Initiative A Day 2.1: Strengthen regional job centers—and the corridors that connect them

January 26, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.  

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

 

Recommendation 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 intensifyingland uses and investing in strategic local economic development within them.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Jobs are key to securing Northeast Ohio’s future health and prosperity, and quality places are key to securing jobs. With the generational preferences about what constitutes a “quality place” shifting toward values such as walkability, accessibility, and mixing of uses, communities and employers alike are scrambling to create contexts where people can and want to work. Northeast Ohio must recognize this and act decisively if it is to remain competitive with other regions.

One component in strengthening regional job centers and corridors is to address and remove provisions in land use plans and zoning codes that discourage dense, mixed-use projects, or make them difficult to deliver. This can involve a host of strategies discussed elsewhere in these recommendations, from creating mixed-use or planned unit development overlays to reducing or eliminating parking minimums. By developing more flexible and streamlined zoning and administrative review processes, municipalities make an important contribution to reducing the high transaction costs facing developers and employers and ease their ability to deliver the kind of dense, diversified places where people increasingly want to work and live.

Some Northeast Ohio communities will want to be even more deliberate, targeting development in the regional centers identified in the Vibrant NEO 2040 vision map. Municipalities can encourage such development by making targeted investment in the physical infrastructure, social services, and marketing of the place—or by identifying and cultivating local stakeholders. Cleveland’s HealthLine bus rapid transit (BRT) investment is the strongest local example of such as deliberate development strategy.

The City of Cleveland’s decade’s long partnership with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) and four stakeholder-led local development corporations and improvement districts —University Circle, MidTown Cleveland, the Campus District, and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance—along the 5-mile Euclid Corridor between Downtown Cleveland and University Circle, the city’s major cultural district. The city and GCRTA collaborated to undertake a complete upgrade of the transit service on this heavily travelled corridor, replacing curb-running local bus service with articulated busses running in an exclusive center median right-of-way. The development corporations partnered with the city and each other to coordinate significant reinvestment in the properties along the corridor. These public-private partnerships have resulted in a transit oriented corridor with an impressive cluster of educational, medical and cultural institutions, private businesses, and business incubators focused on health care and health innovation, a major growth field in the 21st century.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. An economically strong Northeast Ohio requires jobs located on sites that are both accessible to the region’s population and well-served by the region’s freight networks. Concentrating employment so complementary businesses can be near each other helps to create relationships and linkages that drive value creation. Concentrating businesses also allows transit to serve multiple employers and their employees with efficient routes. Providing for freight connections to these concentrated areas also reduces shipping time and cost, increasing the economic viability throughout the centers.

The Cleveland Opportunity Corridor is an example of a center- and corridor-based redevelopment strategy currently under development through a partnership of the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio. The Opportunity Corridor envisions constructing a boulevard to connect the rapidly expanding University Circle neighborhood into the region’s roadway network. (citation: Ohio Department of Transportation, Cleveland Opportunity Corridor, http://www.dot.state.oh.us/projects/clevelandurbancoreprojects/opportunitycorridor/Pages/default.aspx).

While the project proposal envisions both substantial adaptive reuse of existing properties and the intensification of existing land uses, (highlighted in 3.4), the major public investment proposed is limited to the development of a new highway. A infrastructure planning strategy that incorporates the full range of transportation modes will be the appropriate approach for most urban employment corridors and centers.

GETTING IT DONE. The region already has a strong framework of centers and connective corridors, but action will need to happen on several levels in order to capitalize on the potential of the framework. Local governments will need to lead the way on getting land use right, reviewing and revising zoning codes and plans as necessary, and engaging local stakeholders to target investments in the job centers and corridors of the future. Transportation investments will occur through the Ohio Department of Transportation and local transit agencies, which should be coordinated with local government’s efforts via MPOs and COGs. In addition to coordinating public sector stakeholders, MPOs and COGs should play a key role in collecting and disseminating best practices.

POLICY: Nurture the Region’s Industry Clusters: Organizing the region strategically around clusters of regional specialization can help target investment decisions and reduce duplication of effort. These efforts should focus on how to make the region’s successful clusters grow and prosper and enable the region to be proactive in terms of funding and other opportunities.

PILOT PROJECT: The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron – an exceptional collaboration of Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Health System, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Summa Health System, The University of Akron and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – is focused on patient-centered innovation and commercialization at the intersection of biomaterials and medicine. The strategic alignment of institutional, state, federal and philanthropic support, accompanied with Akron’s rich legacy in industrial and materials science, is working to pioneer the next generation of life-enhancing and life-saving innovation that will transform Akron and the surrounding region into a model for biomedical discovery and enterprise. http://www.abiakron.org/

Lead

Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Councils of Governments

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Moderate

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