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NEOSCC Board approves release of Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products

December 18, 2013 in Products, Scenario Planning, Tool, Toolkiit, Vibrant NEO 2040

NEOSCC Board approves release of Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products

Member organizations to now consider Vision for approval

The Board of Directors of the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC) yesterday voted to release the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Products and Framework documents to NEOSCC member organizations for review, consideration and potential vote of approval.  The NEOSCC Board will take a final vote on approval of the Vision at its February 25, 2014 meeting.  You can review the board meeting presentation above.

 “Over the course of the last year, NEOSCC has engaged residents, elected officials, and experts throughout our 12-county region in a rigorous scenario planning process to identify the choices we can make now to help create a Northeast Ohio that is more vibrant, resilient, and sustainable in the future,” said Hunter Morrison, NEOSCC Executive Director. “Based on input and feedback from residents and leaders, the overarching objectives of the Vibrant NEO 2040 Regional Vision seeks to pursue are:

  • Promote investment in Northeast Ohio’s established communities;
  • Protect our soil, water, air, and ecologically sensitive areas;
  • Improve our regional fiscal health;
  • Develop our regional economy with accessible employment opportunities;
  • Enhance our regional transportation network;
  • Cultivate and celebrate our local assets and places of public value;
  • Expand our parks and open-space network; and
  • Preserve and value our prime farmland as a regional economic asset.”

This fall, NEOSCC and the Vibrant NEO 2040 team presented the objectives and potential recommendations during a series of public meetings, seven subject matter caucuses and to its board. Utilizing the feedback received, nine recommendations and 41 initiatives emerged as the foundation for the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision and Framework.

“We recognize the recommendations and initiatives are not “one size fits all” solutions,” added Mr. Morrison.  “We understand that some of initiatives will not be applicable to all parts of the 12-county region. Lastly, implementation of individual initiatives will be a decision at the local level. The intent of NEOSCC in developing the Vibrant NEO 2040 regional vision and framework is that its recommendations, development standards, indicator targets, and action products be available for implementation at the Metro and local levels at the option of their respective decision makers.”

The recommendation and initiatives, derived through a comprehensive development process over the course of 2013 and driven by the preferences and values of Northeast Ohio residents, are essentially steps and tools for realizing the Vision NEO 2040 Vision.

The nine Vision NEO 2040 Recommendations, and their related Initiatives, are:

Please note that NEOSCC recognizes that the recommendations and initiatives are not “one size fits all” solutions.  We understand that some of initiatives will not be applicable to all parts of the 12-county region. Lastly, implementation of individual initiatives will be a decision at the local level.  The intent of NEOSCC in developing the Vibrant NEO 2040 regional vision and framework is that its recommendations, development standards, indicator targets, and action products be available for implementation at the Metro and local levels at the option of their respective decision makers.

1.       Focus new residential and commercial development on sites within established communities

  • Initiative 1.1: Encourage infill and redevelopment through the use of tax credits and other direct and indirect public incentives.
  • Initiative 1.2: Fix it first: continue to privilege projects that maintain the existing road network in a state of good repair, rather than building additional capacity.
  • Initiative 1.3: Improve the ability of municipalities and townships to analyze the long-term impacts of new development and better manage their own development.
  • Initiative 1.4: Continue development throughout the region in accordance with local zoning requirements and preferences, but prioritize public subsidies to projects within the region’s established communities.
  • Initiative 1.5: Require the users of new sewer extensions that serve previously unsewered areas to pay the full cost of service.
  • Initiative 1.6: Consider instituting a land value tax to replace existing improvement-based property assessment and taxation methods.

2.       Develop a robust network of regional job centers connected by multimodal transportation corridors within and between counties

  • Initiative 2.1: Strengthen regional job centers—and the corridors that connect them—by diversifying and intensifying land uses and investing in strategic local economic development within them.
  • Initiative 2.2: Use transit oriented development (TOD) to create stronger, more accessible, regional job centers.
  • Initiative 2.3: Implement a tiered approach to local parking requirements.

