Thursday, January 6, 2011

Up on Euclid Creek ... How Tearing Out Dams Can Improve the Water Quality in Our Rivers and Streams

Removal of small dam on Euclid Creek key to stream restoration, water quality

Monday, December 20, 2010

By Michael Scott, The Plain Dealer

Euclid -- News of another dam coming down in any one of Ohio's hundreds of streams is practically intoxicating for water quality proponents.

So they're partying now up on Euclid Creek -- although in moderation.

Workers with Great Lakes Construction this month ripped out a 40-foot wide, 6-foot high concrete barrier in the stream just below the Highland Road bridge near Euclid Creek Reservation.

That's reason enough for conservationists to celebrate.

"It's just great and shows how we have changed the way we look at the importance of free-flowing streams," said Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, which is supporting the project as a construction manager.

"Because we're so rich in water resources in our region, however, we have a lot of dams which essentially create what some call 'inline ponds' on our streams and that creates sediment accumulation problems upstream and erosion problems downstream."

But once a dam goes, fish can better migrate up a free-flowing stream, increasing the number of species traveling several miles from Lake Erie into the upper watershed, biologists say. That, in turn, increases recreational fishing opportunities and improves water quality.

"A free flowing Euclid Creek is really good for everyone," said Claire Posius of The Euclid Creek Watershed Council, a group which formed in 2002 to address flooding in the 24-square-mile area which drains into the creek."

But Euclid Creek isn't close to free flowing yet.

The sobering reality is that there are still five more dams left choking the creek --and it took half a decade and a the support of a dizzying mosaic of funding sources and partners to get this one $526,000 job done.

"That's true, it took about five years and five major funding sources just to get here," Posius said. "It's really tough to scrape together the money to do even just this one job and the remaining dams may each take five to seven years, though I think we can go much quicker."

A spillway under Interstate 90 would be the next likely target from an ecological -- though not an economic -- perspective, Posius said.

"Basically, they straightened out Euclid Creek there and stuck it under a highway," she said. "But it's also a job that will probably cost $2 million, so that's going to be a tough one from a cost standpoint."

Instead, watershed supporters are considering trying to put in a "fish ladder," or way for fish to get around the I-90 dam to get upstream.

But for now, their focus is the successful removal of the barrier known as the East Branch Dam under Highland Road.

'About $382,000 of the total cost is going to Great Lakes Construction for demolition of the dam and stream restoration. The remainder, about $145,000, went to Ohio architects Burgess & Niple for design and engineering.

Workers are now putting large rocks in the stream to direct stream flow away from the Highland Road bridge footers. The rocks will also slow down the water and provide places for fish to spawn and hide.

Workers will then plant native plants along the disturbed creek banks next spring.

'The 77-year-old barrier was originally put in to provide water for swimming at a YMCA camp, but is no longer necessary. Sediment has also built up behind the dam itself, further slowing stream flows.

The dams in Euclid Creek range from small dams built in the old mill days to others built as part of roadway improvement projects in the 1960's.

"It had its use in its day," Posius said. "But that hasn't been for about 50 years and it has instead caused problems for the environment."

Among them, are that most dammed streams in flood more easily during heavy rains or ice melt, river experts say.

"But slowly, with each dam removed, restoration is happening, Dreyfus-Wells said.

"We got into this position one dam at time," she said. "And we're going to get out one dam at a time."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ugly Christmas Sweaters Flying Off the Shelves this Holiday Season!

Ugly Christmas sweaters are suddenly all the rage

Andrea Simakis
The Plain Dealer, 12/15/10

The price tag says it all: "Butt-ugly patchwork Xmas sweater -- $18.50."

"We can't keep 'em in the store," says Rita Pahl, bustling around behind the counter at Flower Child, a vintage store on Cleveland's Clifton Boulevard.

"They're flyin' outta here like hot cakes!"

In an inexplicable twist of sartorial fate, the tasteless Christmas sweater, an item as reviled and ridiculed as the holiday fruitcake, is having something of a renaissance.

The tackier the better.

Local resale shops -- staffed with workers who remember the days when they couldn't give away the pilling, polyester nightmares festooned with applique snowmen and reindeer and candy canes -- are experiencing something of a drought.

"Last year, you could find 'em all over the place," Pahl says. "This year, for some crazy reason, they took off."

