Bruce Katz was featured in a free webinar hosted by the Lake County Department of Planning and Community Development on May 13th 2015 in Painesville Ohio. I was the first one to be there at their offices off of Erie St. and it started at four with five other people in attendance; a small group of planners but, then again, Lake is a small county. Mr. Katz’s topic was something I’ve heard about before; Innovation Districts. Not to be confused with the idea of a ‘knowledge society’ or Richard Florida’s Creative Class (though all three overlap), Katz has been coming up with the concept of a new economic engine for cities from Barcelona to Philadelphia that’s urban, accessible to a variety of services and amenities and located in the central core of a city.
When it comes to the Cleveland area, University Circle, home to Case Western Reserve University and many other institutions, comes to mind. With the Health Line on Euclid Avenue (with its adjacent bike paths) the money being spent on rebuilding the Red Line Rapid stations at Cedar and Mayfield Roads in the last few years, and all the new mixed use development in the Uptown District (the stretch of Euclid Avenue from Mayfield to the East Cleveland border), University Circle seems to have been following Katz’s playbook for the past decade; right down to hooking up adjacent neighborhoods to broadband internet. This can only be a win-win situation.
Back in Painesville, there was lively discussion afterwards among the participants regarding the webinar; including the studies the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is doing about extending the Health Line east from University Circle into Lake County. That would be a very interesting project if that ever was pulled off. The host raised an excellent point regarding why Innovation Districts emerge where they do; money. Community Block Grants (CBGs) are given more to inner city neighborhoods than the suburban fringe and that money can go towards major investments. The issue of sprawl was also touched upon as well. So, the lure of an Innovation District can beckon a suburbanite back home just as much as a foreign exchange student or a millennial entrepreneur.
I can finally say that I got my money’s worth renewing my American Planning Association Membership for the first time in four years.
Photograph taken by author.