3.       Pursue the remediation, assembly, marketing, and redevelopment of abandoned properties at both the local and regional levels

  • Initiative 3.1: Develop and maintain a regional vacant industrial and commercial properties database and criteria for determining the most appropriate successive use, whether for redevelopment, green infrastructure, food production, or parks, or natural areas.
  • Initiative 3.2: Expedite permitting and remove barriers for adaptive reuse of abandoned buildings and empty lots.
  • Initiative 3.3: Expand and coordinate existing land bank efforts to acquire, assemble, manage, and dispose of vacant properties throughout the region.
  • Initiative 3.4: Identify, evaluate, and—where appropriate—pursue the reuse of vacant and abandoned industrial sites endowed with significant preexisting infrastructure that could provide unique opportunities for regional economic development. Advocate for a brownfield redevelopment fund and promote these sites through a large-scale marketing campaign.

4.       Encourage a higher frequency of mixed-use development and a range of diverse, affordable housing options

  • Initiative 4.1: Include mixed-use designations and/or planned unit overlay districts in zoning codes throughout the region.
  • Initiative 4.2: Include traditional small-lot, compact single-family and townhouse residential designations in zoning codes throughout the region.
  • Initiative 4.3: Offer financial incentives to developers that incorporate affordable housing units into their projects and implement inclusionary zoning in markets with widespread affordability gaps.
  • Initiative 4.4: Offer financial literacy and housing education programs for tenants and homeowners. Focus on areas in established communities where investments in housing are underway.

5.       Enhance and coordinate the region’s rail and bus services

  • Initiative 5.1: Invest in a regional network of bi-directional public transit connections between Northeast Ohio’s major job centers.
  • Initiative 5.2: Create a network of high-frequency express and local transit routes connecting the region’s job centers. Prioritize infill development in the corridors served by these routes. In the short and medium terms, upgrade high-performing existing bus routes and create new bus routes in designated corridors. In the long term, upgrade the highest-demand routes into commuter rail service.
  • Initiative 5.3: Coordinate the region’s transit systems for joint marketing, information technology, and fare media, including information regarding private transit resources such as university/health system shuttles, private bus services, airport transportation, etc.
  • Initiative 5.4: Evaluate the condition of all existing rail trackage and rail crossings to determine what investments would be necessary to bring substandard infrastructure up to standard for freight and passenger service.

6.       Enhance walking and cycling as transportation options to increase regional mobility and improve public health

  • Initiative 6.1: Expand the existing bicycle lane and trail system and connect it to regional transit hubs via on-and-off street facilities.
  • Initiative 6.2: Repair existing sidewalks and crosswalks and add new ones as needed wherever a fixed-route bus service is in operation.
  • Initiative 6.3: Promote “Complete Streets” through regional policy and the identification of local champions.
  • Initiative 6.4: Collaborate with school districts and local communities to further develop safe routes to school, encouraging walking and biking, and site new schools in walkable locations.

 7.       Preserve our natural areas for future generations, provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and develop a regional approach to protecting air, water, and soil quality

  • Initiative 7.1: Expand and connect the existing network of parks, trails, rivers, lakes, and natural areas through continued partnerships with private land owners, land conservancies, land trusts, community members, and local governments.
  • Initiative 7.2: Support and expand green infrastructure options for flood control and general water management, both at the local level with projects like green alleys and bioswales, and at the regional level with a network of large, upstream water retention areas.
  • Initiative 7.3: Improve regional quality of life and health by focusing on the interface between natural and human systems in the areas of flood mitigation, storm water run-off, and clean beaches and the water quality of our lakes, rivers, and streams.
  • Initiative 7.4: Strengthen and expand watershed partnerships that foster communication and collaboration between upstream and downstream communities across all 15 Northeast Ohio watershed geographies.
  • Initiative 7.5: Expand collaboration between existing natural resource districts and consider the creation of new districts where appropriate.
  • Initiative 7.6: Develop and maintain a natural resources inventory of the region.

