Mr. Mallory and the Streetcar

In Cincinnati’s annual State of the City address, Mayor Mark Mallory took an early opportunity to vaunt about the proposed streetcar system, stating in a lofty voice that “the benefits of the Streetcar system are too significant to allow the naysayers to derail our efforts. The facts are clear. Streetcars must be a part of Cincinnati’s future and we will fight to make it happen.”

His charged comments drew one of the largest applause from the crowd of 600 at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

Mallory stated that streetcars and fixed-rail investments will spur new development along its proposed route, citing that the first phase of the streetcar would connect two of Cincinnati’s largest employment bases: uptown and downtown, and cut through the heart of Over-the-Rhine. Mallory cited Tampa’s TECO Line Streetcar System, which has attracted more than $900 million in new investment and development along the line and Charlotte’s streetcar and the LYNX light rail line that has attracted over $1 billion in new investment along the corridor. It goes without saying that the role model for Cincinnati is Portland, where over $2.8 billion has been invested along its streetcar network.

According to HDR Consulting, a modest investment of $102 million to construct phase one of Cincinnati’s streetcar would generate $1.4 billion in new investment along the line. While a lot of the funding is in place for phase one, Mallory submitted a request for more than $60 million from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package with the hope that some, if not all of the requested funding will be received.

If the funding is received, it is conceivable that phase one of the Cincinnati streetcar project can become reality in the next two years. The Cincinnati Streetcar Blog has constructed a map that shows the various alignments proposed, with their mileage and cost labeled. It can also be seen below:

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Business Development News Politics

Brown states balance concerns for our environment, our jobs

A recent New York Times article coined the term “brown state-green state clash,” referring to the opposing viewpoints of politicians from the coasts and politicians from the Midwest and Plains States. “Green states” like California are pushing for higher fuel efficiency, more renewable energy, and other efforts to fight climate change, while “brown states” like Ohio are resisting in order to preserve our manufacturing jobs.

In particular, many brown state officials are opposed to a cap-and-trade system proposed by President Obama. This proposal sets a ceiling on carbon dioxide emissions, giving manufacturers a certain number of credits and allowing them to emit a certain amount of pollutants. If a company reduces its emissions, it can sell its excess credits to companies who pollute more.

After a failed U.S. Senate global warming bill in June 2008, ten senators from coal-dependent, manufacturing-heavy states created the “Gang of 10,” which has since grown to 15 members. Ohio’s Sherrod Brown was part of the original group. Brown claims, “There’s a bias in our Congress and government against manufacturing, or at least indifference to us, especially on the coasts.” He adds, “If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt American jobs and the American economy, as more and more production jobs go to places like China, where it’s cheaper.”

This seems to contradict themes echoed in both national and local politics, pushing for more “green jobs.” Environmental blog Gristmill points out that Midwest and Plains States will likely come out ahead job-wise in the push to become green: Plains States have been nicknamed “the Saudi Arabia of wind,” and the Midwest will manufacture wind turbines that are too large to be shipped from overseas. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts says, “A lot of new jobs will be created if we craft a piece of global warming legislation correctly, and that is our intention.”

Clearly, what we have is a disconnect between politicians claiming a green future will create jobs and politicians claiming exactly the opposite.

In Washington state, Democratic Senate leaders plan to direct $180 million of stimulus money to their plan “Clean Energy, Green Jobs.” One aspect of the plan, retrofitting low-income residents’ homes to be more energy efficient, will create an estimated 7,500 jobs over five years. The plan would also create an agency to oversee greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce them to 1990 levels by the year 2017. Republicans oppose the plan, saying that the new restrictions would be an impediment to businesses.

A similar movement is starting to happen in the Ohio state House, where Democrats are pushing for higher energy efficiency standards in public buildings. They claim this will cause job creation in the fields of energy-efficient design and construction. Republican Senator Jimmy Stewart said he supports the plan as long as it doesn’t create additional delays in construction.

Are our politicians effectively balancing concerns for our environment with the need to preserve jobs in our region? Will the green movement cause a gain or loss of jobs? Sound off in the comments section.

Additional reading/Sources:

Photo from Flickr user Caveman 92223


Agenda 360, a regional action plan

On February 13, Agenda 360, a regional action plan, announced its goals, priorities and strategies for southwestern Ohio including Cincinnati. The event was attended by more than 150 volunteers, government officials, business and civic leaders.

Agenda 360 is an action-oriented plan that desires a sweeping change for the region by the year 2020, in which the metropolitan area leads the nation in retaining and attracting talent, jobs and economic opportunity and development. It’s goals by the year 2020 include,

  • Adding an additional 150,000 20 to 34- year-olds to the region’s workforce, an increase of 50 percent.
  • Adding 200,000 net new jobs in the region, an increase of 50 percent over the historical job growth rate.
  • Creating economic self-sufficiency for all, and incorporating the United Way goal of income at a minimum of 250 percent above the federal poverty level for all households.

With this, Agenda 360 has set some lofty goals, but it is not without some guidance. In the fall of 2006, about 50 local civic leaders and officials journeyed to Boston to see how they had improved on some of their lingering issues for their region. What they discovered is that the issues that plagued the Boston metropolitan area were the same issues that plagued Cincinnati’. Except that Boston had set a basic list of priorities towards improving the city that were paying out dividends, so to speak.

