Archive for May, 2008

Our new friend Jim Rowen at The Political Environment has been blogging about the Great Lakes Compact in Wisconsin, and the politics surrounding its passage, since February 2007. For many of us, the Compact elicits an easy, “Sure, I think the Compact is important. Let’s pass it! I love the lakes!” But once you delve into the eight states, complicated implementing legislation that varies from state to state, amendments, diversions, permits and pending Congressional re-districting after the census in 2010 – it starts to get a little muddy.

Never fear, Jim has been keeping it all straight. For instance, here’s a great summary of the bill Wisconsin just passed that will untangle the web of complexities and make you go, “hmmmm.”

And here’s a list of Compact-related resources he’s compiled, from around the region.

We’ve got Jim in Wisconsin, and the Great Lakes Blogger in Minnesota (and watching the region at large). Who else is doing this in other states?


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Our buddy Melissa in Chicago sent us a map from Biohabitats, a national ecological restoration firm. It shows a number of the projects they’ve completed in our dear watershed. As Melissa reminds us, “A crucial part of revitalizing the basin is restoring ecosystem services (aka, the things that nature does to provide us the conditions that allow us to exist).” Uh, yeah, that does seem important. Check out some of the amazing things they’re doing here.

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At the Detroit Sticky meeting, we had a hard time choosing which neighborhood to highlight for the “Our Favorite Neighborhood” feature. I don’t think I’ve ever before been a part of a debate about which is the BEST neighborhood in Detroit, so the experience was refreshing. We settled on Midtown, and the list of assets we produced will make it easy to see why. But also under consideration were Southwest Detroit – which has a history of hosting every immigrant population to come through this city, and is currently home to Mexicantown and some of the only grocery stores within city limits – and Northwest, with its neighborhood sensibilities and the presence of Marygrove, U of D, and other schools.

But Midtown won – and you’ll see from this impressive list of assets that Detroiters value everything from the anchor institutions to the sidewalks to the optimism of the student population.

List of Assets:

Wayne State, College for Creative Studies, Detroit Institute of Art, Science Center, Museum of African-American History, Skillman Building, MOCAD, Majestic Complex, Orchestra Hall, Hillberry Theater, Henry Ford Hospital, Avalon Breads, Traffic Jam & Snug, Bureau of Urban Living, Beans & Bites, Honest Johns, the Inn on Ferry, Circa 1890, WDET, Woodward Avenue, the Whitney, the 1st Unitarian Universalist Church, Buddhism Center, sidewalks, regular buses on Woodward, The Hub (bike shop), view of downtown and the New Center, proximity to the Lodge and 75, recycling facility, college students, “best water in the world,” diversity, housing in various ranges (crumbling to new), walkability, “newness,” optimism of academia: flow of ideas and “note of idealism,” perception of new development as a positive: “activity as an intangible”

It’s not perfect though, and our group did have a few recommendations:

greater police presence, more mixed-use development, incentives for small businesses and grocery stores, live-work developments

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What’s Your Laundry List Notes from the Burgh:  Lost on an attendee’s laptop until just now!!!

  • Courtney = from Toledo, has passion for hometown, wants to see it break away from Rust Belt stereotypes, came to Pittsburgh 4 years ago for grad school, thinks region is neglected
  • Sara = grew up in Western New York (Westfield) and Erie; is a sailor, baker and makes yoga accessories out of repurposed materials; moved to Pittsburgh after visiting family here, just bought a house in East Liberty; thinks low cost of living frees people up to be creative; wants to see that development extend to places like Erie
  • Daniel = grew up in Rochester, family left during economic decline, cost of living allows more free time for community involvement, sees a lot of potential here
  • Jennifer = wants to see more local businesses, better utilization of architecture, thinks of
  • Emily = thinks a cohesive group could work together to Pittsburgh more interesting
  • Lindsay = thinks Pittsburgh has an interesting story to tell
  • Elaine = from St. Louis for 20 years, thinks people like her need to invest in the city and guide its transition, its an interesting place to live with a lot of hidden jewels and is small enough that you can experiment socially and politically
  • Ken = grew up in Fox Chapel, moved to Boston/New York when 18, came back 20 years ago, thinks Pgh is unique and its worthwhile to preserve it