 8.       Support sustainable agriculture and the local food system in Northeast Ohio

  • Initiative 8.1: Support the expansion of community supported agriculture (CSAs), farmer cooperatives, farm-to-school programs, and other existing mechanisms that support sustainable agriculture and enhance food access.
  • Initiative 8.2: Partner with individual landowners, the food processing industry, and local organizations to protect agriculturally valuable land for future generations.
  • Initiative 8.3: Review and amend local ordinances to allow for small- and moderate-scale urban farming on occupied and vacant parcels that are environmentally safe for growing food.
  • Initiative 8.4: Support the work of local food initiatives to share best practices and identify policies of regional significance.

 9.       Increase collaboration among the region’s government agencies to expand information sharing and find more cost-effective means of providing essential services

  • Initiative 9.1: Study privatization and public-private partnerships as means to fund critical infrastructure projects that cannot be funded solely through public dollars.
  • Initiative 9.2: Utilize joint procurement strategies and the sharing of facilities, staff, and other resources wherever possible to save money on the provision of public services.
  • Initiative 9.3: Identify one or more organizations that will host and maintain the technical resources created by NEOSCC so that they will remain current, accurate, and available for future regional visioning and planning.
  • Initiative 9.4: Align MPO/COG/ODOT transportation model inputs and continue to collaborate, share information, and align policy objectives across the multiple regional planning agencies of Northeast Ohio.
  • Initiative 9.5: Foster greater engagement between MPOs/COGs and organizations/initiatives that address natural resources, parks, sewer, public health, housing, education, private business investment, and economic development.
  • Initiative 9.6: Sustain the momentum of NEOSCC by continuing to convene stakeholders to identify and address regional issues and to advance the region’s collaborative capacity.

In addition to the Vision, the Board also reviewed and approved the Action products, developed by NEOSCC to encourage, equip, and support Northeast Ohioans to learn, share, create, and act together to build a more vibrant future this year.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision and these products are meant to inspire and guide decision-making at the MPO, COG, and local level to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes

The Action Product are:

  1.  Dashboard: a visualization tool that communicates a set of indicators and metrics, against which progress toward the Vibrant NEO 2040 vision will be measured.
  2. Tool Kit & Best Practices: implementation tools and techniques to realize the regional preferred vision developed through Vibrant NEO 2040.
  3. Policy Recommendations: a framework for analyzing the effects existing policies have on the region and determining what may be needed to create desired change.
  4. Pilots: emerging best practices that show promise in moving the region towards the Vibrant NEO 2040 preferred vision.

The Action Products are aligned with final Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision themes, recommendations & initiatives. The Dashboard & Policy Recommendations are higher-level and aligned with recommendations.  The Tools, Best Practices & Pilots are aligned by initiative.

Today kicks off the next round of Vibrant NEO Open Houses

July 29, 2013 in ACT, News, Scenario Planning, Vibrant NEO 2040

Today kicks off the next round of Vibrant NEO Open Houses where we will look at Alternative Scenarios - different potential futures for Northeast Ohio - that could result from different choices.
These are critically important discussions.  The entire Vibrant NEO process is an attempt to help the residents of Northeast Ohio define what we want for the future, and then determine what choices we need to make in order to get to the future. 
The first round of workshops in early May helped to define a baseline for discussion – i.e. what will Northeast Ohio look like in 2040 is we continue our currents trends.  (You can learn more about these findings here.)
We gathered input from residents at those workshops, and later through ImagineMyNEO, our online planning tool which is still open for use.  That input has helped us create Alternative Scenarios that you can view and discuss at our Open Houses.  These scenarios help us see what can happen in the future if we make different choices now.  You can learn more in this comprehensive article from Steve Litt on Cleveland.com today.   
We hope you can join us at one of our Open Houses – the first one is tonight from 4:30 to 7:30 PM at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Here is the schedule for the next two weeks.

