Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
Big cities around the country are finally seeing the bottom for their dropping house prices, according to Zillow, Inc. The only problem is that it isn’t happening in two of our big cities —
Chicago and Cleveland.
Zillow, a real estate forecaster, says it doesn’t expect home prices in either of those two places to bottom out in 2012. That’s even though home prices nationally rose 0.5 percent, according to the Zillow Home Value Index.
Nationally, Zillow says home prices remain 25 percent below their levels in 2007. It doesn’t expect much of an increase in prices nationally this year. You can read a Bloomberg story about the Zillow forecast here.
Chicago and Cleveland are among 11 cities that are still seeing home prices fall. Others are San Francisco, Charlotte, Seattle and Atlanta. Places where home prices are rising include Phoenix and Miami, according to Zillow.
Home values are one of the things that are prompting people to adjust their expectations about the future. Read our Changing Gears Tumblr on Changing Expectations.
Rahm in charge Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel won approval from City Council yesterday to move ahead with his $7.2 billion infrastructure plan. The vote wasn’t even close, which prompted the Chicago Tribune to say the mayor is “firmly in control.”
If you wanted to start life over in a new place, would you choose somewhere with a chronically high unemployment rate and struggling schools, or one that’s known as a haven for slackers? The latter is one way to describe Portland, Oregon.
It seems like everyone is talking about Portland these days. Part of that has to do with the success of Portlandia, a sketch comedy show that pokes fun at Portland’s young hipster crowd. As one character explains, “Portland is a city where young people go to retire.”
But not everyone who moves to Portland is a twenty-something slacker. The city still draws out-of-state transplants, including highly educated professionals.
Chicago has been notorious in the education community for one thing: its short school day. Elementary school students spend only five hours and 45 minutes a day in class, the shortest of any major city, while high schoolers spend only seven. Now, that’s about to change.
City officials announced today that the elementary school day will be seven hours this fall, while the high school day will rise to seven and a half hours.
That’s something long sought by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who has faced obstacles in lengthening the city’s school day. First, he tried unsuccessfully to cajole individual schools into voluntarily adopting a longer day. Then, he proposed an even longer day for elementary school students.
Detroit’s deal Last night, the Detroit City Council voted to approve a consent agreement with the state to avoid takeover by an emergency manager. That means, as long as the governor signs the deal as expected and the courts don’t strike the deal down, Detroit finally has the first step in a plan to avoid bankruptcy. Partner station Michigan Radio reports on what it all means.
Chicago’s debt problem The Chicago Sun-Times went looking for reasons why Chicago would turn to private partnerships to fund its new multi-billion dollar plan to rebuild infrastructure. One major reason: the city’s staggering debt. Chicago can’t take out any more bonds to pay for improvements because the city spends almost 23 percent of its annual budget paying off the $7.3 billion in debt it already has.
No more coal ash The Ludington Daily News reports the city’s historic car ferry has received a grant to convert its fuel source. Without the grant, the coal powered ferry would have been forced to shut down by the EPA. The historic vessel dumps about 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan every year.
Chicago is experiencing record ridership of the CTA, and it’s on a drive to spruce up 100 stations. Cleveland has high speed buses from downtown to the Medical Center. In Canada, Toronto has streetcars and every kind of transit you can imagine, including rental bikes.
But Detroit? Well, besides the People Mover, public transportation has never been a big priority. However, mindsets may be changing, according to veteran journalist Rick Haglund.
We’ve heard a lot in the past few weeks about Chicago and its place among global cities. On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel set forth his proposal for a “new Chicago” that involves a wide variety of infrastructure improvements, private funding and more debt.
All that is supposed to put the city back among the list of the world’s best cities. But there are suggestions that Chicago actually needn’t bother.
Urbanist Richard Florida looks at why some cities lose and others win in a sweeping piece today on The Atlantic Cities. He notes that the world’s biggest cities have been dramatically reordered since 1950, when Chicago was the second biggest in the U.S. and eighth largest in the world.