A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Uncategorized

Thoughts on the Neighborhood: A Quick Little Post.

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House currently for sale off of East 185 St.

Tonight, as I still contemplate why someone smashed two glass panes on my front porch door last night, I return to thoughts about this neighborhood on the Northeast side of Cleveland.  Two days in a row last week I had conversations with different people regarding the place we live in.  On that Tuesday, at my local block watch meeting, a guy who lives on my street seemed rather pessimistic.  A neighbor of ours recently sold his house and moved out.  The man at the meeting said that the couple wanted to move out a year ago but had to fix up the house first.  Then we talked about the guy across the street from him selling his house and the fact that as he walked around the Indian streets in our neighborhood he hasn’t seen as much junk in the yards in his entire time living here.  Of course, the couple that moved had a school age son and, like so many before them, wanted him to attend something better than Cleveland Public Schools.  In fact, their house sold for almost $69,000 which is in fact a good sign.  While homes averaged here $100,000 in 2000, they plummeted to the point that in 2010 they were going for $24,000.  One can argue the effects of panic selling and the mortgage melt-down have for the most part vanished.  As for the junk, and the rarely mowed lawns at certain houses that I remember once as impeccably landscaped, I admit it’s true.  However, I have also seen houses with new porches, paint jobs, and people living there.

The next day, October 11 2017, as I was leaving my ward club meeting on Holmes Avenue in the neighborhood to our south, I had a good chat with Mike Troha who was for years a building inspector and also a long-time resident.  He hasn’t been so optimistic about North Shore Collinwood today than in the past twenty years.  He has also noticed homes being fixed up and that young couples as well as empty nesters were moving in places other than north of Lakeshore Boulevard.  “Even around 185 St, and Nottingham Road?” I asked him and he said yes.  So, you see, two days and two different views from two different men living in the same place.

This is what you get for living in a place that is considered a tipping point neighborhood.  All major cities have them, especially in the Rust Belt.  These are places where they can be the settings for major revitalization, or shortly become the empty wastelands that are so many other inner-city neighborhoods dominated by empty lots.  I can honestly say that we are a far cry from the latter, but as this act of vandalism to my porch door shows, there are issues.  We have to keep it real, after all even suburban communities in Lake County have their problems.  It would be nice to get away from it all but can everyone afford to live in Hudson or Avon (or Carmel California for that matter)?   Besides, as I see the new railings being put on the the porches of the duplex next to me, I do agree in part with all those people who these days say that this is such a great neighborhood and give it a few years to really take off.

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The La Salle Theater currently under renovation.

Tuesday this week, I stopped after work at the Slovenian Worker’s Home on Waterloo Road where there was a spaghetti dinner.  It was  fundraiser for our councilman, Michael D. Polensek, who is up for re-election this year.  Anyway, I ran into the neighbor who I talked to last Tuesday.  The first words out of his mouth was his pleasant surprise seeing all the work being done on that duplex next to me. “They are really going to town” he said.  I also learned tonight that the cousin of Polensek’s assistant bought a house on East 174 St. for $5,000 and is renovating it.  It happens to be an Arts and Crafts style home and from previous conversations, I knew that they plan to live in it.  Seems like Mike Troha was right after all.

 

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The Fishing Pier at Villa Angela Beach.

Photographs by James Valentino.

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Montreal’s low rents are a lesson for any city suffering the opposite

There is a very good piece from a blogger north of the border. It seems that Montreal is very affordable to rent a place there compared to other Canadian cities. However, unlike the reasons why things are so cheap here on the North Coast, it’s a bit more complicated up there.

Smart People I Know

Le Plateau in Montreal

Rents in many cities are high and rental properties are becoming increasingly difficult to afford. One exception to this is Montreal, where “average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Montreal metro area is $760. The Toronto average is $1,288. In Vancouver, it’s $1,368.” Why is that? Well there are a number of reasons, but as this The Globe and Mail point out, a key reason is the basic economics of supply and demand. But there is more to it that just that, and I’d recommend you read the piece to find out why.