Mahoning River Corridor Initiative

May 7, 2013 in Environment, Mahoning

The Mahoning River flows through the eastern portion of the NEOSCC planning area before it eventually empties into the Ohio River in Pennsylvania. The Mahoning River was once considered the heart of the steel industry in the United States, where industrial development grew the cities of Youngstown, Warren, Newton Falls, Struthers and many others along its winding path. Commonly known as “The Valley,” this region experienced massive hemorrhaging of industrial and manufacturing jobs in the 1970s and 1980s. The result was population decline and disinvestment in traditional neighborhoods and urban centers that continues today. Additionally, the environmental impact of the industry in The Valley has made the Mahoning River infamous. The river is the only surface water body in Northeast Ohio where the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has labeled its waters unfit for human contact from Warren to the Pennsylvania state line. More detailed information on the latest monitoring data and clean-up requirements is available from Ohio EPA.[1] Despite the challenges, however, a tremendous initiative to clean and reuse abandoned brownfields, improve water quality, expand recreational opportunity and generate new economic development along the Mahoning River is now underway: The Mahoning River Corridor Initiative (MRCI).

Housed at the Youngstown State University Center for Urban and Regional Studies, the MRCI is a regional brownfield and urban development collaboration of nine municipalities, Youngstown State University and four non-profit corporations. Among its goals are promoting the opportunities for economic development that exist in the Mahoning River corridor communities.[2] One of the major outputs of the MRCI is a Feasibility Report that:

  • Describes the Mahoning River Corridor Initiative
  • Identifies, maps, and inventories 16 brownfield project sites involving over 800 acres in the river corridor (these sites are available for further economic development and recreational or environmental enhancement).
  • Identifies 11 major infrastructure projects related to those sites.
  • Identifies eight environmental/preservation enhancement areas and 12 recreational enhancement projects.

A copy of the MRCI Feasibility Report is available on the organization’s news website.[3]

Dan Mamula, former mayor of Struthers and NEOSCC Board Member, manages the MRCI. Dan is available to answer questions about the development opportunities available in the corridor area and direct developers to helpful resources. Questions about MCRI may be directed to Dan Mamula by email (dcmamula@ysu.edu) or by telephone (330.941.1850). Additional information about MRCI may also be found through the project’s website (http://cfweb.cc.ysu.edu/psi/mrci/index.html), including success stories within the MRCI partner communities.

MassDot Greening the State Transportation System

April 18, 2013 in Transportation

 

Massachusetts Department of Transportation launched GreenDOT, a comprehensive environmental responsibility and sustainability initiative that will make MassDOT a national leader in “greening” the state transportation system. GreenDOT will be driven by three primary goals; reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, promote the healthy transportation options of walking, bicycling, and public transit, and support smart growth development.  In May of 2012, MassDOT released a Draft GreenDOT Implementation Plan for public review. The Plan was written to embed the sustainability vision of GreenDOT into the core business practices of MassDOT. According to the website, GreenDOT calls for MassDOT to incorporate sustainability into all of its activities; from strategic planning to project design and construction to system operation. The initiative includes greenhouse gas reduction targets mandated under the Global Warming Solutions Act, signed by Governor Patrick in 2008. GreenDOT was designed in response to several existing state laws, Executive Orders, and MassDOT policies.

For more information about GreenDot visit the website at http://transportation.blog.state.ma.us/blog/2013/03/greendot-plan-leads-the-way-sustainable-transportation.html

The Oberlin Project

April 11, 2013 in Sustainability

The Oberlin Project, a Joint venture between the City of Oberlin and Oberlin Ohio

The Oberlin Project is a joint effort of the City of Oberlin, Oberlin College, and private and institutional partners to improve the resilience, prosperity, and sustainability of the Oberlin Community. The City of Oberlin is located in southwest Lorain County, less than 10 miles from Elyria. In 2012, the city was named a “Best Hometown” by Ohio Magazine.[1] Oberlin College & Conservatory is a four-year liberal arts college and conservatory of music. Founded in 1833, the school counts approximately 2,900 students.[2] The Oberlin Project’s aim is to revitalize the local economy, eliminate carbon emissions, restore local agriculture, food supply and forestry, and create a new, sustainable base for economic and community development.[3]

