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Bruce blog

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 organization EcoCity Cleveland. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of EcoCity or any other organization).

August 26-September 9, 2004

Calculated risks paying off for urban developer

In the late 1980s, developer David Perkowski found his niche in urban redevelopment, pioneering a movement in Tremont and Ohio City. His approach—marketing and building spaces that appeal to artists and urban types—reached its zenith with last year's Tower Press. After splitting with his brother and business partner, Doug, Perkowski's rolling the dice again on a converted warehouse in the St. Hyacinth area of Slavic Village. Will this be the beginning of the next chapter in Perkowski's and the city's story?

Click to read the full article...

New ideas needed to reduce skyrocketing infrastructure

Bruce blog commends reporter Jay Miller for asking some tough questions in this week’s Crain’s Cleveland Business (“Infrastructure costs to surpass $8B in next decade”) about how individual communities struggle to bear the burden of increasing infrastructure costs.

What the answers illustrate, however, is how much the song remains the same. City and county leaders seem to throw their hands up and suggest that building an entirely new public works infrastructure every decade is a fact of life. But, building a bigger mousetrap isn’t going catch ever-growing stormwater runoff problems forever.

Creating new and ever larger pots of federal and state funds in order to build ever-larger stormwater receptors will prove to be an expensive and unsustainable solution. In the long-term, managing stormwater runoff requires smart land-use planning such as changes to subdivision regulations to accommodate cluster zoning—allowing for the same amount of housing in new developments in the ‘burbs but requiring that it use up less land.

More rain isn’t the cause of more stormwater and flooding problems in Greater Cleveland. Low-density developments (such as those with minimum 5- or 2-acre lots) are multiplying impervious ground cover, significantly increasing stormwater runoff and sewer overflow problems, according to scientists and those working with the state’s 2001 bi-partisan Ohio Lake Erie Commission Balanced Growth Task Force.

Moving toward a solution means addressing the cause of increased stormwater runoff by acknowledging that we’re eating up land much faster than our population grows, and devising policy and private market incentives to develop on existing urban land. And when we do inevitably develop on greenfields, we can create subdivisions that apportion a significant percentage of land to retaining stormwater through greenspace protection.

If we want to reduce the burden on local municipalities and comply with federal stormwater management regulations, land-use planning needs to happen on a regional scale. It’s an ecologically sound idea that will reap economic benefits. The alternative is to continue paying higher sewer rates and to degrade the quality of our local watersheds.

Developers of regional big box power and/or lifestyle centers can be equal partners in finding solutions to stormwater problems. The proposed Steelyard Commons in Cleveland and the soon to be completed Crocker Park in Westlake could generate more than goodwill with a comprehensive stormwater retention plan—they might just end up paying less in impact fees with less impervious surface and more stormwater retention. Parking structures instead of giant surface lots, retention basins under paved surfaces, and better landscape design that doesn’t rely on raised beds separated by rail ties will create less stormwater and slow what’s there from running right into the sewer (allowing it to percolate into the ground).

Development that encourages mixed uses (housing and retail located in the same place) and transit options will reduce the need for parking. Crocker Park developer Bob Stark is smart to encourage transit connections, to invite RTA to reroute its community circulator and have shoppers dropped off at the doorstep of the shops. Even changes to local zoning codes, such as Cleveland Heights’ new C-2X ordinance to allow for higher density where density makes sense—in commercial districts—will help alleviate some of the negative externalities of low-density development. Until we innovate and think outside our self-imposed box, new infrastructure costs will hamstring our development as a vibrant metropolitan region.

Op-Ed: Whiskey Island, a rare blend worth savoring

By Walter Wright

Recently, I was able to visit a remote, natural lakefront harbor with views of the Cleveland lighthouse and the abandoned Coast Guard Station, on the infamous and misnamed Whiskey Island. Like many Clevelanders, I had never been here, and I was amazed.

Standing at the edge of the water here, you can’t believe you are minutes from downtown. Behind you is a grass and tree covered hump of land, a peninsula formed by a crook of the Cuyahoga River. Bird song, cool lake breezes, and the scent of water fill the air. In front of you is an unobstructed view of an open expanse of blue—rare in Cleveland. There is no concrete here, just sand, grass, driftwood, and lapping water.