Pahl had to plumb her "untapped resources" to outfit Fox 8's Kenny Crumpton for his emcee duties at an ugly-Christmas-sweater happy-hour party held at the Garage Bar last week. In addition to drink specials -- $5 martinis! -- the event boasted prizes for "the most obnoxiously ugly Christmas sweater!"

Pahl's secret stash paid off: Crumpton played host in a tomato-red, eye-stinging wonder covered with Dalmatian puppies.

"Fit him like a glove," she says with pride.

Fashion trends come and go, and come again, but the modern-day origins of the godawful sweater can be traced to Bill Cosby. As Dr. "Cliff" Huxtable on his 1980s hit sitcom "The Cosby Show," the avuncular comedian favored knitted pullovers with clashing colors and Rorschach test patterns. "Cosby sweater" entered the country's vernacular and came to mean a garment so loud and nauseating that those encountering it would be tempted to reach for earplugs and Dramamine.

The Cosby sweater -- and the holiday version of the look -- eventually went into donation bags along with the electric-blue leg warmers, acid-washed jeans and Huey Lewis cassettes.

"In the mid-to-late '80s, they were really, really big," remembers Flower Child's Pahl. "And then they kinda died off a little," she says, especially after landing on countless "what not to wear" segments on the "Today" show" and similar arbiters of middle-class style.

Once the province of dowager aunts, clueless dads and craft-fair-loving grannies, the festive, "made in China" monstrosities are chic again, thanks to high school and college students with a taste for the ironic. And now, as they did with the Honda Element and Facebook, adults have co-opted the trend, throwing their own kitschy sweater soirees for grown-ups.

At the Salvation Army store in Strongsville, three 18-year-olds peruse the offerings in the "seasonal" rack with a concentration usually reserved for sussing out winter formals, rejecting finds deemed not hideous enough. Two weeks before Christmas, the pickings are slim.

Jackie Dileno, a freshman at Ohio State University, liberates a long, black knit vest and holds it aloft, inspecting it in all its gruesome glory: It is ornamented with applique hats and gloves topped off with long tassels made of yarn. If you wore the sweater near a cat, the animal would climb your leg and bat at the ornamental trim.

Her friends, Allison Barwacz and Kelley Burch, gasp and nod in approval, while a nearby shopper, clearly in the market for such a treasure, looks on with naked envy.

They're expert at finding the worst of the worst, as they've been going to ugly-sweater parties "probably since junior year [of high school]," Dileno says, meaning about three years ago.

Another customer unearths a brown cardigan dotted with every iconic Christmas image imaginable -- snowflakes, Santas, stockings, snowmen, reindeer, gloves and ice skates. It was made, according to its label, at "Studio Fa La La." Barwacz, at home in Parma from Ohio University, eyes it appreciatively. "It's great," she says.

While high-end vintage stores are reaping the benefits of the demand and charging as much as $25 per, bargain hunters will find the best deals at the Salvation Army and other charity shops, where sweaters won't run you more than five bucks.

Barwacz and her posse, purists all, pass on a maroon button-down featuring Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger, the words "Let Your" stitched over the right breast pocket, "Light Shine" threaded into the left.

They also leave a fuchsia T-shirt, priced to move at $2.99, decorated with a baby Rudolph dressed in a hat and scarf and the line, "dashing through the snow" written in pink and green lettering. Better still, the "O" in the word "snow" is a plastic snowflake that lights up whenever the wearer moves.

A holiday fashion tip: Grab it before it's gone.

Friday, December 10, 2010

10 Things Your Landlord Won't Tell You

10 Things Your Landlord Won't Tell You
By Kelli B. Grant
Smart Money, Wall Street Journal

1) “This building is in foreclosure.”

In late 2009, Melody Thompson called her landlords to ask about the well-dressed picture-takers outside her four-bedroom Portland rental home. “Oh, we’re refinancing,” she remembers them telling her. Then in late April, a formal bank notification arrived in the mail, stating that the home was in foreclosure and would be put up for sale in late August. “I was immediately angry,” says Thompson, the executive director of Financial Beginnings, a financial literacy nonprofit. “They lied.” The sale has been postponed twice as the landlords apply for a mortgage adjustment, but Thompson is still hunting for a new place.

