Smart Growth Stories: A Mayor’s Perspective

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is on a mission to support economic development in his city, and he’s using smart growth and downtown development strategies to accomplish that goal.

“People were slow to embrace some of the changes we were proposing because they didn’t necessarily see how, say, the development of a street car would lead to more jobs,” Mallory says in Smart Growth America’s first “Smart Growth Stories” video interview. “They didn’t necessarily see how investing so much money in downtown allowed for improvements in neighborhoods. So I’ve had to explain to people that downtown is the engine, the economic engine, for everything that happens in our entire region.”

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Partnership in the News: DOT Secretary Joins Cincinnati Mayor for Streetcar Kick Off

Fox19 reports that Cincinnati Mayor Mallory joined by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administration Peter Rogoff to kick off construction of a new streetcar line partially funded by a DOT TIGER grant.

The new 3.6-mile streetcar line will connect Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

The D.O.T. says it will spur Cincinnati’s efforts to revitalize its downtown core by improving access to major employers, the developing riverfront and many area attractions.

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Smart growth news – January 3, 2012

The bold urban future starts now
Salon, December 31, 2011
In cities in every region of the country, pie-in-the-sky ideas are moving from brainstorm to blueprint to groundbreaking — and 2012 will prove it.

Oklahoma City reaps positive effects of economic development
The Oklahoman, January 1, 2011
“Downtown Oklahoma City experienced significant changes this year (2011), but probably the most impactful was the renovation and grand reopening of the Myriad Gardens,” Jenkins said. “Construction of the Level Apartments and Aloft Hotel in Deep Deuce have really given that area a dense, urban feel, and the launch of the ‘Downtown It!’ advertising campaign increase awareness of all that downtown Oklahoma City has to offer.”

Study: Cities subsidize townships
Oxford Press (Ohio), January 2, 2012
There is an inequity in government subsidies for roads, police protection and other services that township residents receive compared with city residents, though both groups pay the same taxes, a University of Toledo study shows.

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Ohio selects six communities to participate in the new Brownfields Action Plan Pilot Program

The Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) announced last week six communities that will participate in the state’s innovative Brownfields Action Plan Pilot Program, a new initiative designed to help communities with multiple brownfield sites create area-wide plans to address them.

ODOD launched the program in August of this year and selected the pilot communities after a four-month application and review process. The chosen communities will each receive technical assistance and a $50,000 grant to develop and implement their area-wide plans. The six communities selected include the cities of Fairborn, Newark, Piqua, Ravenna and Xenia, as well as the Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corporation.

ODOD’s initiative is an exciting milestone for brownfields redevelopment and will provide major benefits to Ohio communities. Area-wide planning is a smart growth strategy that looks at vacant and contaminated sites within a region comprehensively – rather than individually – and allows communities to address each site within the context of broader revitalization and economic development goals. This strategy is particularly helpful for communities plagued by sites that are too small or distressed to be viable for redevelopment individually. Addressed collectively, these sites can all become more attractive to potential developers and can ultimately catalyze community-wide revitalization.

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15 communities selected to receive free smart growth technical assistance

A view of downtown Oklahoma City, OK by Flickr user Becky McCray. Oklahoma City is one of 15 communities selected to receive free technical assistance this year.

Smart Growth America is pleased to announce the 15 communities that have been selected to receive this year’s free smart growth technical assistance. Stretching from Maine to Washington State, these communities represent major cities, suburban communities, and rural towns, showing that all types of communities are interested in using smart growth strategies to build stronger local economies, create jobs and improve overall quality of life.

Technical assistance

Transportation investments spur private development in downtown Kent, Ohio


Architect’s rendering of proposed Kent Central Gateway. Image via Kent State University.

When the federal government invests in infrastructure, the funds directly help communities with large, long-term projects. But these investments go beyond direct help: when the government invests in an area, private developers often follow its lead and invest as well. In doing so, these federal investments have an even bigger impact.

Downtown Kent, Ohio, is a great example of this. After many public meetings to create a vision for the city’s future, Kent is transforming its downtown into a vibrant public space. A $20 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities) has helped the town build a new multimodal transportation facility – and the city is now experiencing over $100 million in related development.

