Welcome to the Bruce blog—a weekly update
on news, events and issues affecting life in Cleveland. Reporting
as it happens on transit, development, planning, environment and
arts & culture.
Basically, we write about creative ideas forming,
talk to the people who have an inside track on the issues, and sometimes
offer a commentary of our own. (For disclosure purposes, Bruce blog
is a local, independent writer who also works part-time with nonprofit
Cleveland. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those
of EcoCity or any other organization).
Finally, someone has a bright idea to get Clevelanders
off their couches (and thinking about how they get around town).
Nationally distributed Bicycling
Magazine has selected Cleveland among eight cities to be
a BikeTown for 2005 (with ten more cities as Bike to Work projects).
What this means is the magazine gives away a Giant
mountain bike (and gear) to 50 people in each city who normally
don’t ride, asks them to ride as much as possible and then
documents how the experience affected their lives and towns. Last
year, the Rodale Publishing magazine had varying success—from
never hearing from people again to transforming others into "cycleholics,
riding nearly everywhere, eschewing autos almost altogether,"
according to a Giant press release.
Rodale will begin accepting application essays this
month that focus (in 50 words or less) on how a new bike
will impact your life (Will you ride with your kids? Bike to work?
Train for a charity ride? etc.) Click
here for more information and to submit your essay online. Winners
will be selected in April and bikes presented in May, which is National
Has Forest City Management admitted that it has lost its way and
wants out of its property management duties at Tower City? In this
week’s Crain’s Cleveland Business,
Forest City Executive VP Robert O’Brien went public with what
many insiders have suspected for months, saying ‘[Tower City’s]
not a good investment.’
Bruce blog has heard Charles Ratner utter the same
sentiments. Adding fuel to the speculation that Forest City no longer
has the stomach for retail property management in its hometown,
O’Brien added, “We can serve demand. We don’t
Perhaps, but Bruce blog wonders how much Forest City
is fulfilling its own prophecy by saying retailers are not generating
business and then doing little to stem the flood of tenants out
to the suburban malls.
With Federated Department Stores (owners of Macy’s)
acquiring May Company this week, now would be the time to pursue
a deal to bring a department store back downtown (if they can do
it in Cincinnati, why not Cleveland?). Naysayers will claim that
our region isn’t supporting downtown shopping and that’s
why Tower City lost its department stores. But, rumors were floating
recently that May Company was interested in bringing a department
store back to downtown Cleveland after the initial retrenching,
but that neither the city nor Tower City was able to reel them in.
With downtown’s residential population on the rise and the
resurgence of E. 4th Street, downtown retail needs an anchor in
Tower City—so long as its healthy.
With all the noise being made about infusing University
Circle with a new street life, the stakes are getting higher and
the allegiances shifting in the plot to figure out where to create
the type of thriving commercial center that is a given at world-class
Bruce blog has obtained information that explains
the deafening silence of late surrounding the proposed $35 million
retail-residential development at the corner of Ford and Euclid.
For starters, Heritage Development Co., the developer, has not acquired
the rezoning and variances from the city. The process has stalled
in large part because the university is now insisting that the developer
conduct a market analysis for the proposed supermarket tenant, a
traffic analysis, and an analysis of residential rents.
After the university was pressured from the community
to lower the height of the project (among other things), it insisted
on reductions in the proposed size from 234 to 220 residential units
and a reduction in underground parking spaces from 334 to 247. Meanwhile,
Heritage’s refusal to take a public subsidy in order to maintain
full control over the plan may be imperiling the financing of the
project. Sources inform Bruce blog that the developer recently tried
to negotiate a cash investment from Case and University Circle,
Inc., which was met with a chilly reception.
Documents obtained by Bruce blog show university officials
in December telling the developer that maybe ‘it would be
wise to take a step back and take our time reviewing all aspects
of this development.’ In a letter to Case and UCI, Heritage
complains that ‘I distinctly feel that there is a change of
attitude on each of your parts towards this development.’
Indeed, if Heritage is feeling the wind coming out
of its sails, it might look across the street to see where it’s
heading. The closer Case gets to finalizing its purchase (from UCI)
of The Triangle apartments and commercial strip center on the northeast
corner of Euclid and Mayfield , the more bargaining power it gains.
Here it has a developable parcel with less issues: It’s not
casting a shadow on Hessler Street where neighbors have complained
(and threatened lawsuits) about the Heritage project, the university
has a large surface parking lot practically attached, and it has
existing structures from which to work (all of which drastically
reduce development costs). Can Heritage hope to regain the leverage
it once enjoyed? Stay tuned...
It seems as though UCI is the gatekeeper in seeing
that Case commits to a plan to redevelop the Triangle as a commercial-use
property. Whether the nonprofit has what it takes to stand up to
the behemoth of Case is not clear, but, in documents obtained by
Bruce blog, it looks as though Case is leading the negotiations
on this one. One alteration that jumps out is the university adding
‘academic’ to the memorandum of understanding between
it and UCI on the proposed uses of the Triangle. Sources familiar
with the deal speculate that Case is leaving the option of relocating
a future home of its Arts and Sciences college open. As it stands,
UCI and other University Circle institutions will be informed of
but not involved in making the plans.
Walmart picked up its toys and went home this week
when it pulled
out of Steelyard Commons, the proposed big box development on
the southwest side of Cleveland—this after city council introduced
legislation that would have prevented the retail giant from selling
groceries for seven years in its store.
What’s the big deal about Wal-Mart selling groceries?