Renters accounted for 40% of families facing eviction from foreclosure in 2009, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. And unfortunately, they often hear about it as Thompson did -- from the bank, just weeks before the sale, says Janet Portman, an attorney and the managing editor of legal book publisher Nolo. “The landlord wants the tenant in there, paying rent,” she says. The lack of notice was so pervasive that last year Congress passed the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, which gives tenants at least 90 days from the foreclosure sale to move out. (Previously, they had as few as 30 days, Portman says.) Provided the new owner doesn’t want to live there, the law also lets legitimate tenants -- those who signed a lease before the sale and pay a market value rent, among other qualifications -- stay through the end of their lease.

2) “You should complain more.”

When a steady drip, drip, drip of water from the ceiling led a third-floor tenant to complain, Adam Jernow, a principal at property management firm OGI Management in New York City, assumed they were dealing with a leaky pipe. It wasn’t until a week later, when the tenants on the top floor two flights above that apartment finally called, that he realized they were dealing with a big roof leak from heavy summer rains. Had upper-floor tenants complained sooner, Jernow says, they could have limited the damage, and that third-floor tenant might not have had a problem at all. So while renters often assume quirks like hot-then-not showers or moisture on the walls is just part of big-city living – or that complaining to the landlord will just open up a can of worms – keeping a property owner informed can actually help a problem get fixed faster. Besides, most states require landlords to keep the property in good repair, with home systems and appliances in working order.

3) “There’s more to negotiate than the rent.”

Rental markets in many cities around the country have improved this year, which means landlords have less incentive to cut you a break. Just 31% of landlords lowered rent in 2010, versus 69% in 2009, according to property marketplace All the major real estate investment groups are asking for higher rent on new leases, and about half are doing so on renewals, says Peggy Abkemeier, the president of

But the market hasn’t improved so much that landlords don’t have incentive to keep good tenants, she says. The survey found that 44% of landlords are willing to lower security deposits, and 22% will offer an upgrade to a fancier unit (think better views, quieter neighbors, newer kitchen) without raising rent. And there’s still that 31% of landlords who will offer a price break. “It never hurts to ask,” Abkemeier says. In markets where vacancy rates are still high, such as Atlanta, Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix, tenants have a better chance.

4) “Your neighbor is not my problem.”

Loud music. Late-night parties. More foot traffic than a mall on Sunday mornings. Kevin Amolsch, the owner of real estate investment company Advantage Homes in Denver, Colo., has heard all of these complaints and more from the tenants in the buildings he manages. Trouble is, there’s not much he can do. States’ tenant rights laws make it tough for landlords to intervene when there isn’t a clear violation of the lease. Even when a “right of quiet enjoyment” is in the lease, those noisy neighbors usually have time to mend their ways. “Two weeks later [when they are free and clear], it’s going to start up all over again,” Amolsch says. And so does the clock on their grace period to pipe down.

The best bet is to reach out to the other tenant and try to smooth things over directly, Amolsch says. If that doesn’t work, report problems to the police as well as the landlord, so the situation is well-documented. That makes it easier to initiate eviction proceedings, he says.

5) “You may have more rights than I do.”

Brianne Vorse, a longtime renter, knows the number to her local tenant rights group by heart. Vorse first sought help four years ago to force her landlord to fix windows that wouldn’t shut all the way, letting in cold air and the San Francisco fog. She called again after a sub-letter offered a higher rent if the landlord would break Vorse’s lease and let him take over. “I found that [the landlord] couldn’t legally do this,” says Vorse, who sent the landlord an official tenant petition she found on the web site of the San Francisco Rent Board. “In the end, I got the apartment and kept the original lease.”

Tenant rights vary widely by state, says attorney Portman. Arkansas doesn’t even require landlords to provide “fit and habitable housing,” but that’s extreme. In the most renter-friendly states, including California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey, renters without say, hot water, can withhold rent until it is fixed (or pay to fix it and deduct that from the rent). “If the landlord tried to evict you for that, you would win that lawsuit,” she says. Landlords aren’t necessarily any better informed about what they can and cannot do, so it’s up to the tenant to figure it out. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains a database of tenants’ rights by state, including groups that offer assistance with disputes.

6) “I don’t know about your problems – and I like it that way.”

Tenants who think they have a beef with the property owner may actually find their true discontent with the management company hired by the landlord. The Better Business Bureau logged 5,297 complaints about property managers last year, a 13% increase from 2008. They’re among the most-complained about industries, ranking 37th of the 3,024 the BBB tracks. “You would hope that the person who owns the property has done their due diligence, but that just may not be the case,” says Kimberly Smith, the co-founder of short-term furnished rental site Inexperienced or incompetent property managers may not have a good system in place to handle repairs -- especially emergencies – or neglect to keep your security deposit in a safe place, she says.

While a landlord is ultimately responsible for providing habitable housing, they hire management companies precisely so they don’t have to deal with the day-to-day decision making and every tenant request. This is a case where the squeaky wheel definitely gets the grease (see No. 2, above). If there’s a pervasive issue, try to reach the landlord directly, Smith says. Public records will list the property owner. You might also consider paying by credit card if that’s an option, she says, which can make it easier to file a dispute if requested repairs or other complaints aren’t resolved.

7) “I never wanted to do this.”

The recession has generated plenty of “accidental” landlords -- property owners who wanted to sell, but can’t find a buyer. At first glance, the surge seems like a boon for renters. Inexperienced landlords’ biggest and most common mistake is not asking for enough rent, says Steve Dexter, who operates more than a dozen properties throughout Southern California and teaches real estate investment seminars. But that poor financial management can also mean a substantial rent increase upon renewal, or worse, living in a poorly-maintained home at greater risk of foreclosure.

A tenant’s best defense is to ask questions about the landlord and the property’s history, Dexter says. Among the important ones: how long has the property been a rental? Why is the landlord renting it out? If the answers involve anything that reflects on the recession or the landlord’s need to increase his cash flow, be cautious. Look for foreclosure and sale notifications on sites such as RealtyTrac, StreetEasy and

8) “If you smoke, you can’t rent.”

The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against a number of groups -- but smokers aren’t one of them. So discriminate they do. Although smokers account for 20% of U.S. adults in most cities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a search of New York City apartment listings on Craigslist turned up just six explicitly allowing smoking. Nearly 700 explicitly prohibited it. Their reasoning: once a rental property is occupied by a smoker, it’s tough to rent to non-smokers without a thorough, expensive cleaning that includes repainting the walls and professionally cleaning the carpets, says Matt Kuhlhorst, who rents out four single-family homes in Allen, Texas. “Even if the tenant doesn’t get their deposit back, that’s still not enough to cover the cost,” which can easily top $2,000, he says.

Laws in several states require landlords to disclose smoking policies upfront, so if it’s important for you to be able to light up indoors check the details before signing a lease. Policy violators could find themselves facing loss of their security deposit or eviction, if their smoke wafts into a non-smoker’s domain. And if a chain-smoking neighbor is in violation, your landlord will be glad to take your complaints—it’s one thing that will allow him to evict a tenant.

9) “What you see is what you get.”

The rusty, cracked stove was nearly a deal-breaker for an otherwise great apartment in Boston’s North End. But the landlord promised to replace the clunker and make other repairs, so Joanna DiTrapano and her roommate signed a one year lease in March. Suddenly, the landlord’s tune changed -- although the gas company documented the dangerous stove leaking gas, he insisted it wasn’t damaged enough to warrant replacing. It took six months, numerous phone calls and finally, a formal letter citing city tenants’ rights laws to get a new stove, DiTrapano says. The smaller repairs the landlord promised? She’s simply given up.

Some landlords were never good about making necessary repairs, but the recession has forced many to postpone anything that isn’t absolutely vital, says Dave Zundel, a co-founder of Arizona property management firm HomeLovers. The firm has seen a 70% drop in maintenance projects, and just 13% of landlords are still spending on regular upkeep and cosmetic improvements such as replacing worn carpets or repainting. Your safest bet is to assume the condition of the apartment you’re viewing is about what it will be when you move in, Zundel says. If the landlord promises to make repairs, get it in writing.

10) “You’ll pay for my rebellion.”

The building or community homeowners’ association may have it in for you. Some renters -- and owners – learn this the hard way, Abkemeier says. During the downturn, many associations have taken steps to limit owners’ ability to rent out property, or require extensive screening before a lease can be signed. And owners who try to avoid or ignore the rule-changes end up making it difficult on tenants who suddenly find themselves faced with lengthy rental applications or fines for a litany of association rules they never knew they had to uphold. The extra layer of administration can also make it tough for tenants to get damage repaired, because they’re dealing with the building and not just the landlord.

