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State policies for sustainable cities and transportation in Ohio

David Beach  |  02/22/16 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Vibrant cities

Over the years and decades we’ve participated in many regional planning projects that have documented the costs of sprawling, haphazard growth in Ohio. Solutions have been elusive. But here are some positive changes the state can make right now.

Building on assets<br />Sustainable land use means focusing policies to promote the redevelopment of existing places, such as the Marcel Breuer-designed former Ameritrust tower on the left (now The 9) and the historic Schofield Building (now a Kimpton Hotel) on the right, both in downtown Cleveland.

Back in 2004, GreenCityBlueLake (then EcoCity Cleveland) helped to found the Greater Ohio Policy Center, a statewide organization to promote urban revitalization and sustainable land use. Since then, Greater Ohio has been a well-respected, bipartisan voice for state policy change.

The key has always been to figure out what the state can do to support more redevelopment in the metro areas where 81% of Ohioans live. The other key has been to figure out what can be realistically accomplished, given the politics of the Statehouse.

Memo to 2016 candidates for state office

Greater Ohio recently issued a policy platform that is both productive and realistic. It’s a concise primer for everyone interested in rebuilding our cities.

The platform includes recommendations in three critical areas:

  • Urban and neighborhood revitalization: Common-sense reforms to expedite the repurposing of blighted properties and create a better financing program to clean up brownfields.
  • Transportation options: Ways for the state to provide more transit funding, help local communities access more federal transportation funds, and make ODOT more sensitive to the needs of all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Water and sewer infrastructure: Innovative financing to support the modernization of water and sewer infrastructure.

These policy ideas, though modest, would make the state a better friend of cities. I urge you to take a look at the ideas -- and raise them in the coming months when talking to candidates for the Ohio House, Ohio Senate, and other statewide offices.

And also think about what a bigger urban policy agenda might be like in Ohio. How can the state stop promoting wasteful sprawl and do more to promote development in existing communities? What is really needed? For ideas, check out our Ohio Smart Growth Agenda. It dates back to 1998, but (unfortunately!) the recommendations are still valid today.

What state policy changes do you want?

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Carole Cohen
5 months ago

Population density seems to be the planning buzz phrase currently (including among some CDC's in the Cleveland area). That effort seems to be, on the surface, at cross purposes with #1 on this list: re-purposing of blighted buildings. I would argue however that #1 could be the most cost effective. It could also be a reason why people want to move into a neighborhood which leads to the density goal anyway. The other issues are all important and creative financing (bonds, private funding, venture capital?) all need to be explored so the burden of cost isn't all on residents.

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