Cleveland Climate Resiliency and Urban Opportunity Initiative

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, in partnership with the University of Buffalo and the Cleveland Office of Sustainability, initiated a project in 2015 to improve climate resilience in Cleveland neighborhoods. The project seeks to take an asset-based approach to adaptation planning, building upon existing partnerships, programs, the work of community organizations and residents, and a large inventory of vacant land. With support from the Kresge Foundation, a team of trained Climate Ambassadors began work in four neighborhoods to recruit participants for community workshops and to identify projects, programs, policies, and future research. This planning approach seeks to integrate local knowledge and community-based ideas with scientific expertise to better prioritize investments.

Understand how partnerships with neighborhood organizations can support resilience planning. 

As a result of extensive outreach, the plan seeks to address the top three community-generated priorities: Protecting residents and neighborhoods from flooding, increased precipitation, and extreme weather events; reducing the risk of heat-related mortality; and reducing household energy usage and costs. After the initial, nine-month planning process, the project received additional funding from the Kresge Foundation and the George Gund Foundation for implementation over three years.

The project seeks to:

  • Expand and amplify community engagement efforts to bring more diverse participants into climate planning and adaptation initiatives.
  • Build on existing plans, especially the Cleveland Climate Action Plan, the Climate Action Toolkit, Cleveland Climate Action Fund, the Cleveland Tree Plan, Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland, the Cleveland Complete & Green Streets Typologies plan, and stormwater management by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.
  • Connect with existing city, county, and regional officials to coordinate climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • Converting vacant land into neighborhood assets that enhance property values and buffer residents against the adverse effects of climate change.
  • Connect with ongoing efforts in other Great Lakes Region cities to share lessons learned and promote resilience at the regional level.

This initiative anticipates the uneven impacts of climate-related challenges created by differences in social conditions and land use patterns. Sprawling development without population growth has led to concentrated poverty in core city neighborhoods, redundant infrastructure, an increase in impervious surfaces, and growing economic and racial segregation. The plan emphasizes the importance of buffering low-income and elderly residents from the adverse impacts of climate change.  

Therefore, the matrix of adaptation strategies in the plan (Appendix B) considers methods to foster social cohesion for each strategy. For example, a Youth Landscaping program will not only provide yard care/snow removal services for elderly residents in high vulnerability areas, but also build intergenerational relationships, offer economic opportunities for young people, and provide a built-in mechanism for checking on elderly residents, especially in an emergency.


The resulting Cleveland Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Plan includes a detailed  assessment of current and anticipated effects of climate change in the Midwest (Appendix C), along with mapping and analysis of Cleveland’s vulnerabilities, characterized by six social factors (Appendix E). The four neighborhoods of focus include Slavic Village, Central-Kinsman, Glenville, and Detroit-Shoreway.

Emerging priorities for this project include:

  • Enhanced community engagement and education efforts, based on neighbors talking with neighbors in lively, fun, and productive ways.
  • Targeted expansion of home weatherization and energy efficiency programs.
  • Strategic reforestation efforts to restore the urban tree canopy.
  • Improved stormwater management.
  • Enhanced local food security through urban agriculture at various scales.
  • Better land use choices that reduce energy demand, foster social cohesion, and make optimal use of the city’s growing inventory of vacant land.
  • Funding pool/local grant program for neighborhood-generated projects and programs.
  • An applied research agenda to help inform climate resilience efforts in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.


Publication Date: September 28, 2015

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