I’m not sure if other expensive cities can replicate this, but it’s worth knowing it can be done and using this knowledge in cities where politicians and others try to limit rental stock.

The migration from rural to urban areas is going to continue for some time. People need more places to live. Let’s hope other cities…

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About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Uncategorized

The Ohio Land Bank Conference.

The Seventh Annual Ohio Land Bank Conference was held Monday through Wednesday September 11th through the 13th at the Crown Plaza Hotel in downtown Cleveland.   Presented by the Thriving Communities Program of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, members of 46 Land Banks throughout the State of Ohio, along with many others, met for two days of seminars, networking, and speeches.

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Crown Plaza Hotel at Playhouse Square.

The keynote speaker of the event was former Ohio Treasurer (and current head of the Consumer Protection Bureau) Richard Cordray who stopped in for Lunch on his way to the West Coast.  While his aid was coy about whether or not he was going to run for governor, her boss sure delivered what was in effect a campaign speech.  The one comment of his that stuck out was that, when it comes to delinquent properties; “There’s no fixing until someone comes in the fix them.”  That’s where the Land Banks come in.

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Jim Rokakis and Richard Cordray (right) smile for the camera.

There were seminars as well, at an extra cost, on location mobile workshops for those interested in getting out of the hotel and into the area. Cleveland’s Buckeye Neighborhood: A Case Study in Comprehensive Community Redevelopment and Rid All Green Partnership Growing Food, Jobs and Green Neighborhoods.  The one that intrigued me the most was the one done by Ian Beniston and Tiffany Sokol; the Executive Director of the Youngstown Development Corporation (YNDC).  They have managed without Federal subsidies or tax credits, to repurpose vacant houses in that city, sell them to permanent homeowners, and in the process increase the property values in ‘tipping point’ neighborhoods.  Last year, the YNDC rehab bed 23 homes.  The vast majority who work on the rehabs are local residents; laborers, electricians, etc., and they use Facebook to market them.  The average day a house is on the market is 2 days, compared to a 9 month average for homes in Youngstown as a whole.  Another interesting fact is that the deed requires the purchaser to occupy the house for at least five years.

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Terry Schwarz, the director of Kent State’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, was prominent in two seminars at the Conference. In Rehab Strategies for Vacant Properties, she joined a panel that included Kathleen Crowther of the Cleveland Restoration Society on showing what can be done to rehab vacant properties.  The main market challenge is ensuring true equity and quality of work on a project as well as establishing worth. In other words, after they rehab a house will it help raise property values on that street?  Their look at the historic Scofield Mansion I found particularly interesting. Built in 1898 by Cleveland architect Levi Scofield, it was abandoned by 1997 and after complications involving the Cleveland Housing Court wound up with the County Land Bank who in turn gave it to the Restoration Society.  With donated services, it was able to do some stabilizing work on the property, such as cleaning out rooms and doing much needed masonry repair. The plan is to completely restore the mansion to it’s former glory.  It will be interesting to see the final results.  Ms. Schwarz was also in the Vacancy and Climate Resilience Seminar where she joined Nicholas Rajkovich in showing how cities can use their vacant parcels for storm water management, green space, and reforestation programs.

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Nicholas Rajkovich and Terry Schwarz at their presentation.

Working Together, how to revitalize our neighborhoods was presented by Summit Land Bank head Patrick Bravo and the Director of Planning and Urban Development for the city of Akron,, Jason Segedy (who I remembered from a Building One Ohio Conference a few years back).  They don’t want to do Hunter Morrison’s “Shrinking Cities Thing,” as they called it.  Instead, they want Akron to grow.  In 2016, they did a Market Analysis study for the city and many neighborhoods are ‘too affordable’.  However, one=quarter of the city’s neighborhoods (like around Stan Hywet Hall) are competing very well in the real estate market.

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A view of the ballroom at lunch, September 12, 2017.