· Major Problems In Pittsburgh

o It was built for more people than it houses so smaller population now has to support larger infrastructure

o Entrenched culture of “the way things are done” i.e. old boys/girls network, city bureaucracy preempt innovative things that don’t fit into the mold = very traditional/conservative – can do old things in a new way, but not new things in a new way

o Pittsburgh is still pretty racially/economically segregated, affordable for only certain groups

o There’s very little effort to keep downtown office workers from leaving at the end of the day

o City is too democratic – winds up being 1 party system

o Pittsburgh is so tied up and bound against itself that it can’t take advantage of its assets:

§ Pgh is extraordinarily insecure about where its next paycheck will come from and how it fits into the world – who’s going to do what in what way? What’s our competitive advantage? It’s been very insular in its thinking about this when to be successful you need to be part of a network.

§ There is a very traditional social structure – relic of the industrial era – in which rich people don’t want to give up money and power, working people are insecure about jobs, urban and rural poor are having an increasingly difficult time.

§ Ethnicity, race, gender and religion all play a role – particularly religion – one of the churchiest in the region but little interaction between the religious communities (ministeriums don’t include all the denominations)

o There is no regional public transit or access to waterfront – a key asset – that’s not privatized.

o Categorization of city is debatable. Midwestern? Applachian? Peripheral to one of these? Not knowing who we’re like confuses our agenda for the future?

o City of Pittsburgh is in a bad way financially which will impact city service delivery which will impact how we’re perceived.

o There’s a lot of apologizing amongst people not from here – very distrustful of outsiders. We need to celebrate how diverse we are. Need to make it easy for people to feel comfortable here. There is segregation between those from here and not.

· What Innovatve Projects/Organizations are Working Successfully on These Problems?

o CMU brings in people from all over the world as do other major universities

o Bike Pgh provides good mix of public transit/policy advocacy and community organizing and great enthusiasm

o Sprout Fund facilitates and pulls out groups at community level and gets them to talk to each other and make progress, fill the need for risky start-up small grants for projects that would otherwise not get funding, cultural micro-lender – public improvement in a cultural sense, decision-makers are diverse

o Small businesses and start-ups coming out of the universities and recruiting people from other regions

o Public works i.e. grants, libraries, museums – more than cities of comparable size

o Very large art community – over 10k artists. Also have a connective spirit around sports that can be somewhat negative but has capacity to get people to develop joint identity. If you could mobilize that around whole region (including Cleveland) would aid capacity to solve problems.

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I. My Favorite Neighborhood Story
a. Warehouse District: Full of life and energy throughout the seasons
b. Tremont: Sense of community, know the neighborhood
c. University Circle: Arts Center
d. Flats (West/East Connector)
e. Detroit Shoreway: Green neighborhood, neighborhood within the larger neighborhood, access to the lake
f. Slovik Village: People of decent choose to stay, extremely ethnic
g. Larchmere: We wouldn’t live anywhere else in Cleveland, transit oriented, direct line to downtown with Shaker Rapid, walkable, We Just Love It
h. Euclid Avenue: High Density urban development, housing comes back downtown, variety of people, very diversity in the true sense, exciting place to live, love living IN the city, development is continuing to come
i. Cleveland has an assortment of neighborhoods that offer whatever a person needs, Neighborhoods are Cleveland’s Strength! “I fell in Love with Cleveland by accident.” Cleveland is constantly reinventing itself.

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From scribe and organizer Ann Mestrovich:

At first we threw around some ideas for neighborhoods in the city that “stood out” – the area around Canisius College (anchored by higher ed); the East Side (active community and church groups); and the Fruit Belt (adjacent to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus). We then decided to go the obvious route – Elmwood Village. Elmwood is what you’d consider a “cool” area with rising housing values, independently owned and interesting shops, nightlife, and some diverse demographics. This neighborhood is a destination because of its many restaurants, bars, and shops. It has good architecture and green space, with a weekly farmers’ market and annual arts festival. It’s also bookended by museums, a plus for a city that’s just been ranked the #1 arts destination for a mid-size city.


Other positives: the neighborhood refers to itself as a “village” giving it some distinction; we generally agreed that it provides proof to our out of town guests that Buffalo really is, in fact, cool. Especially to Canadians: our proximity to Canada, the value of the dollar, and the Village as a destination bring tourist dollars and positive experiences in.

What isn’t so great:

· While rising housing values are good for homeowners/sellers, it may not be so good for buyers/renters.

· A majority of the population is white (and does a lot of yoga!) so it’s not as diverse as it could be.

· Public schools are an issue; many families try to get into the charter schools or go private – a negative for some.

So I asked, “why did Elmwood turnaround?”

The response was the private actions of dedicated residents and business owners organizing themselves for change.

Another question: “what role did/does the public sector play here?”

Answer: not much, as far as we could tell. One major public sector example, though, was Buffalo State College, which anchors one end of the neighborhood and works to recruit faculty from out of state…which led to this interesting tidbit:

University at Buffalo and other colleges here provide incentives for faculty who buy houses locally, through home loan guarantees, closing fees and down payment costs, etc.

Reactions to Joe Edwards:

Liked the idea of keeping 1st floor space open to retail only; as well as dissuading retail overlap. Elmwood is prized for its independent retail establishments.

It’s near Washington U – which feeds into the local economy; same for Buff State

To note: Joe seemed to own a heck of a lot of property and had very clear ideas of what he wanted to see be developed in the Loop. We wondered, is it good to have development tied to only a powerful few? Some suggested this is true of Elmwood, with only a handful of owners controlling space and rent prices…

Major points to sum up: all of the neighborhoods we mentioned were anchored to cultural or educational institutions and independent business. These anchors, along with strong private sector organization, and good PR are all good for making Elmwood a neighborhood of choice.

Check it: http://www.foreverelmwood.org/

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Short North: My Favorite Columbus Neighborhood
An Inner-City Neighborhood that “Works”

“Columbus has become the Heartbeat of Ohio” Downtown Columbus resident, Dennis Sanders

Short North/Victorian Village
• New discovery
• Mixture of ethnicity and subcultures
• People come in from out of town for Gallery Hop

• Cruising your car up and down High Street

What is the mix of commercial and residential housing?
• Street level is commercial, above is residential

What is the racial breakdown of residents? Age breakdown?
• Mostly Caucasian
• Under 40ish, YPs

What is the average income in the neighborhood?
• Varies with mix of housing, but definitely increasing; possibly $100,000 annual household income?

What do most of the people who live there do for a living?
• Pretty diverse: artists, college students, entrepreneurs

What are the schools like?
• Few elementary, all Columbus City Public and a Montessori School; not necessarily family-friendly, not a lot of kids, but some young families.
• Private school options close in proximity

What urban amenities exist there?
• Dry Cleaners, Parks, ATM’s, restaurants, Urban Garden Place, Bike Path, Bicycle Racks, Pet Stores, Retail Stores, Wine Places, Boutiques, Art Galleries, Art Supply Stores, Yoga place, Gym, Patios, Churches

What unique culture can be found there? For what is this neighborhood knows?
• Very LGBT friendly
• Artists
• Recent college graduates
• Career Minded Entrepreneurs
• Environmental Friendly
• Empty Nesters
• Asian, African American, lots of different cultures
• Different Residential styles, rental, condos

Does anyone know anything about the history of the neighborhood?
• It used to be “the hood” over 25 years ago and the residents themselves turned the neighborhood around.
• Beautiful old Victorian homes

Is there any public transit, in, out, or around?
• Bus line that runs up and down High Street
• Potentially a street car
• Bikes trails that run close to the area

What draws people to the neighborhood?
• The variety of restaurants and bars
• Galleries
• Boutiques
• Gallery Hop
• Festivals
• Com Fest
• Goodale Park
• Walkable Neighborhood
• Other People there
• Proximity to Convention Center, Downtown, the Arena District

What makes it different from the rest of the city?
• The eclectic mix of people
• Mostly local establishments; not much big-box retail
• Mix of galleries, retail and restaurants in between Downtown and The Ohio State University.

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