The Oberlin Project was founded by Professor David W. Orr and is currently managed by Bryan Stubbs. David Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College. The Oberlin Project was formed out of David Orr’s vision of full-spectrum sustainability: an all-encompassing joint venture by the City and College to create a thriving, sustainable and environmentally friendly community in Oberlin. In the summer of 2009, the College joined four otherwise disparate objectives into an overarching initiative in affiliation with the City of Oberlin: 1) Revitalize the local economy; 2) Eliminate carbon emissions; 3) Restore local agriculture and forestry; and 4) Use the entire effort as an educational laboratory relevant to virtually every discipline. The result is The Oberlin Project.[4]

Professor Orr invites all to imagine Oberlin City and College within a vibrant Northeast Ohio:

Imagine Oberlin with a vibrant 24/7 downtown featuring local foods, arts, and music, powered by energy efficiency and sunlight. Imagine arriving from (Cleveland) Hopkins airport on a light-rail coming through a 20,000 acre greenbelt of farms and forests that terminates close to a new, deep green hotel with a cuisine featuring local foods. Imagine your college reunion held in an adjacent solar powered conference center. Imagine a Green Arts District in which great college strengths in music, the arts, and drama are joined to those in the sciences as the backdrop for performances, exhibitions, lectures, and an ongoing conversation on the most important issues on the human agenda, all having to do with whether and how civilization might endure and flourish in radically altered biophysical conditions.[5]

Additional information about The Oberlin Project is available through their website: http://www.oberlinproject.org/. This site includes opportunities to provide support, become better engaged, and read blogs and media updates. Questions about the Project may be directed to either Managing Director Bryan Stubbs (Bryan.Stubbs@oberlin.edu) or Assistant Director Heather Adelman (hadelman@oberlinproject.org).


[1] http://www.ohiomagazine.com/Main/Articles/Best_Hometowns_2012_4489.aspx

[2] http://new.oberlin.edu/about/index.dot

[3] http://www.oberlinproject.org/

[4] http://www.oberlinproject.org/about/executive-director/david-w-orr

[5] Ibid.

Have you signed up yet? Less than three weeks until first Vibrant NEO Work Shop

April 10, 2013 in ACT, Engagement

Help create a more sustainable Northeast Ohio

The VibrantNEO process uses public workshops to look at the future of our Northeast Ohio.  What will it look like in 2040 if we keep doing what we’re doing?  What are the potential outcomes if we do things differently?  To answer these questions, we need to understand our values and priorities.

This first round of VibrantNEO public workshops revolves around a scenario called “Business‐As‐Usual.”  It outlines what Northeast Ohio’s future will look like if we keep doing what we are currently doing.  We need your help to define what we value and what’s most important to this region as we start to create a vision for Northeast Ohio’s future.  We can only answer these questions together!

Pick a date and location that’s most convenient for you and join us!  All events begin with an open house and registration from 5:30 – 6:30 PM.

Workshops take place from 6:30 – 8:30 PM.

Click on the links below to RSVP or for more information go to http://vibrantneo.org/workshops/.

Tuesday, April 30:

Lorain, Medina, and western Cuyahoga counties The Oberlin Inn

7 N Main St

Oberlin OH 44074

http://tinyurl.com/VibrantNEO-Oberlin-043013

 

Tuesday, April 30:

Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties John F. Kennedy High School

2550 Central Parkway Avenue SE

Warren, Ohio 44484

http://tinyurl.com/VibrantNEO-Warren-043013

 

Wednesday, May 1:

Central Cuyahoga county and inner-ring suburbs Third Federal Savings & Loan

(auditorium)

7007 Broadway Ave.

Cleveland OH 44105

http://tinyurl.com/VibrantNEO-Cleveland-050113

 

Wednesday, May 1:

