Cleveland is at an interesting point in its re-development as a city. Downtown appears to be in hyperdrive—with near-zero vacancy in living space and a continued push to build big projects. The Republican Party in 2016 is setting an artificial deadline to “finish” downtown, but their arrival seems vastly less important in the modern Cleveland narrative than another date—2019—the 50th anniversary of the last fire on the Cuyahoga. It’s the year we expect the national media to tell the world that Cleveland has truly turned the corner and is on a road to recovery.
Sustainable Cleveland 2019 inspired CNN Money to include Cleveland in its Most Innovative Cities of America post this week.
“The city gets props for its...city-wide effort to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean air and green space,” they wrote.
Surprisingly for a business site, CNN called out three broader indicators of innovation: Cleveland’s local food policies, such as accepting EBT or “food stamps” at farmer’s markets; bus-rapid transit on Euclid Avenue; and The Midway, a proposed bike/greenway that would go in the wide middle of streetcar-era roads. (We also really like the cool, station-by-station highlight of Minneapolis' street car profile.)
The spread of economic stability and building a more resilient city that is wider than the spotlight of the Goodyear Blimp is a laudable goal. Major civic groups including the Fund for Our Economic Future and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress are focused on it. They are tracking whether Cleveland’s recovery will be felt by more than those lucky enough to live and enjoy downtown.
Innovation and equity are an interesting way to shift the conversation. In its What Matters to Metros study, The Fund is concerned with per capita income, education and innovation. In the innovation category, CNN might be interested in how it pertains to energy use (and savings). It’s the mantra of groups like the Cleveland 2030 District which is trying to spark innovation in the real estate sector as it updates older building stock.
These are worthwhile conversations to have, especially if it informs policy debates at the city-regional level. If, for example, we profess to a broad-based recovery for Northeast Ohio, how will we embody the innovation-green-equity trifecta when governments make investment decisions? It is one thing to talk, it is quite another to walk the talk with goals and actions as a region that will lead to fair pay, energy efficiency, and places that support affordable living.
In this area, GCBL has captured the thoughts of leaders like Cleveland City Planning Director Fred Collier and Akron regional transportation director Jason Segedy. We asked them, how do we get “unstuck” from old patterns—such as regional sprawl and disinvestment? We talked about the need for the region’s 59 communities to find new common ground around equity and sustainability in our land use and transportation investments. For instance, is Cleveland prepared to join the national movement that equates transit with economic revitalization?
Bottom line: We can do this. We can be a green city on a blue lake. If we believe Cleveland is ideally positioned to make it so. Imagine a parade down Euclid in the year 2019 and what story we will want to tell the national media and our children.