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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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.

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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Federal Funding Opportunities

Here’s a list of federal funding opportunities that could be especially helpful for post-industrial communities that are willing to collaborate on a regional level to reinvent themselves.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhood Pre-Notice
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development posted the Choice Neighborhood FY 2010 Notice of Funding Availability Pre-Notice to give potential applicants guidance prior to the actual Choice Neighborhoods funding notice that will be published this summer. The guidance offers advance details regarding the application process to compete for funds through this pilot program.  More here.

Tiger II Discretionary Grants Program: Deadline August 23
The Department of Transportation is soliciting applications for the “TIGER II” discretionary grant program, a $600 million competitive transportation grant program for surface transportation projects. More here.

Sustainable Communities Grants: Deadline August 23
The U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development have joined together to award up to $75 million in funding–$35 million in TIGER II Planning Grants and $40 million in Sustainable Community Challenge Grants–for localized planning activities that ultimately lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing, and economic development. More here.

HUD Sustainable Regional Planning Grant: Deadline August 23
The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development is seeking applicants for their $100 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program. The program is designed to create stronger, more sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local innovation, and building a clean energy economy. The grant is part of the DOT, HUD, EPA partnership. More here.

EDA Innovation in Economic Development Competition: Deadline August 27
The Economic Development Administration announced funding for projects that advance innovation, boost competitiveness, and create jobs. Grants will be given to innovations in commercialization, regional innovation clusters, global export promotion, and green technology. More here.

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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