In early 2007, Agenda 360 was launched using Northern Kentucky’s Vision 2015 growth plan as a model. A group of leaders from more than 30 organizations, including heads of labor unions, business groups, social service agencies and public officials, created a framework for tackling the lingering, difficult issues that face southwest Ohio. It partnered with the United Way State of the Community Report, so that poverty levels, educational attainment and health status, for instance, could be closely monitored and tracked – giving Agenda 360 a level of accountability.

Over 7,000 responded to the initial Agenda 360 Community Survey. In the survey, it found,

  • That 93% of respondents strongly endorsed the idea of transforming the region into a leading metropolitan area for talent, jobs and economic development.
  • That Agenda 360 be action-oriented, contain measurable goals, and be held accountable, which was sanctioned by 95% of respondents.
  • That 88% of respondents stated that they wanted Agenda 360 to choose a few key areas to focus on that will “truly transform the region.”
  • That the vast majority, 88%, agreed that it was critical that all, regardless of background or view, be included in the discussion.

Agenda 360 outlined six initiatives to focus on,

  • Creating a quality place, where the region creates strong, attractive and functional locales in which to live, work and play. Investment should be placed in strategic locations that have high potential for development and growth, and investments should include smart growth principles, arts and culture corridors partnered through community-based arts and cultural centers, and interconnected green spaces. Locales should be more environmentally sustainable and progressive as well.
  • Fostering business growth, in which the region uses its strengths to retain, attract and create businesses and jobs. Focus should be placed on established industries and ones that are emerging, such as the advanced energy, information technology and life science industries. In addition, the region’s strengths – it’s health care industry and the international airport, should be leveraged to foster additional growth.
  • Retaining a qualified workforce, in which the region retains its younger generation and provide them with the skills and tools necessary to find good jobs today and into the future. Focus should be placed on the preparation of children, to ensure that they are prepared to enter Kindergarten, and that they are well nurtured into college. In addition, parent-teacher institutes should be formed to keep parents engaged in education, and barriers to college affordability should be eliminated. Finally, the sole focus should not just be on traditional students, but also the adult workforce – more important today during these difficult economic times.
  • Improving transportation, by expanding our options for moving people and freight across the region. Investment should be made into the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge, a backbone of transportation and economic vitality for the Cincinnati region, and into other transportation nodes that have been built and constructed by other savvy metropolitan regions. Multi-modal freight via road, water, air, and rail should also be emphasized.
  • Including all and working to create a welcoming community to which all people of all backgrounds and views are embraced and their differences are used not to divide, but to be used in the foundation for a community’s success. This includes providing health care for all at an affordable price through the Access Health 100 program. A healthy region cannot exist without healthy citizens.
  • And increasing government collaboration, in which many of the cities, counties and townships work together towards common goals.

I’ll leave UrbanCincy readers with some quotes that were part of the responses in the initial Agenda 360 surveys,

“Cincinnati is a city with a lot of untapped potential. It is full of beautiful spaces and creative and powerful minds, but there needs to be a place where all this meets up.”

“Please don’t spend 20 years discussing how to do it! Let’s get started with baby steps as soon as possible and keep everyone involved in the bigger vision.”

“Historically, Cincinnati has been slow to respond to a changing social and political environment. This kind of a visioning project is necessary to allow the region to properly prepare itself for the future.”


Cincinnati Mills

Seemingly doomed from its start, Forest Fair Mall was completed in stages from 1988 to 1989, and featured nearly 200 stores and four anchors. Located in northwest Cincinnati, it was one of the state’s largest malls, and most impressive. That was one of its only positive highlights, however. The shopping center was completed for $50 million over budget and left the owner saddled with debt.

Not surprisingly, the builder, L.J. Hooker, declared bankruptcy only months after the complex was completed. In the years ahead, the mall was bought and sold, positioned and repositioned, and remodeled and shuttered. It was a high-end regional mall, and outlet center, and a retail and entertainment complex, although it it neither of those descriptors today. Today, it is known simply as Cincinnati Mills.

The mall struggles despite having several some successful outlots and several thriving stores, including Bass Pro Shops. For example, one of its last tenants in the eastern wing, Guitar Center, is departing. This leaves only two minor shops to fend for themselves in the most remote location of the shopping center, and it is doubtful that they will remain there for much longer.

What does the future hold for Cincinnati Mills? Not so much. It features two major tenants that are departing: Guitar Center and Steve and Berry’s, and one entire wing that will essentially become vacant. Major redevelopment is needed at this site, although with the ever struggling economy, this may prove to be a bit of a challenge.

For more information, including a historical overview and additional photographs, check out Cincinnati Mills at Abandoned.

Business News Politics

Cincinnati’s Summer Jobs Plan

Mayor Mark Mallory put the finishing touches on the City’s Summer Jobs Plan. This is a summer jobs program for inner-city youths in Cincinnati. The nuts and bolts of the program are as such…The total cost of the program is $1.5 million, with major contributions coming from organizations like ‘Blueprint for Success’. The program will aim to employ around 220 inner-city youths.

These types of programs are priceless and do GREAT things for inner-city youths and the city as a whole. It gives kids things to do, and teaches them all kinds of lessons. From painting murals, to maintaining parks and working in business environments. These are lifelong lessons that these youths will be able to take with them as they mature; lessons that these individuals might not have otherwise been exposed to. I couldn’t think of a better use of $1.5 million. I applaud the City of Cincinnati for its continued support of its inner-city youths. Now if only the leaders of Cedar Fair (owners of Kings Island) had this kind of leadership and vision.