When I asked him in a subsequent email, Jim Rokakis replied that he hoped the attendees got something truly beneficial from the conference.  “I wanted them to see best practices of other land banks around the state of Ohio,” he wrote back, ” I wanted them to share ideas.  I wanted them to help us chart a course going forward.  When we do this, and this is our seventh, we do it to create an open and free exchange of ideas and to encourage each other in this very important work.”  As for me, what did I get out of it?  Having that Masters in Urban Planning gathering dust somewhere in my bedroom, nevertheless, I think that the Land Bank Conference was an excellent way to see what is now going on in community development matters in Northeast Ohio, and what individuals are doing right now to solve some serious problems in their home towns; most notably what to do with the vacant properties that still plague the home of John Kasich’s “Ohio Miracle.”  In fact, I have been thinking about contacting people I know involved with the Northeast Shores Development Corporation to see if they can head out to Youngstown for the day and let Ian show them how they can apply his measures to North Shore Collinwood.  After all, there are land bank houses that can be rehabilitated and sold there too.

Next year Mr. Rokakis said he wanted the Conference to be at Ohio State University in Columbus.   As for this year’s conference, you can access the presentations online at https://www.wrlandconservancy.org/sessions/.

 

Photographs taken by James Valentino.

 

 

 

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About Cleveland, My blog., Uncategorized

Riding the Rails with the Lake Shore Live Steamers.

 

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A mobbed Penitentiary Glen Nature Park, September 10th 2017.

About twenty minutes from Cleveland in Kirtland in Lake County is the Penitentiary Glen Nature Park.  Originally called Halle Farm, it was the summer home of Sam Halle of the Halle Brothers Department Store who purchased the place in 1912.  Since 1976 the 424 acre property has been owned by the Lake Metroparks.   I have driven past this place over the years and it always seemed busy.  This year, I discovered one fo the reasons why; something very unique.

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A view of the station and would be riders.

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A train coming into the station.

 

Just a few yards away from the nature center on the edge of the woods is a train station which serves as the depot for the Lake Shore Live Steamers; whose miniature trains ride the rails through the trees.  These are not toy trains however, but more like the one that  Walt Disney rode on in his home movies.  Volunteers, such as fellow North Shore Collinwood resident (and former radio guy) Dennis Crislip, operate the locomotives and people can ride on top of the freight and passenger cars they pull.  Twelve times a year, the public is allowed to join in the fun.

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One of the trains.

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Riding the rails towards the covered bridge.  Taken in August.

Established in 1969, Lake Shore Rails came to Penitentiary Glen in 1983 when the back orchard track was laid out.  Since then, more routes have been added and there are 30 trains in total operated by the members. All of them are privately owned, built from kits and on  a few occasions completely from scratch.  They are powered by gas operated engines with hydroelectric pumps.  The train cars have an incredible amount of detail to them.  In the case of the Boston Main Locomotive that really caught my attention, the story behind the Pullman cars it pulled is worth noting.  The man who built it wrote the Pullman Company to see if he could obtain a swatch of their paint color so he can match the paint as authentic as possible.  The company must have been quite impressed with him since they wound up sending him cans of paint in the original color.

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The layout of the railroad routes.

According the President Ken Brooks, there are clubs like this all over the county.  In fact there is one large one in Arizona that attracts a national following.  However, they don’t run until January because of the heat.

Naturally, the Lake Metroparks take the opportunity to use these free ride events as a way of promoting their own events.  The second time I went, September 10th, was Bug Day and the Nature Center was almost as busy as the railroad with families exploring the rooms and looking at the displays. As it turned out, what I thought was the Halle residence is in fact the stables with an addition built when it became a nature center; doubling its size.  The horses were sure living in style back in the day!  There are a few other buildings associated with the farm to the north, including one where the railroad enthusiasts store their trains.

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One family poses for the camera.

