Kent State University is a lead partner in a collaborative effort to address population decline and large-scale urban vacancy in Cleveland. The initiative Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland has been selected to receive the American Planning Associationâ€™s (APA) 2012 National Planning Excellence Award for Innovation in Best Practices for Sustaining Places, the professionâ€™s highest honor, at its April conference.
The Innovation in Best Practices for Sustaining Places program recognizes initiatives, plans or programs that mitigate adverse impacts from development and everyday living.
Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland, an ongoing initiative, is a collaborative effort with Kent Stateâ€™s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, the City of Cleveland, Neighborhood Progress Inc. and ParkWorks, along with 30 partner organizations from the Northeast Ohio region. Kent Stateâ€™s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative is the home of the universityâ€™s urban design graduate program. Supported by the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Kent Stateâ€™s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative offers urban design expertise and applied research in the service of urban communities, design professionals and public policy efforts.
â€œThis honor places Kent Stateâ€™s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative in the national limelight as a resource in urban research and urban design,â€ says Douglas L. Steidl, dean of Kent Stateâ€™s College of Architecture and Environmental Design. â€œThe recognition affirms Kent State as a leader in civic rejuvenation, urban research and collaborative partnering.â€
Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland includes a plan, policy recommendations, zoning changes and demonstration projects for sustainable land reuse. The initiative is helping to reinvent Cleveland for the 21st century.
â€œThe Re-imagining Cleveland effort positions the city as a laboratory for restoring urban ecosystems through the use of vacant properties to sequester carbon, increase biodiversity, restore rivers and Lake Erie, eradicate hunger and improve public health,â€ says Terry Schwarz, director of Kent Stateâ€™s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. â€œThe work represents a remarkable collaboration between the city, local nonprofit organizations, community development corporations, private sector partners and funders.â€
Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland addresses vacancy issues by introducing nontraditional urban land uses to city neighborhoods. Those land uses will reduce the supply of vacant property and, in turn, increase real estate values. The different land uses are divided into three broad categories, including:
â€œCleveland is turning its population decline into a new opportunity by engaging in ecosystem restoration, infill development and land stabilization strategies,â€ says Marie L. York, FAICP, APA Board Director and 2012 Awards Jury Co-Chair. â€œCleveland is tackling issues facing many older industrial cities in our country and serving as an example of how to address these challenges head on.â€
The initiative is also notable for its citizen participation and engagement of community members with workshops, an interactive website, a widely distributed vacant land ideas-to-action booklet and a grant program.
â€œBy taking advantage of opportunities for gradual re-growth and stabilization of the cityâ€™s real estate market, Cleveland is laying the groundwork for future sustainable development,â€ York says.
Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland can be replicated by other cities across the nation, and it recently influenced a planning effort in Detroit, as well as policy initiatives and funding programs developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
â€œThe APA recognized this project in part because of its potential to impact national policies on smart growth and climate change, since overall U.S. population growth presents opportunities for Cleveland and other older industrial cities,â€ Schwarz says.
The award for Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland will be presented at a luncheon at APAâ€™s National Planning Conference in Los Angeles on April 16. Schwarz and Robert Brown of the Cleveland City Planning Commission plan to attend to accept the recognition. The initiative also will be featured in an upcoming issue of Planning magazine, APAâ€™s flagship publication.
APAâ€™s national awards program is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts and individuals for their leadership on planning issues. To view all the APA 2012 award recipients, visit www.planning.org/awards/2012.
For more information on Kent Stateâ€™s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, visit www.cudc.kent.edu.