July 30, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
69°F

Group talks future of Northeast Ohio

Evan Goodenow

A bleak future for Northeast Ohio in 2040 is predicted if existing trends continue. Modest job and population growth is expected with about 4 million people in the region and about 1.8 million jobs, according to James Minor, principal owner of Sasaki Associates, a Watertown, Mass.-based consultant.

While there will be new suburban homebuilding, Minor said about 10 percent of the 1.6 million homes in the region will be abandoned, and local governments will spend more than they take in. The region will become increasingly fragmented, with residents leaving central cities.

Minor, who helped lead a Tuesday brainstorming session in Oberlin involving about 120 area government officials and private group members at the Oberlin Inn, based the predictions on U.S. Census data and county building permits.

The session was the first of six scheduled around the region through Thursday by the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium. The consortium in 2010 received a $4.25 million federal taxpayer grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to promote sustainable growth, according to consortium spokesman Jeff Anderle.

The sessions are designed to produce a nonbinding regional plan by year’s end including alternative scenarios presented in July.

Deindustrialization has caused major depopulation in Northeast Ohio, but Minor noted that industrial areas in cities still have attractions such as good access to roads and ports. Minor emphasized that alternative scenarios should include incentives to attract and retain residents in cities.

“If people can have a new house in a new neighborhood for the same price or less than they can in an existing urban area, there going to move. That’s not unique to this area,” Minor said after his presentation. “There has to be something for people to serve as a major attraction or reason for them to want to live in these urban areas.”
Medina County Commissioner Steve Hambley acknowledged the region’s future is challenging and urged participants to work together.

“I know some of you here are going to have different viewpoints, but what we need to do as part of the political process is to balance that out,” he said.

Contact reporter Evan Goodenow at (440) 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.