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Greening community development

Marc Lefkowitz  |  12/23/08 @ 3:58pm

Re-imagining a more sustainable Cleveland starts from the premise that the loss of population over the last 60 years will not likely be reversed in the near term and that Cleveland's future as a post industrial city that can attract and retain residents and investment depends in large part in how it adapts to population decline and changing land use patterns to realize its potential as a green city on a blue lake.

-From the final report produced by Neighborhood Progress, Inc., December 2008We continue to report about this 30-member (and growing) group exploring innovative strategies to reuse vacant land (3,300 parcels) in Cleveland. They recently produced a final report and recommendations on how vacant land can derive benefit for low-income and underemployed residents, increase community self-reliance for food and energy production and link natural and built systems.We're starting to see a nice slow burn of ideas bubbling up from the concentration of resources that NPI and the Urban Design Center have marshaled. They include:

  • A pattern book, decision matrix and recommendations for land re-utilization to guide the city in making decisions on how and where to best introduce new ideas in green infrastructure versus holding for development.
  • Pilot projects over the next several years-NPI has an $80,000 commitment from the Surdna Foundation-with two (an urban garden and a bioswale project) under way in Tremont. And,
  • NPI paid for 20 employees of Cleveland's non-profit neighborhood development corporations to attend an environmental studies course at Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs. The 20 gave a final presentation recently that illustrated how the course let them explore aspects of creating sustainable neighborhoods.

Last week, the Cleveland Planning Commission 'heartily' adopted the recommendations, which focus on these three areas:

  1. 1. Productive use/public benefit: Whether vacant properties are developed with buildings and infrastructure, preserved as open space, or put into productive use as agriculture or energy generation sites, they should provide an economic return, a community benefit and enhancement to natural ecosystems.
  2. 2. Ecosystem function: Stormwater management, soil restoration, air quality, carbon sequestration, urban heat island effects, biodiversity and wildlife habitat should be incorporated into future plans for cacant site in the city.
  3. 3. Remediation: Remove the risk to human health and the environment from environmental pollutants at vacant sites, either with targeted remediation projects or with long-term incremental strategies.

The plan identifies criteria for implementing each of these strategies, as well as policy recommendations to support and promote the creative re-use of vacant properties throughout the city. The plan also describes a series of initial pilot projects and proposed research initiatives in support of a comprehensive citywide initiative to manage and reuse properties.

Read more.

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