According to Baseline
Magazine: “Wal-Mart has changed the rules of the
game in the grocery business. It is using its massive purchasing
power, cheap labor, big-box stores and automated distribution centers
to outsell the old-timers. With Wal-Mart's prices so much lower
than those of traditional grocers, it will pull in more than $1.1
billion in net earnings this year even if it makes just two cents
on each dollar of grocery sales. That is twice as much profit as
most [grocers] who make a little more than a penny for every dollar
in groceries they sell.”
So, is council interfering with free market economies
or is Wal-Mart enjoying monopoly power? Either way, Bruce blog thinks
developer Mitch Schneider of First
Interstate Properties should have more faith in his ability
to make Steelyard Commons happen by finding a replacement tenant.
If the development hinged on Wal-Mart than it wasn’t a very
strong development in the first place. This could be a heck of an
opportunity to attract a retailer that’s new to the region
in order to pull in some suburban shoppers.
Bruce blog thinks Wal-Mart’s actions are cheap
payback, typical behavior from a corporation that ‘pursuades’
its employees to not unionize and insists that its suppliers move
oversees. The payback in this case is Wal-Mart being rebuffed by
Sacramento, California and New York City in the last two weeks.
In New York, city council told Wal-Mart ‘no, thanks’
after the retailer wanted to locate in a development in Rego Park,
Queens. "The idea of Wal-Mart was overshadowing what could
very well be a good project," Melinda Katz, chairwoman of the
council's Land Use Committee, told
The New York Times.
Bruce blog agrees with Callahan's
Cleveland Diary which writes: “Now that it's clear that
Schneider's private, unplanned strategy was half-assed—totally
dependent on the interest of a chain that's not interested—the
City has an obvious move: Buy some control” by offering a
subsidy or tax break in exchange for a say in the final plan.
Evidence is mounting that Baby Boomers, as they get
set to retire, are preparing to sell off their single-family homes
in the suburbs and move into hipper, more convenient urban town
homes and condos. Or, at least the National
Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is poised to jump on this
trend if they do, calling for: “Building a home for a lifetime
that allows a buyer to ‘age in place.’"
The impact on urban residential redevelopment will
be huge indeed if Baby Boomers seek to shed cars and single-use
communities for homes where they can walk to the market or a local
coffee shop right outside their door. Building for Boomers &
Beyond is the NAHB industry symposium on May 16-18, 2005, in the
Washington, DC metro area at the Westfields Marriott in Chantilly,
VA. It will address an industry that accounted for $51 billion in
new homes sales in 2003, or one-fifth of all new homes sold.
Additionally, national advocacy organizations promoting
livability/sustainability have been courting AARP, which represents
seniors who find an auto-dependent lifestyle in typical American
communities less viable as age takes its toll on night vision, reflexes,
and other requirements for safe driving. “The resulting ‘mobility
downshift’ among boomers signals enormous personal and societal
challenges ahead, but also offers hope that Americans will finally
begin the process of creating more livable communities for all,”
according to EcoCity
Cleveland’s Transport blog.
Last week, Cleveland Plain Dealer editors
called on Governor Taft to veto Senate Bill 18 a “middle-of-the-night
bill that would snatch [townships' and counties' wider latitude
in zoning] away.” At issue was the removal of the conditional
phrase 'General Welfare,' granting townships the power to regulate
residential zoning “in a thoughtful manner.” The PD
also urged the governor to create a bipartisan panel to arrive at
a consensus about smart land-use policies.
To understand the basis of how most states create
zoning laws, it’s useful to review The Standard State Zoning
Enabling Act, passed in 1924. Section three of the SSZEA states:
"Such regulations shall be made in accordance with a comprehensive
plan (our emphasis) and designed to lessen congestion in the
streets; to secure safety from fire, panic, and other dangers; to
promote health and the general welfare…” and, yes, to
avoid undue concentration of population.
The decision to remove general welfare indicates that
it has some larger meaning to the lawmakers who erased it from House
Bill 148; that zoning that goes beyond the ill-defined ‘health
and safety’ phrase infringes on personal property rights as
a matter of course.
Advocates of modern land-use laws see this as an opportunity
to reexamine our state’s laws and allow Ohio to catch up to
a number of other states that have modernized theirs. During the
last three decades, zoning enabling acts of many states have been
substantially changed from SSZEA, as in Rhode Island where zoning
regulations provide for a range of uses and intensities of use appropriate
to the character of the city or town and reflecting current and
expected future needs. Providing for orderly growth and development,
and even appropriate drainage requirements and methods to manage
stormwater runoff, writes land-use law expert Daniel Mandelker.
Ohio could save its townships and counties a lot of
money by granting them powers to regulate development so that they're
in compliance with federal stormwater regulations right from the
Bummed out about the nasty way spring has arrived?
Need a little escapist entertainment? We suggest you enjoy "An
Evening with a Stranger," a preview into the bizarre world
of a bevy of obscure wordsmiths. If it's some truly scary company
you crave, find it right here,
in Hotel Bruce (Issue 3) Once upon a Rustbelt, our section
on literature and essays.
Senate bill threatens natural
A last minute rider on Senate Bill 18 threatens floodplain protection,
setbacks from streams and wetlands, storm water structures, and
other local measures to protect water quality. This bill is now
in Gov. Taft's hands. He is currently weighing support and opposition
to the bill. The Ohio Environmental Council urges people to take
action now and ask Governor Taft to veto this legislation. Click
here to send a letter. For more information, email
or call 614-487-7506.
SPACES Call to action
This is an open call to all individuals and groups who want more
of a say in what's happening in our city. Answer
the Call to Action, a five-week campaign of art and activist
happenings, part of Dissent: Political Voices at SPACES
Gallery April 15 - June
10 and ongoing at www.spacesgallery.org.
No reasonable idea will be rejected. However, registration is required
to be included as an official Action. All actions must take place
between April 15 and May 20.
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