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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Opportunities of Necessity: Cleveland's Industrial Land Bank

In our attempt to repopulate Cleveland and reinvent our region's economy, there is a glaring theme that permeates throughout all strategies: we must reuse existing properties and structures in order to make this happen. The issues of abandonment and vacancy are visible in every corner of our city and have begun to expand further into our inner-ring suburbs. This relates to residential, commercial and industrial property and represents a blight and a deterrent on our region's future growth. However, it must also be looked at as an opportunity.

Much research has been done on the subject, including Neighborhood Progress, Inc's June 2005 report Cleveland at the Crossroads: Turning Abandonment into Opportunity, which focuses primarily on residential issues and strategies. In their report, estimates range from 10,000 to 25,000 abandoned properties (of all types) in the City of Cleveland alone. One attempt to capture this opportunity on the residential side is the city's land bank, established in 1976, which has been lauded nationwide as a model for intervention by the city and its community development corporations (CDCs). Many of the new housing starts in Cleveland's neighborhoods have utilized the land bank's resources to make their projects feasible.

In addition, the city recently announced the release of its final report, Strategy for the Implementation of an Industrial Land Bank with Kevin O'Brien, Executive Director of Cleveland State University’s Great Lakes Environmental Finance Center, which details options for how the city’s Industrial Land Bank will operate.

“We created the city’s first Industrial Land Bank to acquire and develop properties like the Midland Steel site, a location where we could build off of significant investments being made in the surrounding community and create jobs in the city of Cleveland” said Mayor Campbell. “The release of our final report on the Industrial Land Bank process provides the best strategy for the city to develop the Midland Steel site and other industrial sites citywide.”

"In the last nine months, 28 companies requested a total of 100-125 acres of land on which to locate and add more than 1,300 jobs to the city. Mayor Campbell directed her Economic Development Department to make more than 100 acres of land available in the city, leading eventually to her creating the county’s first Industrial Land Bank by legislation in July 2005."

Read the full release on the City's site: http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/mayor/press/2005/200510/10_18_2005.htm

Efforts such as these are of critical importance and must be continued and strengthened over the years to come as Cleveland continues to redevelop and grow.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Next White Elephant: Lifestyle Centers

As the shopping centers of our not-too-distant yesteryear, such as Westgate, Severance and countless others have recently either announced close down-remodel-reopen strategies (West Gate) or have recently completed them (Severance), we're already seeing the new "lifestyle centers" of today feeling the effects of over-saturation.

Lyndhurst's Legacy Village opened two years ago as the first such center in our region, yet the addition of the second major center, Westlake's Crocker Park, clear on the other side of town has already eaten into its market share. As even more of these are on the drawing board or are already breaking ground throughout the region, I can't help but wonder how long it will be until this model is outdated and obsolete. We'll have 100,000+ square foot boxes sitting vacant, looking for ways to reinvent themselves as "the next big thing." Problem is, they'll keep popping up further and further out, until - in my opinion - the market turns back towards the center.

Evidence of this trend has been touched upon in recent discussions, such as the Ohio Planning Conference session on "New Urbanism v. True Urbanism" and in arcticles like the following in today's Crain's Cleveland Business.

Lifestyle change
At anniversaries, Crocker Park peddles nonretail space and Legacy Village looks at subsiding sales


6:00 am, October 24, 2005

October might be birthday time for Legacy Village in Lyndhurst and Crocker Park in Westlake, but who has time to blow out candles?

As Legacy Village wraps up its second year, its management reports a leveling off in sales as the lifestyle center's newness factor wears off. Meantime, Crocker Park (below), which is starting its second year, is branching out from its retail focus to push office space and housing.

Both centers consider themselves works in progress as they make plans to fill vacant space in the face of the quickly approaching holiday shopping season.

Although this is Legacy Village's third holiday season, marketing director Marcie B. Gilmore said this fall represents the first 'normal' fourth quarter yet.

'The first year was our grand opening, so in terms of tracking sales and all that … the concept being new was so intriguing,' Ms. Gilmore said. 'For the first full year, it was a destination, just to check it out, much like Crocker Park is now, because they're the new kid on the block.'

With Crocker Park's opening last year, Legacy Village had new competition and watched its sales decline in comparison to 2003's figures. Ms. Gilmore declined to provide specific sales figures or to quantify the decrease in sales from 2003 to 2004.

'We're in the leveling-off stage, which is fine, and we're still optimistic about the future,' Ms. Gilmore said. 'There is still a tremendous amount of interest in leasing the space.'

The article continues at www.crainscleveland.com and includes speculation over the recently vacated 92,000-square-foot former Expo Design Center, which represents a challenge for the center "because it's too small for something like an oft-mentioned Ikea furniture and accessories store — a rumor Ms. Gilmore shoots down regularly and definitively — and yet way too big for most specialty retailers."

Yet another piece of evidence that the only truly sustainable solution should lie within our central cities, with a focus on a true mixture of uses and incomes, transit connections and urban density.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Begin Transmission

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I'm new at this game, but I'm pretty sure that I'll have plenty to say on the subject...