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Where is the opportunity in Opportunity Corridor?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  09/21/09 @ 11:17am

All eyes are on ODOT and the city of Cleveland as the Opportunity Corridor public meetings begin this week. Expect friction between ODOT's world view (traffic is a flow problem to be solved with ever wider and faster roads, not a demand problem solved by locating people closer to where they work) and the city's which is focused on economic development.

The city will walk a tightrope between satisfying the traffic concerns of west siders commuting to The Clinic and University Circle and its promises to make this a boulevard with land-uses consistent with a healthy urban fabric. What is that for one of the most economically challenged and crime ridden areas?

The city with assistance from philanthropic entities, have hired Stephanie Howse-who was the interim appointment for Fanny Lewis' city council seat-to figure out the highest and best land-use in Opportunity Corridor. Will Howse and the city insist on better land-use policy? Will they apply existing policy such as the urban garden and pedestrian zoning overlay district? What policies are missing? And how much of the $47 million in the first round and $74 million in the second round of federal Neighborhood Stabilization Funds will be aimed at turning around the area beyond the curbs of a new road?

City and county collaboration on an NSP second round proposal which would budget some $1.5 million for land reutilization ($35 million would go to acquisition and demolition of the worst blighted homes of which there are a few in this area known too long as The Forgotten Triangle) is a positive development.

The city is very interested in testing the ideas for green infrastructure from the ReImagine a More Sustainable Cleveland study in the Opportunity Corridor. NSP funds combined with the Cuyahoga County's new land bank-which has disposition powers over buildings and land and a revenue stream in delinquent property taxes-combined with the Cleveland Foundation's new Evergreen Cooperative and the Regional Sewer District's plans to handle flooding with natural features is mounting support for a start-up urban agriculture business in Cleveland's Ward 5.

In the larger sense, Howse, the city and community development organization Burten, Bell, Carr have an opportunity to steer ODOT's plans to build infrastructure into an effort to scale up a "reimagine" or green urbanism district driven by a need for healthier, more prosperous future for some of the city's poorest residents. The public meetings are a chance to bring the conversation about the opportunity for creating jobs and a healthy environment here into the light of day.

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