Wayne and Stark counties

The Metropolitan Centre

601 Cleveland Ave., NW

Canton OH 44702

http://tinyurl.com/VibrantNEO-Canton-050113

 

Thursday, May 2:

Summit and Portage counties

Akron Urban League

440 Vernon Odom Blvd.

Akron OH 44307

http://tinyurl.com/VibrantNEO-Akron-050213

 

Thursday, May 2:

Lake, eastern Cuyahoga, and Geauga counties Cuyahoga Community College – Corporate College East

4400 Richmond Rd.

Warrensville Heights OH 44128

http://tinyurl.com/VibrantNEO-WH-050213

Keep Akron Beautiful Initiative

April 9, 2013 in ACT, Quality Connected Places

Keep Akron Beautiful is encouraging all area residents to get involved in the 2013 Great American Cleanup™, by participating in the 32nd annual Clean Up Akron Month during April 2013. This year, we are cleaning up for an entire month, with the culmination event taking place on SUPER SATURDAY, April 27, 2013 at the Akron Zoological Park. We look forward to cleaning up with you, your civic groups and your families in April.

For 32 years Keep Akron Beautiful has been working to recruit thousands of civic-minded volunteers to adopt a public parcel of land to clean during Clean Up Akr
on Week. This year, Akron volunteers will be joined by volunteers from 1,200 affiliates of Keep America Beautiful around the country to participate in the Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup, the nation’s largest community improvement program that harnesses 4 million volunteers to build vibrant communities. Each year, we engage volunteers to take action in our community through programs that deliver positive and lasting impact through events focused on waste reduction, recycling, beautification and community greening

Imagine MyNEO!

April 2, 2013 in Communications, Engagement, News, Sustainability

In May, NEOSCC will be launching an on-line engagement tool entitled Imagine MyNEO! Based on an open source software called Crowd Gauge, Imagine MyNEO! will allow the entire region to share their priorities with the Vibrant NEO process.
As an introduction to the new tool, we have included an article by Sarah Madden of Sasaki Associates (our Scenario Planning consultant).  It includes background about the creation of the tool and some examples of its previous use.

Gauge the values, priorities and preferences of the crowd.

by Sarah Madden, Sasaki Associates

Web-based technology can help planners promote literacy about planning issues and increase public engagement. We already deploy sophisticated data analysis and modeling tools, but many of these tools are more suitable for back-of-house number crunching than for interactive public engagement. This divide between tools for technicians and tools for engagement is significant:  despite all of the public- and client-facing communication work we do, few of today’s data modeling or scenario planning tools were built to be inviting to lay audiences. We need to apply our technological design prowess to facilitating interaction and better engaging the very people our work supports.

Faced with the challenge of engaging people across a spread-out region, Sasaki, PlaceMatters, and the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (DMAMPO) partnered to build a new tool—called CrowdGauge—to help communities achieve better public participation and understanding of trade-offs. CrowdGauge is an open-source framework for creating educational online games. It first asks users to rank a set of priorities, then demonstrates how a series of actions and policies might impact those priorities. The third part of the sequence gives users a limited number of coins, asking them to put that money towards the actions they support most.

We first developed the platform in partnership with the Des Moines Area MPO (DMAMPO) as part of The Tomorrow Plan, a regional plan for sustainable development in the Central Iowa region. The original game, named DesignMyDSM, can be played at designmydsm.thetomorrowplan.com. The study region included 480,000 residents, 17 cities, approximately 540 square miles, and parts of four counties—requiring an outreach strategy that went beyond in-person open houses and workshops. DesignMyDSM captured over 1000 unique users in the region, and was especially effective in the under-40 demographics who typically would not have participated in a traditional community engagement process.

CrowdGauge is entirely open-source and available under the permissive MIT license. Currently, Sasaki is preparing to apply the CrowdGauge platform to the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium Initiative (NEOSCC) in spring 2013, and Denver-based PlaceMatters is beta testing the software for use on other HUD-funded regional planning projects.

