Gloomy News For Our Cities In A Housing Forecast

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 —

Home prices are still dropping in Chicago/photo by Frank Gruber

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.

Where Did Everybody Go? – A Changing Gears Special

Former Detroiter Alex Ozark on the Hyundai-Kia proving grounds in California / Credit: Charla Bear

Many of us have friends or family members that have moved away from the Midwest.

In the Changing Gears special “Where Did Everybody Go?” we’re talking with some of those people who have moved out of the region – asking them why they left, what they found, and if they’ll ever come back.

We also take a look at what their departure means for the region.

You can listen to some of those stories here.

Part I: What’s So Great About Austin? Plenty, According To Former Midwesterners

Part II: The Appeal Of Portland

Part III: Detroit Coney Dogs On The Sunset Strip

Part IV: A Generation Moves Off The Farm

You can listen to the hour long Changing Gears special “Where Did Everybody Go” Sunday, 9 pm ET, on Michigan Radio; Monday, 10 am CT, on WBEZ Chicago; or Tuesday, 8 pm, on ideastream Cleveland.

Midwest Memo: Chicago’s $7 Billion Plan, Appealing The Vatican And The Booms Are Back

That’s billion, with a “b” The New York Times reports on a new $7 billion plan to rebuild Chicago’s infrastructure. The Times says Mayor Rahm Emanuel will announce the plan during a speech today. He says the improvements will be paid for without raising property or sales taxes. As many as 30,000 jobs could be created.

School shortfall Partner station WBEZ reports the Chicago Public Schools district is facing a $700 million dollar deficit this year. The deficit came about because of rising pension costs. Officials say they were able to avoid painful cuts in the past few years, but this year those cuts are coming.

Church appeal Cleveland’s Bishop may appeal a Vatican decision to keep open 13 Cleveland-area churches. The bishop’s spokesman tells partner station WCPN Ideastream that attendance has fallen, and the churches create a financial burden for the diocese. The Vatican sent an order two weeks ago to reopen the churches.

Not over yet The booms are back in Clintonville, Wisc.

Midwest Memo: Amazon Invests In Indiana, Snyder Takes Questions And Cash Mobs Swarm Stores

Amazon’s deal Amazon will build a $150 million distribution center in southern Indiana. The decision to build came after Indiana agreed to let the retailer go two more years before forcing it to collect Indiana sales tax. BussinessWeek reports the distribution center could eventually have 1,000 jobs.

Ask Snyder Partner station Michigan Radio reports that governor Rick Snyder will take questions from Detroiters today. The governor says he wants people to know the facts about the state’s negotiations to fix the cities finances. Many Detroiters worry they’ll lose local control.

Judge assists A judge in Michigan says the state was wrong to cut off about 11,000 families from welfare assistance last year. The families were cut off because of a new federal five-year limit on receiving benefits. But the families were still eligible for the benefits under state law.

Still planning to protest An official with the Chicago Police says there’s been no drop in interest from protesters since the announcement that Chicago would not host the G-8 Summit. He says just as many protesters are planning to show up for the NATO meeting.

Ready for tourists Cleveland has a new five-year plan to attract more tourists to the city. Partner station WCPN Ideastream takes a look at the ideas.

The good mob Reuters looks at a new trend in local boosterism: cash mobs.

Pop The Cap, Have A Good Ball

Sixty years ago Wednesday, the first rock and roll concert happened in Cleveland.

The promotional poster for the Moondog Coronation Ball, the world's first rock and roll concert. Source: Wikipedia

The Moondog Coronation Ball was kind of a disaster. It ended in a riot. One person was stabbed. But it was also the first public indication of how hot this new rock and roll trend had become. Organizers originally hoped for about 10,000 people. Twice that number showed up.

The Ball was the idea of Alan Freed, the Cleveland disc jockey who first coined the phrase “rock and roll.” He’s the reason Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. And every time you find yourself in a packed concert venue, listening to music that’s a little too loud and a little too fast, you’re taking part in a tradition that began in Cleveland at the Moondog Coronation Ball.

Officially, the anniversary was on Wednesday. But the Ball was held on a Friday, and right now it’s almost quittin time across the Midwest.

So go have a Ball, in honor of Alan Freed.

Cleveland Officials Hope If They Plan It, Builders Will Come To The Waterfront

A rendering of what Cleveland's waterfront could look like, if the plan approved yesterday is successful. Credit: City of Cleveland

Yesterday, the Cleveland city council approved three new ordinances that should clear the way for an ambitious new downtown waterfront plan.

