4th Warder

News and Notes for Residents of South Euclid's Ward 4 from Councilwoman Jane Goodman.

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Location: South Euclid, Ohio

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cedar Center - More than just a few new stores

Tonight at Council meeting we will, I hope, pass a measure giving Mayor Welo the go-ahead to sign the development agreement with Coral Co., finally setting in motion the redevelopment phase of the project. That will start the clock on getting preliminary site plans for where buildings and sewers and power and water and such will go. Then come the design plans, and the planning commission review period and architectural review board and public hearings (which require advance notification times) and in the meantime the site gets decontaminated and readied for building.

It's really exciting, not just because we'll have neat new restaurants and retail, greenspace and such, but because of what this development will do to make the whole southeast corner of our city a magnet for new residents looking to be part of a revitalized neighborhood and city, and a reason for longtime residents to stay.

We usually think of economic development as only having to do with commercial projects or office space, and the actual CC property will lead with those elements.

But the financial investment and incentives being directed toward green building and sustainable housing and energy projects like the ones we're gearing up to bring to the neighborhoods north and east of CC provide a fantastic opportunity to make updating our housing stock and our neighborhoods a new economic driver.

People want roomier, more convenient homes than what we have in "bungalowville." We can make those houses not only more user-friendly but also greener, more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, all of which make them more marketable.

So when I say I want to improve our neighborhoods, this is one of the ways I mean to do it – green updates and community gardens and elbow room to spread out a little. I think we could make this area the place to go to see all the new green technologies and materials and designs. And as the work gets done, contractors learn and train workers in green jobs, putting up solar cells and installing geothermal heating/cooling systems and rooftop windcatchers.

The timing couldn't be more perfect, now that CC is gaining speed just as the demand for sustainable housing is starting to take off.

I know, it seems like we've been at this Cedar Center project a while. We have been. Previous Councils and administrations have been, too. There was a lot of groundwork to be done to get us just to this point. It also seems like you can't take one step forward without first passing some seemingly-disconnected legislation that the state or county or federal government requires us to have in place that gives us the legal right to take that step. In other words, a lot of the legislation couldn't be passed until we first passed other legislation – designations, declarations, it's mind-boggling.

And, of course, if you want to use OPM (other people's money) for basic infrastructure improvements, and we do, there are more forms and layers of legislation that have to be on our books before we can go to this funder or that agency for money to pay for things like removing asbestos or cleaning up contaminated soil where a dry cleaner's use to be. Buying the properties, negotiating with dozens of owners, took years. Waiting for tenants to find new space took more. Careful demolition, environmental cleanup and site prep, going on now, takes more. But you can see, it's happening.

The new Cedar Center might not be as grand as our grandest wishes for it were a few years ago, when the market and the economy were robust. And it won't all happen at once, as it might have done back then. Under the current economic circumstances, it will come in phases, first restaurants and retail, and residences will come last. It will give us time to work on the neighborhood revival. Time is on our side.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Catching Up

Here I am, apologizing again for letting so much time go by between blog posts. It's been a busy year. Some of you know that in my "day job" I'm communications director for the Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization. We're the folks who coordinate the restoration plan and all the folks working on cleaning up the river. If you've been reading the Plain Dealer this year, you'll know that this is the 40th Anniversary of the fire that, most would agree, kick-started the clean-water movement in this country. And we had big news.

My two jobs, the river and the City Council position, work very well together. With my river hat on, I spend a lot of my time talking and working with local officials, planning people and engineers from many many communities throughout our Area of Concern (which includes the dozens of cities, villages and townships in four counties of the Cuyahoga's watershed, plus Euclid Creek's ten communities) and our neighboring watersheds. Chagrin and the Rocky River, for example. That gives me insight into how other communities handle issues we might share, lets me "borrow" good ideas and share our own.

When we changed the South Euclid codes to allow rainbarrels and raingardens and pervious paving, and when we were the first to pass anti-idling legislation, other communities' councils wanted to follow our lead and asked for help. When we totally reshaped the Langerdale retention basin behind the Friendship Circle on Green, and created the first urban wetland of its kind in Ohio, folks from all around the state came to see what we'd done. We really have become "the greenest city," as Mary Jane Skala, Sun News editor calls us.

We're not done. As we work toward adding a greenspace plan to our master plan, and toward redesigning parts of our "bungalow village" areas with green retrofits and floorplan expansions, and greenspace and community gardens, I'm already collaborating with others in the region who are ahead of us on these conversions.

I'm convinced that my active, day-to-day involvement with many layers of local, county, state and federal government, and collaborations with hundreds of organizations at work to revive the metro Cleveland area, is a valuable asset that I bring to City Council.

So it's time to run again. I need to be re-elected in November in order to finish many of the projects I've inherited (like Cedar Center) or started (like the green neighborhoods and new block watches.) I hope to see you on the sidewalks!