Check the association rules (aka covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CCRs) before signing a lease, she suggests. Also check whether the association will fine the property owner or reach out to you directly, to better head off problems.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Flats Project Inches Closer to Becoming a Reality

Cleveland's Flats East Bank project gets $32 million loan guarantee from HUD

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Michelle Jarboe, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide $32 million in long-anticipated loan guarantees to support development on the east bank of the Flats.

The federal agency has agreed to provide a $30 million loan to the city of Cleveland and a $2 million loan to Cuyahoga County, as part of a complex financing package for the Flats East Bank project.

The low-interest loans, known as HUD 108 loans, will help the Wolstein Group and Fairmount Properties build the $275 million first phase of their long-delayed development.

HUD's role in the project is not new. In fact, the developers have factored these loans into their elaborate funding scheme for more than a year. But the deal was not certain until Wednesday, when U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's office announced the formal approval - a necessary step to move the Flats financing toward closing.

"We are getting there, and this is a very important piece to have in place so that we can close,"said Steve Strnisha, a financial consultant working on the Flats East Bank project.

The HUD 108 loans will pass from the federal government to the city and county, and through to the developer. The loans will be repaid using parking revenues from the project, which includes a parking garage, and a tax-increment financing agreement, which taps increased property-tax revenues from development.

"We appreciate HUD's approval and the assistance of our Congressional delegation," Mayor Frank Jackson said in an e-mailed statement. "This will be an unprecedented project that will help revitalize our river and lakefront and will keep two major employers in the city of Cleveland."

The initial phase of the Flats project includes an office building, an Aloft hotel, parking, retail and restaurant space. Accounting firm Ernst & Young, law firm Tucker Ellis & West and the CB Richard Ellis brokerage - all tenants in downtown Cleveland buildings - plan to move to the office tower.

The Flats project stalled when the economy collapsed, but it appears close to re-emerging, thanks to a web of public and private support. The developers hope to close on their financing this year and start construction soon, with an anticipated opening date in spring 2013.

"This news will keep over a thousand good-paying jobs in Cleveland and create hundreds more construction jobs," Brown said in a written announcement about the HUD guarantees. "The Flats East Bank development is just the latest sign that our state is ripe for business development, and this project signals a major turning point for the revitalization of downtown Cleveland."

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Should a Sustainable House Look Like - an Old House?

What should a 'green' house look like?

By Philip Langdon, 11/12/10
Source: USA Today

On 24 acres overlooking the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, an enclave of Nantucket-style cottages shows just how charming and traditional a green home can be built.

The quaint seaside homes have steeply pitched roofs, deep covered porches, gracious columns, second-floor balconies and, in some cases, a white picket fence. They are far from the minimalist modern aesthetic often associated with eco-friendly living.

'Sustainability doesn't need to look sustainable,' says Donald Powers, founder of the Rhode-Island based firm -- Donald Powers Architects -- that designed the 100-home community in Anacortes, Wash., about 90 miles north of Seattle. 'You can build a traditional home with very progressive features.'

The first cottage -- chosen as 'This Week's Green House' -- earned the basic level of certification (there are four levels) from the private U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program.

Powers says it wasn't that hard to do. His firm's partner, Douglas Kallfelz, who was the project architect, focused on cost-effective measures --what many in the building industry call the "low-hanging fruit" -- such as high-performance windows and mechanical systems, native landscaping as well as Energy Star lighting and appliances.

Each home is landscaped to provide an active wildlife habitat, earning a 'Backyard Wildlife Habitat' distinction from the National Wildlife Federation. The enclave has tree-lined sidewalks and four neighborhood parks with trails that wind to the sea.

Kallfelz, who has been principal in charge on the project for the past two years for Powers, credited the master plan and landscape design to GCH of Seattle, under Jerry Coburn, that firm's principal in charge. Builder was Gilbane Development Company, based, like the Powers firm, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Giving the Man Cave a Makeover

Once Relegated to the Garage, Rooms Get So Nice, Wives Muscle In; Pool Table or Quilting Table?


