits Agreement that assures that Pace will employ local apprentices from Cleveland’s Max Hayes High School and give homegrown firms a chance to work on the project.

Cleveland’s lakefront development project is strategically devised to generate more revenue, attract businesses, promote exposure, boost local quality of life, and increase the volume of tourism in the city.

Columbus – Scioto Greenways Project

ColumbusScioto

Planning for the redevelopment of Columbus’ downtown riverfront has been underway for the past two decades, with exciting progress taking place within the last several years. In April of 2012, the City of Columbus and Franklin County—which are major land owners on the Scioto Peninsula—asked the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation to develop a strategic land use plan for the peninsula. The idea of the Scioto Greenways project was first introduced during the public process leading up to the generation of the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan.

The Scioto Greenways project, which is estimated to cost $35.5 million and is being funded by numerous public and private partners, involves three primary components that will revamp the area around the river. Those three components are:

  1. removing the Main Street Dam,
  2. restoring the Scioto River channel, and
  3. creating 33 acres of new green space.

The Main Street Dam was removed in late 2013, restoring the natural flow of the river and improving the ecological systems and river habitat. The riverbanks and river channel are currently under construction, but once they are completed, they will provide new recreation options and the opportunity to build upon existing investments in the area through the creation of a stunning 33-acre greenway through downtown Columbus.

This project will better connect Downtown Columbus to the Scioto Peninsula and East Franklinton by expanding on recent park investment, creating links to the existing regional bikeway system, and catalyzing further private investment in the urban core.

Cincinnati – The Banks

CinciBanks

Downtown Cincinnati’s riverfront between the Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium is in the midst of a  transformation. The Banks development project is turning 18 acres of undeveloped riverfront land along the Ohio River into a dynamic mixed-use “Live, Work, Play” destination.

The Banks project is part of a riverfront strategic development plan that was originally unveiled in the ‘90s. The development will incorporate residential units, office space, as well as dining, leisure and entertainment venues and will connect Cincinnati’s downtown to the waterfront via a 45-acre Riverfront Park.

Atlanta-based companies Carter and The Dawson Company, along with their capital partner USAA Real Estate Company, have been leading the development as a joint venture since 2007. The City of Cincinnati partnered with Hamilton County to provide infrastructure for the site, including a multi-modal transit facility, parking garages, street grid improvements, and utilities.

In late 2009, Phase I construction began by adding luxury apartments and street-level restaurants that opened in 2011, and further street-level retail that opened throughout 2012 and 2013. Ongoing development, which will include more residential, retail, hotel and office sites, will be completed in phases throughout a ten to fifteen year time frame.

The project is expected to add around $600 million in investment and around 1,000 permanent jobs to the local economy, according to a recent study. Already, the development is attracting new national retailers and residents to Cincinnati, which demonstrates the power of waterfront redevelopment as an asset for local quality of life and economic growth.

The waterfront revitalization projects in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati are expected to increase property values, encourage private investment, and contribute to vibrant communities, while improving connectivity between these cities and their beautiful water assets.

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

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.

Ohio City Populations

Millennials

Millennial Percentage

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.

Urban Attraction in Ohio

The recent upsurge in demand for rental properties in Columbus’ downtown neighborhoods has gained increasing exposure in news sources. The Columbus Dispatch article “Urban Renewal” notes that, “The urban-living renaissance is real” and that

“more and more people, especially young singles, have come to demand the benefits that only city life can bestow: restaurants, entertainment, parks and workplaces within walking distance; a lively atmosphere; and plenty of other young professionals as neighbors.”

These trends are also apparent in U.S. Census data: between 2000 and 2010, the City of Columbus grew in population by 10.6%.

National trends, cited by the likes of LOCUS President Chris Leinberger and the Urban Land Institute, have suggested that both Baby Boomers and Generation Y are moving back to inner cities to take advantage of the many available amenities and walkable communities. I have been interested in finding whether these trends held true for Ohio’s eight largest cities.

The graphs below present some findings:

BoomersGenY_Cbus

Figure 1. The above chart compares the percentage of Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) and Generation Y (born between 1981 and 2000) in the City of Columbus and the surrounding metropolitan area between 1970 and 2010. There was a 6.04% growth of Generation Y in City of Columbus from 2000 to 2010. Data source: U.S. Census.

BoomersPercent

Figure 2. The above graph shows the general decline in the percentage of Baby Boomers in Ohio’s eight largest cities from 1970 to 2010.Data source: U.S. Census.

GenYPercent

Figure 3. The above graph shows the change in percentage of Generation Y in Ohio’s eight largest cities between 2000 and 2010. Data source: U.S. Census.

What do these trends mean for Ohio’s major metropolises?

Columbus Dispatch article “Rush to rent, and build apartments,” Columbus Underground post “Neighborhood Launch to Break Ground on New Apartments and Condos,”and NPR piece “Rust Belt Reboot Has Downtown Cleveland Rocking” call attention to the developers who are struggling to keep up with the demand for rental residences in walkable urban communities in Columbus and Cleveland, respectively. This demand for walkable neighborhoods with nearby amenities may increase as Baby Boomers age and desire more convenient lifestyles as well as proximity to their children and grandchildren.  As for retaining these populations, especially Generation Y, in urban areas—thereby helping to decrease our collective fossil fuel consumption, urban vacancy and blight, health issues related to inactivity, and greenfield consumption—our cities will have to compete to provide employment, quality schools, and world-class amenities.

Let’s start the discussion – what practice and policy drivers can be used to attract and retain our country’s two largest demographic groups, the Baby Boomers and their children, in our Rust Belt cities?

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.

Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy

If you haven’t yet read the Restoring Prosperity Report produced by the Greater Ohio Policy Center and the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, I highly recommend that you do.

Photo from the Restoring Prosperity Report

It provides, based on a massive community engagement campaign that I was lucky enough to take part in, policy recommendations to transform Ohio’s economy in a way that is both environmentally and socially just.

The short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations cover innovation, human capital, infrastructure, quality places, educational spending, local government collaboration, state programs and investments, and competition for Federal funding.

But how do we go from holding a report of quality policy recommendations to catalyzing implementation?

We might learn from what Pennsylvania has accomplished since the publishing of their “Back to Prosperity” Report (also done in collaboration with Brookings).

At the recent Rebuilding the Cities that Built America conference in Youngstown, Joanne Denworth of Gov. Edward Rendell’s Office of Policy in Pennsylvania noted that although they have made great progress in PA since the publishing of their smart growth report, there were also set-backs.

Of them, she recalled the push-back from rural communities that made policy implementation on behalf of city improvement difficult.  She also informed conference-goers that PA now faces the impending environmental degradation associated with the exploration of oil sands, which could set them back significantly from environmental progress made since the height of industry in the area.

These are not easy issues to solve.  But by exploring them and thinking through potential solutions, we may come closer to successful implementation of necessary policies in order to make our region more socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable.