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Cleveland has a number of important assets in the area of Sustainability that can be built upon, a number of which are discussed below.

Reduced Population & Unused or Underused Land: As was mentioned in the Trends Section , Cleveland’s population decline has afforded the opportunity to redevelop excess, underutilized land in ways that respect the natural environment and do not undermine the health of our population.

Sustainability Programs Manager Position: On May 26, 2005, the City of Cleveland hired its first Sustainability Programs Manager, with funds from the Cleveland and George Gund Foundations, upon the recommendation of a consortium of local sustainability organization led by the nonprofit EcoCity Cleveland. The strategies and objectives of this initiative are set by a steering committee composed of local nonprofit representatives, City Council, and Public Utility Department representatives. The Sustainability Manager’s charge is to reduce the City’s costs through the implementation of energy efficiency programs, new policies and incentives aimed at promoting green building, and other sustainability efforts. A Sustainability Advisory Committee, to be formed in 2006, will be made up of representatives of environmental groups, CDCs, businesses, the public health community and other appropriate bodies or sectors.

City Successes to Build Upon: The City has implemented many sustainable initiatives that can be used as models by other programs and expanded upon, which are outlined in detail in the OverviewSection ( link to section ).

Regional Successes to Build Upon: The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration was formed to identify strategies for restoring and protecting the Great Lakes in a sustainable manner. The Collaboration completed the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy: To Restore and Protect the Great Lakes in December 2005 with the support of the Great Lakes mayors and other Great Lakes leadership groups. The Voices & Choices Initiative is a Northeast Ohio, community-driven effort to pool resources and identify ways to improve the regional economy and prosperity. The Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium , a group of Cleveland inner ring suburban municipalities, was formed to address issues facing developed communities with limited financial resources, to encourage redevelopment and to strengthen local economies in a sustainable, cooperative manner. TheCuyahoga Valley Initiative, a Cuyahoga County Planning plan, aims to promote redeveloping the Cuyahoga River Valley in a sustainable manner through building upon existing assets in the valley, using the valley to unify the region's communities , renewing the economy, and restoring the urban ecology. The Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority (GCRTA) created a Commuter Advantage Program that rewards transit users with pre-tax benefits. Another regionally focused organization is Greater Ohio, a citizen-based network promoting regional issues to grow our economy and quality of life through smart land use. The City Fresh initiative of the New Agrarian Center and Ohio State University Extension provides a regional approach to local food development by linking farmers with limited-income neighborhoods in the city. Such urban to rural linkages will be critical in fostering greater economic networking between core cities and the countryside.

The region also has a rich history with Community Development Corporations and Settlement Houses. Places like University Settlement, Merrick House, Friendly Inn, and Alta House, to name a few, developed as community-based prototypes for the sustainability movement, in that they supported the industrial economy by providing a social center for new immigrants to acclimate to Cleveland. These institutions promote community health through public health education measures and they strengthen our neighborhoods.

This solar array is one element of the Cleveland Environmental Center’s green building attributes. This 1918 bank building is the first commercial, historic green building retrofit project in Ohio and is a national model. [ Ohio City neighborhood, photograph by David Beach]

Local Sustainability Network and Resources : Strong networks are already in place promoting sustainability in Cleveland, such as the Entrepreneurs for Sustainability . Grassroots groups like EcoCity Cleveland, Cleveland Green Building Coalition , and Green Energy Ohio are well established, while colleges and other institutions are leading the way locally in green building construction. Funders such as the Cleveland and George Gund Foundations are supporting sustainability projects; the Enterprise Foundation is taking the lead in building energy-efficient, green homes for low income families ( Green Communities Initiative ); and many advocacy groups promote sustainability, from bicycle advocacy to air quality and physical health to education. All of these local efforts are developing expertise and an information base that will help build a City sustainability program.

Indeed, the Cleveland area can draw on a number of other academic resources, such as Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, Baldwin Wallace, and Oberlin College, which are doing pioneering work in sustainability.

Local Models for Sustainable Neighborhood Development: Among the more impressive examples are the Cleveland EcoVillage which includes a broader EcoVillage Plan and EcoVation demonstration green homes; the Cleveland Environmental Center; and Slavic Village’s Greenway Plan. Also in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood, an exciting initiative know as the Active Living by Design Community Partnership program is demonstrating how fully developed, low-resource neighborhoods can be retrofitted and transformed into a more healthy place to live and work through a mix of physical projects, programs and policies that promote physical activity. Efforts such as these need to be commended and replicated throughout the City.

National Models : Much can be learned and borrowed from cities like Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Denver, and Santa Monica, which are leaders in the creation of sustainability initiatives.

Infrastructure and Land Use: Cleveland already has infrastructure and mixed-use land patterns in place that are sustainable. This form is even being copied by nearby suburban communities that want a mix of uses in a walkable, lively area (e.g. Crocker Park) with interesting architecture and stores coming right up to the sidewalk. From a developer’s point of view, we have the “main streets” (concentrated shopping and essential services) and the urban form (mixed-use business and residential areas) that provide the basis for “walkable” communities, allowing people to live, work and play within a walkable area. We can also work to create higher concentrations of residential around transit stops to create more dense, transit oriented neighborhoods ( Transit Oriented Development ) (See Car-Free In Cleveland, an EcoCity Cleveland 2000 publication). City Council has passed a number of more flexible ordinances (see Overview ) ( link to Overview ) to allow developments with less parking and the first official form-based zoning chapter to mandate mixed-use development in MidTown Cleveland.

Cleveland can better utilize municipal and private utilities (water, power, storm water control, etc.) to create sustainable infrastructure and streets. Sustainable street design concepts include planting trees, creating environments that are welcoming and safe for pedestrians and bicycles, improving storm water management practices, and installing more energy efficient lighting to name a few.

Natural Features : Cleveland is fortunate to be located on one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world, Lake Erie. The lake has been instrumental in the transportation of goods and materials that fuel the City’s economy and is one of the largest sources of potable freshwater on the planet. The vastness of Lake Erie creates an environment that has a unique power of attraction and lends itself to a wide variety of water-related activities. It also provides important habitat and migration corridors for a stunning variety of birds and animals.

Valuing and protecting our incredible natural resources needs to be prime focus in development and redevelopment in Cleveland. [ Lake Erie]

The Cuyahoga River and Valley are also important features that link Cleveland to many communities away from the lakeshore. The navigation channel, the more natural sections of the river and the valley hillsides create unique places that provide the opportunity for a variety of recreational experiences; while the various tributaries that flow from higher elevations to Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River create corridors that provide opportunities to connect city neighborhoods to the lakefront and river. The lakefront, hillsides along creek and river valleys, and the hillside of the Portage Escarpment offer excellent vistas of large parts of the city and Lake Erie. These views of expansive landscapes give residents a strong sense of connection to the larger community. As water quality has improved over the past decades, tributaries of the Cuyahoga are becoming repopulated with steelhead trout, distinguishing Cleveland as a nationally recognized fishing destination.

Cleveland benefits from the regional Metroparks system, an ‘Emerald Necklace’ of 16 reservations that cover 21,000 acres of land with an extensive network of nature education centers, golf courses, bicycle and walking trails, fishing, etc. Four parks sit within the City of Cleveland including the Big Creek valley, home to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Brookside Park, and portions of the Rocky River and Washington Reservations. The Washington Reservation is home to the First Tee Golf Course and a horticulture center that offers courses.

Another regional gem is the Ohio and Erie Canalway, a 110-mile heritage corridor that follows the Ohio & Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad connecting Cleveland to New Philadelphia. This National Heritage Area and National Scenic Biway system promotes its diverse landscapes from natural to urban, building off of natural beauty (e.g. the Cuyahoga Valley National Park) and history.

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