The Lake Shore Steamers will be having their free Sunday rides from 1:00-3:00 PM off and on throughout the rest of the year, including today, October 9th, and December 2nd. Dennis mentioned that they are always looking for volunteers which can mean those lucky individuals can hop on the rails twenty-eight other times of the year.   This is really one of the hidden gems of NE Ohio.

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The Nature Center.

Photographs taken by James Valentino.

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Opinion, Uncategorized

Once Upon a Time in Venezuela…

When it comes to movies we all have ‘guilty pleasures’ or ‘bad movies we love’ that we really don’t want to admit.   One of them for me, and I’ve never seen it it in it’s entirely, or do I know French, is a rather berserk little film from 1975 featuring French Actress Catherine Deneuve called Le Sauvage (Call Me Savage AKA Lovers Like Us).  From the decade that, in my opinion, where her Chanel No 5 commercials were way better than any of her movies, she stumbles into Bardot territory with this one.  Let’s just say that Francois Truffaut’s The Last Metro didn’t come a moment too soon.

In Le Sauvage then 32-year-old Deneuve plays Nelly, the breathtakingly beautiful fiancée of a Latin American crime boss.  She suddenly realizes at what looks like an engagement party, also known as the opening credits, that she just doesn’t want to be married to him anymore.  Escaping the would-be groom’s amorous intentions, she runs to her ex-boss Alex Fox, played by Tony Roberts, where after changing her clothes in front of him yanks off the wall his priceless French Impressionist Painting (which apparently no owner of a third-rate disco can do without) and runs into the streets of this South American metropolis she’s stuck in.  It is there that Nelly meets Martin, none other than 54-year-old French film legend Yves Montand who is there with his own crack pot scheme; believe it not something to do with perfume.  She asks for his help, he gives it to her, she returns the favor by hiring a plane to take her to the tropical island where Martin lives.  There, Nelly begins to drive him crazy and a battle of wills commences.  He throws her into his boat.  She takes an ax and sinks the boat. He dives into the water and swims after her, still holding onto that painting, back to shore. She steals his food, he whistles after her.  She locks him in his cellar, he escapes.  She runs away, he throws a pineapple at her.  Of course, after all that they fall in love.  However, it’s not just love, it’s SAVAGE LOVE!

Despite the casual sexism, flimsy plot, bad clothes, bad acting on Roberts’ part, and of course the essential gratuitous topless scene, Le Sauvage has a charm of its’ own.   Not only that, it’s all set in a tropical paradise of untold riches where there are gorgeous beaches, world class airports, and natives who speak pretty good French.  A Francophone Costa Rica for the 70’s if you will.

Did I forget to mention that the country was Venezuela?  Despite the irony, what is going on down there now will be left for another time.  However back in 1975 it was the perfect place to apparently make a romantic comedy.  In fact, it seems that back in France it’s considered a classic.

Unfortunately for me, I cannot at the moment see for myself how true it was.  I was watching our heroine’s plane being turned back at the airport when something came up and I couldn’t finish it the one time I caught it on television.  However, from what I saw of it, and clips on YouTube, it was for me a hoot.  So, I really don’t know how it all ends for our couple.  Does Martin take Nelly to Paris where they live happily ever after?  Does she do commercials selling his perfume?  Does Alex ever get back that painting?  When it ever comes back on Turner Classic Movies, or pops up at the Cleveland Cinematheque, I will have to drop everything and find out.

 

Link to film clip courtesy of YouTube.  Can be deleted at any time.

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My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Friday Night Musings

 

This evening, before I attended a sold out Summers at Severance concert featuring Mozart’s Requiem, I visited what was once the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.  I say once because it’s now along with the Holden Arboretum called Holden Forests and Gardens.  Anyway, the first words to come out of the mouth of Librarian Gary Esmonde were “Don’t tell me you are still involved in politics!” Then, he was the one to tell me that he heard Steve Bannon was finally let go and showed me the article in the newspaper he was reading to boot.  Wow, Neo-Nazis converge on Charlottesville last Friday, Steve Bannon gets the boot this one.  Things happen faster than I can write.