The plan was initiated by mayor Frank Jackson, and it covers 90 acres, including the existing Cleveland Browns football stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. It calls for new pedestrian walkways, a marina, tree-lined boulevards and up to two million square feet for retail, restaurant and hotel development. And it opens up more of the lakefront to the public.

The mayor’s chief of regional development told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last year that total private investment in the project could reach $2 billion by the time it’s done.

If you’re waiting for the catch, here it comes: None of that $2 billion in investment has been locked-in yet. Continue reading “Cleveland Officials Hope If They Plan It, Builders Will Come To The Waterfront”

How Bon Jovi Explains The Midwest’s Casino Boom

A rendering of the proposed Kewadin Lansing Casino. Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Next week, the city council in Lansing, Mich. is expected to vote on a proposal for a $245 million casino for the city’s downtown.

The proposal is just the latest in what’s starting to look like a casino-boom in the Midwest. Both Toledo and Cleveland have new casinos opening in May. The Detroit Free Press reported last week that there are no fewer than 22 casino proposals in Michigan right now. And Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is still holding out hope for Illinois leaders to approve gambling in his city.

At first glance, it’s easy to see why casino gambling is such a hot topic right now. Casinos bring hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment, including construction jobs and long-term jobs for dealers, waiters, cooks and others.

Also, research has shown that regions in economic stress are more likely to use gambling as an economic development tool. Here in the Midwest, there’s been plenty of economic stress.

But it’s not exactly a settled issue whether casino gambling actually creates economic development.

So why all the interest?

Continue reading “How Bon Jovi Explains The Midwest’s Casino Boom”

How A Focus On The Positive Is Building Connections Between Cleveland And Its Suburbs

Barbera Anderson is one of the people involved in Cleveland's first "The Good News Tour." She's trying to renovate a house for homeless veterans. Credit: Inner Visions of Cleveland

Much of the economic turmoil that happened in the industrial Midwest over the past 20 or so years has played out in our central cities. Even during times when the suburbs thrived, cities like Cleveland, Dayton, Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, Gary and parts of Chicago were being hollowed out.

Sometimes it has seemed like people in the cities were facing completely different realities than people in the suburbs. Sometimes the differences have led to open hostility.

But yesterday, Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Margaret Bernstein wrote a story about a new project there that’s building a bridge between the city and suburbs. The project represents a different way of looking at our cities’ problems.

Continue reading “How A Focus On The Positive Is Building Connections Between Cleveland And Its Suburbs”

Midwest Memo: The Campaign Effect, A Not-So-Bright Ending And Your Chance To Be Like Mike

The political campaign economy The GOP Presidential primary race is headed to Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch looks at what campaign spending means for the state’s economy. The Detroit News has a similar look at what it meant in Michigan.

Another one bites the dust Indiana-based Bright Automotive is shutting its doors, after failing to receive a new round of funding from the Department of Energy.

Soot riddance Chicago’s two coal-fired power plants are closing, partner station WBEZ reports.

Bringing the big gun Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to make a jobs announcement today on the West Side of Chicago. And the Chicago Tribune reports the mayor is bringing Bill Clinton along.

We’re #1 (and #1)! Illinois has both the top county for corn production and the top county for soybean production.

$63 million That’s how much visitors to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore spent in nearby communities in 2010.

Turning a corner? The Federal Reserve says there are some bright spots in Cleveland’s economy. Partner station WCPN Ideastream has the story.

$29 million That’s all you have to spend if you want to own Michael Jordan’s suburban Chicago home.


Finding New Uses For The Midwest’s Vacant Churches

On Monday, there will be word on the new members of a growing collection across the Midwest: vacant churches. The Archdiocese of Detroit is expected to officially announce which parishes will close or be combined with others across a six-county region, and the Detroit News says that could result in 39 fewer churches.

Hobbs & Black Architects are in this Ann Arbor, Mich. church

Vacant churches dot our cities — not just Detroit, in but Cleveland and Chicago, as well. But, like other empty places that we’ve reported on in the Midwest, some are being put to new uses.

One longstanding example is in Ann Arbor, where Hobbs & Black Architects have their offices in the former First Unitarian Church. The imposing stone building at 100 N. State Street was built in 1885, and was used as a church until 1975. Hobbs & Black bought it in 1985, and gave it a painstaking restoration, including a soaring Tiffany glass window.

We’d like to know about other churches in our region that are being put to new use. Please let us know about the ones in your city. And if there are churches sitting vacant, we’d like to hear about those, too.

Tell us how church buildings are coming back to life.