Craig Schuelke's Forest Hill, Md., basement is a testament to manliness. There's the Arnold Schwarzenegger pinball machine and about $30,000 of signed Michigan and Maryland sports memorabilia the construction superintendent has enshrined on the walls. An air-hockey table commands one corner, flanked by a pool table, shot-glass collection and dart board.

It's a quintessential "man cave," except for one feature: Mr. Schuelke's wife, Melanie.

"He doesn't know what we're doing when he's not home," says Mrs. Schuelke. "My female friends, we shoot pool, drink beer and throw darts down there."

The man cave has a secret: Women use them, too. Their new interest comes as these spaces have morphed from cold garage outposts into tricked-out comfy spreads, complete with flat screens TVs, fully stocked bars, arcade games and plush (clean!) furniture.

As a result, men are learning to share with the family while combating the inevitable intrusion of scented candles, flowers and kiddie toys. While couples often cozy up together or party in caves with friends, a growing number of women say they retreat there—even holding the occasional quilting party—without the guys.

The struggling housing market is partly behind the evolution of the man cave into a multipurpose space. Rather than trade up or build on, more homeowners are squeezing the most out of their existing living quarters—but splurging on the decor. As a result, today's man caves are desirable and even luxurious pads that the whole family wants to enjoy.

An entire marketplace has emerged in recent years to outfit these spaces. There's Man Cave LLC, modeled after Mary Kay cosmetics, where guys hold barbecue parties dubbed "meatings" to sell steak and cave accoutrements, such as bacon-scented candles and beer pagers to locate lost brew. Online retailers and hawk essentials, such as beer kegerators, pool tables and Skee-Ball games.

Higher-ticket items make women feel more proprietary over caves, originally intended as spots where guys could be alone or hang with pals, says Mike Yost, who runs cave community site "If the guys spend on the big-screen TV and chairs, the wife typically is going to have to sign off on it, too."

Further stoking female cave envy is cable TV's "Man Caves" show on the DIY Network. Episodes feature bling such as a pool table that rises out of the floor. "These are really, really nice spaces, and when the guys want to spend time there, the family wants to spend time there," says Andy Singer, DIY Network's general manager.

That's the case in Robert Butterfield's Sierra Vista, Ariz., home. His retreat is a 400-square-foot homage to Nascar racers Dale Earnhardt and his son. It also sports a 50-inch TV, couch, hundreds of Diecast model cars, even a Christmas tree decked in Earnhardt ornaments—about a $50,000 investment. Mr. Butterfield, 43, calls it "my space," but it's often where his wife Maria and sons also congregate when he's home from his overseas government-contracting job.

Says Mrs. Butterfield, 45: "I enjoy being in there because it's kind of like a little getaway from the rest of the house. When I'm in there, I'm not reminded about dishes or laundry." That's cool with her husband: "Sure, I like time to chill alone, but I started a family because I wanted to be with them."

Still, the gender cohabitation raises a nettlesome question: When does a man cave stop being a man cave and become just a family room? "There's a real blurring of the line between man cave and family room," warns Minnesota decorator Sue Hunter, who runs "I think guys are going to start taking charge back in that area."

And certainly purists remain, such as Tommy "Buck Buck" Sattler of Islip, N.Y., who rigged his 325-square-foot getaway with New York Giants football paraphernalia, seven TVs, a red-oak bar top, and urinal in the bathroom.

Mr. Sattler flips on an outdoor blue light to let the neighbors know when his "underground lounge" is open, but jokes that women, including his wife, typically stop by only if "they are dropping off food or bringing cleaning products."

Most guys, however, seem game for co-ed caves—so long as there are ground rules, such as no potpourri or decorative pillows. Ms. Hunter, the man-cave decorator, steers clear of big glass vases and baskets in favor of art, she says, that means something to a man, such as "I want to go kill the buck in that picture."

Then there's the "no touch" rule that's reigned in Mr. Butterfield's Nascar sanctuary since he found his 4-year-old son's fingerprints on the display cases with his model cars. "It's a little bit of an ownership thing," he says. "I'm really detail oriented, and this is the way I want the room."

Other regulations are trickier to enforce. Karen Dixon gladly turned over her Friendswood, Texas, garage to husband Shawn, even though parking outside means unloading groceries in the rain. "I'm not controlling, and it makes him happy," she says. Inside, he's stationed his Harley Davidson motorcycle, a 1967 Cavalier Coca-Cola machine, pay phone painted Harley orange, and heavy-weight punching bag.