What I saw on the television last Saturday stunned me.  I knew that with Trump in the White House much of the discreet bigotry that we still see in Society will roar back into the public mainstream.  However, what took place there, leading to an Ohioan to drive his car like a would be Isis Jihadist into a crowd of people killing Heather Heyer and injuring so many others shocked me.  That day, I did a quick post on the blog regarding this.  Later, I received via on of my social media accounts a comment from someone I know from the neighborhood.  This individual (who I won’t name to protect) wrote that it sounded like sides were wrong in Virginia; just like the President this person voted for in November would say.     Initially, I was so angry I invited others to chime in, and I usually don’t like doing that.   The subsequent cyber-debate between this person and a guy I know pretty much reflects the polarized mood of this country right now.  However, where we are at now didn’t just come out of the blue; and that’s the problem. The thing is, this person is not the only one I know who would side with Trump on this matter.

The mass resignations of CEOs and now members of Trumps Evangelical Advisory Board (of all things) I pray will put more pressure on his enablers in Congress to do something.  Former president Barak Obama’s tweet that went viral said what many people out there wanted to hear. So did John Brennan in his letter to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer where he writes,  “If allowed to continue along this senseless path, Mr. Trump will do lasting harm to American society and our standing in the world.”  Unfortunately, the Donald has apparently already done both.

 

Is Howard Fineman right in saying his Huffington Post article that Donald Trump will want to be the “last man standing” amidst the chaos he sows or is Tony Schwartz in saying that he will resign by the end of this year if Mueller gives him immunity.  Both choices are tough ones, and so much damage to the nation has been done in the meantime.

I wonder what will happen next week.

 

 

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About Cleveland, My blog., Uncategorized

Jazzing It Up At Another Beachland.

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The Stokes Legacy Orchestra at Beachland Park.

One or two of you out there may recall a piece I wrote for this blog about the old village of Nottingham and where the name Beachland came from and how it got associated with that area of North Shore Collinwood east of Euclid Creek.  It all started with a housing development over 100 years ago consisting of a few streets off of Lake Shore Boulevard.  Those streets are still there today as is the part at the end of them called, believe it or not, Beachland Park.  It was in this space overlooking Lake Erie that I went Thursday evening to hear my cousin’s two boys and their friend play in a jazz band.  It wasn’t just any jazz band but the Tri-C JazzFest Stokes Legacy Jazz Orchestra.   Led by Dominick Farinacci, the ensemble brings together students from various high schools and colleges with professional jazz performers in creating a pretty good show.

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The boys’ parents, who live in Westlake, seem to come over here a lot; to the other Beachland on Waterloo.  As for their grandparents (AKA my Aunt and Uncle in Twinsburg) they have been over the family homestead off and on over the years so not at all a stranger to the area.

It was to start at 7:30 PM and I decided to be there a half an hour early.  However, walking halfway down the street, it began to downpour and I wound up underneath roof of a pavilion drenched.   It was only when the skies cleared, after eight, that the show began, and it was worth it.  One of the performers that really impressed me was a 12 year old girl from Hudson who sang like a pro.  As for my second cousins on the drums and guitar, they were excellent as always.  The older of the two just graduated from St. Edward’s High School and will start attending a conservatory in Connecticut at the end of the month.

I had to leave early to get ready for the job the next morning.  However, the place was packed and my relatives stayed for the entire concert.  When I got to where my car was parked across from the Beachland Presbyterian Church it was still there; like I knew it would be.

As for Beachland Park, it is one of a string of lakefront private parks overlooking Lake Erie in the North Shore Collinwood Neighborhood of Cleveland (East Park being the one most recognized by locals).  They have proven to be one of the main attractions for people who have purchased homes here and sparked, at least north of the Boulevard, some major investment over the past couple of years.

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Steps leading down to Lake Erie.

This is just one of the many hidden gems located in the northeast corner of Cleveland.

 

 

Photographs taken by James Valentino.

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