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Cleveland area land bank continues to innovate

Last year, we wrote about a first-of-its-kind agreement forged by the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Land Bank and Fannie Mae, the national mortgage lender that owns dozens of foreclosed properties in Ohio. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank, like other land banks across the country, is a quasi-governmental entity with the capacity to attain and manage vacant properties in the greater Cleveland area.

Through that partnership, Fannie Mae agreed to sell its most troubled foreclosed homes to the Land Bank for a nominal fee, and to help cover the costs of demolition for properties that were too far gone for the land bank to salvage.

Since that time, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has formalized relationships with a handful of additional lenders. Bank of America and Wells Fargo both joined the group this summer, pledging to donate vacant and foreclosed homes to the Land Bank and to help pay demolition costs ranging from $3,500 to $7,500.

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Ohio Launches New Brownfield Action Plan Pilot Program

This week, Ohio’s Department of Development (ODOD) announced the Brownfield Action Plan Pilot Program, an innovative new initiative aimed at helping communities impacted by multiple brownfields sites create area-wide plans to address them.

Area-wide planning is a smart growth strategy that looks at vacant and contaminated sites as a connected whole, rather than in isolation. The strategy links brownfields redevelopment goals to housing, transportation, and infrastructure goals to support comprehensive revitalization, and it can be particularly helpful for sites like abandoned gas stations that tend to be clustered in neighborhoods or along corridors. Many of these sites are too small or too distressed to be redeveloped individually, but by addressing several brownfields at once area-wide planning can make such properties more attractive to developers.

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Ohio cities subsidize sprawl through business relocation incentives: study

Lucrative property tax breaks to relocate businesses have helped fuel suburban sprawl in Cleveland and Cincinnati, according to a new report from Good Jobs First. The subsidized relocation has pushed jobs out of the urban core and has affected an estimated 14,500 workers, while contributing to widening gaps in wealth and opportunity in the cities.

These findings are outlined in the new study, “Paid to Sprawl: Subsidized Job Flight from Cleveland and Cincinnati.” Funded by the Ford Foundation, it’s the largest study of subsidized relocation ever conduction in the United States.

The examined tax incentives and business relocations in the Cleveland and Cincinnati metro areas – and the findings are striking. In Cleveland, four-fifths of the business relocations were outbound and moved jobs an average of five miles outside the city center. Pushing jobs further from the city center makes them less accessible or inaccessible by transit, thereby decreasing job opportunities for workers who rely on public transportation to get to work.

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Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads

Decades of underinvestment in regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and the cost of repairing these roads is rising faster than many states can address them. These liabilities are outlined in a new report by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, released today, which examines road conditions and spending priorities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report recommends changes at both the state and federal level that can reduce future liabilities, benefit taxpayers and create a better transportation system.

Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads found that between 2004 and 2008 states spent 43 percent of total road construction and preservation funds on repair of existing roads, while the remaining 57 percent of funds went to new construction. That means 57 percent of these funds was spent on only 1 percent of the nation’s roads, while only 43 percent was dedicated to preserving the 99 percent of the system that already existed. As a result of these spending decisions, road conditions in many states are getting worse and costs for taxpayers are going up.

“Federal taxpayers have an enormous stake in seeing that our roads are kept in good condition,” said Erich W. Zimmermann of Taxpayers for Common Sense at a briefing earlier today. “Billions of precious tax dollars were spent to build our highway system, and neglecting repair squanders that investment. Keeping our roads in good condition reduces taxpayers’ future liabilities.”

“Spending too little on repair and allowing roads to fall apart exposes states and the federal government to huge financial liabilities,” said Roger Millar of Smart Growth America. “Our findings show that in order to bring their roads into good condition and maintain them that way, states would collectively have to spend $43 billion every year for the next 20 years – more than they currently spend on all repair, preservation and new capacity combined. As this figure illustrates, state have drifted too far from regular preservation and repair and in so doing have created a deficit that is going to take decades to reverse.”

The high cost of poor conditions
According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent to keep a road in good condition avoids $6-14 needed later to rebuild the same road once it has deteriorated significantly. Investing too little on road repair increases these future liabilities, and with every dollar spent on new construction many states add to a system they are already failing to keep in good condition.

State and federal leaders can do more to see that highway funds are spent in ways that benefits driver and taxpayers. More information about the high cost of delaying road repair, how states invest their transportation dollars and what leaders can do to address these concerns is available in the full report.

Click here to read the full report, state-specific data and view the interactive map.

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