Is Cleveland Embracing Transit Oriented Development?

In 2008, five years after getting into real estate, I wrote about the Shaker Rapid and Transit Oriented Development (TOD).  When I lived in Maryland, TOD was all the talk. Here? People might discuss RTA and the Rapid Transit or the Green Line Shaker Rapid. But transit oriented development did not roll off the tongue.

The Shaker Rapid was one of the first U.S. transit lines. The Van Sweringens are local icons for the Terminal Tower, the City of Shaker and the Shaker Rapid. In the infant days of the 1900’s, the Van Sweringens started building houses in Shaker Heights. Now everyone loves Shaker Heights, the beautiful architecture, Shaker Lakes, and yes, the amazing access to the Rapid. Back then? Not so much. People were reluctant to buy a home so far away from the City of Cleveland’s center because that was where most of them worked.  The Van Sweringens decided to build a transit line that could get people to and from.  I wrote about it in 2008 on a site called Active Rain. Just think how long that Rapid line has been running! And Shaker Heights DID become one of the first communities with Transit Oriented Development in mind.  The Shaker Rapid line is so extensive, you can live in hundreds of homes or apartments within a one or two block walk to a Train. If you are reading this and you are not from or in Cleveland? You would be amazed at how wonderful that line is for the Shaker Community.

Now people are on board with TOD.  Not necessarily because it helps people get to and from their jobs without driving (though that would be my favorite reason, but this is Cleveland).  The newer city planning buzzword around the country is density. Loosely translated: the more people you can pack into a neighborhood the more they support local businesses, more tax money, etc. Regardless of why it’s taken seed here, it’s not a bad thing. W. 25th St is seeing development near that Rapid station and more is planned.

We have a boat load of newer development, in new home and apartment rental form, in University Circle. Much more planned but the Rapid stop was even changed recently to make it more accessible to students at Case, workers at the Clinic, Severance Hall, the Museums, etc.  It’s even closer now to Little Italy for those important Corbo Bakery runs.

Talk has now to The West Blvd. Rapid Station area. This one excites me, as long as it’s done well.  There is land adjacent to the Station,  land nearby without existing homes, unused commercial properties (and some well established working ones!) Also walking distance to several well established residential communities. The Plain Press did an article this month about transit oriented development in Cudell and the West Blvd. Rapid Station. Read the article, there is more than one planning proposal being considered which deals with where things like homes, offices, apartment buildings are located, what kind and how many. Would be curious to know what you think. Here’s a quote from the article:

“Sislak said the area around the Rapid Station at West Boulevard and Detroit showed potential for development of 380-600 new homes by 2026; 1.2 million in new office space by 2025 and had untapped retail space demand. The area was deemed to be the most-ready for investment when compared to the other top sites E. 116th and Shaker Blvd and Slavic Village.”

Which brings us back to Shaker Heights. The focal point of the Shaker Line is Shaker Square. A hub, borders Shaker and Cleveland, has had it’s ups and downs over the last few decades figuring out what kinds of businesses will thrive at that location.  And maybe what else is needed to help it thrive?

There is a forum being held on the Future of Shaker Square:  TOMORROW July 25th at the Shaker Library located on Van Aken Blvd. It will be from 7pm to about 8:30pm, will be moderated by long time Plain Dealer journalist Steven Litt with a panel discussion and it says public forum so maybe a public questions period?

 

How Do You Stabilize a Neighborhood After a Recession? Cleveland Fed Discussed That Today

I wrote about Vickie Harris and her one woman initiative to revitalize her street. It involved taking a vacant lot and making it work for the neighborhood.  The Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank has a really great on line presence, just FYI. Today’s article shows why. We have had 10 years to recover from the recession and all the foreclosures (due to predatory lending and otherwise) that made housing sale prices fall and destabilize neighborhoods. Because vacant houses, especially in multiples on some streets, are about more than just sale prices. Fewer people to support local businesses and service industries, homes used by squatters for criminal activity, etc. No one likes it when it happens in their neighborhood and the discussion becomes: do we tear these homes down and repurpose the land or do we rehab them? Many neighborhoods have found rehabbing costs exceed the sale prices. Not optimal for private purchase or non profit redevelopment efforts. But this is not universal. In most neighborhoods, there are streets (after ten long years!) that are seeing stabilization. Home prices rising being an important indicator. In those areas or on those specific streets, rehabbing makes sense.

Below is a chart from a really good explanation of pros and cons to demolition vs rehabbing a vacant home. It was published by The Cleveland Federal Reserve today. (Chart is from their page)

Read the entire Blight Elimination article here.

What people in the neighborhoods, in city planning, in real estate etc worry about is demolition being so wide spread that it begins to change the make up of the neighborhood. I’ve lived in various states and believe me, the Cleveland area is very fortunate to have such a diverse, architecturally rich old housing stock. In some cities it’s hard to find homes built before 1970! The existing neighborhood and her people, you know, the ones who live and work there already, are why the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) was established in 2010 to set aside Federal monies to help keep neighborhoods stable.  I lean on the side of caution; on the side of every year having land banks and local governments WITH community input look at their strategies and see if an adjustment is needed.

Read the article and let me know what you think.