As web-based technologies grow in both functionality and beauty, planners have the opportunity to create new places for people to enjoy expressing ideas, solving problems, and realizing goals. Most importantly for planners, web technologies offer the opportunity to help ask interesting questions and confront tradeoffs. Visual design, information architecture, and usability are increasingly important to match the strength of our technical muscle with the complexity of the human experience—which means designing with clarity and user experience in mind.

In the spirit of open source, we are pleased to share this front-end tool with the planning community. We are excited to see the clever applications and brilliant new iterations we will all build next.

 

Credits for information and photo/graphics: 
Sarah Madden, Sasaki
smadden@sasaki.com
crowdgauge.org
designmydsm.thetomorrowplan.com

 

Thriving Communities Institute: From Vacancy to Vitality

March 19, 2013 in ACT, Conditions and Trends, economic development, Housing, News, Toolkiit

In 2011, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy launched an effort to combat the devastating impact of abandonment and disinvestment on Northeast Ohio’s core cities. Entitled the “Thriving Communities Institute,” the initiative targeted the reduction of vacant residential properties, primarily through demolition. These properties, according to Institute Director Jim Rokakis, reduce property values in our neighborhoods. Studies show that one vacant property on a street will significantlyreduce the value of adjacent homes. Soon, due to loss of value, foreclosures and “bank walk-aways,” the nearby homes become vacant as the disease spreads. Soon the entire neighborhood is dead and diseased, having been destroyed by this contagious and toxic process. Then the adjacent areas are infected and the disease spreads further … predictably, relentlessly, and with devastating consequences.

The impact of disinvestment in the urban core also has negative implications for the region’s natural environment. Depressed urban markets drive potential residents further away from the center and into suburban and exurban communities. The demand for housing and retail services away from the core increases development pressure on previously undeveloped open spaces and agricultural lands. The abandoned housing left behind prevents reuse of urban properties for urban gardens, parks, and greenways. Residential vacancies cause unnecessary consumption of “greenfield” land for development while prohibiting the repurposing of unoccupied land for environmental remediation; it is a two-edged sword.

According to Director Jim Rokakis, Thriving Communities Institute is already lending its hand to transform vacant and unproductive properties into new opportunities to attract economic growth, to bring green space to the region’s cities, and to support safe, beautiful neighborhoods. In working with community leaders in Northeast Ohio, the Institute has learned that urban revitalization is a process, one with many steps supported by great partnerships. Thriving Communities is helping secure vacant, unhealthy properties by establishing and supporting county land banks throughout the region. County land banks provide counties with much-needed ability to quickly acquire foreclosed and vacant property. These land banks can safely hold a distressed property, clean its title, and prepare it for a better day. The goal is to secure vacant properties – which would otherwise attract crime, lower neighboring home values, and incur public services costs – so that they can be put to better use in the future.

Additional information about the Thriving Communities Institute is available through their website: http://thrivingcommunitiesinstitute.org/. This site includes opportunities to provide support, become better engaged, and share stories or photographs. Questions about the Institute may be directed to either Jim Rokakis (jrokakis@wrlandconservancy.org) or Robin Thomas (rthomas@wrlandconservancy.org).

What Can I Do Today?

City of Cleveland Seeks Input: Climate Action

March 18, 2013 in cleveland, climate action, Environment, News

The City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is leading a community process to create a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to not only reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also plan for changes in the climate that will affect Clevelanders. The CAP is crucial to making Cleveland a more sustainable community. The City of Cleveland is examining how planning, policy, funding, infrastructure and land development decisions affect GHG emissions and local resilience to the impacts of climate change. The City of Cleveland needs your input to help create goals, actions, and policies that are both bold and achievable, to tailor national best practices to Cleveland, and to take Cleveland to the next level with an integrated and more detailed approach to sustainability and climate action planning.

There are two ways to get involved in this process:

  1. Participating online at The Civic Commons. Join the conversation here. 
  2. Save the Date and attend the Public Meeting, on April 11, 2013, from 5:30-7:30pm at Tri-C Main Campus