To your left lies the Whiskey Island Marina, with boats at anchor in their docks. Ahead lies the break wall, capped by a neat lighthouse and outbuildings. To the right, at the end of a thin break wall jutting from the beach, is the Art Deco ruin of the abandoned Coast Guard Station, designed by one of Cleveland’s most famous architects. Beyond the station lies the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, where sailboats, freighters and the GoodTime III jockey for position. It’s a wonderful sight.

Unforeseen is the future of Whiskey Island—it lies in the balance. The Port Authority would like to control the entire site, paving over virtually all of it for docks and the processing of Cleveland’s busy commercial freighter traffic. Ecologists want to preserve it; the Ohio & Erie Canalway seeks to connect with it. Developers want to build expensive housing on it. Pleasure boaters would like to preserve their marina. The public wants access and greenspace. Add to the mix the County Commissioners, the tax-delinquent Whiskey Island Partners, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and ODOT’s planned improvements of the Shoreway. It’s a complicated picture.

The city is trying to balance all of these competing interests by giving everyone a little bit, creating a grand, comprehensive plan that includes the Port Authority, public parks and private development, a marina, greenspace and even a windfarm.

Currently, there are only 1 3⁄4 of publicly accessible lakefront properties in the 14 miles from Lakewood to Euclid. The rest is fenced off, walled off, private, covered with industry and concrete. Cleveland, which lacks the notable lakefront of a Chicago or any number of cities, is trying to play catch up with this rare opportunity. But will we create yet another sterile pile of concrete, dominated by parking lots, private development, and industry? Or will we successfully blend all the elements into a whole that integrates and transcends its competing elements?

Judge for yourself, and contact Lakefront planner Debbie Berry with your input at 216-664-6740.

Wright's Resources:

—Comprehensive overview of competing plans with a distinct greenspace edge

—A terrific 1991 article by David Beach, Ecocity Cleveland

—City of Cleveland Plan

—Kayak tours of Whiskey Island, and other Cleveland sites

Activist Alerts

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is updating its Trails Plan to help guide the development and expansion of a statewide system of recreational trails throughout Ohio. The ultimate vision of the plan is to link public lands, natural and scenic areas, and communities with a multi-modal trail system.

All trails that are planned and developed in Ohio are part of the statewide trail vision. These include projects that many local governments are undertaking to develop local trail systems to provide recreation and alternate transportation opportunities. The intent of this plan is to emphasize major statewide and regional trails and work to incorporate local linkages into the statewide network.

ODNR encourages you to review this material and provide us with any comments, input or feedback you might have by September 30, 2004


August 28
Hotel Bruce hosts Open Air at Market Square, at the corner of W. 25th Street and Lorain Avenue, this Saturday. Your favorite zine of creative living in Cleveland will be on hand at this weekly celebration as merchants from Ohio City hock their wares and local bands provide entertainment. From 10 a.m.-1 p.m., groove to Roberto Ocasio's Latin Jazz Project and from 1-4 p.m. Jim Miller Band will rock you. Hop the train to W. 25th, explore the West Side Market & W. 25th Street, and stop by, chat with the creative team at Hotel Bruce, try Danielle's homemade cookies, enter our reader poll and hear about the upcoming Fall issue!

September 4
Graffiti writers will come out of the dark to leave their marks in broad daylight as Cleveland Public Art and Scion present the third annual City Xpressionz Aerosol and Urban Art Festival at Ohio City's Market Square Park, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. See artists and breakdancers from around the region exhibit their work and battle for cash prizes.

The festival celebrates urban street culture with a book signing by New York City's COPE 2, a live demonstration by Los Angeles' TLOKS and EVOL, a Bboy/Bgirl breakdancing battle, a variety of bands and DJs including Detroit's Athletic Mic League, and chalk drawing for children.

Hotel Bruce, Cleveland’s online journal of creative living, will participate with a table display and WiFi connection to the site just outside of Talkies Cafe (come and chat with members of the creative team and check into one of the coolest festivals of the summer).

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