Transit-Oriented Development Project Aims to Streamline Walkable, Mixed-Use Development
By: Patrick Hewitt, AICP, EDFP
Planning Manager, Cuyahoga County Planning Commission
Zoning regulations are limiting the construction of new mixed-use buildings along major transit lines in Cuyahoga County. That is a major finding of a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Zoning Study being completed by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission with partners at the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and in collaboration with the Cities of Cleveland, Shaker Heights, and Fairview Park. The study aims to improve zoning regulations and governmental policies in order to attract more transit-oriented development to key corridors in Cuyahoga County.
Transit-oriented development, or TOD, includes a mix of commercial, residential, office, and entertainment centered around or located near a transit station. TOD can take many forms based on location, land use composition, community character, and architectural style; however, there are common elements that are typically included with TOD developments: density, a mix of uses, walkability, and a focus on transit. These developments can enhance our communities as appealing and sustainable places to live, work, and visit.
The Zoning Study’s first phase produced The State of TOD in Cuyahoga County, which analyzed 22 transit corridors touching significant parts of 26 communities. Within a five-minute walk of those corridors are 441,670 people or 34.9% of the County’s population, and 216,648 jobs or 29.2% of the County total—despite accounting for only 18.7% of the County’s land area. Between 2012 and 2021, more than $2.9 billion worth of added building value was invested in major projects near TOD corridors.
Within these walksheds, we have seen massive investment; however, the majority of land is zoned for low-density uses, which limit new TOD. Only 15.3% of land in the walksheds is zoned for commercial development, and, importantly, much of that commercial zoning limits development to low-density, auto-oriented, and single-use. This means that in the places where we are running our most frequent transit, we are limiting our ability to build dense development that can support ridership.
To address this issue, partners in the TOD Zoning Study are developing best practices and model zoning language that communities can adopt to support TOD. This model zoning will expand allowable uses, increase allowable density, reduce parking requirements, and require walkable designs.
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