Feeling safe is one thing, but inspiration is another reason Cleveland just doesn’t feel like strapping on a pair of sneakers most days. Put down the donut, and look north to Minneapolis, rated the healthiest city.
Cleveland’s sudden exposure of land and its plan to tear down 1,000 vacant homes per year is opportunity knocking. Can thinking strategically about locating tear downs and vacancy open up access to new parks, trails and active spaces? In Cuyahoga County—which is completely built out and struggling to stay on top of foreclosure-fueled vacancy—are the suburbs thinking ahead? Are we prepared to make connections through a regional system of greenways and parks?
In “What the Twin Cities can teach us about living well,” Huffington Post praises how the city was built around the park system. Minnesotans of all ages are oriented to walk or playground at the park. Access contributes to health and happiness. Cleveland has an Emerald Necklace, but what is needed now are strands to reach into every nook and cranny of the city. Minneapolis is a green tapestry (dotted with dozens of small lakes) and that leads to a very different outlook on being active. What’s Cleveland’s new story for bringing nature back into daily contact?
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Last week, the New York Times reported on the seismic shift in urban planning that will reshape the Rust Belt—from a century thinking about growth to managing for radically smaller cities. Shrinking and demolishing abandoned places has quickly become the national narrative for Cleveland. Of course, there are competing story lines intersecting this— they stem from pockets of growth of Latinos and boomerangers from coastal cities bypassing the suburbs and landing in the city.
The Times also dropped in with “Saving Buffalo, Wreck by Wreck.” It's a nice documentary about a group of handy friends called The Young Preservationists who are snatching boarded up homes in the city at basement bargain prices and figuring out how to gut renovate them. Their mission is "to educate and mobilize young preservationists through advocacy and action." Is there a similar group in Cleveland, or are all new homebuyers young preservationists?
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Cleveland is also following the life and death struggle of the Cincinnati streetcar. Dealt a political blow in the ascension of Mayor-elect John Cranley, a staunch proponent, Progressives were fit to be tied about the future of the $130 million investment that will connect downtown with the amazing recovery of Over the Rhine. Cranley is threatening to pull the plug even though $90 million in contracts are already out and the line has started to leverage billions of new investment. Get over it, writes fellow Progressive Don Mooney. A crusty veteran of the ups and downs of political cycles, Mooney tells his young cohort of Progressives who had a receptive ear at City Hall under Mayor Mallory to build coalitions, to get out and learn the city and make a case for a comprehensive public transit system. By then, the political winds will have shifted again and they’ll be standing on firmer ground.
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Has the U.S. reached ‘Peak Car’? The Atlantic looks at the numbers and confirms some suspicions. The decline in miles driven is significant—1,200 miles less per driver than pre-Recession times. An interesting fact with bearing on the future of how we live: The two-car household is no longer the norm in America. Fuel efficient cars means we’re pumping less gas than any time since the 90s.
Like the debate over how much climate change is contributing to mega storms, sides are being drawn about what happens if this is the new normal? In what ways should cities start planning for less cars? As more young Americans socialize online, move into cities, spend decades paying off college debt, and cars continue to vanish from view, it looks like a perfect storm for building on public transit infrastructure.