The Dixons, both 38, often play cards together in the cave, but she balks at his suggestion that usage is by "invitation" only. "Really? I think that he doesn't own it," says Mrs. Dixon, who believes her husband would be secretly "flattered if I brought my friends in there to have crafts and a book club." Mr. Dixon's concern: "I'd be afraid something would be moved and I'd never find it."

The stickiest time can be during cave construction. Mrs. Dixon advises other women to negotiate time limits. "When Shawn is focused on something, it consumes him. Looking back, what I should have done is said, 'Spend as much time with your family as with the man cave. If you work out there for an hour, then come inside for an hour.' "

Indeed, compromise is critical in any man cave negotiation. Married 36 years, Steve and Pam Flaten, both 56, share space in AutoMotorPlex Minneapolis, a compound of high-end garages ranging from 1,000- to 6,500-square feet for fixing up and storing specialty vehicles.

In the loft living area the Flatens constructed inside their garage, Mrs. Flaten typically quilts while her husband tinkers with his race cars below. Recently she held a quilting party.

Despite the domestic influence, Mr. Flaten has stood his ground on certain points. The racing flames on the toilet seat, those get to stay. The flowers she wanted for an end table, those got moved outside.

Women's interest in the man cave phenomenon is sparking a logical next step: woman caves. The DIY Network is exploring development of a new show around the concept. Retailer HomeGoods just launched a campaign to outfit what it dubs "Mom Caves."

To some, that's redundant. "A chick cave?" sniffs Dan Cunningham, owner of the Monroe, Mich.-based, "That's what the rest of the house is."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Living Cities to Invest $80 for Poor in 5 Cities - Including Cleveland

By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY

Imagine investing in cities but only if public, private and philanthropic groups work together on long-term strategies to help low-income residents.

Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world's largest foundations and financial institutions, will do that Thursday when it announces $80 million in grants, loans and investments.

Nineteen urban centers competed for the money, but five won for programs that challenge conventional wisdom: Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Newark and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

"The underlying principle of our initiative is that to do this work, you have to have the public sector, the private sector, local philanthropies and the non-profit community all at the same table talking about solving the problem," says Ben Hecht, CEO of Living Cities. "None of those, on their own, will make a long-term change."

It's a bold initiative that requires disparate groups to work under one umbrella on many missions. Until now, grants focused on one goal, such as affordable housing or jobs or transportation.

Leaders of the effort hope that the funding — about $16 million per city — will generate more funding to keep the programs alive long after the grant money dries up.

"It's not about funding projects but about funding systems," Hecht says. "We hope it's going to be a model for other cities."

The winning cities' projects, to be unveiled at the Museum of African American History in Detroit:

•Baltimore. Coordinate a series of unrelated projects to create jobs and affordable housing and use the construction of a subway line to galvanize the efforts.

•Cleveland. Create a biotech corridor between the city and Youngstown, Ohio, by building laboratory space and continue the work of the Cleveland Foundation, which has been creating work cooperatives that give workers a piece of the business.

Hospitals and schools buy lettuce for patients and students and "they found out they buy lettuce that goes 2,500 miles to get to Cleveland," Hecht says. "If you grow this lettuce locally, they said we'll buy it locally."

•Detroit. The shrinking city has twice as much land as it uses. The aim is to concentrate population to revitalize neighborhoods. The focus is on the Woodward Corridor, home of Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

"How do you use those assets to connect to neighborhoods where there have been so few opportunities?" says Rip Rapson, president of the Kresge Foundation near Detroit and a Living Cities board member.

The goal is to link institutions and local workers and suppliers and attract people to live along the corridor.

•Newark. The New Jersey city that has battled corruption and crime wants to change its image to that of a healthy and safe place to live.

The Center for Collaborative Change, created two years ago, is working with corporations and medical centers to create housing and increase access to fresh foods in supermarkets and neighborhood corner stores.

•Twin Cities. Civic leaders in Minneapolis and St. Paul want to build a new economy along a transit line that will connect the two by 2014.

They're pushing for transit stops in poor areas it will run through to create jobs "so that they benefit from the line rather than having a transit line cutting through their neighborhoods," says John Couchman, vice president of grants and programs at the Saint Paul Foundation.