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Planning Home | Zoning Overview | Density |Ohio City Zoning History | Urban Overlay | Ideal City

The Urban Overlay

Cleveland's First Form-Based Zoning District

The Urban Overlay (UO) represents a pivot from segregated-use zoning districts to a form-first philosophy. Modern city dwellers and those who are looking to relocate to cities intuitively understand and are attracted to places built on form-first principles. Ohio City, Gordon Square, Little Italy and downtown Lakewood are examples of this type of development. These dense walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods are an essential element of sustainable 21st living and we will need more of them in order to sustain and grow our City. The Urban Overlay is an essential tool for Cleveland neighborhoods to use in their transition from single-use, auto-centric policies to a healthy, inclusive and sustainable future.

The UO is intended for arterial corridors such as Detroit, Lorain or Madison. It is also a good tool for streets that are gateways into the neighborhoods or that are adjacent to arterial streets. The UO helps transition from the larger commercial buildings on the arterials to the smaller residential streets by ensuring new townhomes or apartment buildings contribute the walkable form of the existing neighborhood.

For a full description of the Form Based Zoning Districts you can go to the American Legal Publishing website (Section 348)


  • Reset the default – make strong urban form the default in the zoning code
  • Support walkable neighborhoods, mixed-use districts, encourage alternative transportation methods
  • Shepard development through City processes more quickly
  • Easy to read format

Use Regulations

  • Can be mapped in any zoning district

Building Setbacks

  • Builds a street wall while still allowing room for facade articulation and patios
  • Encourages adaptive reuses of existing buildings without a variance
    *Residential conversions of commercial buildings often require setback variances

Building Design

  • Designed to improve the walkable characteristics of all building types - residential to industrial
  • Safety through environmental design – defines the public/private space
  • Promotes interaction between interior and exterior realms


  • The right amount of parking in the right place to support walkable neighborhoods
  • Encourages shared parking solutions
  • Requires active uses to screen parking structures